Recently I finished another colored pencil piece of one of my favorite animals…a flamingo. Seriously I go to the zoo just to watch them. Some are small enough to fit in my camera bag, if I could just get to their enclosure, I’m sure one would want to come live with me!

AAAANYWAY, while working on this recent flamingo I was reminiscing about the last time I drew a flamingo in colored pencil. I used to use just Prismacolor colored pencils. Now I’m not here to say that you shouldn’t use them. If you love them, use what you like. What I do want to share is that if you’re having trouble getting the detail and results you want, your tools may be part of the cause. My new flamingo was completed using Polychromos and Luminance colored pencils (and one Derwent Drawing Chinese White).



The big difference that I noticed was that it was SOOO much easier to get the fine detail I wanted in my feathers than it was with Prismacolor. Both Polychromos and Luminance hold a sharp point much better than Prismacolor. I struggled to get the detail I really wanted with my 2014 piece because between wanting to burn my pencils for breaking every time I sharpened them, then fighting with having so much wax bloom that I couldn’t get the detail I wanted, the entire process was quite frustrating.

I already know I’m going to have a bunch of Prismacolor fanboys (or girls) telling me how I’m sharpening them wrong. Two things:

  1. They break as badly as they do because the wood casings are so warped on many of the pencils produced by the company. When a wood casing is warped and the lead is off centered, when you sharpen the pencil…no matter how you sharpen a bad pencil, pressure is put on the lead unevenly. Given how brittle this lead is it is going to break. I find this to be much less of a problem when using an electric sharpener, but it is still an issue of quality control.
  2. I do not enjoy jumping through hoops to get an overpriced pencil to perform or (even sharpen) as ever other quality colored pencil does without issue.

The point is that I was not enjoying the process. I had gotten to the point where I never wanted to work in colored pencil anymore because I was so sick of dealing with badly made pencils. It was after this that I switched to Polychromos and eventually added Luminance to my collection.  The experience in working with these different pencils is HUGE. I can get amazing detail with the Polychromos and given how translucent they are, they work for techniques that are similar to glazing in painting. The Polychromos being oil based have no wax bloom so you can do many more layers than with the Prismacolor. When I want opacity that Prismacolor has I switch to Luminance which are wax based. I feel I have SO much more control in my work with these pencils than I did with the old.

The other big difference in these two pieces was the paper I used. For the 2014 flamingo, I worked on Bristol Vellum. This is a VERY smooth paper, which meant I had two things going against my ability to add multiple layers…the pencils and their wax bloom and paper that didn’t have enough tooth. For my 2015 flamingo, I used Fabriano Artistico Extra White Hot Pressed 140lb watercolor paper. This paper is still very smooth but has just that extra bit of tooth allowing for more layering.

On the new flamingo, I never felt limited by my supplies like I did in the older one. I wasn’t fighting my tools which made the entire process much more enjoyable! No matter which medium you’re working in, if you’re having certain issues, be it paint lifting from the canvas or pencils breaking when the wind shifts, do a bit of research to see if there might be better options out there that will be better for the work you’re trying to complete!