The Colored Pencil Course: The Magic of Burnishing

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Lesson Discussion

    • I agree with you! Best information and explanations on colored pencil application I’ve experienced on the internet! I finally “get” burnishing. : )

    • Hi Rafaela,

      Watercolor pencils have a different binder than traditional colored pencils, therefore the effect will be different. You may be able to produce similar results by wetting the pencil before applying it, but there will still be some differences. These differences will likely be textural and noticeable, especially if you are using colored pencils and watercolor pencils within the same drawing.

      • Hi Matt,

        I used turpenoid natural and Canson paper to follow this lesson, but I didn’t have a nice result. It didn’t burnish very well and the paper was damaged. What do you thing I did wrong?

        • Hi Rafaela,

          What type of colored pencils did you use? The binder in the pencil makes a huge difference in how it will behave. Wax and oil-based pencils will burnish with turpenoid nicely, as long as the turpenoid is used in moderation. Also, you may want to use a heavier paper if you are burnishing with a liquid like turpenoid. The Canson paper, while having a heavy tooth, may not accept liquids well. It is best to use heavier paper for this like Bristol board (paper), illustration board, or for the tooth – watercolor paper. I hope this helps.


          • I used prismacolor premier. I started with just a small application of turpenoid, but it didn’t burnish nicely, so I applied more liquid. I’ll try to change the paper. Thank’s

    • No. You need the thinner because it removes the wax bloom that the pencils give your drawings if you use wax pencils . I use Monalisa Odorless paint thinner. It’s inexpensive and it doesn’t cause any type of headache for me . Of course you’ll have to see how you react to it . And always remember to cover it because it is toxic to animals so if you have pets you don’t want them to drink it by mistake. It’s relatively inexpensive and I have gotten it on my skin and it didn’t bother me at all. But you have to see for yourself if you like it . There’s also something called Gamsol that’s used by other artists as well .

  1. Hi Matt,
    I have a problem accessing the Bristol paper and the boards can you recommend something else please, also you seem to be going around in a circle is this right or is it an illusion on the video.

      • Hi Matt,

        Thanks for that I will try and find some here, did buy some lovely Prismacolour Pencils which took 2mths to arrive from Dick Blick still the wait was worth it.

        Congratulations on the birth of your new little boy

    • I can’t find where to start a new question, but maybe Matt will notice and answer this… So, I’m subbing long term for high school and we have a limited supple of colored pencils, hardly any white pencils, but we have enough white charcoal pencils, would that work? I’m guess not, but thought I’d ask anyway.

  2. Hi Matt,

    I love the glossy effect when you apply turpenoid but when I follow this, applying turpernoid on Prismacolor pencil, I dont have the same effect at all. Could you please advise me what could be the reason? Thank you

  3. Hi Matt,

    How do you tell what to make the black out of. I mean, one time you just used indigo and umbra, and then later you added violet, too. Does it just come to you after a while? do you have a split-up-the-black o-matic hooked up to your computer? Please let me now as I have trouble with this.


    • Hi Karina,

      Under most circumstances, Dark Umber or Dark Brown mixed with Indigo Blue will produce the best “black”. But all dark tones may have a bit of color in them, so adding that color will “liven” up the “black” making it appear more natural.

  4. Hi,

    I could not get “Turpeniod”.
    i have “Pebeo Fragonard Odourless Mineral Spirit”.
    Is it the same?
    Can I use it Instead the Turpeniod?

    I love that course

    • Hi, just did an experiment with rubbing alcohol at 91% and it worked just as well as the Prismacolore blending pen( applied it with a paintbrush) and using Gamsol and turpenoid so try rubbing alcohol, just my two cents

      • I may be repeating old info here but I think its so cool I will take the chance …Derwent makes a refillable blending pen with a brush tip, use what you like in it.. just my 2 1/2 🙂

  5. Thank you for free lesson and I find the way you explain things makes everything seem simpler thanks again. Even my husband said your first lesson has helped me with my painting.
    Barbara Sartin

  6. I have tried several times to download the modules and they are MP4 files that i can not open i have tried to rename the files and save i am still not able to open any of the downloads please advise me on how to get these books as a member! Thank you

      • Hi Linda,

        Are having trouble with the ebook download or the video download? The downloads appear to be working normally. Is the issue opening the file on your computer?

