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4 Ways I Use the White Pencil in My Colored Drawings

Hey, fellow art enthusiasts! For most of my life, I thought that the white pencil tucked away in my coloring set was about as useful as a handbrake on a canoe. 😂 But these past few weeks, I have been practicing drawing with colored pencils and learning different colored drawing techniques from artists like Chris Hong and Stephen Bauman who seem to have mastered this craft.

And the one thing I have realized recently (after an embarrassingly long time) is that white pencils are actually quite essential for colored drawing. So in this post, I demonstrate 4 ways that you can use white pencils to bring your colored drawings to life.

4. Blend colors!

White color can help you blend different colors to create new colors from the colors you already have. For example, when coloring the background in the drawing above, I shaded emerald green on top of phthalo blue and blended it with white color to create this beautiful shade of sea green.

As a beginner, I got a basic 12-color pencil set as I didn’t want to invest in a 60 or 120-color set because the ones from top brands like Faber Castell or Prismacolor can be quite pricey. So to work around the limited palette, I was able to create lots of new colors by blending two or more colors with the white pencil, and this significantly increased the range of colors I could work with.

3. Reduce the intensity of a color.

One problem I frequently encounter when I draw with colored pencils is that the colors can, at times, be too dominant in terms of saturation, brightness, or transparency. White color can help tone down the intensity of color by reducing its value, transparency, and saturation.

In the drawing above, I wanted to lighten the orange border slightly on all sides except for the line at the bottom. If you notice on the drawing on the right, going over the border with the white pencil helped me make the border less dominant.

One side effect of using a white pencil in colored drawings, though, is that it can make the colors seem a bit chalky, so that’s something you’ll have to consider as well.

2. Create soft edges.

Creating soft edges is relatively simple on graphite and charcoal because of the responsiveness of these mediums to erasers and blending tools. However, colored drawings tend to be a bit more stubborn for erasers from my experience.

One thing I like to do is draw over some colored outlines with a white pencil, and this helps to fade some edges into the background and the contrast between these soft outlines with hard edges improves the sense of depth in the drawing.

1. Highlights!

To me, creating highlights is the most satisfying part of the drawing process, and white-colored pencils are a godsend for doing just this especially when you’re drawing on a pre-toned paper like the Strathmore tan and grey sketchbooks.

I must say, though, that creating highlights on white paper is quite difficult with a white pencil from my experience. If that’s your situation, then your best bet is to plan where you want to create highlights and avoid coloring those areas. I find it helpful to apply a sturdy plastic eraser instead of a kneaded eraser that I normally use to carve out some highlights from areas of a drawing that are already colored.

If you know another way of using a white pencil, please share your drawing wisdom with the rest of us in the comments below. Happy drawing! ✏️