Techniques and Tips

Tinting Graphite: How to Add Color To Your Drawings

Tinting Graphite: How to Add Color To Your Drawings

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Have you ever drooled over the look of those old-fashioned photos? You know the kind. The black and white, soft focus photos that have slight additions of color? Those hand-tinted photos of the past have a unique, recognizable look to them. As artists, we can create something similar.

I love the look of the “Hammond Blended Pencil Technique.” The gentle tones and smooth blending give drawings a very soft and realistic impression. While the art is beautiful all on its own, there are things you can do to make it look very different. I used the tinting technique to enhance these graphite drawings of mine when each drawing was done.

The examples here show what can happen when a light addition of color is added to a finished graphite drawing. It changes the look completely. To do this, the drawing must be totally complete, as if it were going to be done in graphite only. You don’t change the way you render the drawing, just because you want to tint it later. Tinting is exactly that. It isn’t colorizing, like you would if you were using the grisaille technique of the Old Masters. Grisaille creates a subtle undertone to establish the contrasts of the artwork. It’s then covered up with color, and the piece is completed. Tinting, on the other hand, is just a subtle addition of color to enhance the piece. The graphite is still the main media.

To create this look, finish your graphite drawing. Then, use a workable fixative to hold the graphite. This keeps the gray tones of the graphite from mixing in with the color, making it look muddy. It keeps the color clean.

I prefer to use a Verithin colored pencil. It has a very dry application of color that doesn’t have a lot of wax and won’t build up. It allows the gray tones of the graphite to show through completely. Other brands of colored pencils can be used as well, but you must be very careful to apply it lightly and evenly. A light touch is essential so the graphite is enhanced–not covered. Apply the color with an even application. You don’t have to alter your pressure as you apply the pencil. It’s the graphite and gray tones underneath that make the color look light or dark. You don’t control the darkness with color. Also, you don’t need to spray your drawing again after the color is applied.

This is a wonderful technique if you want to experiment with something new. But, what if you’re afraid of ruining your beautiful graphite drawing? Trust me, I’ve been there. There’s a safe way to experiment without having to worry. Have a print made of your drawing, and do the tinting on that. A good quality giclee print, created on a matte finish paper, accepts the color just beautifully.

Give this new technique a try, and I think you’ll like it. Stay tuned, because I’m very experimental and I’m always trying new things. I love sharing my artistic adventures, so thank you for coming along for the ride.

Have a great week!

Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of

Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond

Watch the video: Artistic Drawing Practices -WATER SOLUBLE GRAPHITE PORTRAIT- (August 2022).