For those of you thinking about working on suede but don’t know where to get some. I do actually sell it at my etsy store in the supply section.
A Few Thoughts and Tips On Using Water Soluble Media On Suede Board
Here I will offer up a few of the things I’ve learned while learning how to use water soluble media on suede board. After trying suede just once, I instantly became a fan. It offers a softness that is difficult to match when using water color papers.
Topics Covered On This Watercolor Pencil Technique Page
* About Suede Matboard
* Tips For Working On Suede
* Step By Step Follow A Watercolor Pencil Painting On Suede Progress
* Working Color Onto Suede Board
* My Favorite Water Soluble Media That I Use On Suede Board
* Step By Step For Using Masking Film On Suede Board
* Also What To Do When Water Bleeds Where You Don’t Want It
Artwork or content in this page may not be copied or reproduced, either in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.
Am I Crazy To Use Suede For My Watercolor Pencil Paintings?
Well . . . yes. But not about this.
I’ve been working with watercolor pencils for over a decade but only recently started working with this medium on museum quality suede matboard. I got the crazy idea to do this from a colored pencil artist who used turps for blending without any ill effects to the suede. (Though I’m not sure how turps affect archivability) but I thought “Hey, if she could use turps for blending, I should be able to use water on it just fine.” And so I did.
And after I did one painting on suede, I did another and another. Sometimes it takes trying something new to totally re-stimulate a medium for me.
What I like about suede is it adds a softness to the final image that I had to work very hard at when using watercolor papers. That being said it has it’s limits to the abuse it can take. And I tend to dish out abuse when layering in multiple colors until the paper begs for mercy.
I suggest using the lighter colors and white over mid-range and darker shades unless you are working with a dense opacity pencil that covers well like Neopastel’s wax pastels. The lighter colors allow you to go lighter and darker with ease. However you can always experiment with darker colors and see what you come up with. For instance a dark blue might be a great base for a night scene.
Create Your Drawing On A Separate Piece Of Paper
Suede board is easy to draw on, but erases exceedingly poor. You can erase some minor things like dusting if done gently. But if you get aggressive it will ruin the suede.
I imagine for those who project an image this won’t be an issue. But since for the most part I do all my own drawing, I had to figure out how to make it work.
So what I do is create my drawing separately on paper.
Shown Here: Is the preliminary drawing for a commission portrait of a horse named Buddy
For ease, I do keep my drawings fairly simple when using this process of tracing. Not only because it saves time but also the pencil lines remain and have to be hidden. The fewer lines the less I need to keep track of. Otherwise I tend to have rather elaborate drawings. The more that gets figured out before hand in the drawing stage, the less I have to figure out while creating.
Then Re-Draw By Placing Tracing Paper Over The Suede Board
I then apply my tracing paper over my suede board and retrace the tracing. I press a little harder than my usual drawing pressure but it really doesn’t take much to score the suede.
I then run my pencil over (meaning I trace my score marks) and thus I have my base drawing.
The lighter the shade of suede the less visible the score marks are to see. Cross lighting will help create enough shadow to find them easily.
Shown Here: is the early work on the horse portrait where some drawing is still visible.
This was still one of my earlier paintings on suede and so I was still learning to try new techniques with this piece. That’s the great thing about art, there’s so much to learn through experimentation and exploration.
Note this photo is a bit on the dark side. The following photos are a better representation of the actual color of the suede board.
Working The Watercolor Pencil Painting In Sections
Watercolor Pencil Painting Technique For Working On Suede
This piece works really well for suede board. Because I can easily break up the image into section, thus I can work more easily on a smaller area at a time. By doing this, I am less likely to track or smear color by rubbing or smearing my hand on not quite dry areas.
Once again I choose to work on a lighter neutral shade of suede. Crescent matboard 7101 Mercury. This allows me to put in both the lighter and darker colors easily. I have been curious to try working on a dark color of suede. For instance on this piece my background is meant to be a dark brown. So I seriously considered working on a dark brown suede. I’m guessing though that I would have had to work a lot harder to get my whites bright enough. On the other hand it may well have introduced a really nice moody atmosphere that I have to add in at the end so as not to have a “cut-and-paste” look to it.
