How To Use Color Pencils On Canvas!

Although often overlooked, colored pencils can be an excellent way to add that additional dimension to your canvas based artwork and tend to work very well with other popular mediums such as acrylic paint and oil paint. Due to seeing a dramatic rise in the number of people reaching out to ask for tips and tricks on how to use colored pencils on canvas, we are presuming that more and more people are wanting to try their hand at this technique.

As a large number of our readers are beginners to the arts and crafts space as well as seeing so many people reaching out about using colored pencils on canvas, we wanted to publish our own tutorial on how you are able to get the best results possible for your art work. Our goal is to help our readers understand the best methods to use your color pencils on your canvas to get the best result possible even if you are a total beginner.

Although there are some specific canvas pencil products on the market that you are able to use, many of our readers will be much better off using something like the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils due to their lower price point and excellent performance. The pencils tend to perform very well on all surfaces, especially canvas and are a quick and easy fix to the most common mistake that we see people making time and time again when using colored pencils on canavs that is using a pencil that is not suitable for the job.

How To Use Color Pencils On Canvas!

Provided you are using a suitable colored pencil, the technique required to draw or sketch on canvas and get a great result is very similar to any other surface. Keep your pencils sharp, angle the pencil as required for optimal performance, and don’t apply too much pressure. Time and time again people over-complicate the process but more often than not, perfecting these three basic rules will ensure you get excellent quality artwork on your canvas.

This is why we highly recommend the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils for drawing or sketching on canvas. They perform very well on canvas, are very easy to sharpen, easy to angle, and don’t require too much pressure for optimal color transfer due to being a waxy pencil. The high quality pigments used for each color also help to protect against color fade while also ensuring that the pencil will maintain its color if used with acrylic or oil based paints too.

Although some people do choose to prime their canvas prior to using their color pencils and paints on them with a high quality gesso, this really is not essential in many cases. A decent quality color pencil should perform just as good with gesso as without although any paints that you plan to use after sketching or coloring with your pencil may benefit from having the canvas prepped with gesso first.

Can You Use Colored Pencils On Canvas?

You can use some colored pencils on canvas and get great results but unfortunately, the majority of the cheaper, entry level color pencils simply don’t have the requirements to offer good performance when used on canvas. This is a limitation of the price point for entry level pencils and you will usually be looking at around $30-$40 per pencil set for something that will work well on canvas and offer good end results.

This is why there are so many reports on social media of people struggling to get good results when using color pencils on their canvas for sketching of coloring. The majority of people new to this technique tend to use a low-quality pencil that was never designed for use on anything other than paper. Essentially, they were doomed to failure from the start due to not using the correct tools for the job.

Provided you are using a suitable colored pencil set, you shouldn’t have any problems with a good pencil set usually being able to offer you excellent performance on both low quality or high quality canvas alike. In addition to this, the better colored pencil sets on the market will also offer high quality performance on linen or cotton canvas’ without problem too.

What Kind Of Colored Pencils Do You Use To Draw On Canvas?

A traditional canvas pencil works extremely well on canvas but a suitable set from a brand such as Prismacolor, Arteza or Castle will often be a better option. They tend to be cheaper, perform just as well when used on canvas, and have a much better color selction the majority of the time. They also perform just as well as traditional canvas pencils when used with various types of paint on the canvas too.

In our opinion, the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils hit the trifecta of having a fair price tag, offering excellent performance, and being very easy to use. This is why they are our recommended color pencil of choice to our readers looking to use their colored pencils on canvas. They also perform very well on a number of other common surfaces for arts and crafts such as paper and card too ensuring that you get as much versatility out of the pencils as possible.

There are also excellent colored pencil options that work well on canvas from brands such as Arteza and Castle too but they tend to be a little overpriced for what you actually get in our opinion with the Castle sets being a pain to actually find in some places. If you are on a tighter budget and are set on using colored pencils on canvas then you may struggle to find a suitable pencil set unfortunately due to entry level, cheaper pencils often having poor performance with canvas.

