Do you ever look at a piece of art and wonder how the artist managed to get the colors so vibrant? If they are using colored pencils there is a good chance that they heated them, and the process is easy enough for you to do it too.
You can heat colored pencils with items you have around the house, or you can purchase a dedicated heating plate for more in-depth techniques. Either way, heating colored pencils is as simple as:
- Heating the colored pencil using sunlight, warm water, or a hair dryer OR heating the drawing surface
- Make sure the core or tip is warm enough for smooth application
- Coloring while the tip is warm for maximum vibrancy
You can repeat this process as often as you need. Read on to learn the different ways you can heat colored pencils to increase saturation and how these steps apply to different techniques, along with some specialized tips and tricks to make the process as simple as possible.
Heating Colored Pencils with Items at Home
If you want to play around with heating up colored pencils without buying a fancy heating apparatus then there are a few household items that can get you started, such as:
- Warm water
- A hair dryer
These are simple but effective ways to achieve the benefits of heating colored pencils without running out to buy a special heating surface.
While you should not store your colored pencils in direct sunlight for prolonged periods, shorter periods are useful in melting the binding enough to get a smoother application.
For best results put them in a reflective container and let them sit there for about a half hour. You can use the tin that comes with most colored pencil sets, or you can line whatever you are using with foil.
As long as the colored pencils you are working with are not water soluble then letting them soak in warm water can help soften their tips in a timely manner.
Fill a cup with enough warm water to cover the tips of the pencils and let them sit for about 15 minutes. You can add a teaspoon of isopropyl alcohol for more drastic results.
You can use a hair dryer in a few different ways.
First, hair dryers can be used to heat the surface so that when colored pencils touch down they melt just a bit. This effect is subtle, but it is enough to help the pencil glide across the paper.
You can also use the hair dryer on the pencils themselves, pointing at the tips and letting hot air blow for a few seconds.
Heating Colored Pencils with a Heated Surface
Working with colored pencils on a warmed surface is a quick and easy way to heat them up. You can get started with a food grade warming plate that has a smooth surface and adjustable temperature.
If you are looking for a more professional tool dedicated to artwork then the Icarus Board may be for you. On top of providing a warm surface to work on, the board is designed to attach securely to easels, secure your paper or canvas, and provide adjustable heat to work with.
To use it for mixing pigment, blending, or burnishing you turn on the warm zone and color as needed. If you need to add more details, layers, or lines you can turn the warm zone off or turn the temperature down.
Tips for Working With Heated Colored Pencils
Regardless of the heated surface you intend to use, there are a few tips and tricks to make your job easier.
While keeping your workstation clean is important for general use, failing to do so with a heated surface is a spell for disaster. Any debris from your colored pencils can melt on your paper, dotting it with pigment that will not be easy to remove.
You should also test out colors and blends on the surface before using them on a finished piece. Blends work differently with heated colored pencils. For example, opposite colors do not blend nearly as nicely. You may be better off using a premade color instead of blending two different colors.
Planning ahead is also incredibly important. When you heat colored pencils you are committing to what you put on the page. Anything that goes on the page or canvas is probably staying right where it lands, and there is not much you can do about it.
Using something like a thin flour sack towel or wax paper can help keep oils from your skin from getting onto the page, and you can limit any pigment transfer.
Learn more about colored pencils HERE!
Heating Colored Pencils to Prevent Breakage
If you face the issue of colored pencils breaking on you often then you can try heating them in an oven to rework the binding and prevent breakage. The oven works better because you have more control over the temperature.
You can try this out with a few pencils to start and make sure it works for your brand. Most pencils with a softer core, like Prismacolor Premier, come out working better than ever.
Start by laying the colored pencils in a pan and putting the pan in the oven without preheating it. Set the temperature to 250°F.
Depending on your pencils you can leave them in there for 2.5 to 7 minutes (Prismacolor Premiers seem to do well in 5 minutes). Turn the oven off, and let the pencils cool before you start to use them.
When you use any pencils you have heated, take note of how they perform. Most people who like to do this notice less breakage in their colored pencils, and you may have increased vibrancy.
It may not work as well for every brand of colored pencils, so start small before committing.
Do all colored pencils heat up in the same way?
While you should be able to heat any of your colored pencils, they do not all respond in the same way. This is because colored pencils have different core hardness.
For example, oil-based colored pencils do not heat up nearly as easily as wax-based colored pencils. Even wax-based colored pencils have a spectrum of hardness, and you will find that harder cores like Prismacolor Verithin take longer to heat than softer cores.
Keep in mind that some cheaper pencils mix their cores differently. If you are working with a pencil that has wax on the outside of the pigment in the pencil lead, it will probably crumble as it is heated.
You should test out every pencil you intend on heating up before assuming the results.
Will heating colored pencils affect their lifespan?
Heating colored pencils may affect their lifespan, but when done consciously it should not damage them. Heating in higher temperatures or for longer than recommended can break up the wood, and consistent soaking can warp it. Pencil cores also run out faster as they melt.
As long as you are paying attention to your heating method and storing your colored pencils responsibly you can expect them to live long enough to meet your needs.
What other mediums can you heat?
The easiest mediums to heat up are any with a wax base, namely crayons and wax and oil pastels. These respond to heat quicker than colored pencils do, so you will need to tweak any techniques learned in this article.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult a legal expert or medical doctor to address your specific needs.