Finishing Up The Horse’s Body On This Painting
I try to work around the central starting point. Which for me is always the eyes. Why the eyes? Because if that doesn’t look correct, the finished painting never will.
I really enjoyed the saddle and the tack. Instead of simply using black, I used a combination of Indigo Blue With Dark Chocolate Brown for the leather part of my tack. This gave off a richer tone and using straight black often leaves a watercolor pencil painting looking flat.
Creating The Background And Mane In This Watercolor Pencil Painting
Watercolor Pencil Painting Technique For Working On Suede
Here I have applied to background watercolor pencil wash in. One of the benefits of working with suede is dark colors go in really well and easily. The background wash is really just a wash of color with a dry layer or two over the top.
I used the same colors for my background as I did for my saddle I just inverted the ratio. The saddle was primarily blue with some chocolate brown and my background was primarily brown with some blue. This adds a nice continuity for the painting and helps reduce that cut and paste look you might get without it.
The forelock and mane areas have just got an initial wash in. Much of the remaining hair will be put in dry.
I think a downside to working with suede is because it’s so dimensional, it can be a little flat looking. So I have to really push my contrast.
Begin With Working The Dry Color In With Watercolor Pencils
Color is lightly scribbled in DRY. If you press too hard you may mar the suede. You can apply color densely, just do it with minimal pressure.
The upper portion of the muzzle here has the base color washed in. The lower part of the jaw is how the dry pencil looks on suede.
This is the early stages of my painting called Liberty. It was created on crescent matboard C7101
Apply water quickly, carefully and sparingly.
I’ve found that using a Q-tip to apply water for the base coloring works best for me. It holds just the right amount of water.
Paint brushes can hold too much and since suede absorbs and pulls (wicks) moisture and color onto dry areas this can potentially ruin a piece. So be sure to apply water to outline areas carefully. Or if your brush holds too little water it can be a hugely time consuming business of creating a base coat.
The other issue with using paint brushes is it may in fact ruin them. The scrushing action needed to smooth the color may frizz and fray the bristles. Q-tips are really the best solution for large area coverage.
Note: It is important to work quickly to allow for a smooth absorption. This will prevent any hard edges from drying. Much like when working with water color pencils on paper, I try to work in areas so if a hard line forms, I can work it into the natural shadow areas of the painting.
For example on liberty I used the jaw line as my start and stop place for adding water.
Finish Details Dry With A Sharpened Watercolor Pencil.
It is extremely important to wait until the area is completely dry. The suede surface and fibers are most prone to be damaged when in the wet stage. Suede takes quite awhile to dry (around 20-45 minutes depending on how much water was actually used) so be patient. I tend to work on other areas or simply get up and do something else for awhile.
Once dry, you can begin working the area with either another layer of wash or the dry detail work. Since this is a black horse. I tried to keep my color mid-range (note: the soft blues and purples) so I could go lighter and darker with ease.
Liberty Friesian Stallion
You can see I had been working in all these lovely shades of blue and purple for my horses coloring. But in the finished painting I brought it back to much more “normal” coloring.
Tips For Using Watercolor Pencils On Suede Board
1. Suede is far more durable than I would have thought. In it’s framing application it is rather delicate and the surface papers mark and mar easily. However, as an art surface it takes a great deal of punishment in regards to layering in color (when suede is dry) with sharp pencils. Because of this you can get a high degree of realism. Unlike paper though, you can’t wet the surface and push color around.
2. A Q-tip tends to work better than a brush for applying water. It seems to hold just the right amount of water.
3. You can lift off color (to a degree) with a Q-tip. I did this gently, but it worked as effectively as if I was lifting it off paper. In fact I worked a bit rougher than had I do when working on paper and surprisingly, it didn’t hurt the surface.
4. If an area get overworked (burnished) from certain angles it will shine when light hits it. Simply add a small amount of water to bring up the suede softness.
5. Be aware of the mat color you choose. My best suggestion is to use neutral colors so you work work in both light and dark easily.
