Creating amazing backgrounds with Caran D’Ache Neocolor II

I finally splurged on a box of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water soluble crayons after reading a lot of good reviews about them. They are  expensive but after trying it on this Owl page from the book Daydreams by Hanna Karlzon, I am happy I did it. The colors are so vibrant and the best part is this amazing blue and green background took me only 15 minutes to complete. I cannot imagine how many hours it would take to get this effect if I used only colored pencils. I once saw a comment on instagram by another colorist, she said “life is too short for complicated backgrounds”, this put a smile on my face cause I do have the same feeling sometimes. There are often times I avoided coloring a page simply because there are way too much empty space to fill.

Blue and green background colored with Caran D'Arche neocolor II by Betty Hung

How to use Neocolor II

picture of a box of 84 Caran D'Ache Neocolor II

Neocolor II is made in Switzerland by Caran D’Ache. It looks just like any crayons but it is water soluble and once wet it acted like watercolor. There are three ways I use these crayons and I made a youtube video to demonstrate:

  1. color as with any crayons directly on paper, then add water using a wet brush – this method is best for large areas where you can use multiple colors to create the marble effect
  2. use a wet brush to pick up color from the crayon by brushing a few times, then paint with the colored brush – this method is great if you only wanted to color a small area which can be hard to reach with the relatively chubby crayon.
  3. use a ceramic dish, rub the crayon on the dish, then use a wet brush to pick up the color from the dish – I think this method avoid waste as these colors are so rich that a little goes a long way. It is also most like coloring with water coloring where you pick up the colors from a palette. However, I wouldn’t use this method for a large background.


  1. Use 3-4 shades to create a marble like effect rather than 1 solid color.
  2. practise to get a feel for how wet you brush needs to be. You want the colors to spread easily but not so wet that you see water pooling
  3. I learned from another colorist (@alwayscoloring) on instagram who used her finger to dab on the area to blend the colors better
  4. Be patient, do not rub the wet brush over and over again on a wet area, it will only dilute the color too much and cause the paper to break down. Wait till it is dry and then you can go over again by adding more color. If you made a mistake, you can totally change the colors once it’s dry e.g. if you compare my in progress picture and the finished picture, the inside of the crown was at first colored in sky blue, then I changed my mind and I colored over with purple and fuchsia.
  5. Any imperfection can be fixed with colored pencils (see below)

Neocolor II as a base for colored pencils

Neocolor II is excellent medium to form a base for your coloring page but using it together with colored pencils to create depth and shadows is a match made in heaven. There are also hard to reach areas that are best done by colored pencils. In the blue sky background here I also add some colored pencil touches here and there after the initial Neocolor II coloring, e.g. the lighter blue around the owl. The feathers on the chest was done with some random beige, grey, sage green, light brown Neocolor II, then I used brown and black colored pencils to add the shadows. The picture below shows before (the right side) and after (the left side) colored pencils were used.

Demo of using Neocolor II with colored pencils to add depth and shadows

Bokeh effect is easy with Neocolor II backgrounds

Everyone loves bokeh effect (those little light circles in the green area) that gives a dreamy feel to the picture. It is quite a challenge to do if you try to do it from scratch with colored pencils from a white background. However, if you colored a marble like background already with Neocolor II, all you have to do is use a darker shade, draw circles and color the outside of the circle and blend the darker shade into the existing colors. Here’s a before bokeh and after picture. Note in this picture I also used Sakura gelly roll white pen to add some sparkles.

Create Bokeh effect with Neocolor II background

Video Demonstration

Here’s a youtube video where I did a quick demo of how a background is done, how I used colored pencils to add depth and how simple it is to add a bokeh effect as a finishing touch. To avoid boring long video, I drew a simplified picture to show the techniques that I used in the actual coloring page.

Happy Coloring

Just a reminder that you should always test the paper before you apply a technique that involves water. The Neocolor II crayons is a good alternative to watercolor and if you have a large background to cover. So why don’t we use watercolor instead? For me the reason is that it comes in 84 shades of the most beautiful colors and I don’t have to mix the colors myself. Hence it is like having a 84 pre-mixed watercolor palette. No mess, no waste. They come in smaller sets too if you just want to try.













7 comments on “Creating amazing backgrounds with Caran D’Ache Neocolor II

  1. Hi Betty,

    Thank you for sharing! Love your work!! Wish I can find someone talented like you to teach me how to colour with colouring pencils.


  2. Hi Betty,

    I really enjoyed your video and am inspired to try my hand using your tutorial. I have recently purchased a set of 40 Neocolor II crayons; the full set was too pricey for now, but i’m hoping my set has the same colors you used. I noticed at times in the video you posted the pencil numbers and other times you did not. Posting helps me a lot. I hope you will be doing more Neocolor II tutorials in the future. Your work is beautiful and very helpful. Thanks so much

    • Hi Donna,
      Thank you so much for your comment and I am glad you find my video helpful. Sorry for being inconsistent with displaying the color # of my pencils. I will strive to always label the colors in the future.

  3. Hi Betty, great demo! Have a complete set of Supracolor II but not used … Will definitely get started with them, certainly since coloured pencil can be used on top of them. Thank you !

  4. Hello Betty

    Thank you for your blog article about your wonderful Neocolor 2 video. I watched the you tube video you created, and was delighted to explore your tips and techniques in this blog. You have a new subscriber now! I look forward to seeing more of your mixed media exploration. Please see my comment on your corresponding video. I would be delighted to receive your reply.
    Rhue Chantal

    • Thank you Rhue. I replied to your YouTube question. I do have one other Neocolor II video under my YouTube channel “Color Art by Betty Hung”.

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