Finding the Elusive Opaque White Colored Pencil

Ollie as Van Gogh
Here’s the color pencil painting I was working on, “Ollie in a Van Gogh Self-Portrait”.
While working on one of my colored pencil pet portraits, I experienced what many other artists have – that there is not a good opaque white colored pencil. That is, a white pencil that covers underlying color completely. Many artists have written about this, and art forums are filled with questions that don’t always have answers. I know this, because I read a lot of them looking for a solution!  Some art supply manufacturers have begun addressing the problem by creating new, more opaque whites. But the problem remains.

Recently, I was working on a Masterpiece Pet Portrait inspired by a Van Gogh self-portrait. Van Gogh’s brushstrokes are very visible, and I was faced with how to accomplish a look of white brushstrokes without having to use a Copic pen, or white gouache (opaque watercolor for newbies). Neither those or any other potential methods are colored pencil, which I want to use exclusively.

A close-up of the area that I added the dissolved white pencil to.

As I sometimes use alcohol to dissolve some of the layers of colored pencil, I thought of this: why not dissolve one of the softer colored pencils I have in alcohol? I chopped off a Prismacolor lead and dropped it in a small amount of alcohol. It soon dissolved and I was able to use a small brush to paint this liquid on top of dark colors. And it was almost completely opaque! Even better, after it dried, I was able to add color on top of it. Win-win!!

Try it yourself, and let me know what you think!





    • I was ever so surprised to find that it did! But very glad. Since then I have used a similar technique, taking a brush with alcohol on it and brushing it across the colored pencil lead to pick up the color. Then I apply it to the paper. This works in areas that only need a tiny bit of color.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *