Material & Techniques

Coloured pencils are made using wax or a combination of wax and oil as a binder to shape powdered pigments (colour) into a solid thin cylindrical core. The majority of coloured pencils are wax-based because the core is versatile and can accommodate more textures, sizes, and pigments. Artist-grade coloured pencils - compared to student-grade - have higher pigment loading and are lightfast, which means they would not fade over time when exposed to daylight.

Wax-based pencils have a buttery consistency and go on paper smoothly. They have a soft core that is good for blending and layering; however, the softer core breaks easily. Wax-based pencils are less durable and do not hold a fine point for long. Unless a fixative is used, the wax tends to rise to the top over time and create a haze-like film called the wax bloom.

Oil-based pencils are considered premium because they deliver a more professional look and finish. They are less buttery than wax-based pencils but tend to lay down more colour. The increased coverage reduces the number of layers required for depth of colour. The harder core is more durable and holds a fine point longer for intricate and detailed work. Fixatives are not required because there is no wax bloom.

Gesso is the primer coat applied to surfaces (e.g., raw canvas, paper, board, wood) to prepare them for painting. Gesso gives tooth and absorbency to the surface to ensure proper adhesion to avoid the risks of cracking, flaking, or peeling over time.

Acrylic gesso is made of water-soluble acrylic polymer emulsion, white pigment, and fillers (e.g. chalk or silica). Upon evaporation, the gesso dries to create a flexible, durable, and adhesive ground that is suitable for most water-soluble media. If applied correctly, acrylic gesso is also an acceptable ground for oil paint; however, there are ongoing discussions (due to lack of data) on how the use of acrylic gesso with oil paints may impact the ageing process. Acrylic polymer emulsion has been used in the manufacture of artist materials only since the 1950s; therefore, there is insufficient data, in particular, to determine the following concerns: oil penetration to the substrate, discolouration, lack of adhesion, and cracking.

Acrylic gesso intended to be used with acrylic paints is not suitable for watercolours or gouache; it does not have sufficient absorbency for adhesion of watercolour and gouache paints. The lack of absorbency causes lifting when blending and layering. There are specially formulated acrylic-based grounds for watercolour and gouache.

Acrylic gesso comes in white, clear, carbon black, and a variety of colours. The texture, fluidity, opacity, and coverage of acrylic gesso in the market may vary according to grades and brands.

Gouache paint consists of ground powdered pigments suspended in a water-soluble binder; it’s the opaque version of watercolour paint. The opacity in gouache is achieved by adding chalk or white pigment. Gouache has a very matte finish and the appearance of tempera. Water is used during application and when it evaporates, the binder fixes the pigments to any surface suitable for watercolours or gouache.

Gouache is re-wettable and reworkable like watercolours; however, it dries much faster than watercolours. The main difference between gouache and watercolours is a wet-to-dry colour shift. There is usually a slight change in hue between the wet and dry stages. This may pose a challenge when it comes to colour matching. Gouache has the characteristics of both acrylics and watercolours. Like acrylics, it has good coverage and like watercolour, it is reworkable and can be used to depict minute details. For those reasons, gouache is preferred by commercial artist and illustrators for creating posters, illustrations, and comics.

Acrylic gouache, which has all the qualities of traditional gouache, uses acrylic polymer emulsion as a binder. That means it is water-resistant once dry, which means there is no bleeding or lifting when rewetted or layered.

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