        • I’ve working in colored pencil for a couple years. Being a self taught artist I keep searching for and trying different techniques on my own but don’t always know how or why I have success or failure. Your lessons are answering my questions and giving me confidence in this medium. Now on to practice..practice…practice. Thank you for this colored pencil course.

  7. Hi Matt, I was just wondering if you have any experience with a substitute for turpenoid. I’ve looked around on the Internet and see that spike lavender oil was used in olden days with oil paints and I’ve even found an Australian site that says they avoid using mineral Turpentine.
    The diluents used are 1) Linseed Oil 2) Eucalyptus Oil This is with oil paints once again.

    Do you think they could be used with colored pencils for burnishing? I’m afraid that turpentine or any of its derivatives might to be too toxic for me… Or maybe you know of a “healthier” alternative that might work with colored pencils for burnishing that I haven’t come across. Thanks!

  8. I am a high school teacher. Would Prismacolor Scholar pencils work well or would it be best to put in the extra money towards the regular Prismacolor colored pencils? I’m trying to save on budget, but I don’t want to buy colored pencils that will end up being a waste. Thank you.

  9. hi matt,
    thx for this lesson. i have 2 questions-
    mix black in this way is great. with deep brown it bring warm black. with blue it bring cool black (i remember that u mention abt lower temperature). well, how and when would be the case that i should consider applying warm / cool black ? i dont have the idea.

    by watching video, the turpenoid blending result look like those of water color pencil application. i didnt have it and curious, will they both have similar virtual effect?
    thanks again. / april

    • Hi April,

      You’ll typically decide what temperature the shadow needs to be based on the local color of the object or by the light within the scene. For example, if an object is yellow, you may choose to darken the shadows to lean warmer (more brown) since yellow is a warm color. If the light is warm, you may choose to make the shadows cooler (more blue) to increase contrast or warmer (more brown) to create more harmony. As you can see, there are no defined rules. But what’s important to recognize is that you have the control over the “black”.

      As for the second question… Blending with Turpenoid will produce results that are different than what you will get with watercolor pencils. Sections blended with Turpenoid are more opaque than watercolor pencils. Watercolor pencil applications, when activated with water, do take on a watercolor appearance where colored pencils blended with Turpenoid do not produce these results.

      • thank you so much! now i still digesting. your video is great.
        i felt so good after starting this learning process all over again. (after finishing my secondary school, i didn’t draw for more then 20yrs. this moment enjoy lots of fun. thank you.)

  10. Loved the video and am pleasantly surprised at how well my drawing turned out. I recently bought a set of Derwent Burnisher and Blender pencils. I used the blender for this drawing but am wondering what the difference is. When would I want to use a “burnisher” instead of a “blender”? Or are they basically interchangeable? FWIW, I’m using the Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. Thanks!

  11. Hi Matt,

    I enjoyed the video and understand the principles but I wanted to see what was written in the Ebook. I’ve tried downloading several times and each time received an error message saying it isn’t in a PDF format. I’m using an android system and wondered if that is the problem. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you.

  12. Hi Matt…….Great lesson. AS you are an expert I really would welcome an answer to this question. I’ve done a bit of experimenting but I’ve come to a road block. I have a tendency to prefer a harder pencil Over a softer one. I received some nice gift certificates for Christmas this year and used them to buy sets of Prisma, Faber Castell and Luminance. Of these I prefer the Faber Castell but I still lean towards my harder, slimer Irojiten. In the harder ranges I own Lyra, and Irojiten pencils and enjoy them both. I was thinking about buying a set of Derwent Artist Pencils that were suggested by a friend…..and because I’ve see them used by several artists I admire. I was wondering about your opinion of the Derwent “Artist” Colored Pencil line. If I do buy them I will be able to get 120 set at a very reasonable price. But I am concerned about the degree of hardness and the fact that no company seems to carry open stock in the states. Thanks for the help. I’ve found your instruction course and on Youtube videos to be the most helpful I’ve ever found. I appreciate the thorough training and the pace of instruction and I will be recommending this course.

  13. Morning Mr.Matt, A great stress reliever Matt. Used a combination of Turpenoid Natural(Turps) practised first and then applied, also applied the Prism colourless blender….need more practise on the 3 peppers I did ….but pleased on the layering and shadowing. To get your critique on these peppers what do I do to download my photo ref. and illustration?
    On to the next with good vibes and energy.Thx again for all your input.

  14. matt,???? do you eraser pencil color mistakes,especially at the start (1st layer) or subsequent layers?
    2.have you heard of progresso-koh-i-noor pencil colors? are they wax or oil base ?(they have no encasing)
    this is what iam using until i get either the prisma or derwent.
    3.which do you highly recommend?


    • Hi Raquel,

      1. Ah yes, very difficult to erase colored pencils. I’ve found the best option is to use a strong vinyl or (plastic) eraser. It won’t remove it completely, but it does a fairly good job.
      2. I have heard of them and had students use them in the past with success. With most colored pencils, if it doesn’t mention the binder on the box, it’s safe to assume that they are wax-based.
      3. My favorite are Prismacolor Premiere pencils. Derwent is good as well, but the pigmentation in Prismacolor is stronger. The “lead” in Derwent pencils however is stronger and less prone to breakage.

  15. I have prismacolour scholars and you can use linseed oil for burnishing. It’s like it turns the pencil colors into some kind of paint. You only need a little.

  16. Very helpful. I used Caran D ache prismalo pencils. Didnt found same colours you used in demo. It seems 40 pencils set is missing some shades.

  17. I don’t understand how you make a choice of cool colors and warm colors. I’m not understanding the concept of cool and warm. I do understand that red leading to blue are the cool colors and red leading to yellow are warm on the color wheel but beyond that I am lost.
    Also, when you use Turpenoid or linseed oil, baby oil etc, what effect does it have on the aging of the pencil drawing? Will the drawing fade or discolor in some way?

    • Hi Janie,

      Warm colors and cool colors are just called “warm” and “cool” because we associate warm and cool things with those colors (The Sun = Yellow / Orange). There are no rules as to what colors you should or should not use in your work. It’s completely up to you. I haven’t noticed any issues with Turpenoid or linseed oil with aging. I’m not sure how baby oil will affect the drawing in the long term. Since baby oil is not designed as a solvent for thinning, I typically do not use it.

  18. Hello – I think my last question didn’t make it to the forum. I had completed PC modules 1 and 2 at that point, and I noticed that my results were quite coarse, in the sense that a lot more of the nooks and crannies of the paper showed through. The result wasn’t too bad when only one layer was laid down, but the second and subsequent layers were surprisingly “coarse” in the sense that the paper’s tooth showed through to an obnoxious degree. This was without burnishing or blending, of course. The pencils are Prismacolor Premier and the paper is Bristol 100 lb vellum surface. Your sample, for modules 1 and 2, were much smoother.

    Maybe more important than my question is the fact that I’m really enjoying this course! It’s far and away the best set of instructions I’ve found for the use of color pencils – and believe me, I’ve looked at quite a few of them. Many thanks for making this available.

    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your comments. If you could send me an image of the issue that you’re having, I’ll glad to help. It’s hard to comment on what the issue may be without seeing it.

  19. Thanks Matt – How do you like to have images sent or posted? I haven’t seen a direct upload link. I can send a very small low res image via email, or a larger one through Dropbox. The small low res on will probably show you what I mean.

  20. Thanks Matt – I belatedly realized I can also upload through the Forum. I’ll send an example of my coarse results later today (no time now). I’ll also send the completed drawing of the peppers. While it’s far from perfect, it’s better than my earliest stages were. I’m not having quite such good luck with the apples in Module 4. I’ll keep working on those.

  21. Matt – I put three images on the Forum this morning. The titles of the posts are “newcomer – first effort”. The first one addresses the question I asked in the current thread here.

