Some time ago, I shared a list of fast, easy backgrounds for colored pencil drawings. The list included really simple things like using pre-colored papers or mat board, lightly tinting paper with colored pencil, and using other media with better covering power than pencils (watercolor, ink, etc).
Since then, I’ve talked to enough fellow artists to realize I’m not the only one who sometimes gets tired of doing backgrounds for colored pencil. I mean, they’re so slow and who wants to spend all that time on a background, anyway?
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So I’ve come up with another list of quick background options for colored pencil drawings to share:
What is found texture? In short, it’s any texture you find in your studio, home, place of work or anywhere else. All you have to do is transfer that texture to the background of your drawing.
Lay the paper flat on the texture – for example, a concrete sidewalk – and rub colored pencil over the paper. Some of the texture will show through if your paper isn’t too thick.
This is a great way to add visual interest to a drawing. If you want, you can even match the texture to the background (like using wood texture to fill in a fence).
Here’s another example: rock-like texture from an interior wall of a nearby business.
This is how I used it in a small drawing. It makes an ideal stone wall, doesn’t it?
So look around and find some walls, floors, or other objects with a surface texture that might be ideal for your next drawing. . . it’s a huge time-saver!
Believe it or not, the next time you’re looking for a fast and incredibly easy background, just empty your pencil sharpener!
Pour a few shavings onto a piece of paper and move them around. You can use your fingers as I did, or a brush or lay a second piece of paper over them and move the two sheets against one another. That’s a great way to do two backgrounds at once.
I’ve been sharpening my green colored pencils a lot, along with some graphite, so I got this rather dull looking result. But image the possibilities after sharpening yellows, reds, and blues!
The color won’t be very dark, but that’s okay. You want it light enough to work over. And if you have two sharpeners, maybe keep one just for graphite, and the other for colored pencils, to prevent too much muddying of the color.
Coffee, tea or juice
I recently read an article about painting with coffee by artist Kim “Gordie” Carver. Carver even explained how to brew different strengths to create darker values.
I’d already tried toning a piece of paper with coffee, so I loved reading her tips. (FYI, tea works too!) I managed a lovely, earth tone with a little variation in value across the paper:
I’ve never done anything with that particular drawing because of archival issues (I just don’t know how the paper is going to respond over time to the acids in coffee). But as you can see above, colored pencil went over the stained paper very easily. If archival issues aren’t one of your concerns, then you might give it a shot.
And if you want something besides an earth tone, consider a fruit juice. The next time you’re in the drink aisle of the local grocery store, take a look at all those offerings and consider the possibilities!
Collage can be a great way to create a fast and easy background. Maybe start with a few washes of watercolor, then find a few interesting items to stick to the paper around your main subject. You’ll have to be careful that your background doesn’t get so interesting that it overpowers your subject, but a few items related to the subject could really make your art unique. Imagine a flower drawing with a petal or two of the same type of flower as part of the art!
Scrapbookers, greeting card artists, and crafters have known about stamping for years. Some of these artists have hundreds of stamps, different colored inks, and decorative papers in their art toolboxes. I know; I’ve seen them!
So why not put some of those stamping tools to work with your art? Most of the supplies used for scrapbooking or stamping aren’t considered archival by any stretch of the imagination, but there are such things as archival ink for stamps (acid free, permanent, and waterproof in black and a wide range of colors. Yes! For real!)
Now, I know some of these ideas may not scream “fine art”. . . so you might not want to use them if you’re working on a commissioned piece for a client. But they can definitely be a fun way to explore mixed-media colored pencil while giving yourself a nice vacation from all those backgrounds!
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