View Full Version : Sketching out your canvas.

06-25-2007, 05:19 PM

I often paint in a loose background, or at least a medium-toned value, over the entire canvas (because a stark white canvas is intimidating!), when starting a painting.

Problem is, this makes it difficult to see my drawing (when I go to draw the main image on top of the background). Even a 6B pencil is difficult to see. Charcoal is out of the question--too messy.

How would you guys address drawing over a background that's not bright white, while still making outlines that are not too imposing (ie, I don't want it to look like a Sharpie, lol).

When doing a detailed painting, it's very frustrating to not be able to see your basic outlines. And going back to drawing on a white background seems too "connect-the-dots"-ish. :rolleyes:


06-25-2007, 05:32 PM
I haven't done that yet but I would try watercolor pencils. Choose a color that would show up on your background.

06-25-2007, 05:36 PM
I haven't done that yet but I would try watercolor pencils. Choose a color that would show up on your background.

i know i'm quoting myself here but i just want to imphasize watercolor pencils, not regular colored pencils that are waxy.

06-26-2007, 01:12 AM
I use pastel pencils. You can pick whatever color or colors will show on your background. They are softer than watercolor pencil, water soluable and the beauty is that you can correct your sketch on the canvas as you go with a slightly dampened paper towel. I also use them to test possible changes on a dry painting while it is in progress.

06-26-2007, 01:28 AM
I like to use a regular piece of chalk, usually light blue, it disappears under the paint but does have a tendency to smear if your not careful and work from the top down. I also use it to turn tracing paper into transfer paper

06-26-2007, 03:54 AM
I use regular pencil... I always work opaque, so it's completely covered.

Selahs art
06-26-2007, 04:02 AM
I also use watercolour pencils


06-26-2007, 04:39 AM
How 'bout just laying down a coat of canvas-coloured gesso before you do the pencils?

06-26-2007, 06:27 AM
I use water soluble crayons:)

06-26-2007, 07:20 AM
One more thing that others have mentioned, if you want to use a dark implement to outline, like charcoal or soft-lead pencil, you can seal them with glazing medium and the paint...like Assaf, I usually paint opaquely and so eventually the pencil marks are covered.

06-26-2007, 11:24 AM
I too tone my canvas, typically an earth tone or neutral. Don't be too quick to rule out charcoal. It isn't necessarily messy. I frequently sketch lightly with a hard charcoal or white chalk, and I don't use a fixative. I just blend the drawing right into the painting, same approach I do with oils. It isn't enough to skew the hue or value and it keeps it simple. ( the K.I.S.S. method is my friend).

More often, I use a liner brush, or rigger and draw with a brush, using paint thinned down to the consistency of ink. I usually pic an unobtrusive color that will blend into the color scheme. I find this process more direct and gets me to the painting frame of mind faster.


06-26-2007, 12:36 PM
I tone the background first then do the sketch. Sometimes, I use charcoal, most of the time though it is thinned paint unless the drawing must be more precise. Then it can be sealed with a glazing medium.

06-26-2007, 05:37 PM
I use watercolor pencils but then quickly sketch in the painting with acrylics over them, using them just as guides in a way. I've also used a sharpie several times which can actually look really neat. They come in all kinds of colors too.

I have not tried it yet, but I have a pen that's fore sewing, purple ink that - at least on clothing - disappears within a couple of days. I've tried it with watercolor and it did indeed go away quickly, it might work with acrylics too. It did not smear for me - but I've only tried it once at a test. you can find those in the sewing section of a craft store or at a fabric/quilting/sewing store. if it works you'll have the best of two worlds, a sharp outline like with a sharpie that turns invisible shortly after painting over it.

06-27-2007, 04:14 PM
Phantelope, that sounds like a good way to light a fire under you to get going on the painting--"Ok, better start painting quick, or all this drawing work you did will disappear!" :)

I definitely would have some canvases I'd need to redraw a couple times, with that pen. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm interested in trying that.

Charlie's Mum
06-27-2007, 05:22 PM
Watercolour pencils:D
I also have acrylic ink in fillable markers - which allows a lovely fluid line for some works - it's nice and 'free' :D ........ it covers with the paint - or not if you want some to show..

06-27-2007, 05:57 PM
I also have acrylic ink in fillable markers...
Charlie's Mum, could you give me a brand name or model number of the above markers? Thank you. :)


By the way, I usually use a 4b pencil or a white conte pencil, depending on canvas color.

For my graffiti canvases I scan my artwork and print it out at 100%. I then use black/white graphite transfer paper to transfer the image to the canvas. To prevent smearing of the graphite I paint a glaze over the lines to seal them.

06-27-2007, 09:34 PM
i'd be interested in the markers, as well. sounds like a detail paintbrush that doesn't have to constantly dipped in paint.

i usually use 4B also, i'm just noticing that often it's not dark enough. white conte is definitely a good idea for a dark background, but for some reason white outlines mess with me...

Charlie's Mum
06-28-2007, 12:26 PM
They're like ordinary markers, only fillable in a colour of choice.
If Howard, (Idylbrush) doesn't see this, PM him and he'll give you a US retailer. :D

I also use wax-free tracing to transfer my drawn image (if I've spent a lot of time on a tricky image!) - but I prefer to use than on paper rather than canvas.