Colored Pencil Tips & Techniques:

Using Solvents with Colored Pencil

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Using Solvents with Colored Pencil

Solvents break down and dissolve the binder in the colored pencil lead and can create a smooth painterly like surface. It is similar to watercolor painting, accept you are using a solvent instead of water to blend the colors with and to create various effects with the use of different application tools.

  • Solvents can change the look of the colored pencil layers.
  • Solvents can give the layers of colors a rich vivid appearance.
  • The most common paint solvents used with colored pencils are turpentine, mineral spirits and odorless mineral spirits.
  • Solvents that contain linseed oil have been known to break down paper products.

Tips On Using Solvents

  • Apply several layers of color, then apply the solvent either with a q-tip, a cotton ball, a paintbrush, a sponge or some other type of tool.
  • Before applying any solvent, it is best to apply several layers of colors first, so that there is enough pigment to dissolve, smooth and move around.
  • Before you add any more layers of color, wait for the solvent to dry.
  • Select a drawing paper that is durable and can withstand the layers of color and solvent applications.

Common Solvents Used With Color Pencil

  • Weber Turpenoid Natural (non-toxic and has linseed oil) - Is an alternative to traditional solvents and is considered environmentally safe. It is specially formulated with organic ingredients to be non-toxic and non-flammable. It is non-flammable, does not irritate skin or eyes, and does not emit harmful vapors.
  • Turpenoid (toxic and has linseed oil) - Is classified as a petroleum hydrocarbon and is basically odorless mineral spirits. It can be substituted for turpentine.
  • Turpentine (toxic) - Is the traditional solvent that many artist's use. Use only the manufactured type from pine tree resin, that has been carefully distilled.
  • Bestine (rubber cement thinner; toxic) - Is used for thinning rubber cement and removing non-water-based type inks. It is flamable, it can cause skin irritations, and it can be harmful if inhaled by someone who is asthmatic.
  • Mineral Spirits (toxic) - Is a petroleum distillate with properties similar to turpentine. It doesn't leave a gummy residue and does not deteriorate with age. It does not cause any reactions in people sensitive to turpentine.
  • Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits(non-toxic) - Safest out of all the solvents. It does contain small amounts of aliphatic hydrocarbons. It has a slow evaporation rate and a high permissible exposure level. Artists do not need respirator masks or exhaust systems.
  • Citrus Thinner - Is a citrus distillate and a byproduct of the manufacture of citrus peel liquor. Have yet to check this product out.
  • Zest-it - Have yet to check this product out.

Beware Some Solvents Are Toxic

Solvents can release toxins into the air and those toxins can cause lightheadedness, breathing problems, memory loss, brain damage or even cancer. Even though a natural solvent's container might say it's natural and safe, not all "Natural" products are 100% safe, so be wary of prolonged exposure and usage. Citrus solvents contain citrus oil and d-limonene, which are some of the most toxic solvents out there and have been linked to cancer. There is no hundred percent safe solvent, however, there are some that are significantly safer than others.

How to Determine Which Solvents Are Safe?

  • Read the product label.
  • Ask for and read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) sheet on the product. All stores should have these sheets on hand and will list all chemicals the product contains.

Safety Precautions

Make sure you use gloves and use proper ventilation by opening the windows and/or use an exhaust fan to expel toxic vapors. Dispose of any rags properly. Also make sure you undestand and know how to properly store and safely handle all solvents.

Saftey Resources On How to Use Solvents

Keep on Creating!

Colored Pencil Artist Carol Moore