This is a brand mew medium for me. I have seen artwork created with liquid pencil, mostly as finished pieces, but I’ve no first hand experience with it.
I went to the local art store hoping to buy a jar but they only had a set of twelve tubes. In fact, I was lucky to have found these at all. I scoured the entire shop twice before asking the shop assistant who was a bit vague at first because it’s been “off the radar” as far as a product that’s in demand goes. She found it wedged amongst other stuff – not a particularly good sign but nevertheless $25 later I walked out with it.
The set was made up of six permanent and six rewettable tubes. Basically you get the same colours in each set of six with the difference being it’s workability and light fastness. It meant nothing to me at the start but the differences slowly revealled themselves as I began to use them.
Creating colour charts
Whenever I get a new set of paints, inks etc. I make up test samples and colour charts. Although a little time consuming they’re incredibly helpful when the supplied colour chart or paint label isn’t accurate in relation to what the finished colours should look like. The labels on the paint tubes or the glossy printed inserts aren’t always reliable because they’re printed using a CMYK printing process.
This means your Cerulean Blue paint, for example, is printed in the brochure from a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. So there may be traces of black appearing in the Alazarin Crimson swatch or magenta (red) in the Emerald Green. As a result the printed colour guide will represent the colours “dirtier” than their true pigmented nature. Have you ever printed out a graphic from your computer that is really bright on your screen but the print out is dark, even muddy? It’s the same principle.
Even if they have legitimate paint samples, like mine shown, they are still scanned in and even the best scanners in the world won’t pick up all colours correctly. For instance, many types of yellow can end up looking similar, and darker colours could verge on being black. Some companies may go to the effort of colour correcting each sample, but again they are still printed using a CMYK process.
That’s why it’s always good to make your own, even better if you use the same paper you plan to paint on as these charts are also printed on glossy paper, not art paper.
As I have no experience with this medium I also wanted to test out its pliability (not sure if that’s the right word) with reference to wet or dry techniques. You can achieve different results when you paint straight onto dry paper or if you wet the paper beforehand. The same also applies to whether you dab your paintbrush in water or not. Below is a key were I have abbreviates the techniques I’ve used.
I had a few issues with the paint set which I describe in detail. Unfortunately only after having spent some time using them, a friend later informed me that the reason I was getting these inconsistent results could be due to the paint set being old. I never knew unopened tubes of paint could react this way! So I don’t know whether the results I got were the liquid pencil’s typical characteristics or because the paints weren’t fresh. So be warned!
For the following exercise I used Grey 9.
Before I began I squeezed the tube but the paint didn’t come out as a soft liquid consistency, rather a gritty, wet dirt consititution (see my photo of the front of packaging).
Adding a bit of water to it had nil effect and had to scoop it on to the paper to be able to work with it.
W/D – Streaky, very hard to control. Dry it looks nice, good for an expressive effect. May damage a long-haired brush.
W/W – Better for large areas where you want a consistent tonal background wash as you could probably build up layers. I dont think this would be achievable wet on dry.
D/D – Can damages brushes so could be good with a palette knife instead. Hard to control.
D/W – A bit more control and you can move it around better on a wet surface.
For the following exercise I used Grey 9.
The rewettable paint had the typical viscosity like any normal tube of paint but when I first opened it about a teaspoon worth of water poured out followed by the paint splattering out.
Suddenly my brand new, full tube of paint had shrunk to a third its size!
W/D – The paint moved around the paper quite easily, very streaky though.
Note: at the bottom of each of these rewettable samples, once dried, I went over with a rubber (eraser).
W/W – Loses a lot of the above streakiness even when I intentionally left it alone for some time.
D/D – I like the richness of the dry brush results. This time I used a short-haired brush. Although this was a dry test, so much liquid came out of the tube it acted like a lubricant for the brush, which means I don’t know how true a test this really was.
D/W – Again, lots of richness but very streaky. This could be either annoying or great if you can manipulate it.
Layering with Rewettables
When painting, layering is important to create things such as depth, atmosphere and texture, making it important for me to test out the liquid pencils’ layering abilities. I didn’t bother testing out the permanent paints in this capacity because I believe being able to create layers is one of those differences between the two types of liquid pencil.
Wet on Wet
The first two treatments were about working in layers where the initial layer is still wet while applying the second. The left image is using only one colour (Grey 9) whilst the right image uses two colours (Grey 9 and Red).
I tried to treat the first layer like a watercolour graduated wash, ie painting from dark to light. When I applied the second layer straight away it didnt really blend in with the first. It sat on top and felt like I was a finger painting.
I didn’t fair any better with the two different colours blending in. The red is very subtle and in fact there’s no real layering as one would find using watercolours. The colouring is dirty and the layers aren’t very distinct.
Wet on Dry
The next two treatments were about rewetting the layers after they had dried.
With the left image (one colour only) I used a bit of water to get an even wash and it dried pretty quickly. The right image comprised a layer of Grey 9 left to dry then followed by a layer of Red.
On the left image I removed the colour only with water which seemed to work well. The two colours sample didn’t really do much. It has potential to create something exciting but you would need a lot of brush control and foresight to manipulate it.
Dry on Dry
The final two treatments were about allowing the layers to dry then remove the pigment with a rubber (eraser).
The paint does create a nice solid block of colour. The two colours block doesn’t indicate the types of colours at all, again Grey 9 then Red.
I used a rubber (eraser) and it worked quite well, not even removing or ruining the paper below. Though I did have to use some energy to do so. I do like the residual texture left behind which could be a great base for a picture.
I don’t think liquid pencil coulours are designed for layering unless all layers are watered down to a semi-transparent state.
My first experience with this medium sadly has been influenced by what seems to be an old set of paints. Prior to using them I did do a bit of research on how other artists have used them and seen beautiful results. If anyone else has their own opinion, good and bad, on liquid pencils I’d like to hear from you.