  22. Hi Matt,

    I haven’t read all the discussion (not sure if somebody brought it up already), but I think it would be nice to state in the materials that Prismacolor Premier pencils should be softcore to do the stuff that you are showing. There is a different variety Prismacolor Premier Verithin, and I haven’t paid attention to that “verithin” until I bought the colorless blender (which stated that it works best with softcore prismacolor pencils). Then I read more of a package and understood that verithins are hard thin lead pencils. And they do not burnish well. I had to use some different cheaper brand pencils which I had somewhere to achieve the result you show. I thought my observation could be useful. Somebody mentions in comments that turpenoid and prismacolor premier don’t give her the same effect you show, maybe that’s the reason?
    Thanks a lot! Great lesson 🙂

  23. Hi. I just finished this module and I love it can’t wait to do the next. I would really like if in the e books you included the reference picture. I really appreciate your teaching style. Thank you.

  24. hello ,when i use turpentine, the color go darker than before and the paper become very bad( i think cause the turpentine is so sticky ) Do you have any solution or may be i bought the wrong liquid ?

  25. Matt,
    Can you tell me why you chose to burnish the peppers after just a couple of layers, then put more layers on top? I’m not questioning the outcome – they’re beautiful. I just would like to know why you burnished in the middle and again at the end.
    Thank you!

  26. Zoinks!
    This video can’t be played with your current setup. Matt – This morning is the first time I had a problem with the burnishing video. Is there something I should do or just wait it works itself out? Bette

    • Hi Bette,

      Thanks for reaching out. If you will send me an email and let me know what device, operating system, and browser you are using I might can help you further. The video appears to be playing normally from here.

  27. I don’t understand why you don’t just burnish with the colour used in one of the layers? E.g. For the blue example, why not just burnish with blue? Why would you use white or cream unless you want to lighten the colour and so it would have been one of your layers anyway? And if you’re going to use a solvent why not just use water colour pencils/paint or use another kind of paint in the first place? Am I missing the point?
    And I’m not trying to be confrontational – I just don’t understand – sorry if it’s really obvious – I’m completely new to any form of art…

  28. Dear Matt, I succesfully completed the red peper drawing. However the Mineral spirits did not do a good job as your terpenoid. I used the Strathmore colored pencil paper 163 gsm. On the next lesson I will use the Stonehenge 250 gsm. The surface on the stonehenge papar feels more smooth so I expect better result.
    The Gamsol (mineral spirits) I used a wtercolor brush instead of a brush. I am very happy with the outcome!

  29. I used the gamsol and it worked fine, but I found it did better with a paper stump rather then a brush. Will it burnish to much before I need it to be burnished, or is ok with a lighter touch?

  30. Hello,
    I assume that one can’t use a liquid like Terpenoid on Strathmore sketch paper since it’s not made for wet media. Correct?

    • Hi Kathy Ann,

      Yes you can, but be careful with papers that are thinner like the sketch paper. It may cause some warping and color degradation. Heavier papers like bristol are better for using solvents.

  31. The smallest turpenoid is 80 bucks here, also each Prismacolor Premier is 11 to 16 bucks each pencil (Brazil). I had to buy a low tier watercolor pencil set (which was still expensive), but unfortunately no turpenoid. Am I left only with blender pencil or any other tips to achieve similar effects?

  32. This is a while following the set up of this course and this may not get seen, but, I really wonder how you determine when shadow is warm or cool. I know I have something of a “warm, cool” deficit for some reason. It was warm and cool confusion in value studies that brought me to a more formal study of value and the focus on drawing and, I am thankful to say, found your site. Why the cool shadow on the green stems? Because the stem is cool? Because it is in shadow? It seems like a dumb question but I struggle with that. In my value study palette work I was doing architectural mill work formations and noticed that the some of the formations did not seem accurate, i.e a round wooden “ball” coming forward (supposed to, anyway) from the more angular wood forms and lathe turns it was between. I did notice that the “warm” looking value on the protruding round ball did not have the perspective of the same neutral greys (actually) that the larger, more angular formations, did. I could not figure it out. I realize that my work on your sight may be answering my questions regarding this over time. So, not a problem if I have to wait and work for my insight. The Gen Video of the Cats Eyes has really sparked my interest in the colored pencil work. I am amazed what they can do!!

    • Hi Margaret!

      Thanks for your comments! A shadow can be warm or cool. You always have the say so to make the shadow warmer or cooler so that is works with your drawing. In this particular situation, a cooler shadow just makes the most sense. Since yellow and blue make green, a blue cool shadow works the best. A darker gray or black would flatten the image.

