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COLOURED PENCIL TOPICS

Surfaces for WAX PENCILS

This section looks at the different surfaces available to Coloured Pencil users Here, I look at the way that wax pencils perform on different papers Papers come and go.  From the original test carried out in 2014 and 2015, two papers have now disappeared from the retailers in the UK whilst others have appeared.  It is not always so easy to keep up ! ‘Lost’ surfaces have been removed and ‘new’ surfaces have been added at the end, otherwise the listing is the same as previously posted
Latest update here is September 2017
PLEASE NOTE.       These are NOT scientific tests on the papers listed and the list of papars is not comprehensive. The intention is simply to work some example shapes and lines on to a variety of papers, using a set of three brands of wax type pencils so that any differences between the papers in handling might show up.   The pencils used were from Faber Castell ( Polychromos) - an oil based pencil :  Derwent, Coloursoft - a wax based pencil : and finally Caran d’Ache Pablo - an oil based pencil. The same colours and the same patterns were used for each paper.   Most papers have a similar feel, and take coloured pencil in a similar way.   The differences will be in the surface, the absorbency, and the ability to erase colour. I have chosen papers from the Cartridge ranges, the Hot Pressed Watercolour ranges, Pastel papers that have a smooth surface, and some papers designed for taking prints ( these last papers will be the most absorbent). This first set of 15 tests cover papers using three NON SOLUBLE WAX TYPE brands of coloured pencils:  
Test 2  produced a set of four overlapping blocks of colour going from a light yellow through to a green and a strong line of red was applied over the top Derwent Coloursoft was used here - a soft wax based pencil ( similar to Prismacolor).   The line was included to check how the paper took a sharply defined line The further check in test 2 was to see how the colour erased from the paper surface.   I expected the softer wax pencils to be a problem here and, true to form, the wax did smear badly on some papers. The little power eraser was a Jakar model costing less than £5, but this is normally effective with oil based pencils on a Hot Pressed watercolour paper. Test 3 used a collection of oil based pencils ( Caran d’Ache Pablo) in overlapping blocks. The colour was worked in a clockwise direction from the red on the left, through white, pale blue, brown, yellow, purple, brown and finally white.  I was looking at the way the dark colours were accepted over light ones and vice versa. The same erasing test was set to reveal if the oil based pencils erased better - and they usually did.
1.   An inexpensive, unbranded white card This card has a smooth surface and was sold for craft use. It is about 300gsm and plain white in colour. Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering The Zest-It solvent worked well in smoothing the colour Test 2, the blocks of colour show the slight grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils - only one quite strong layer was applied.  The red line over the blocks was clean and sharp showing good definition for detail.   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The white does not show up well on the high white surface of the card and I have shown the edges with a dotted line Erasing was about the same as for the Wax pencils… good but some smearing Conclusion Surprisingly good for a cheap surface. This test provides the marker by which the other tests are considered
2.  Daler Rowney Heavy Cartridge        220gsm This card is light cream coloured and with a relatively smooth surface. Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Some Grain is apparent The Zest-It solvent worked very well in smoothing the colour Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils - only one quite strong layer was applied.  The red line over the blocks is quite defined with clean edges.   The erasing test showed smearing of the soft colour which would not be acceptable Test 3 showed effective layering and coverage.  The white has been defined with a dotted line. The colour was reasonably well held by the surface. Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion Reasonable results for an inexpensive paper with a good weight.
