Digital class 3. Colored pencils and markers

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Colored pencils and markers


Hello! Welcome to our third class of Selected Design Topics II. In this session we will address some two-dimensional representation techniques, the first of which will be colored pencils. We will learn the composition of colored pencils, some of the most important brands, pencils qualities and their differences. In addition, we will see the different types of colored pencils that exist and according to this, what is the ideal paper that can be used as a support to use this technique. We will also learn how to use colored pencils, considering the correct position to hold a pencil, the application of color layers, the creation of textures and gradients, the help Items for this technique and the way to correct mistakes.

The second topic will be markers. We will examine the composition of some markers, their classification and some brands. Also, we will give you some suggestions on the use of markers, we will learn about the ideal paper for this technique, and we will learn the technique to apply markers, aiming at color saturation, the creation of gradients or textures. To finish, we will emphasize the role of the blender marker, which can be used in diverse ways.

The third topic in this session is mixed media that allows you to combine techniques, such as markers and colored pencils to create textures and gradients.

We wish you every success in this third session. Let us get started.

Content developement

3.1. Colored pencils

To learn how to use a technique, it is important to know the tools that we will use. For this reason, we will start by studying the composition of colored pencils. A conventional color pencil is like a pencil in appearance, but it is made up of 3 elements (

  1. Pigment
  2. Body, which is obtained from clay, which can be kaolin or chalk
  3. Binder, which provides hardness at a certain degree. It is usually a resin called gum Arabic.

When it comes to conventional colored pencils, some of the best-known brands are Prismacolor, Faber Castell and Staedtler. Prismacolor colored pencils have very vivid colors; Faber Castell colored pencils contain wax in its lead, so it allows to get more uniform results; and Staedtler colored pencils which have tough leads, colors that do not blend easily, and that are best for details.

There are two qualities of colored pencils in each brand, school and professional. Some of the features that distinguish these two qualities are.

Price (professional colored pencils are much more expensive than school colored pencils), format (generally, school colored pencils are sold in boxes of 12 to 48 pieces and professional colored pencils  are sold individually and in boxes of 12 to 120 pieces), the presentation (in some brands, the school colored pencils  are hexagonal and the professional colored pencils are round; the professional colored pencils have a better finish, are heavier and thicker); and the composition (in some brands, the school colored pencils are wax, while professional colored pencils are oil, which allows to get a higher saturation and a more homogeneous mixture of color when using professional colored pencils).

There is not a single type of color pencil, but several. Among them we can mention the conventional ones (soft or hard), the watercolor pencils and the pastel pencils. The components change according to the type of pencil and its quality. Soft colored pencils have the advantage that they can blur like soft graphite pencils and they can be used to make gradients in a single color or in multiple colors. Watercolor pencils can be applied dry and then turned into washes; they can also be applied by coloring on damp paper; its tip can be wetted and then color on dry paper; or you can even make gradients of a single color or with several colors like with soft pencils. Pastel pencils help us to create layers, that is, they allow the difference of one color applied over another to be appreciated, regardless of whether the second color is lighter.

According to the characteristics of each type of color, a different support is required, which adjusts to the way the color is applied. In addition, to choose a paper, several factors must be considered, such as its weight or thickness; its quality; its color; its format or size; or the price. Usually, it is suggested to apply conventional colored pencils on Canson paper with a grammage greater than 90 g / m2; watercolor pencils on Fabriano paper with a grammage greater than 200 g / m2; and pastel pencils on either of the two previous brands with a grammage greater than 90g / m2.

Colored pencils are used in the same way as graphite pencils. The use of this technique depends on how the pencils are hold. If the fingers of the hand are numbered from 1 to 5 starting with the thumb and ending with the little finger, the pencil must be held by fingers 1 and 2 and supported on finger 3. When coloring, as it happens when drawing with graphite pencils, the color pencil should form a 45–60-degree angle with the surface you are working on (Ching, Francis (2016). Manual de dibujo arquitectónico. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili).

When using colored pencils, it is important to consider that it is a slow technique and therefore requires patience. If you want to achieve saturated colors, you must in layers, making sure that there are no white spots after applying the last layer. Colored pencils are a technique in which color cannot be mixed before being applied on the paper, but until the moment of application, so we must also use layers to mix colors on the paper. If you do not want to achieve a saturated color, you can create textures by means of lattices (combination of lines in different directions), «curly» lines, petatillo (using lines in opposite directions), squiggles (a single continuous line in different directions), circles, or combining some of the above in different parts of the same drawing ( The intensity of textures and colors can reduce.

To respect the contour of the drawing to be colored, different elements can be used, such as sheets of paper placed on the section of the drawing that is not to be colored. Masking tape can be used to secure the support sheets if necessary. The use of this tape is recommended because of its weak glue that does not damage the paper.

Finally, it is possible to use a gum eraser to correct mistakes made while coloring, however this solution should only be considered if the color is not too saturated, if soft pencils were used, or if only little pressure was exerted on the paper.

3.2. Markers

Markers had their origin in brushes

Usually, the mixture contained in a marker is composed of a base material, a solvent, and a resin. According to their base material, the markers can be made of ink or paint; according to their solvent, they can be water-based, alcohol-based or oil-based; depending on their resin, they may or may not be indelible. In addition, there are conventional and watercolor markers, being those based on water the only ones that allow the use of water to degrade color. Markers can also be classified by its point. Some have a beveled tip (they allow you to create lines of three different weights or thicknesses); others have a bullet-shaped tip (they make it easy to draw lines, dots and textures; others have a brush tip (which is long and flexible, to create sinuous lines); and some others have a fine point (for small drawings or details). There are also markers that have a different point at each end, a fine and a thick one). Some of the best-known brands of markers are: Stabilo (water-based), Edding 500 (alcohol-based) and Chartpak (oil-based).