6. After applying water, allow the surface to dry thoroughly before working it over with a pencil. (again to avoid tearing the surface paper) Most of my foal was done with no water involvement at all. The grass however needed a base green (some of which you can see in this picture) where it’s entire surface was wet.
7. Tape is good for lifting color off, like dusting that floats onto areas where it shouldn’t. This should be done often to prevent the dust from being ground into the suede. I usually don’t worry about this in areas that will eventually be covered with color. But for areas where I want my suede to show through I try to keep it clean.
8. Use Water Sparingly Matboard is nothing more than several sheets of paper adhered together. Too much water will cause the board to warp and cause the papers to separate.
9. Frisket film or even book covering materials (low tack for either) are good for masking out areas you don’t want dust to settle or from your hand transferring or smearing.
Working Watercolor Pencils On Wet Suede – Saturation And Impregnation With Watercolor Pencils
Okay now I know I told you previously to let your suede dry completely before applying the watercolor pencil. But here’s a technique that I use while the suede board is still wet.
After I apply my base colors and wet them with the q-tip. I allow perhaps a minute or two to go by, to allow a minor bit of absorption to happen. Then I use the stubbed end (as in not a sharp point) of a watercolor pencil and push it gently onto the wet suede..Working gently I move it around a bit. What this technique does is it allows you to lay in a base coat and essentially an additional layer over the top of it with the same water application. They blend softly as one. This provides a denser layering in of color for the second layer, than had it been applied dry and wetted a second time.
You should note that you will go through a lot more pencil pigment this way. Also the second layer will soften and become less intense as it dries so don’t be afraid of using too much pigment.
This is a good technique for adding softness and subtly and works really well for that photo blur realistic looking background..
The area that shows this technique is the forehead of the rhino. In the example shown here I used moss green and indigo blue for my base colors. Once wetted, I used a flesh tone water color pencil to buff in the lighter color. Impregnation is the binding of the first layer to the second layer of color. Once this dries than I continue to work as my usual.
Step 1: Scribble the watercolor pencil in dry
Initial watercolor pencil layer is done dry.
Yup I pretty much scribble my watercolor pencil in like a little kid. This is the moment to let your inner child run free and color with abandon. I do try however, to run the lines in the general direction that hair growth or this case case, horn growth goes.
I lay in quite a few colors dry before adding water. This technique gives a more realistic look to you underlaying watercolor pencil layer. If you work to hard at putting down even amount of watercolor pencil for all your colors you’ll get a very flat and even coverage of one color. While this may be a suitable technique for doing background washes, for this example a mottled bae color is far more beneficial.
Step 2. Adding Water To Your Watercolor Pencil Painting On Suede
Being mindful of the of drawing outline of watercolor pencil painting
Using a Q-tip for added control I wet the surface of the suede area. Again be mindful of the edges as suede board will wick the water quickly. I usually stay about an 1/8 inch from the artworks edge.
As I mentioned previously q-tips offer more control over paint brushes when working with watercolor pencils on suede. Plus lifting and moving color around on suede may ruin a good quality paintbrush.
Step 3 Color Impregnation With Watercolor Pencils Or Water Soluble Wax Pastel
I use multiple water soluble media on suede board paintings.
I wait a few minutes for the suede to dry just a little after I added the water. Then very gently and using the broad side of the pencil I rub it gently over the wet surface.
I used both watercolor pencil as well as water soluble wax pastel to see how they’d work. Both worked well enough though if the Necolor II water soluble wax pastel is applied too heavily it will affect your ability to lay more color over the top.
Note: Avoid sharp points as these may dig into and tear the softened paper surface.
Step 4: Final Detail The Dry Work On The Watercolor Pencil Painting On Suede
Final detail layer is done using dry watercolor pencils
After the suede has completely dried (usually 15-20 minutes depending) you can go back in and do the finishing dry work.
Note: The tip of the horn has the finishing work done to it.
