How To Use Colored Pencil Over Acrylic Paint For Effect (Artist Tip)

Acrylic paint is a versatile medium that can be used for a variety of applications. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with other media to create interesting effects.

One popular technique is to use colored pencil over acrylic paint once the acrylic paint has dried.

This can be done for several reasons:

  • to add depth and dimension to your painting, to create a unique textured effect
  • or simply to experiment with different mediums.

Use colored pencil over acrylic paint

You can use colored pencil over acrylic paint but there are a few things you need to keep in mind in order to get the best results.

First, make sure that the acrylic paint is completely dry before you start working with colored pencils.

If it’s even slightly damp, the colored pencils will smear and the effect will be ruined.

Second, you should wait until the paint is dry is that colored pencils need a hard surface for the wax based pigment to grip on to as it is being applied.

Without this, a colored pencil will just create a colorless, textured groove in the paint.

So while you can use colored pencil over acrylic paint, should you?

The one problem I have with using colored pencil over acrylics is that you have to use a good quality colored pencil, one that has a soft tip so that you do not need to press too hard onto the canvas or paper to make it work.

I ran a couple of experiments using a cheap brand coloring pencil and applied it over acrylic. See the zoomed in image below.

I had trouble getting the pencil to apply a good layer of pigment from the pencil, I also found as you can see below that the quality of the line was not that good even though I had sharpened the pencil.

Using a hard and cheap brand of coloring pencil over acrylic paint posed some problems. Zoomed in.
Using a hard and cheap brand of coloring pencil over acrylic paint posed some problems. Zoomed in.

I then tried a mid tier branded (on par with Derwent) coloring pencil, sharpened it to the same tip and drew the same star image over black acrylic paint.

You can see that the coverage was a lot better as the tip was softer and allowed me to draw the star without having to apply too much pressure.

Mid tier branded coloring pencil over acrylic paint. Zoomed in.
Mid tier branded coloring pencil over acrylic paint. Zoomed in.

I ran the same experiment on an aged acrylic canvas using the good quality pencils.

I had to apply a lot of pressure to make the star appear clear. Again, the image below is quite zoomed in and in person the star seems clear.

Colored pencil over acrylic paint on canvas - zoomed in.
Colored pencil over acrylic paint on canvas – zoomed in.

Why would you use colored pencil over acrylic paint?

There are a few reasons why you would want to use colored pencil over acrylic paint.

Maybe you want to add some detail or shading that was missing from the original painting.

Or maybe you want to change the color of something in the painting. Whatever the reason, colored pencil can be a great way to add depth and interest to an acrylic painting.

The main reasons I used colored pencils over acrylic paint are:

Will the pencils over acrylic paint fade over time?

The colored pencils will not fade over time as long as they are applied to a non-porous surface and sealed with a fixative.

My advice to anyone asking about paints or pencils fading over time is always not to store your artwork in direct sunlight.

No matter how great the materials are, sunlight will eventually win out and do some damage to your art, even if it is 100 years after you are long gone.

How do you seal colored pencils over acrylic paint?

You can use any clear acrylic varnish, either gloss or matte, to seal the colored pencils. You can also use a clear polymer medium.

Can you paint over wax-based pencils?

You actually can’t use acrylic paint over colored pencils after you have put the pencil down.

The wax in the colored pencil will act as a paint resist and repel the acrylic paint as it is water based. As you may know, water and wax don’t mix.

Therefore if you are planning on using wax based colored pencils over acrylic paint, make sure that the pencils are applied as a final or semi final layer that will not have paint over it.

Can you apply colored pencil over acrylic paint on any surface?

The colored pencils can be applied over any kind of paint as long as the paint is dry.

As long as the paint is sticking to the surface, you can apply colored pencil to it after the acrylic paint has dried.

But there is a caveat to this, drawing over paint on some surfaces such as glass may actually remove or scratch the paint away from the surface.

So do a small patch test to see if applying colored pencil over the paint will actually remove or damage the painted surface.

Do I need to varnish a painting that has colored pencil over acrylic paint?

It is not necessary to varnish a painting that has colored pencil over acrylic paint, however, if you would like to, you can.

Varnishing a painting can change the appearance of the colors and can also darken the painting overall. If you are planning on varnishing your painting, make sure to do a test patch first to see how it will affect the colors.

I have written an entire post called “What Varnish To Use – Satin Vs Gloss Varnish Acrylic Paints” which answers this question in a lot more detail.

Extra – Video

Acrylic paint and colored pencils being used together on an artwork.

YouTube video to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTdetKxkzGg

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