3. Daler Rowney Langton Botanical  HP W/C paper    300 gsm This is a fine surfaced watercolour paper in a light creamy colour. The two sides are virtually the same but the facing side on the pad is the smoothest. The test was carried out on this side Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering   Grain is not apparent (even when worked on the reverse side) The Zest-It solvent worked very well in smoothing the colour Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the different colours strongly with the Coloursoft wax pencils . The two yellows are quite markedly different in this sample.  The red line over the blocks is accurate and strong though not as sharp as in some papers.   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The white shows up well on the darker surface of some of the colours, and the colour was well held by the surface.  Some of the colours smeared when a further darker colour was laid on top Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion As good a result as expected.  This paper has been  one of my choices for nearly 10 years
4.  Fabriano Accademia 220 gsm cartridge paper This card has a matt smooth surface with a slight grain. Typical of cartridge paper.       This is a student quality paper. Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering The grain is quite apparent The Zest-It solvent worked well in smoothing the colour Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils.  The red line over the blocks is slightly fuzzy but covered the under colour well.   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The white does not show up well on the white surface of the card and I have shown the edges with a dotted line Erasing was better than the wax sample and quite acceptable Conclusion  Good for a student quality white cartridge paper
Fabriano Classico 5  HP Watercolour paper        300 gsm This paper has been a good stand by for wet processes, but proved in these tests not as good as some for dry wax type work. in 2016 there have been reports that the quality of thios paper has seriously declined. Tests here were on old stock of the pape. Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Grain is hardly apparent on the smooth paper The Zest-It solvent worked very well in smoothing the colour Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up well with the Coloursoft wax pencils - only one quite strong layer was applied.  The red line over the blocks is clean and strong.   The erasing test shows too much smearing of the soft colour, one of the poorest tested Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The white and yellow show up well on the darker colours         Erasing was better than the wax sample and just acceptable Conclusion This has been the ‘go to’ paper for some time, but the tests show that some of the other papers give superior overall performance. In view of recent quality control complaints I suggest potential users look elsewhere for an alternative paper
Fabriano Artistico  HP Watercolour paper  300 gsm A quality hot pressed watercolour paper with a smooth creamy coloured surface Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering. Virtually no grain is apparent The solvent makes a small difference and would probably be best used to bed down underlayers in a painting Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up well on the paper with the Coloursoft wax pencils. The red line over the blocks is well defined and has crisp edges  The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The colour was well held by the surface. The white over red shows the burnishing effect and the light blue over white shows how the white works as a resist Erasing was better than the wax sample and very acceptable Conclusion A very good paper for wax and oil based pencils. More expensive than Fabriano Classico but probably worth it.
You may have difficulty reading the details in the images shown below, as the page here is smaller than the one they were originally designed for.  If you wish to see the detail more clearly, THE IMAGES ARE AVAILABLE AS PDF Files on the archived version of this site and will be added here in due course
The layout of the test paper was somewhat arbitrary, but having started with the three tests shown here, I have stayed with them for consistency . The paper was pre-printed with the standard layout and  the coloured pencils selected were used and reserved so that each paper received the same pencils and colours. The tests were carried out one test at a time on all 15 original papers so that the colour was laid down in a similar way and hopefully at similar pressures. Two papers have since been removed and two added Test 1 simply laid down a series of blocks of colour. Faber Castell Polychromos ( an oil based medium hard pencil ) was used for this. The first block is showing a single even layer of pigment from the pencil, the second, two layers, etc one additional test was included here,  a light wash of a citrus based solvent ( Zest-It) with a small brush was applied to a duplicate block of 6 layers making a seventh sample. This showed how the paper accepted a damp layer of solvent liquid to smooth the colour. .It also revealed if the solvent caused any bleeding of colour on the paper.
Hahnemuhle Lana Pastel paper  ( moonstone)         200gsm This card has one grained and one smoother surface with less grain.  The Lana papers come in a wide range of colours. The test was carried out on the smooth side Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Grain is apparent even on the smooth side The Zest-It solvent worked very well in smoothing the colour Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils - only one quite strong layer was applied.  The red line over the blocks is quite rough.   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The white shows up well on the darker surface of the card, and the colour was well held by the surface. Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion  Not as good a result as expected.  The paper colours may give some users wider options for backgrounds, but not really suitable for coloured pencil.
