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The Best Drawing Pencils to Use for Portraits

Drawing portraits with pencils has many advantages for the artist, as pencils are a relatively inexpensive medium and they are easily transported to different locations if the artist decides to try a change of venue. Pencil portraits are created in the traditional five shades, which range from white to black, or they are created with colour pencils.

Pencil Hardness

Graphite pencils are made using a combination of graphite and filler material. The more graphite in the pencil lead, the softer the pencil. Graphite pencils are graded according to the hardness using a scale ranging from very hard, indicated with H-codes, to soft, indicated with B-codes. The higher the number the harder the H-code pencil and the softer the B-code pencil. Pencils of medium hardness are indicated by HB or F, for fine.

Watercolour Pencils

Watercolour pencils are colour pencils made with water-soluble leads. These pencils may be used dry on damp paper for a soft, bleeding effect. With this technique, dry pencil is applied for fine lines and details after the paper is dry. Another technique with watercolour pencils is to use dry paper and wet the pencil lead before applying it to the paper. This technique lays down heavy pigment. A wet brush may be applied to pencil lines, if desired.

Wax-Based Color Pencils

Wax-based colour pencils are the standard for colour pencil portrait work. These pencils lend themselves to a variety of art techniques, producing results that look like watercolour paintings, pastels, or other types of art. Wax-based colour pencils are available in a wide array of different colours. They can be purchased in sets or individually, by colour. A very important consideration when selecting wax-based colour pencils is the colour permanence of the pencils. Acid-free paper and fade-proof pencils are used for artwork that will last for a very, very long time.

Oil-Based Color Pencils

Oil-based colour pencils are used with turpentine for blending. When selecting oil-based pencils look for pencils that lay down colour smoothly, without leaving bits of lead on the paper, which can result in smearing and streaking. When blending with turpentine, use a mask or work in a well-ventilated area. Protect your hands with latex gloves. One way to blend oil-based colours is with a tortillion dipped in turpentine. Select oil-based pencils that provide fade-proof colour.

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About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.