The Finished Watercolor Pencil Painting on Suede Board
Watercolor Pencil Technique on Suede
Some Of My Favorite Water Soluble Mediums
All of the paintings Shown on this page were created using a combination of these various watercolor pencil brands
Faber Castell Watercolor Pencils
Derwent Watercolor Pencil
Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Watersoluble wax pastels
Inktense Watersoluble Ink Pencils
Albrecht Durer 120 Watercolor Pencil Set Tin
Why I Like Faber Castell Watercolor Pencils
Faber Castell Watercolor Pencils are my favorite brand because of their luminous color. They are a little more spendy than some, but they are of the highest quality. And the way I see it is, you get what you pay for. The pigment density is excellent which means less layering and the intensity and brightness of color is exceptional. I can actually tell which watercolor pencil paintings I used these pencils on. It is obvious to my eye the artworks created before Faber Castell watercolor pencils and which artworks were after I discovered them.
When I first purchased these watercolor pencils they were quite hard to find as open stock, but now a lot of art supply stores are carrying them this sway so they are easyto replace now, as well.
Watercolor Pencil Amazon Product Description
These beautiful pencils by Faber Castell offer high quality pigments that are bright lightfast and acid free. The colors are fully water soluble- simply draw on any surface that is suitable for watercolor and then blend colors with a wet brush. The leads are bonded down the complete length of the pencil which prevents breakage. This also ensures that the color leads will not slip out of the wood casing during use. Colors layer
My Thoughts On Derwent Watercolor Pencils
Derwent Watercolor Pencils were the first set I bought myself. These pencils are a great all around watercolor pencil. They sharpen and hold their point nicely which I like for all my little fiddly hair work. Another major benefit is they are quite easy to find as open stock, as most any art supply store will carry them. I live in a very rural area where my access to really art supply stores is limited but most of the chain craft stores carry these as open stock which is wonderful For simply replacing a few pencils.
Personally, I feel the colors are a little more flat looking (not as vibrant) compared to the Faber Castells. But I use these pencil in conjunction with my others all of the time and they are an important part of my color palette.
Derwent Watercolor Pencil Amazon Product Description
The Derwent Watercolor Pencil Set contains quality water soluble pencils for the artist who demands the very best. 72 assorted colors in an attractive metal tin set. Blendable in water.
My Thoughts Caran d”Ache Watercolor Pencils
Now while I don’t have a full set of Caran d’Ache Watercolor Pencils I do have an extensive range of open stock that I selected to fill in the color gaps of some of my other sets.
Overall I really like these pencils well enough. They have good color and coverage as well as work really nicely as a dry pencil. Since much of my work is done primarily dry this is quite important that a sharpened pencils can maintain a point without breaking.
The lead is perhaps a touch more crumbly than Faber Castell or Derwents when applying a lot of pressure when working dry. But they have a fabulous color range and the color luminosity is really good.
* Superior-quality water-soluble color pencils for the most exacting requirements
* Lead: water-soluble, soft, 3.8 mm, high breaking-strength, very economical thanks to their exceptional covering power.
* Bright colors, excellent light fastness.
* Techniques: crosshatching, graded applications, watercolor effects, washes, unlimited blending possibilities, mixed media
* Hexagonal, end-sealed in the same color as the lead, marked with color name and code, best cedar.
NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Pastel
Neocolor II Water Soluble Wax Pastel Amazon Product Description
Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Aquarelle water-soluble artists crayons have exceptional covering properties. Mixable for infinite variety and works on any material. Ideal for numerous watercolor techniques.
* Superior-quality water-soluble wax pastel
* Soft and easy to work pastels with strong bright colors.
* Techniques: Dry or wet drawing on all materials, watercolour effects, washes, scraping out
* Made in Switzerland
My Thoughts About Caran d’Ache Water Soluble Wax Pastels on Suede
Recently, I bought a few of the Caran d’Ache Neocolor Wax Pastels and fell in love. They lay down pigment beautifully. They are not as soluble as I am used to, but make up for it with ease of application and pigment coverage.
Working on suede they seemed to burnish it down quickly. I imagine the wax (though they feel quite dry and sharpen nicely) binds the fibers down. So they may not be best suited for suede work. Or at least used sparingly on suede.
MY Thoughts On Derwents Inktense Watersoluble Ink Pencils
The color is as the name name indicates Intense. I tend to use these for my base color. Where I used to apply several layers of traditional watercolor Pencils washes. Now, generally it requires only one layers of Inktense to get the job done. Having discovered these little beauties my time spent working on base coloring was greatly diminished.
