Drawings: Tips & Tricks.

My review of the tutorial: Cat portrait on Drafting Film.

Following the lovely tutorial, made by the australian artist Karen Hull, I’ve been able to create this wonderful cat portrait with colored pencils on drafting film.

I highly suggest you to try this tutorial if you are new to pet portraits and if you want to learn how to use colored pencils on drafting film..! I can tell you that this has been my very first cat portrait and my very first drawing on drafting film! Karen’s instructions are, as usual, very well written and you won’t have any difficulties to follow her steps of the realization.

The colored pencils used in this tutorial are the Faber-Castell Polychromos.

Here is the link to purchase the tutorial:



What is Drafting Film? How to use it with Colored Pencils?

Grafix Drafting Film is a polyester film with a one or two side matte translucent drawing surface. This film accepts lead, charcoal, graphite, colored pencil, pen and ink with ease. It erases cleanly without smearing or leaving shadows.

  • High translucency
  • Will not tear or yellow
  • Lays flat
  • Archival
  • Dimensionally stable

Widely used in engineering, drafting, laser cutting fabrication, stencil making, drawing and mixed media applications.

Grafix Drafting Film is offered in .003”, .004”, .005” and .007” thicknesses.

Available with a 1 or 2 side matte finish in sheets, rolls and packs.

To read more information about Colored Pencils on drafting film I highly suggest you to visit the website of artist Karen Hull. She explains very well about the different kinds of Drafting Film and also about the best Colored Pencils to use on it! On her website you can also find tutorials about this surface.


You can also take a look on Ann Kullberg’s website and you’ll find this book entirely dedicated to Colored Pencils on Drafting Film!

CP Surfaces: Drafting Film

Deleting or removing layers of color when using wax-based colored pencils.

One of the most complicated things, when using the wax-based colored pencils, is erase when you have done something wrong …!  You notice that the color you “built” layer by layer has not become as you wanted? Or the last layer of color is just too much?
Below I will explain the most commonly used methods that can “save the life” of your drawing! 🙂

Kneaded eraser is an item  that I consider a must when working in colored pencils! The kneaded erasers are widely available and inexpensive… they are elastic and can be stretched or molded into a ball and work wonders for cleaning the paper as you work! It’s especially perfect to clear the outline drawing before colouring.  You can also create small balls and use them to remove a light layer of color.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 Removable Ahesive Putty is another neat method for lifting color! This is widely available at craft or office supply stores. Removable putty is simply a tacky, gum-like material that can be molded into a ball, and when pressed onto the paper, lifts a substantial amount of color (even more than the kneaded eraser!). If you repeat the motion gradually you will lift off multiple layers of color.


Masking Tape…you can use it both to anchor your drawing to the table and to lift color when needed. Touching the masking tape gently to an area and slowly lifting allows the removal of color in that specific spot. Repeating this technique as many times as necessary removes quite a bit of color.


An Electric Eraser is also excellent for removing small and very specific areas of color!


My review about the “Siberian Husky” tutorial, available on Ann Kullberg’s website.

If you want to try to draw your first dog portrait…I highly recommend you this tutorial!

This is my very first pet portrait and I have created this Siberian Husky following the step-by-step tutorial “In-Depth” available on Ann Kullberg’s website.
I think this kit is very good to start with pet portraits because there aren’t many colours in this drawing… just shades of greys, white, some pinks and light blues… The instructions are well written, well explained and everything is completed by many pictures of the step-by-step process…so, if you pay enough attention, you can reach this result!
Colored pencils used: Prismacolor Permier.
Paper: Canson Mi-Teintes.

Husky: In-Depth Colored Pencil Tutorial


My review of  the “Colored Pencils Basics For Artists of All Levels”  created by the artist Karen Hull.

Whether you are a novice or an experienced artists in the world of colored pencils …. The PDF file “Colored Pencils Basics For Artists of All Levels” created by the Australian artist Karen Hull is a must if you want to specialize in the field of colored pencils or just learn more!

Maybe you’ve read, browsing the web, which several artists use the “drafting film” and you would like to know what it is and how to use it? Or you have the classic questions like “What is the best brand of colored pencils? What is the best drawing paper?”

In this document you will not find a direct answer to these last two questions, simply because it is impossible to decree what is the best brand of pencils, and what is the best paper ever … is very subjective, each artist has different needs and style . But … this file is really useful because you’ll find all the features, strengths and weaknesses, of all brands of pencils (or at least the most used by the artists in general), description of the surfaces used (drafting film and various types of paper) and what it is best to use to blend.

