“Similar” Art Mediums Can Be More Different Than You Think – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Different art medium article sketch

Well, the day before I originally wrote this article, I reluctantly ended up trying out one of those trendy “adult colouring book” pages which are all the rage at the moment.

Personally, I found it to be pretty much the opposite of “relaxing” (it was like making art, but without any of the fun, creativity or imagination). However, this article isn’t a rant about colouring books – it’s an article about art mediums. It’s an article about how “similar” art mediums can actually be very different.

One of the strange things about this colouring page was that it wasn’t printed on watercolour paper. In fact, it was just printed on ordinary paper – which meant that I had to use an art medium that I hadn’t really used much since late 2013/ early 2014. I am, of course, talking about ordinary colouring pencils.

Back in the day, this used to be my art medium of choice. In fact, I once foolishly wrote an article talking about how they were “better than painting”. Of course, I wrote that article before I discovered watercolour pencils.

Watercolour pencils are like colouring pencils but, since they turn into watercolour paint when you go over them with a wet paintbrush, they also include all of the advantages of using paints too. They are objectively superior to ordinary colouring pencils in almost every way, other than the fact that they require that you use a specific type of paper.

Yet, there I was, sitting in front of this page and using an old set of colouring pencils that I hadn’t really used properly in about two or three years.

The really interesting thing that I noticed when colouring in this trendy pre-made drawing was the fact that I instinctively used the colouring pencils in a very different way to how I used to use them when they were my favourite art medium.

For example, when I wanted to colour part of the picture orange, I didn’t just pick up an orange pencil (like I used to). Instead, I first went over the area with a yellow pencil and then went over it lightly with a red pencil, almost like I was mixing paints. Yes, I knew that pencils could be blended back in 2013, but I didn’t really do it that much. These days, I did it without even really thinking about it.

Likewise, adult colouring pages are renowned for including lots of tiny fine details. A few years ago, I would have loved this. But since I’ve only been using watercolour pencils to add colour to my drawings over the past three years or so, I instinctively took a very different approach to these parts of the picture.

Since you can’t really use paints for adding colour to super-fine details in drawings, I found that I was automatically separating the picture into larger areas and filling these areas in with a single colour. Just like I would do if I was using watercolours.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. One of the things that really surprised me was that I still found myself automatically using all of the knowledge about colour theory and shading that I’d learnt over the past year or two when filling out this colouring page.

The interesting thing was that when I first discovered watercolour pencils, I thought that they were “just like colouring pencils” but that they allowed me to produce something that looked more like a painting. I thought that they were a way for me to keep my pencil drawing skills, whilst also being able to call myself a “painter” at the same time.

However, over time, I learnt more about the medium and realised that I could do things with it that I couldn’t do with ordinary colouring pencils. This happened so gradually that I didn’t even really notice the change in the way that I make art until I returned to the old art medium that I’d abandoned a couple of years ago.

So, yes, changing the art medium that you use – even to something that looks very “similar” and requires similar skills – will also change the way that you think about making art. All in all, this is a good thing – but it was still somewhat shocking.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂


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