colour charts & Tips
The Faber-Castell products mentioned below is their professional, artist-grade line with high lightfast ratings which are marked on the end of every pen or pencil. What you’ll also notice is how congruent their colour naming system is between different mediums. Once you learn the names and colours of one medium, it is very easy to pick up the right colour in their other medium.
I created these charts to help me select colours and hope you will find them useful too. While I mainly work with Polychromos, Faber-Castell’s other products are so beautiful that I can’t help but want to create more art with them.
faber-castell: polychromos 120 kit
I love their oil-based cores because they blend into each other beautifully, can keep layering without any build-up, and can hold a sharp point longer for detailed work and less pencil-sharpening. Polychromos comes in tins of 12, 24, 36, 60, and 120.
Pencil Choice: I like 3H (3 Hard) for all of my sketches because it does not smudge, remains barely noticeable, doesn’t etch my paper, and erases completely; yet is dark enough for me to see my guidelines.
Paper: I’ve tried Canson Mix Media Artist Series (both the fine and medium texture), Canson XL Mix Media, Strathmore Bristol Smooth 300 Series, Strathmore Bristol Vellum 300 Series, and Strathmore Bristol Vellum 500 Series. So far I really like the Strathmore Bristol Vellum 300 for smaller birds, Bristol Vellum 500 for larger birds, and Bristol Smooth for botanical work. Paper choice really comes down to personal preference and every artist has their favourites.
faber-castell: albreicht durer, polychromos, graphite, and pitt pens
Albreicht Durer & Polychromos: I really wanted to know the difference between using watercolour pencils compared to dissolving coloured pencils with a mineral spirit. The watercolours melted and spread beautifully, did what watercolours do! The Gamsol-dissolved ones stayed within their boundaries and gave a powdered/pastel effect. Erasing: It is best to erase before adding water. Once it’s wet, it becomes permanent and you would have to add more water and blot with a clean paper towel. You might be able to lift out more colour, but complete removal is not possible. Albreicht Durers come in tins of 24, 36, and 60.
Pitt Graphite: I wanted to have a better look at their values and how well they blended. They colour so soft and did not give any “scratchy” feelings because their graphite has been refined beautifully. Faber-Castell does make a larger range, but this is what I have because I mostly work in colour.
Aquarelle: Did you know graphite pencils also come in a watercolour version? I was impressed! The buttery-soft lead is slightly softer than their corresponding regular pencils and melted even faster than their Albreicht Durers. Aquarelles come in HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B.
Pitt Artist Pens & Brushes: Permanent India Ink, lightfast, acid-free, pH neutral, odor-free, and does not bleed through paper. Scroll down to see my Pitt Pen colour chart or visit Faber-Castell’s website to see their large selection of colours, nibs, and kits.
Waterproof Timeline: I wanted to get creative and combine Albreicht Durers with the Pitt Pens and found this helpful. You can see the permanency start to show as it cured with time. I only did up to 48 hours on this chart and only a hint of colour bled when rubbed moderately with water. The Gamsol Mineral Spirit seemed to maintain the ink better. I also made an illustration where I did a light wash with Albreicht Durers (and no rubbing) 1 hour after using the Pitt Pen and it worked well.
Faber-Castell: Pitt Pastel Pencils
I was very pleased with how highly pigmented these Pitt Pastel Pencils were for vibrant coverage and ease of blending. My minor OCD also really appreciated how clean these pencils were for handling. Pitt Pastel Pencils come in tins of 12, 24, 36, and 60 with colours matching their Polychromos and Albrecht Durer line. This made colour recognition very easy.
Paper: For this chart I used Strathmore Bristol Vellum (300 series) but would recommend quality pastel paper in the future. I’ve heard amazing reviews about Clairefontaine Pastelmat which can hold onto many layers of pastels without the need for fixative sprays. I’ll be giving this a try when I’m ready to create some pastel art.
Sharpening: I would recommend a sharp and strong utility knife as opposed to a pencil sharpener, which would break the tip into a powdery mess. If a very fine tip is needed, you can gently sand the side of the core. I prefer sanding in one direction as opposed to going back and forth to prevent the tip from breaking.
Layering: Gentle layering and adding of colours works better than pressing hard and creating a strong streak of pigment, unless that is the look you are intending to create.
