How You Really Should Be Sharpening Your Prismacolors

By Nicole Tinkham

prismacolors
Have you ever had your colored pencil lead break off right in the middle of a project?? We hear it all the time and know how incredibly frustrating it is. Not only do you have to stop everything you’re doing to fix the problem, it’s also such a waste of a really good pencil! If you’re a Prismacolor pencil fan, you know just how vulnerable they are. You may think all hope is lost and your only option is to deal with the breakage, but there is actually a correct way to sharpen colored pencils that will help! Here’s how you should really be sharpening your Prismacolors.

Our favorite — The very basic handheld sharpeners

sharpener

Why we love them: They’re small, simple, inexpensive, and portable.

Tip: Don’t put a lot of pressure while sharpening! This could cause the lead to break. Instead be very gentle. It may be easier to sharpen the pencil vertically versus horizontally.

Check your sharpener: When your pencil shavings are short little bits, it means your sharpener blade is dull. Be sure to have nice long shavings when you sharpen. Sometimes the blades are replaceable and with others you’ll just have to buy a new sharpener.

 Go old school — Knife

Using a knife is a quick and easy way to sharpen your pencils but one drawback is that it’s the most dangerous option. Be very careful when doing this and always sharpen away from you.

Tip: Rotate the pencil so you get a nice shave all the way around.

Super simple — Sandpaper

sand-paper

Another different way to sharpen colored pencils (or other drawing tools such as charcoal and pastels) that we love is with sandpaper.

What to look for: There are special sandpaper blocks made for the artist which are basically layers of sandpaper stapled together on a wooden block (see image above).

Why we love them: They’re so convenient, you can take them anywhere, and just tear off a sheet after use for a fresh new one.

Tip: Be sure to rotate your pencil as you run it across the sandpaper surface so it’s a nice and even sharpen.

Electric sharpeners are debatable

We love electric pencil sharpeners for graphite pencils but they aren’t our top choice for colored pencils. However, every artist is different and we do know some that use an electric sharpener.

What we don’t like: You don’t have as much control and sometimes it can be too much force for the delicate colored pencil.

Another drawback: The wax from the pencils will eventually clog the sharpener.

Hand crank sharpeners — DO NOT USE!

These classroom style pencil sharpeners were not made for colored pencils. Don’t even try them because they can destroy your precious colored pencils!

DID YOU KNOW??

When your pencil lead is broken, you can leave it out in the sun for a few minutes. The heat will soften the wax lead and fuse the pieces back together.

Keep in mind that every artist is different so you may have to play around with a few options to see what works best for you. Some people have the magic touch using a handheld sharpener and others are really great at using the sandpaper method. Whichever you choose, always make sure to handle with care. Prismacolors are incredible colored pencils but so delicate. Treat them well and they’ll last awhile. We want to hear some of your top tips when it comes to colored pencils! How do you sharpen yours? How do you prevent the lead from breaking? Let us know in the comments 🙂

5 Things You Need To Know About Oil And Wax Colored Pencils

By Nicole Tinkham

5 Things You Need To Know About Oil And Wax Colored Pencils

You may not know the difference between oil-based colored pencils and wax ones. Or you may not even realize that there are two different types of colored pencils. That’s ok! No shame here, I didn’t know the difference myself. I knew one of the two were the common colored pencils that we see everywhere. You know, the Prismacolors we all know and love. The other type, I had never used and knew absolutely nothing about. It’s funny how when you get used to one thing it’s tough to try something else, isn’t it? You already know what to expect from wax-based colored pencils and more importantly, know how to use them (oil-based are a completely different feel). Not only will you tend to stick with what you know (and save some money while doing so), but you’ll also most likely miss oil-based pencils altogether unless you’re really looking for them. Wax-based are much more popular and can be found just about anywhere. But as we know, just because one type is more popular than the other doesn’t mean its better. Read on for 5 things you need to know about oil and wax colored pencils.
1.    Wax-based colored pencils tend to show up lighter on the paper allowing you to work in layers. Oil-based pencils lay down a lot of color, eliminating the need to work in layers.

2.    Oil-based pencils are much more expensive than wax-based ones but they offer a professional (think oil painting) look.

3.    There’s a wide range of wax-based pencils to choose from with the hard lead you probably used in grade school and a softer lead used by more experienced artists. Oil-based pencils on the other hand are more specialized, smear easily, and rely on the artist’s skill.

4.    Wax-based pencils offer a softer core that can break easily. They also tend to leave a film on the work surface. Oil-based pencils have a harder core and don’t leave behind that film.