Hahnemuhle Pastelfix cork surfaced pastel paper     170 gsm This is not really a CP paper, but it was included to see how it compared.  The pads are supplied with an assortment of colours so there is a choice available.  Could be good for backgrounds Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Slight mechanical grain is apparent from the lay down of the cork surface but smoothed by the solvent Test 2 , the blocks of colour show very strong take up of colour with the Coloursoft wax pencils - only one quite strong layer was applied.  The red line over the blocks is reasonably defined   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The colour was well held by the surface, and later layers are still clearly seen Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion Not an obvious choice for wax pencils, but the paper acquitted itself well.  I would consider it as an option if I had a picture to complete with a dark background
Saunders Waterford High White HP Watercolour paper   190 gsm  A fairly light weight paper with a smooth surface Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering A little grain is apparent  but smoothed by the solvent check Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils.  The red line over the blocks is well defined   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, not as good some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The colour was well held by the surface. And further layers are clearly seen Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion A good lighter weight paper with a smooth surface and good take up of colour
Legion Stonehenge      250 gsm A reliable print making paper from the USA.  Used to be known as Rising Stonehenge until the Rising Mill Closed.  Now made to the original formula and marketed by Legion Paper Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Slight Grain is apparent  but smoothed by the solvent check Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up little of the grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils .  The red line over the blocks is well defined with crisp edges   The erasing test showed a lot of smearing of the soft colour, not acceptable and poor compared to some other paper samples. Erasing is not really an option here Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The colour was well held by the surface. Further layers are clearly seen both with light over dark and the reverse Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion A good paper which has been the workhorse of CP in the USA for many years. It is available in the UK and Europe, but I think there are other papers equally good and more easily found in the UK
Legion Stonehenge Kraft  Paper Pad         250gsm This card has a matt smooth surface with no obvious grain.  It has a strong orange brown colour and is only sold in this shade. Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Very little grain is apparent The Zest-It solvent worked well in smoothing the colour, though the colour is sample 6 is already quite smooth Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the slight grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils .  The red line over the blocks is clean edged and covered the under layers well.   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The white shows up well on the darker surface of the card, and the colour was well held by the surface Erasing was better than the wax sample and very acceptable ( almost a clean erase) Conclusion  Very good result though the paper colour may put some people off
Strathmore  400 series Colored Pencil pad       163 gsm  A light weight paper sold in pad form with a pronounced grain Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Grain is apparent  but smoothed by the solvent. Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the grain of the card with the Coloursoft wax pencils - only one quite strong layer was applied.  The red line over the blocks is reasonably defined   The erasing test showed some smearing of the soft colour, but acceptable compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The colour was well held by the surface. Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion A new paper to me in the UK.  I found it better than expected from the initial sight of a well grained lightweight paper.  Results proved acceptable.
Strathmore  500 series Imperial HP Watercolour Paper      300 gsm  A heavyweight ‘top of the range’ watercolour paper.  I tested it as a Hot Pressed paper assuming it would have a smooth surface.  The sample described as HP is more like a cold pressed paper with a pronounced grain to the surface Test 1 with Polychromos showed the colour built up well in the layering Grain is apparent  but smoothed by the solvent check Test 2 , the blocks of colour show up the strong grain of the paper with the Coloursoft wax pencils.  The red line over the blocks is reasonably defined   The erasing test showed a lot of smearing of the soft colour, poor compared to some other samples Test 3 effective layering and coverage.  The colour was well held by the surface. Erasing was better than the wax sample and acceptable Conclusion A new paper to me in the UK.  This is an expensive watercolour paper and I would not pay the price for using it with wax or oil based coloured pencils.  I will test it with Watercolour pencils - I would expect the results to be better
R.K.Burt Botanical Ultra smooth  HP W/C paper  300gsm A new paper released in the summer of 2017 to the UK market. This paper is made by Saunders Waterford for R.K.Burt and is an extra smooth, white, Hot pressed paper. Test 1 with Polychromos shows the colour builds up well even though the surface is very smooth. Some effort will be required to get strong colour with just wax pencils Test 2 with blocks of colour from Coloursoft.  Good coverage on the smooth paper with the softer pencils. excellent definition on the edges as one would expect and excellent erasing with virtually no smearing of the wax. Test 3 once again very good coverage with the medium hardness Pablos .  even the white shows well.  Erasing of the oil based pencil is superb with virtually no colour left. Conclusion  although the paper is very smooth, the colour holding is excellent and it will work particularly well with the softer wax based pencils.  I was surprised how well the oil based pablo pencils performed. This is a good replacement for the Fabriano Classsico 5 which RKBurt imported
Clairfontaine Pastelmat   A specialist surface made with fine particles permanently bonded to heavyweight card There is a white version available and several colours. I selected the gold surface. Across all three tests the surface performed very well with the exception of the erasing of the soft wax coloursoft pencil line which is not surprising in view of the absorbent nature of the surface. Using solvent on the Polychromos achieved nothing. With good colour holding, this smooth pastel card makes a good case for coloured pencil use.  It could have difficulty with very fine detail in view of the granular nature of the working surface, but for strength of colour it has been the best surface so far on test. Conclusion An expensive card surface in a range of colours. It works exceptionally well within it’s capacity.  Not ideal for fine detail.  Solvents do not seem to work particularly well, but then I don’t know why you would need to use them
Direction of colour lay down
Direction of colour lay down, overlapping rectangles