A very useful document that it can teach you many things and that you can consult at any time there arises a doubt or a question.
But we now see, specifically, what are the arguments and brands accurately explained in this written document by Karen Hull.

Colored Pencils, explanation of the technical characteristics (for example, if the pencils are based waxy or oily), lightfastness, flaws, strengths, indicative information on prices and available shade number. All this for the following brands:
Prismacolor Premier, Prismacolor Verithin, Prismacolor Col-erase, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Caran d’Ache Pablos, Derwent Artist Pencils, Derwent Studio Pencils, Derwent Coloursoft Pencils, Derwent Drawing Pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor, Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Derwent Watercolour Pencils, Caran d’Ache Aquarelle Museum, Derwent Pencils Inktense.

Paper and Surfaces, here Karen explains with great care the characteristics of each surface. You will also see the coloring tests with pencils of various brands on the surface in question, so that you can see with your own eyes how is  the texture of the paper or the drawing area. For each surface are performed many tests  as well as the use of the solvent.
The treated surfaces are as follows: Stonehenge paper, explanation of the different types of Watercolor paper, Illustration Board / Bristol Board, Mat / Mount Board, Drafting Film, Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper, Pastelmat, Sanded Surfaces, Velour / Suete Mat Board, Wood , Claybord / Scratchboard / Gessobord, Canvas and how is Working on Black surfaces.

Another small rock where we all go slamming, sooner or later,  is… “What is the best blender? How can I get the best shades?”.
Here then an entire section dedicated to all types of blender and to the solvents used for this purpose!

We also can read a section reserved for the most advanced in the implement of colored pencils sector: the “Icarus Board” designed by the Italian-American artist Ester Roi.

  We find, finally, a broad overview of the most used tools such as rubbers, sharpeners of all kinds and plenty of information about books, magazines, Facebook groups, videos on youtube and everything that can be useful and indispensable to those who want to become an artist of colored pencils.

A guide, an absolutely indispensable manual and of which you certainly should not regret buying!
You can buy and download your copy at this link!


Let’s talk about Graphite…!

Graphite pencils come in a wide range of hardness and softness and are labeled with letters and numbers.

Pencils with the letter B are the softest.   The higher the number in front of the B, the softer is the pencil. The softest graphite pencil available is 9B, which is able to produce the darkest lines.

When a pencil is harder it means it makes lighter marks and are noted with the letter H, the H9 is the hardest.

A pencil with the letter F has a degree of hardness halfway between the H and B.

There are many brands of graphite pencils and, for example, a 4B pencil of one brand can be very different than the 4B of another brand.

I use Staedtler Lumo Graph.


From the 16th Century, pencils were made with leads of English natural graphite, but now the modern pencils are most commonly a mix of graphite powder and clay; it was invented by Nicolas-Jacques Contè in 1795.    Lead is a metallic element that is not related in any way to the material found in a pencil-graphite.

Graphite it is actually a form of carbon and was previously called plumbago (or black lead).      The term plumbago drawing is normally restricted to 17th and 18th Century works, mostly portraits.

Today, pencils are still a small but significant market for natural graphite. Around 7% of the 1.1 million tonnes produced in 2011 was used to make pencils.

What kind of graphite you can use to draw:

Mechanical Pencils.   The mechanical pencil is a pencil with a replaceable and mechanically extendable solid pigment core called a “lead”. The lead, made of graphite, is not bonded to the outer casing, and can be mechanically extended as its point is worn away. Other names include automatic pencil, drafting pencil, technical pencil, click pencil.          Mechanical pencils are used to provide lines of constant width without sharpening in technical drawing and fine-art drawing.


The first mechanical pencil on the top is a Staedtler 2 mm, the second a Faber-Castell 0.5 mm and the third a Faber-Castell 0.7 mm.

Mechanical pencil mechanism use only a single lead diameter.   Different sizes of lead diameters are available to accomodate various preferences.

Diameter (mm):

0.20/ 0.30/ 0.40 = Technical work.

0.50/0.70/0.90 = General writing.

1.00 = rare, used in pre-1950 Parker pencils.

1.30 = Staedtler and Pentel.

1.40 = Faber-Castell e-Motion and Lamy ABC.

2.00 = drafting leadholders.

3.15/ 5.60 = non-drafting leadholders.

Staedtler 2.0 mm diameter leads are available in tubes of 2  and packs of 12 (in the photo you can see the pack of 12).

Progresso Pencil.     Are solid sticks of graphite with special pen, the diameter of the stick is of 5.0 mm and it looks like a “big mechanical pencil”. I use the Cretacolor Classic.

Wood-cased pencils.        Classic pencils, many brands are available, like I said at the top of this article. Are usually made with cedar wood.