5.    It’s recommended to use a fixative with wax-based pencils as it prevents the wax from rising to the surface or “blooming”. A fixative is not needed when working with oil-based colored pencils.

When it comes down to choosing either wax-based or oil-based colored pencils to work with, it’s all about personal preference. Both options have their pros and cons producing different looks. If you’ve worked with colored pencils in the past, they were most likely wax-based since those are the most popular. If you’re comfortable and happy with them, that’s perfect! But if you want to try something new, grab a few oil-based pencils and go to town! Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know your experience with either or both options.

23 Sketching tips for the beginner

By Nicole Tinkham

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As a beginner artist, you most likely know two things are sure: 1) If you want to get better at your art, you’ll have to practice often AND, 2) you should keep a sketchbook handy. To improve and grow as an artist you’ll have to be all in. You’ll need to start taking your art seriously. If you make one commitment today to better your art, make it to sketch DAILY. If you’ve purchased a brand new sketchbook before, you know there’s no better rush of excitement than opening it up to the first page. But don’t stop there. Filling that first page in can set the pace for where the rest of the sketchbook will go. So, where in the world do you start? Our best piece of advice is to just get started. And we have a list of 23 sketching tips to help you do just that. Note: These tips will cover a little bit of everything from choosing the right pencil to shading techniques. Let’s begin!
1.    Always start with the basic shapes. Draw these in lightly and add in more details as you go.

2.    Avoid smudging by placing a sheet of paper under your hand when shading. Right-handed artists should shade from left to right and left-handed artists should do the opposite.

3.    Don’t use your finger to blend! The oils from your skin will end up on your project and they can make taking away graphite in these areas difficult.

4.    Instead, use a blending stick to blend the graphite. Use a small circular motion for even blending. This will give it a more natural look.

5.    When shading, work from light to dark. Otherwise, the dark graphite could get stuck on your blending stick and mixed in with your lighter areas.

6.    Add some texture by using different mediums in your sketch like watercolor pencils. You can add water on parts and leave other parts dry.

7.    Use “H” (harder) pencils for lighter lines and “B” (softer) pencils for a darker line. More on pencil lead options here.

8.    Get a very soft look by scribbling on a scrap piece of paper with your pencil. You can then pick up the graphite with your blending stick and transfer it to your project. This way you won’t get those pencils lines in your sketch.

9.    Choose a paper with a “tooth” for added texture.

10.    The closer you hold your hand to the end (lead end) of the pencil, the more control you have.

11.    Use a photo as your reference. The nice thing about photographs is your object won’t move and the lighting won’t shift on you.

12.    Vary your line widths for a more interesting drawing.

13.    Use cross-hatching or stippling to shade for a different and unique look.

14.    Practice every single day! Whatever you’re struggling with, just keep sketching it out and you will get better.

15.    When creating 3D objects, you’ll have three different tones to pay attention to: highlights, shadows, and mid-tones. Your highlight area will be the part directly facing the light. Shadows are the area facing away from the light and mid-tones are the other area (not directly facing the light source and not directly away from the light source).

16.    When choosing a reference photo, make sure there are both light and dark areas.

17.    To achieve accurate proportion (especially when working on a portrait) use the grid system. Lay a grid over your reference photo and lightly draw a grid on your drawing paper to scale.

18.    Practice blind sketching. This is a fun technique that loosens up your drawings, like a drawing warm up. Basically, you’re drawing the subject without looking down at your sketchbook. This is just a fun way to get those creative juices flowing.

19.    Carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Observe and sketch often!

20.    Draw what you see. Pay close attention to your subject matter. Really look at shapes and shadows.

21.    Always keep your outlines light. Real life objects don’t have dark lines running along the edges. However, if you’re drawing in a cartoon style, this tip doesn’t apply.

22.    Choose which details to include and which ones to leave out. It’s not necessary to include every single detail in the leaves of a tree. Think about what’s aesthetically pleasing and decide what can be left out.

23.    Add color! Bring in some colored pencils, pastels, or even watercolor paint to your work to add some color.

We stressed in the beginning of this blog that these tips are meant for the beginner but actually, any artist regardless of their experience can use them. Print this post out and save it. These are excellent tips to look back on when you’re struggling or have artists’ block.

As with many of our other posts, we’re always adding and changing it based on what our fans have to say. If you have a killer sketching tip you want to see on the list, leave a COMMENT below and we’ll add it. Do you think we can reach 100 tips on this post??