Inktense Watersoluble Ink Pencil Amazon Product Description
Combining the brilliant intensity of pen and ink with the versatility of line and wash this pencil can be used for dry rich intense color or washed out with a little water to create a vivid translucent effect. The rich pigment extends further than traditional watercolor pencils and is more opaque for a true ink effect. Permanent once dry.
Whenever I visit a major art supply company I always purchase a few random items of products that strike my fancy. This is where I discover a love for a new medium. I buy a few items and experiment. My original set of Derwent Rexal watercolor pencils I got as a set. All the other mediums talked about here were purchased as a few open stock which I tried, loved and then bought the biggest set of colors I could find. I’m a big believer in having as many color options as possible. Most of the time I have a handful of favorites that I use repeatedly, but having the vast assortment to work with makes thing all that much easier.
Working With Masking Film and Watercolor Pencils
Masking films are used to block out and cover areas of your artistic substrate (i.e. paper, canvas and in this case museum grade suede board) from getting smudged or from random color.
A Little About Backgrounds
Since most of the time I completely fill in my backgrounds covering them over as part of the painting (see front page artwork,) I rarely have use of masking film. But sometimes, on occasion I want my background to be pristine. And it’ for these moments that masking film is necessary.
How I Apply Watercolor Pencils/Inktense To Suede
I’m often asked how I do what I do and the first step when working my “color thang” is to just scribble it on much like a small child might. When I tell people this I usually get a “Yeah, right” so here is a photo to illustrate.
Yes, occasionally I work this stage with actual thought (for instance if I have hair running in a direction) but even them I tend to scribble quite a bit.
My background colors are primarily inktense with some water color pencil thrown in. There is probably 6-8 colors. I don’t put it on evenly mainly because I like the subtle color shifts that just naturally occur when adding water.
NOTE: The left hand side of Rosy (the actual cow portion) here is the base layer with water applied. You can see the soft color shifts there.
Low Tack Frisket Film For Masking Your Artwork
I prefer low tack film as it will release from the suede easier without removing any suede board fibers or affecting the texture. However if the film is to be left in place for a lengthy period of time you may want a regular tack or even high tack option.
Because I’m always looking for ways to cut some cost, I tried an alternative to frisket film. Book covering film is much cheaper (around $3-6 per roll) over that of frisket which runs anywhere from $25-35 on up.
I find it works quite well and is what is shown in the below photos.
Steps For Using Masking Film On Your Watercolor Pencil Painting On Suede Board
Applying The Masking Film
* Cut a length of film slightly larger than your suede board watercolor painting.
* Remove backing and press into suede on one edge
* In One smooth motion continue to remove backing paper to film while applying film to the suede board
* Trim any excess film or roll under edges of suede
NOTE: The drawing for the watercolor pencil painting has already been traced onto the suede board.
Steps For Using Masking Film On Your Watercolor Pencil Painting On Suede Board
In order to minimize any smudging or color transfer to places on my suede board that i don’t want it. I am planning on working from left to right (as I am right handed.) This means I am going to only work on one bird at a time before moving on to the next.
Steps For Trimming The Masking
* Lightly trace the outline of the pencil drawing showing through the masking film.
* Use a sharp pair of scissors and begin to cut away the film being careful to keep it as close to the lines as possible. This should be quite easy with a sharp scissors in that you shouldn’t need to cur per-se the film should just slice easily while you glide the scissors around.
A very sharp short nosed Scissors works best for trimming film.
The scissors shown in my photo was a little cumbersome and so I swapped it out for a smaller scissors when it came time to trim out the masking film for my second bird.
Step 3: After Completing The First Bird I Trim The Film Away From The Second Bird and so on.
And because it’s a high priority to minimize any smudging I apply a workable fixative spray to my watercolor pencil suede board painting. I will reapply a fixative coating every time a new bird has been completed.
Then I repeat step 2 of tracing the second bird out and trimming away the masking film.