Blending: Six different techniques were used to see the different effects each one gave. My favourite result was with the blending stump, but did you know that you can also add water for a slightly gouache-paint effect? It dries to a chalky-painted, matt finish.
Erasing: Once colour is laid down and blended in, complete removal doesn’t seem possible, however you can go over top with more pastels to make colour adjustments. It is also nice to see how a majority of the colour can be lifted out to create a light tint if you’re creating soft highlights.
Contrast & Experimenting Circle: Because I haven’t worked with pastels before, I wanted to see how the colours would work into each other and react so I created a few “play circles”.
Faber-Castell: Pitt ARTIST PEN 60 kit (BRUSH TIPS)
With the brush calligraphy craze, I started to wonder about markers and if I can create pretty art with it. My colour chart here includes all 60 colours, but they also come in smaller kits of various sizes as well as being sold open stock. What I love about these pens is that they’re permanent India Ink, lightfast, acid-free, pH neutral, does not bleed through paper, and is odor-free. (I’m quite sensitive to fumes).
While my colour chart may look a little blotchy or full of lines, I’ve decided to leave it as is because of a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Vibrancy: If you choose to add a second or third layer to enrich your colour, I found it helpful to let the paper dry a a little bit in between, preventing paper damage. I have labelled the top of my first column on the left to indicate where I’ve used one layer, two layers, or three layers of ink.
Tones: Another way to deepen a colour for the shadow areas is to add some grey. The top of my first column lists the greys used and I did the same for my second column. The bottom of my second column has boxes crossed out because that would be the same shade of grey overlapping itself.
Mixing Colours: With colour theory, you can create new shades and colours by overlapping different colours together. What’s really cool is not worrying about ruining your marker tip by contaminating it with another colour. To clean your tip, simply have a scrap paper handy and colour away. The more you colour, the more you’ll see the other colour disappear, returning your marker back to normal. I’ve done this with yellow on top of a dark blue. I use my markers almost like a paintbrush when it comes to overlapping and mixing colours.
Brush Nibs: While I love the firmness of a new brush, slightly used nibs are my favourite because it softens the tip just enough for easier blending (see my first column “Skyblue 146” - first 3 columns). The tip is quite durable and keeps a lovely point, but if you do manage to damage it, simply put on some gloves and completely pull the nib out, then reverse it and put it back in. This smart, dual-tip design increases the longevity of your pen.
Smoothness, Lines, and Textures:
Shorter strokes with mild overlapping creates a more even finish because the ink is still damp (see my second column on the right).
Longer strokes allows the ink to dry in between and any overlapping will result in lines (see my first column on the left).
To hide the lines you can colour the uppers layers in the opposite direction (see my second column “Lilac 239” - first 3 columns).
Allowing the ink to dry and create lines may come in handy if you’re drawing textures such as grass, hair, checkered patterns, or woven fabrics and baskets. For a speckled, orange peel or sandy look, you can also wait for the ink to dry before adding dots.
Brush Direction: If you colour back and forth, try not to overlap too much and opt to move in a zig-zag pattern instead. This allows even blending, quicker colour application, and minimizes paper damage (see my second column “Nougat 178” - first 2 columns). If you go back and forth over the same area to darken a colour, the upper layers will start to fall apart (see first column “Leaf Green 112” - 3rd column). Another way to minimize paper damage is to brush in one direction if your paper is still wet.
Paper: Using the right paper with any medium will make or break your art. I’ve tried Strathmore Bristol Vellum 300, Bristol Smooth 300, Mixed Media Vellum 400, Marker Paper Smooth 400; Bee Paper Company Artist Marker Paper, and Pentalic Paper for Pens. I love thick, sturdy paper (that won’t suck my ink dry) and trialed how well I can erase. In the end, I’ve chosen Strathmore Marker Paper Smooth 400 because I can erase my pencil mistakes without leaving many marks behind. I do find ultra-smooth marker paper a little less forgiving when it comes to erasing guidelines or mistakes.
Pencil Choice: I like 3H (3 Hard) for all of my sketches because it does not smudge under the ink, remains barely noticeable, and doesn’t etch my paper; yet is dark enough for me to see my guidelines.