The website of artist Tim McIntire

Colored Pencil on Drafting Film

Horse crossing a creek

I’ve used colored pencils for years now, but never tried it on poly drafting film until I saw what great results so many miniature artists get with it. It was an “aha” moment when I first tried my Prismacolors on this very durable and versatile surface.  Here’s what I have discovered so far:

  • Some matte drafting films have more "tooth" than others. The ones that have less may not afford you a very rich color lay-down;  however, if the film has two matte drawing surfaces, the colors may be reinforced by adding more colored pencil to the back.
  • I have learned that it’s very important to work on a hard, dead-smooth drawing board; the slightest texture on the board will show up in the drawing like a frottage. I also make every effort to keep flakes of pencil from ending up behind the film for the same  reason. A piece of paper behind the film helps to keep the board clean, and doesn’t present any texture problems as long as it’s pretty smooth.
  • I can get  a remarkable amount of detail in a fairly small area with the regular Prismacolors,  more with the Verithins. (Still more if I am working in graphite, incidentally).
  • If I have built up a few layers of color, and still want to add some minute highlights, such as white lines on a dark surface, I just “cut through” the dark layers with the sharp point of a white verithin to draw my lines. Persistence pays more than pressure  in  this case; the tip of a Verithin breaks fairly easily.
  • It is possible to end up with an “unresponsive” area after repeated erasing/redrawing– I’m not sure what causes this. Could be the film texture gets worn away, (however, some artists get away with using an electric eraser; I haven’t tried this, but it seems to work for them), or it could be erasure building up and clogging the “tooth”. Whatever the cause of this problem, the solution I like to use is to do most of my erasing with clear rubbing alcohol. I apply it using cotton swabs, rags, or de-inked markers, (see my earlier post: "A New Use for Old Markers: Acrylic Paint Lift-outs"). This erasing technique is also good for some special effects, like the the wave of white water kicked up by the horse in the above portrait.
  • Most artists advise using a fixative on any colored pencil work to help avoid the “bloom” of oxidation, and some also use workable fixative between the layers. I certainly subscribe to the former practice, and might also eventually employ the latter.
  • As the film is translucent,  I always want to have my drawings backed with some sort of archival white paper or plastic. This will make them “display-ready”. I trim the backing to exact size after adhering it to the back of the film to ensure an exact size and alignment.

I have also found out, through both reading and recent experimentation, that water-soluble colored pencils are even more promising in the area of detail than their "dry" counterparts. The only downside I have seen so far is a lack of lustre, more characteristic of the conventional pencils, which contain wax.

Hope to relate the results of future experiences with both these media in a later post.

Tim McIntire

Tim McIntire

I'm an artist from Southwest Missouri who likes to work with a wide variety of both media and subjects. This blog chronicles a few of my adventures in art, sculpture and related gadget-making.

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