Woodless pencils.      I also use Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Pencil.  It’s made with graphite formed into a solid 7 mm stick with a protective lacquer coating. Densities range from HB to 9B, you can obtain many kinds of shades and effects because you can use it as you want, you don’t have the “limit” of the wood.

Prismacolor Premier or Faber-Castell Polychromos?

The world of colored pencils is vast… but one of the questions I’ve asked to myself and I turned to other artists is “What is better? Prismacolor Premier or Faber-Castell Polychromos?”.

I asked two artists, both hyperrealist, and both gave me different answers… pretty much a draw!        The problem is that there is no real answer to this question because every artist has different needs and preferences, so what I prefer may not appeal to you!

Hence I decided to show you little tests made with both brands, so I hope to help you make your choice or even just to get a first impression.

Let’s talk first about the cost of both the pencil brands… The Prismacolor are a bit more affordable, listed at almost $1,84 (1,62 €) each while Polychromos retail for $2,85 (2,50 €).

Each brand can be purchased in sets ranging 12 to 132 pencils presented in boxes, tins or collectable wood cases or also as individual open stock.

The material, a very important difference!

The first and more important difference between the two pencils are what they are made from.   Prismacolor Premier are wax-based while the Faber-Castell Polychromos are oil-based.

Both are great and you can use them for working in mixed media, but you should be aware that a buildup of wax, called wax-bloom, can appear when using the Prismacolor.

The look…

Each casing details the brand, color name, and number. The Polychromos have a round end with a gold band while the Premiers have a simple flat end. As a result, the Polychromos are easier to identify because of their unique and particular design.


They both sharpen well and retain their point without breaking too easily but the Prismacolor Premier do feel softer than the Faber-Castell Polychromos.

Softness is a good trait for blending, but makes it difficult to get fine detail. Hardness instead is good for drawing detail but can make streaky, harsh shading. It’s also true that Prismacolor has a harder range of pencils called Verithin which can be used in conjunction with the other pencils if a finer point is required, however the pigment strenght isn’t as good.

Now let’s see together the differences about pigment and coverage

On a standard copy paper, applying a light pressure, you can see the Polychromos aren’t as vibrant but cover the paper in a much more even and fine way. Prismacolors produce a much richer, deeper color but appear heavy and leave more of the white of the paper showing through.

When the pencils are applied using a heavier pressure the Prismacolors become much thicker, quicker, and leave a rich and heavy coverage.   The Polychromos can achieve a similar coverage with further layering but the hardness of the leads can create streaking. This can be rectified byfurther layering and cross hatching.

Here I’ve tried to do a single stroke and you can see that Prismacolor creates a strong but broken line. Polychromos create a lighter line in terms of pigment, but the coverage is smoother and better.

In this case I did circulation and straight lines… Both circulation and straight lines demonstrate how much softer Prismacolors are, but you need to sharpening more frequently so the pencils would be used up quicker too, adding to expense.   The Faber-Castell Polychromos retained their point for longer but required more effort.

What happen if I must erase?

Erasing produced a clear difference.      The Prismacolor pencil did not erase very well and left a sticky colored residue that was dirty to remove.       Polychromos erased very well even with strongly pigmented colors which are notoriously difficult to erase.

Let’s talk about blending..!

I’m impressed with Prismacolor’s blending ability.    Polychromos blended well but with streaking still visible on some layers.     Once again this can be rectified with further cross hatching of layers.

I wanted to try (I was curious!) mixing Prismacolor white with Polychromos to see if works well mixing the two brands.   This because it’s difficult to choose… I love the precision of Polychromos but blending with Prismacolor is so much easier and quicker…!

This is the result:

Which is best?

Finally, this was the first question I asked and I see many artists being in the same situation…   I would say to get a small set of each, or even just black, white and red in each brand (also when you want to test another brand) and try each for yourself.

Here I write you other brands of oil and wax-based pencils:

  • Caran d’Ache Luminance: wax-based pencils, available in 76 colors.
  • Caran d’Ache Pablo: oil-based pencils, available in 120 colors.
  • Derwent Artists: wax-based pencils, available in 120 colors.
  • Derwent Coloursoft: wax-based pencils, available in 72 colors.
  • Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor: oil-based pencils, available in 72 colors.
  • Prismacolor Artstix: woodless version of the main Prismacolor line in the form of chunky stick, wax-based, available in 48 colors.
  • Prismacolor Verithin: hard version of the Prismacolor Premier line, wax-based pencils, available in 36 colors.
  • Talens Van Gogh: wax-based pencils, available in 60 colors.