  33. I will quit this course, I was thinking this course was for beginners , but I now I understand is not , and the fact that the course jump from beginner to intermedia tell me that , so I will not recommend it for beginners to any body.

    • Hi Sindy,

      It seems as though you may be judging the skill level of this module based on the finished result. Have you attempted the lesson? Burnishing is a skill that any colored pencil artist should learn – no matter what your skill level. Quitting is a good way to stay a beginner forever.

  34. Hi Matt

    Do we have to use a thinning agent or can we just use the other methods for burnishing? My first with this I used baby oil but I just don’t care for it going through the paper. Would vaseline work?? And would it go through the paper like the thinning agents? I don’t have bristol paper I am using Strathmore Mixed Media vellum surface paper. Is this a good paper or should I get bristol paper? I am also using prismacolor premier colored pencils

    Thanks in advance

    I learn so much from you

  35. Matt, I have Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. Will they mix (layer) with Prismacolor? Also, will Prismacolor colorless blender work over Polychromos pencils? Thanks, John

    • Hi John,

      They will layer and mix to a certain degree, but they will not burnish very well with the colorless blender since they are oil-based pencils. It may be better to use a solvent like Turpenoid to mix and burnish.

    • Hi Weixiu,

      Thanks for your question. I don’t use any fixative on any of my drawings. Drawings created with wax-based pencils can show “wax-bloom” as they age. This light waxy build up will need to be wiped away as it appears with a lightly dampened cloth. Some people recommend using a fixative but I’ve noticed that it can discolor a drawing, so I avoid it. I hope this helps.

  36. I sometimes find that if I start burnishing that the color comes off and the subject is less colorful. It is almost as if there is too much pencil on the paper. Is that possible. This has happened with blending pencil, blending stump and cotton swab.

  37. Hi Matt, my CPs are FC polychromos which you have already indicated will not burnish very well with a waxed based colourless blender. Are you advising that it’s best to use a solvent for EACH stage of the blending process? Is there a colourless blender suited to oil based pencil on the market. Thanks.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Since the binder is different in the oil-based colored pencils, we have to take a different approach to blending oil-based pencils. If you want the smooth textural appearance, then using a solvent may be the best approach. I haven’t found a blender that works well with oil-based pencils. There are positives and negatives to every brand and this may be seen as a negative for oil-based pencils. Some artists use both wax-based and oil-based pencils together. You could layer oil-based pencils over wax pencils after burnishing the waxy pencils with a colorless blender.

  38. Hi Matt! In the list of materials would be very useful if you could put the numbers and names of the colors that you gonna use in that lesson.

  39. For those who are really beginners in drawing, what do you suggest to make it easier to transfer a photograph, can I do something to cheat (without you cursing me)?

  40. Thank you Matt for another great lesson. The only issue I had was when I added the cream to the blue (I used PC ultramarine blue and FC cream), it seemed to turn to more blue green color and did not look like yours. Could it be the paper? I used Strathmore colored pencil paper and not Bristol.
    I will be doing the peppers on Bristol. I work slower than you but love being able to go back and do the drawing and follow along again!

  41. Thank you so much Matt, I have already done the 25 day drawing course, just started this one today. I though I could not draw, but actually with your teachings I think that maybe I can.

  42. Hi Matt do you use the blender on every layer as I found when I’ve used the blender nothing will go over this maybe in using the wrong material for the type of pencils I’m using may try the thinner I’m using the blenders

  43. I am new and just watched the first three videos. Tomorrow, I’ll tackle the red peppers. I am really impressed with the instruction! I would like to also comment on your very pleasant voice and extremely clear and understandable methodology. I’m excited about the course!

  44. Hi Matt, very good lesson indeed. You mention patience is required in 5 Do’s For Better Hues and I agree. To curb my impatience it would be useful to know just how long the drawings in each lesson took you to complete. I am certain that I underestimate how long each drawing should take me.