Can You Use Watercolor Pencils On Canvas?

Unfortinatley, canvas, even if you have used gesso on it tends not to be absorbent enough to work with watercolor pencils with the performance of your pencils being poor. Although your watercolor pencils may perform very well on other surfaces, using them on canvas tends to be a waste of time with other pencil types usually performing considerably better.

As we touched on above, trying to prime your canvas with gesso or other products tends not to help improve the performance of watercolor pencils in anyway. We have seen some truly ingenious ideas to try and get watercolor pencils to actually work with canvas but all of them have failed due to how watercolor pencils actually work.

We have seen some reports that the cheaper watercolor pencils that tend not to work as well on paper do work better on canvas but even then, it is often better to go with other pencil types instead.

How Do You Blend Colored Pencils On Canvas?

There are a number of quick and easy ways to blend colored pencils on canvas depending on exactly what you are trying to do with your artwork. These range from applying friction with a cloth to adding a little turpenoid or other solvents to help the different colors from your pencils blend well on your canvas. Please note that some blending methods will only work with waxy pencils though so you do have to factor in the type of pencil that you are using.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, we highly recommend the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils and they actually blend surprisingly well without the need for any external help. Although it may take you a while to get used to blending the pencils on the texture of canvas, once you get the hang of it, you should be able to blend colors quickly and easily.

Different brands and different types of colored pencil usually blend better when using different methods to assist with the blending no matter the surface though. Ideally, you would be doing a test run with the specific pencils that you use for your arts and crafts on your canvas to experiment and see what option seems to offer the best performance for you.

How Do You Seal Colored Pencils On Canvas?

The majority of normal paint sealers will also seal colored pencils on canvas with ease. As the majority of canvas based artwork that involved colored pencils will also have some form of paint included in the art, we would recommend that you use a suitable sealer for the paint rather than your pencils.

Keep in mind that some types of colored pencils do have issues with some sealant types to doing a test run with the pencils and paints that you want to use on your canvas is highly recommended prior to actually using your sealer on some serious artwork. Although this may sound like a pain and more time than it’s worth, it is much better to find out if you will have issues on a quick sketch with a little paint on it that took you a few minutes than a serious painting that took you hours.

As there are a number of different types of colored pencils on the market as well as a number of different types of paint that you are able to use with them on your canvas, we are not able to recommend specific sealants. As we mentioned above, matching the sealer to the type of paint you are planning to use with your colored pencils on the canvas is often the better option than trying to find a sealer specific to your pencils.

How To Sketch On Canvas Before Acrylic Painting!

The sketching process on canvas prior to applying acrylic paint is very similar to the normal sketching process. The majority of the time it will be easier if you have applied gesso to the canvas prior to sketching but you are able to sketch on both cotton or linen canvas with your pencils with ease. Once you have the base outline for your artwork sketched out onto your canvas or gesso coat, start to build up your acrylic paint layers as required.

Some people do use colored pencils on their canvas for more than just a base sketch with some brands of colored pencils being excellent options for use in shading parts of your canvas. At the time of writing, it quite popular to use a colored pencil to shade the background of your canvas or use a spray paint product and then focus on using your brush applied acrylic paint to build up the core layers and main subject of the art.

Although it is often difficult depending on the pencils and acrylic paints that you are using, some skilled painters will do their initial sketch with their pencils, apply their acrylic paint to their canvas as needed, and then go over parts of their paints with their pencils to add additional detail. This process takes a certain amount of skill and experience to do correctly though but it can be a great way to add additional detail to your artwork with minimal effort.


That brings our article going over how you can use colored pencil on canvas to ensure that you get good results to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you and using colored pencil effectively on canvas is usually easier than most people initially think. The most common problem that we see time and time again is that people tend to use pencils that are not suited to use on canvas causing them problems from the very start. Going to a pencil set that has the proven ability to work well on canvas really does make the whole process much easier for the vast majority of people while also drastically improving the end result.

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