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What’s all the buzz about colored pencil and the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA)?

No longer a sketching tool, the colored pencil has come into its own. Viewers of works in this medium frequently proclaim, “I can’t believe it’s colored pencil!” The wax or oil based pencil can achieve the painterly effects of oil, airbrush, watercolor or pastel. Colored pencils come in sets of up to 120 different colors. The colors are applied in layers – as opposed to being mixed on a palette with a brush – and being transparent, allow the previous layers to show through. The working surface becomes the palette. It is not unusual to apply as many as 15 layers in the mixing process. This, not surprisingly, can take a long time. While some artists work more quickly than others, some spend over 100 hours on a piece. It is also not unusual for artists to combine colored pencils with other mediums such as watercolor, ink or pastel.

In addition to standard drawing techniques, colored pencil artists employ a variety of techniques to get the results they want such as:

Light Touch: Applying pencils lightly, allowing the texture of the paper to show through.
Burnishing: The forceful flattening of the paper by pencil or tool to create a smooth, solid layer of color.
Impressed Line: An indentation of lines into the paper using a variety of sharp tools.
Scraffito: The intentional scraping off of color from the surface of the paper.
Frottage: The rubbing of pigment over a raised surface to create interesting patterns.
Solvents: Dissolving the binder in the pencils, allowing the colors to run together. Water soluble colored pencils are used for similar effect.

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