What you use to color and to make your pictures look their best will partly depend on the media you use, your budget, personal style, time constraints and if you have any health or pain issues. It also depends on what your final vision for your picture is. There are a lot of unusual coloring tips out on the wonderfully world wide web. You could easily browse YouTube for hours learning all of them.
I mainly color with pencils. I like the look they give a picture. I like being able to create new colors by blending them. I like being able to put them on lightly or darker and I like their feel as they go onto the paper. I use Faber Castell entry level Aquarelle water color pencils and their higher quality Albrecht Durer water color pencils. They give me a nice wide range of options for color.
However, unless you buy really expensive pencils or put down a few layers of color, sometimes colored pencils don’t quite have the depth of color that a felt tip or a gel pen does. As we saw in the January article, blending colors becomes more complex as you layer progressive colors. It takes time and practice to get a seamless blend, and what do you do about making your picture’s colors brighter & deeper other than adding several layers and using a lot of pencil?
I have tried some of the different blending techniques you see mentioned on coloring blogs & Facebook groups: using other colored pencils, a blender pencil, baby oil & Vaseline. I never got the hang of baby oil & it bled to the back of my picture, but I have had good results with the other techniques.
I recently discovered using Vaseline with my coloring. I am very impressed with the results I have been getting. While it does help with blending colors, you can also get good results from it by using it with one color. Using Vaseline with your colored pencils brightens colors and fills in the natural ‘valleys’ in your paper so you don’t have white spaces, without resorting to multiple layers & the burnishing effect this can have. Vaseline is easy to use, inexpensive, easy to find (you don’t need to get it at a specialty art store) and it doesn’t smell like mineral spirits do. Because you are slowly coloring over your
picture with the Vaseline & blotting the excess off it can take extra time (as with any blending technique) to create your masterpiece. Any blending technique does take time and the finished result is worth the effort.
Before and after pictures using Vaseline:
- A small amount of Vaseline
- Qtip (cotton buds)
- Napkin or paper towel
- Colored pencils (Note: you can also use Vaseline with a blender pencil, and possibly blender stumps –but I have not tried this. If you wish to try it, experiment on test paper before working on your good coloring projects.)
- Your picture
A quick note before we get started. You can add a little more color to your picture by coloring lightly over it after using Vaseline on it, but it will not take a deep or detailed color application after applying it. Be sure you are happy with your colors and shading before applying Vaseline.
Step 1 – Put a very small blob of Vaseline on a napkin. Depending on if you are doing blending or shadows, you can either first put a layer of colour down and then apply Vaseline, or use the Vaseline layer are the only layer.
Step 2 – Roll the point of your pencil in the Vaseline lightly. You want to barely coat it, not drown it in Vaseline. Once you have a light coat, start coloring.
With practice, you will get a feel for when you start running out of Vaseline. The color won’t be as saturated, and it starts to feel scratchier instead of smooth as you color. When that happens, re-coat the pencil with Vaseline.
I often find it easier to color using the side of the pencil instead of the tip, as it holds more Vaseline. That way, I have to apply it less often. I also rotate my pencil as I colour to use as much as I can before needing to reapply.
As you work, the Vaseline itself becomes colored as it picks up the pigment from the pencil. When working with different colors that you want to keep separate, you may want to clean the old colored Vaseline off your pencil by rubbing it off on the napkin, then reapply fresh Vaseline. If you are trying to blend the colors together, you can skip this step, as having the pigment in the Vaseline helps blend them.
Step 3 – As you complete small sections, use a Qtip/cotton bud to lightly rub or blot over that area to remove any extra Vaseline. Be careful not to rub into or over uncolored parts of your picture, or you will spread colored Vaseline into that area. I learned the hard way to be aware of where you have applied Vaseline (but not cleaned the excess) as you can get a bit of coloured Vaseline on your hand and transfer it to an uncoloured part of the picture on accident!
I have noticed that when I use Vaseline with a blender pencil it seems to require more applications of Vaseline than a regular colored pencil. You still get a lightening of your picture as you normally do when using a blender, but it doesn’t seem to be as light as using the pencil alone.
In this example, I used Vaseline with a blender pencil. The lower left of the picture hasn’t been blended yet. If you look carefully, you can see shiny streaks on the black lines. This is the excess Vaseline that I haven’t yet blotted off the picture.
Remember – wipe any Vaseline off of your pencils with a napkin before storing them.
I have a little travel kit in a sealable plastic bag with a napkin, a few cotton buds, and a travel shampoo bottle. I put a tiny bit of Vaseline in the neck (not the main part of the bottle.) I don’t want to stick my pencil all the way in and get it slippery from any Vaseline on the sides of the bottle.
If you are using only a little bit of Vaseline at a time, removing the excess and applying it by pencil (not brush or cotton bud) then you shouldn’t have a problem with oily patches on the front or back of your pictures. Paper quality will vary, though, and you may see some bleed through on poor quality paper. Always practice on a scrap picture or a blank page in the back of your book before using it on a prized picture. I haven’t had any tackiness on the front or any bleed through to the back of my pictures. I did the picture of the cat below using Vaseline blending for the whole picture without any problems. (Design by Jason Hamilton, from the January 2016 issue.)
This is an interesting technique that can help you get brighter colors using a material that is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. It is worth experimenting with to see how it fits in with your coloring style and how it works with your pencils.