In this course we will focus on Chartpak markers, that must be used in a well-ventilated space due to Xylene, which is a solvent. These markers are available in 130 colors and have a beveled tip. It is important to stock them horizontally so that the ink is distributed evenly inside, and they must be opened by turning the lid.

The paper selection depends on the type of marker to be used, but it is usually recommended to use a smooth, translucent paper (to be able to trace through it). For this reason, vellum paper is ideal, particularly for Chartpak markers. We can find it in three thicknesses: thin, medium, and thick. We suggest using the medium one. Before starting to color with markers, put a sheet of white bond paper under the vellum paper. This will help you absorb the excess of ink, preventing stains from happening.

To apply color evenly with Chartpak markers, the area must be colored without separating the marker from the paper until it has been filled. This must be done continuously, horizontally and from top to bottom; vertically and from left to right; or obliquely and always going from left to right. In addition, each stroke of the marker should overlap the previous one so that the application is uniform and unwanted marks do not appear. Multiple layers can be applied if a greater saturation is desired. Masking tape can be used as a protection element while using the Chartpak markers, which when removed will not damage the paper because of its soft glue. You must just place it on the edges of the area to be colored to avoid coloring beyond the contour.

To achieve gradients from a single color to white the use of a colorless blender marker Is advisable. First you must apply a background with the color of your choice. It should not cover the entire surface to be colored. Then apply the blender marker on the section that has no color. Finally, with the same blender marker, transfer color from the colored area to the white area. This procedure should be done without allowing the ink to dry.

To achieve two-color gradients, the blender marker is not required, and you must start coloring from opposite sides of the area. For example, if with the first color I colored vertically from left to right, with the second one you must also color vertically, but from right to left. The two colors must overlap each other to get the gradient from one to the other.

The blender marker can be used for other purposes. For example, we can create light colors from bright colors. It is also possible to mix colors inside of the blender marker, which is possible by following these steps:

  • paint some surfaces with the colors of your choice.
  • Paint some surfaces with the colors of your choice.
  • Absorb the colors by passing the blender marker over them. They will blend into the marker.
  • Paint with the blender marker in the surface to be colored.

The blender marker is also used to remove color from an area where it should not be. To achieve this, the ink must still be fresh. Additionally, the blender marker is used to transfer images, following these steps:

  1. print an image or make a photocopy on bond paper.
  2. put it upside down on the vellum paper.
  3. pass the blender marker over the bond paper. The image will be transferred to the vellum paper.
To clean the blender marker, just run it through a clean piece of paper.

3.3. Mixed media

It is possible to use markers and colored pencils in mixed media This can have several applications, such as creating textures or gradients.

To get textures we must first apply the marker. We must let the ink dry completely. Then we can apply color with pencils to generate textures made up of lines, dots, circles, or squiggles. The pencil must be constantly rotated so that the lines remain uniform.

To achieve gradients, you must first color the entire area with a marker. Wait for the ink to dry completely. Then you can apply color pencil going from higher to lower color saturation.

Watch the next videos to understand better what we have learned in this session.

About colored pencils:

  • Have you noticed the different elements that compose a colored pencil before this class?
  • Are there many aspects to consider when coloring using colored pencils? Which one Is new for you?
  • What uses of a marker were unknown for you?
  • Besides the mixed media presented in this class, do you think It Is possible to mix other techniques?

Study how to use colored pencils and the technique to apply markers. Reflect on how can both techniques be mixed to create textures and gradients.


Congratulations on completing this third session of Selected Design Topics II! We hope you enjoyed this tour of two of the most widely used two-dimensional techniques as much as we did. Let us review some of the most important ideas.

First, we learned that conventional colored pencils are made up of 3 elements: pigment, body, and binder. We Identified some of the best-known brands, like Prismacolor, Faber Castell and Staedtler and their characteristics. We examined some differences between school and professional-colored pencils such as their price, format, presentation, and composition. We studied a taxonomy of colored pencils that divide them into conventional, watercolor and pastel and the possibilities that each one offers, as well as the paper that is required according to the features of each type of pencil. We explored the technique of applying color with colored pencils considering the position of the hand and whether the objective is to achieve color saturation, mixed colors, textures generation or gradients creation. In addition, we studied the protection elements that can be used to respect the contour of the areas to be colored such as sheets or tape, as well as the use of the gum eraser to correct mistakes.

After, we saw that markers are composed of a base material, a solvent, and a resin, which allows us to classify them. According to their solvent, we highlighted the water-, alcohol- or oil-based markers, and we pointed out Stabilo, Edding 500 and Chartpak markers respectively as examples. In addition, we were able to classify them according to their tip: beveled, bullet, brush, and fine point markers. We examined some suggestions for the use of these markers, such as the importance of using them in a ventilated space. We also learned that a smooth and translucent paper, such as vellum, is ideal for using this technique. We studied the technique of applying color with Chartpak markers, considering whether the objective is to achieve color saturation or the generation of gradients with one and two colors. We highlighted the use of the colorless blender marker as a tool that allows us producing gradients, creating colors, mixing colors, erasing, and even transferring images to paper.

Finally, we learned how to combine markers and colored pencils to create textures and gradients.

What we saw In this class Is Important to be well-Informed consumers about the different kinds of colored pencils and markers that we can buy, but also to know, as creators, how to use them with the proper technique, separately or combining them. What we learned can also help us as spectators, to be able to recognize certain techniques when we look at a drawing and even to know If those techniques were correctly applied.
You are doing very well, keep going. Do not miss our next session in which we will learn about another two-dimensional technique: collage.

Information sources

Ching, Francis (2016). Manual de dibujo arquitectónico. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili