Can You Use Colored Pencils on Canvas? (What to Know)

March 20, 2023 by

This is a guide covering what to know when using colored pencils on canvas.

We’ll be covering the following topics:

Table of Contents

Can You Use Colored Pencils on Canvas?

It’s possible to use colored pencils on canvas, but you need to consider a few things to succeed in drawing on canvas. First, the canvas is designed for paints, so when you use colored pencils on canvas, it chips away the pencils far too quickly.

Canvas works great in giving a more painting-like feel to your drawing and you can use color layering to add more vibrancy to the colors on the canvas.

Still, you can make detailed drawings on canvas with plain old colored pencils instead of purchasing expensive acrylic paints.

Using colored pencils on canvas the right way can be budget-friendly.

To further explore the subject of using colored pencils on canvas and to see it in action, we recommend checking out this video by sunshinearts:

Things to Consider Before Using Colored Pencils on Canvas?

You need to consider a few things before you try colored pencils on canvas. If you don’t consider these things, you’ll end up wasting money and getting stressed out.

1. Pencil Selection 

You can’t use just any colored pencils on canvas. It would help if you used hard pencils such as Faber Castell or Prismacolor.

colored pencil
pencil selection

Also, you need to choose oil-based pencils that have harder or solid cores since oil pigments work better on unprimed or lightly canvas.

For heavily primed canvas, soft pencils are better since they smudge easily, and you can blend the colors to add more details. 

2. Primed or Unprimed Canvas

Unprimed canvas is rough and has ample teeth on its surface. It works great with paints or charcoal.

However, your soft pencil will deplete a lot quicker with an unprimed canvas. In contrast, the primed canvas is smoother, especially a canvas that has been heavily primed.

It will work better with colored pencils. 

3. Use Canvas Panels

The canvas boards have a stretch canvas, and when drawing, most artists prefer to place their drawing hand on the canvas.

canvas panel color pencil
canvas panel

But this action causes the canvas to sink under pressure and then it bounces back after the pressure is lifted.

It may not seem like a problem, but it will affect the final drawing. So, instead, you should buy pre-primed canvas panels that are flat.

4. Prime a Canvas Yourself

Instead of buying primed canvas, you can make a primed canvas at home from an unprimed one. You’ll need gesso paint or spray for this.

To apply gesso paint on canvas, take a board-tipped brush and dip it in gesso. Apply the gesso in one direction first.

Then, check if you’ve missed a spot. Gesso is reflective so any nonreflecting spot has no gesso. Apply gesso on those spots.

Let the canvas dry after the first coat, and then it’s best to sand the canvas lightly with sandpaper. Now, apply the second coat.

You’ll want to do at least three coats to get a smoother canvas. 

Benefits of Using Colored Pencils on Canvas?

Canvas is a different medium than paper, and the effects of the colored pencils on canvas are also different than on paper.

However, there are many benefits of using canvas for colored pencils.

Canvas is durable, and there’s no risk of it tearing easily like with paper. 

Moreover, water or vigorous rubbing with an eraser won’t be destroyed a canvas. If you use board-mounted canvas, you won’t need to frame it.

But you may need to fix the drawing with a fixative or cover it with glassine. Similarly, drawing on canvas gives the final drawing a painting effect, even when it’s made with colored pencils. 

Do Water Color Pencils Work on Canvas?

The result will look very much like watercolors on the canvas. Just like colored pencils can be used on canvas, watercolor pencils work on canvas.

However, they work best on small canvases, and it’s best to use a primed canvas for drawing with watercolor pencils.

Final Remarks

You need to take care to use the right kind of colored pencil on canvas and use a primed canvas for your drawings. You can buy primed canvas or apply coats of gesso on an unprimed canvas.

Canvas is cheap and a great medium for drawing and you can hang it up in your home without framing it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of canvas is best for colored pencils?

The best type of canvas for colored pencils is a fine-toothed surface canvas or paper. This type of canvas provides enough texture to hold the pigment of the colored pencil, while also being smooth enough to allow for detailed work.

How do you blend colored pencils on canvas?

To blend colored pencils on canvas, you can use a blending tool such as a blending stump or tortillon, or use a dry blending technique by layering and burnishing colors with a white pencil or colorless blender. The key is to use light pressure and layer colors gradually to achieve a smooth blend without damaging the tooth of the canvas.