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.
How to use 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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Use 3-4 shades to create a marble like effect rather than 1 solid color.
- 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
- I learned from another colorist (@alwayscoloring) on instagram who used her finger to dab on the area to blend the colors better
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.