A Reminder to apply water to suede carefully. Suede wicks water away pretty quickly and since the point of the masking process is to keep the surrounding area free from smudging and dirt, you must also remember to work cautiously.. Water and color will wick under the masking film. The only thing the film retards is smudging and color transfer. I try to not add water within 1/4 inch of the edge. I then fill in and work dry up to the edge.
Using A Fixative On Your Watercolor Pencil Painting
Because so much of the art that I do on suede is done dry, it has a tendency to dust a little. The watercolor pencils don’t dust nearly as much as a pastel might but they still do a little. So when I’m done I usually apply a workable fixative on the painting. I like the workable kind because it allows you to go back in if you want to. I generally only apply the fixative at the very end of the process but it’s nice to have options.
Note: It’s important to know that applying the fixative does not make a permanent seal. You can still track color and smudge the final painting. A workable fixative generally just reduces the dusting and to a lesser extent the tracking.
Step 4: Continue To Trim Away Masking Film As You Move Horizontally Across Your Painting
So the pattern for working with masking film goes as follows:
* Trim away film to expose area to be worked on.
* Complete the painting portion
* Spray entire exposed painting with workable fixative
* Trim away masking film for new area to be painted on.
NOTE: Often there is fear among artists that a spray fixative may change the color of the work. SO far I’ve not found this to be an issue with watercolor pencils on suede board. As to how it might affect pastels colors I do not know.
Step 5: Removing The Masking Film From Your Watercolor Pencil Painting
Now that I’ve completed the painting portion, or at least all that I can do while the masking film is still applied to the painting on suede, it’s time to say a little prayer and remove the masking film.
While removing the film be mindful that it doesn’t fall on the painted areas. I doubt it would ruin it but it’s a good thing to have a little color on the masking film as possible. So if it does fall onto the white background portion of the suede, hopefully it won’t leave any color behind.
What To Do If You’ve Got A Dusting Of Color Where You Don’t Want It.
* Try Inverting the painting and tapping it directly behind the spot where you wish to remove the offending dust.
* Use tape. Simply lay it over the offending watercolor pencil dust and lift away.
* If you have a small vacuum you can try that as well.
* Try to brush it off with your hands
* Erase it
If the above doesn’t work you may be able to wash it away. Just be aware you’ll need quite a bit of water and there is a chance (depending on how bad the dust or smudge) that you will in fact make it worse. If using Inktense pencils like I have here, your chance for success with trying to wash it away are probably even less so. What it might come down to is the smudge ruins the painting anyway, then give it a go.
Step 6: Cleaning Up The Rough Watercolor Pencil Painting Edges
Remove the masking film only from the suede area that you are working on.
After having removed the masking film you can see even though I was very carefully there is some color that has spread under the masking film. This needs to be colored in with a sharp watercolor pencil, like it was always supposed to be that way. Again don’t try to remove the seeped color, you must cover it.
Be sure that you are careful not to track any color from your finished painted area onto the suede board surrounding the actual painting. You’d be surprised how little it takes to track color all over you freshly completed piece.
I remove the mask only in the area that I am working on and then replace it. It doesn’t stick nearly as well after it has been once removed but it still offers some protection. I won’t completely remove the masking film until I am ready to frame it.
And one last time for good measure … spray with a fixative.
What To Do If Your Water Runs Where You Don’t Want It To
This technique also works well for adding texture and lifting color
While working on this painting I am adding water to my background which is a dark brown water soluble ink. I have been working on suede board for quite awhile and so I was very careful about applying the water. Nonetheless it ran into my lion’s face. I think I was a bit heavy handed with the water farther away from the image and since my drafting table is set at a 30% angle gravity pulled it where it should be.
This could have been a disaster. First of all water soluble ink becomes permanent when dry so I needed to work fast.
First I flipped the painting so gravity was working with me.
Then I grabbed some paper towel and began dabbing the area to pull off water (and color) from all over.
Then I added more clean water (in extremely limited amounts and ever so carefully) to area where the dark had run into the cats face. This is to help pull up more of the dark brown ink. Dubbed again with paper towel. Rinse and repeat until ALL unwanted color was removed.
At this point it was simply a matter of waiting for the suede to dry and rework the area.