Thursday, February 26, 2009

Erasing pencil lines in watercolor paintings

QUESTION: Hi there, this may seem silly...I am teaching myself to paint with oils and watercolor. I love it so much and am teaching my grandson(8) as well. We are learning together . How and when do you get rid of the sketch marks, I use a light pencil touch and then watercolor over it. How do I get the pencil marks to not be there after painting? Thanks, Carol

SUSIE'S REPLY: Hi Carol! How wonderful to have your grandson as a painting partner!
Removing the pencil lines in painting is a common question and not silly at all. For some artists the pencil marks are carefully placed to become an intricate part of the painting. They fit and look great for that particular style of painting!
However for many of us the pencil lines are not intended to be seen after we apply the paint to our paper and we want the lines to "go away!"
Using a light touch will make erasing easier. Unfortunately, some colors seal the graphite or pencil lines so that when we paint over them they cannot be erased. Other colors allow for easy removal. Experimenting will help you learn more about the colors in your palette.
OK, that said here are some tips, not all will work every time but they are worth a try.
  • Do your preliminary sketching on drawing or tracing paper. Make corrections and simplify the drawing before you transfer it to your watercolor paper. The more you erase on the watercolor paper the more your damage the surface.

  • Transfer the simplified basic shapes first. Apply the first layers of the painting then add more details as needed.

  • Use a light touch or a fine pencil line. A soft pencil will leave more graphite to smudge or smear or mix into your paint than a hard pencil.

  • Use the pencil lines as a guide and not an edge. In other words paint up to a line but don't paint over it and it will be easier to erase.

  • Erase as you go. When a passage is dry clean up the excess pencil lines that are no longer needed.

  • Use an eraser that is gentle to your watercolor paper. I recommend the Magic Rub by Sanford/PaperMate. It's a white a vinyl eraser designed to erase cleanly. You can find it in most art stores, office supply stores, at drugstores in the school supplies, or online. I did a search for Magic Rub eraser and got several hits.

Please note: Erasing the lines from using graphite paper to transfer your drawing to your watercolor paper is different than using a pencil. Some brands of transfer papers are slightly waxy which makes them more difficult to remove.

Good luck with your watercolor journey! Be sure to check out my free tips on my website. You may find some lessons you can share with your young artist.

Happy Painting!



Anonymous said...

I have a warning for users of the magic rub erasers when left sitting on surfaces to long they will damage them with marks and if the surface has paint on it as mine did it may melt the paint off of it, I picked my eraser off of a table it was coated in wet paint from a table that had been painted many years ago both the table and the eraser are ruined

Susie Short said...

Thanks for the warning!
I had a similar problem when I left my magic rub eraser sitting in a spare palette lid for several months. The "plastics" fused together and when I got them apart their was an impression from the eraser left behind. The eraser was ok. So now I always put it on a folded paper towel when I leave it with my art gear.
I appreciate your comment! Hopefully we can keep someone else from making this mistake too. :)