  45. I am currently working on this burnishing lesson. I started with Bristol smooth paper and thought it didn’t have any tooth. I then went with Stonehenge paper but when I applied turpenoid it kinda blended with pencils. So, I started over with Bristol vellum paper and natural turpenoid and it worked beautifully. I really enjoyed how it blended together although I think I used a tad too much turpenoid.(the paper warped a little.) my question is why didn’t my first try work? Was it the paper or the turpenoid or both?

    • Hi Lori,

      It’s hard to say without seeing your work. Stonehenge paper is 100% cotton and will absorb some of the solvent which may not be a factor but it is worth noting. Perhaps too much solvent was used. You only need to use a very small amount – with a brush barely loaded with solvent.

  46. Hi, Matt, I am still confused about the bristol paper and illustration board. Can you share some links or examples for the paper? according to use solvent. Is it vellum bristol paper, smooth or normal? What’s the weight of the paper?

  47. Thank you for another interesting lesson! I started out listening to your video about the different types of color pencil. Although it is basic information, I found that I learned some things from listening to it. It became even more evident when you started talking about wax and oil based pencils and the fact that oil based pencils do not work well with colorless blenders, that was a new thought and could explain some of my past problems.. .. I have Prismacolor, Luminance, and both Faber Castell polychromos and watercolor pencils. It helps to know that you can layer wax and oil based color pencils over watercolor pencils. I think the most interesting nugget from this lesson is that you can adjust the warmth of the shadow by using more burnt umber for warm shadows and more indigo for cooler shadows… Is it true that warm items need cool shadows and cool items need warm shadows??? I think that I read that in one of my books, but didn’t know what they were talking about.

  48. Hi!
    I usually draw with graphite but decided to try out colored pencils. I got a set of Faber-Castell Goldfaber and Strathmore Colored pencil paper. I was wondering what kind of solvent to use? If any?…. I’m pretty sensitive to the smells, so I would prefer something with low odor. I was hoping to get some advice so I’m not just throwing money away on something that won’t get used.
    I can order from American or Canadian Amazon. Choices in the town where I live are somewhat limited (thanks covid).

    Thanks for any advice!

  49. I see you used the solvent burnishing only once. Is there a reason for that? Can it not be used over and over or were you demonstrating different techniques?

  50. I am enjoying this video as I am learning soooo much. I never heard of the liquid to blend so now I need to buy some to try. I haven’t done a lot of colored pencil painting but it really is a very satisfying medium. I am also amazed at the wonderful resources for me as a student, beginner is what I call myself to further my journey to better art. And those peppers – WOW – so beautiful. Thank you! I am excited to have signed up for your courses.

  51. Hi Matt, this is all very interesting but as a beginner who has only done your turtle, for the coloured drawing module from secrets to drawing.
    How do you know what colours to lay down ?

    Do we have to learn a bit and about colour theory, I guess we do, it’s like anything as you learn and grow from this course and beyond we will become better.
    All thanks to you Mr Matt Fussell 🙏 thank you xx

  52. Really interesting episode – thanks. I have purchased Faber Castell polychromos and was wondering what type of blender pencil would work with them. As they are oil based not wax based like the Prismacolours, I am assuming I can’t use a Prismacolour blender pencil. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

  53. Hey … I just want to thank you for your amazing teaching and instructional videos, I’m thrilled to have found you! I’m a rank amateur and I’m enjoying the journey. Cheers.

  54. hey Matt, I finally got started this course, haven’t been well most of the winter, but I’m feeling better.
    I think the hardest part will be what colours to use.
    am artist on YouTube, a wildlife artist and she did a tigers eye and a leopard eye and I haven’t started on it yet, because also you have tiger eyes.

    I couldn’t believe the list of colours for these !!!!
    I have the pocket colour wheel but what I thought was I don’t think when I looked at the eyes I would see those colours that were chosen !!

    I never thought I would do colour but here I am lol and I’m also be doing your watercolour course Matt and all the other things in between and your live lessons.

    I should of finished more by now but my health with chronic conditions that won’t get better but I love doing my art and it just helps with the paini go through everyday.

    thanks Matt for what you do to help us become better artists
    on that note, I’m doing my friends dog and after getting the two previous ones I can’t believe how much better it is, the one you critiqued and was a good one as I was so nervous.
    when I’ve finished it I’ll send it in.

    cheers Matt xx

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