What do you draw with on canvas?

Hi Everybody, Mark Carder recommends the Stabilo 8044 pencil for drawing on canvas.  I have been using the said pencil to draw my outlines for painting.  I find the pencil soft and prone to snapping.  Perhaps I'm heavy handed?  It's not a bad pencil but I can't draw any detail with them at all.  What do you draw with on canvas?


  • I use General's White Charcoal pencil, the lightest touch makes a mark. I also use a kneaded eraser to remove excess charcoal before painting.
  • Gary_Heath

    A big part of your problem with broken pencils and difficulty with detail is not the pencil but the texture of the canvas surface.

    Switch to a smooth panel (Ampersand) or a Dibond aluminium panel, coated with a metal primer.
    You won’t have to fight the texture to draw detail.

    With a smooth panel you can use a 2h pencil, or any softer pencil with some working fixative.
    I like drawing on panels with Conte crayons. I can use a Sharpie, when confident everything is in place.
    But, I then do an acrylic under painting with oils on top, otherwise the Sharpie lines would show through the transparent hues 

  • I use the stabilo on both canvas and Dibond.  I don’t worry about drawing detail I just draw the large shapes.  
    @tassieguy have a question for Rob, how many layers of varnish do you apply and do you use glossy or matt varnish?
  • @Forgiveness, @dencal, @GTO, thanks for responses, well noted.
  • I don't usually do an under-drawing but if I do I use PROGRESSO pencils - grey or ochre. I don't draw fine detail - impossible on my rough canvas.

    @GTO, I just use one light spray of gloss varnish when the painting is finished and dry. I only use a light spray because I don't like a smooth, really glossy surface. Sometimes a painting sells before the required few months have passed so in that case I just spray lightly with retouch varnish so that the drying process can continue.  
  • I use a brush with paint to mark the major shapes as i find it quicker and less hassle.
  • For a landscape I use a neutral color, very thin, and a round brush and only draw in major shapes.  For a detailed still life I draw on paper and transfer to the canvas with graphite paper.  I tend to erase a lot before I can get everything to suit me so drawing on paper takes the stress out of the process.
  • @gar3thjon3s, @oilpainter1950 Okay, got it.  It makes sense to sketch in paint for a landscape.  A detailed still life, or any detail on a building, may require fine line drawing of some kind.  It seems everyone has there own method or tool.  
    @oilpainter1950, "For a detailed still life I draw on paper and transfer to the canvas with graphite paper."  Can you explain that a bit more?  I've tried tracing (daffodils),but didn't really like that method and found it led to inaccuracies.
  • I am very methodical and will transfer to an extremely smooth surface.  I use graphite transfer paper available at art stores and on line.  A smooth surface is important.  I have painted enough to be able to correct errors without problems.  Portrait grade canvas is usually a very fine weave and I like to use that.
  • @oilpainter1950 Okay, I'm sure there must be videos on Youtube on how to do that.  I'll look into it further.  Thanks for the input.
  • edited July 2020
    I tend to use a graphite pencil because I usually do fine detail.

    However I have not been using a fixative. I am aware of theories that this may cause problems down the line with the painitng, but I cant find evidence that this is certainly the case.

    @dencal regarding using a fixative-Its not a problem to paint oils over fixative then ?

    I happen to have been given a can of Daler Rowney Prefix Colourless Fixative it says on the can-for pastels crayon and charcoal drawings.
    Do you know if this will be ok to use over graphite drawing prior to oil painting ?
  • MichaelD

    No problems just benefits, though ten years is hardly an archival test.
    # Preserves the underdrawing, even after wipe outs
    # No smudging.
    # Works with most drawing media, ink, pencil, charcoal, pastel etc.
    # Creates a nice tooth for subsequent paint layer.
    # Prevents reactivating of water colour. Can be used as an isolating layer.
    # Moisture proofs support and drawing 
    # Reduces absorbency of gesso and support.
    # Temporarily creates tracing paper from typing bond.
    # Neither mat nor gloss just invisible.
    # Not a coating - absorbed by the surface.
    # Surface easy to clean with a damp face cloth.
    # Negatives are : smelly petrochemicals use outside minimally.
    # Pastel highlights dulled, darks muddied.


  • Thank you Denis.

    Im just doing a little test with it on one of my panels at the moment.
  • edited July 2020
    I once tried using charcol to draw with but it smudged when I started painting over the lines.  It never occurred to me to remove excess with an eraser, or spray fixative on top.  Thanks for the tips @Forgiveness @dencal et al.
  • edited August 2020
    I think color pencils will be difficult to retain ink on the fabric. Why don't you try Artistro Acrylic Paint Markers Medium Tip? It is durable and stays permanent when dry. It is also non-toxic and odorless
  • Vine charcoal works fine for me. If I want a more detailed drawing I'll use a black prismacolor pencil. 
  • When I was training under DMP, I was using wax pencils that we use quite famous in India.

    After the training I either used brush line drawing or tonal drawing.
  • I don't get the detail I want with charcoal, and graphite is meant to cause problems. After trying various, I am happy with polychromo pencil.

    "Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils are a unique tool in the world of sketching. They are oil based as opposed to being wax based like other pencils, allowing them to blend with solvents, like turpentine or white spirit in a similar way to how you would blend oil paints".

    I like them and have had no issues so far.
  • edited September 2020
    I don't use a pencil as it does not hold the color for long on canvas. I use paint markers for canvas, I like using Tooli art acrylic paint because it dries very easily, colors stay fresh after washing.
  • I tried Derwent Inktense water soluble color  pencils work fine for me on primed canvas, sometimes I use Mixed Mediums on my canvasses. xxxxx
  • I used pastel pencils (Burnt Sienna, Burnt umber) on primed panel, then painted into and over the drawing.  No problems, the pastel seemed to mix into the first passes of paint. 

  • edited November 2020
    The cores of my Stabilo 8044 pencils turned to mush in the high humidity and heat (see photo below), and it seems I can't use them even if I wanted to!  A lot of helpful suggestions above.  I'm using watercolour pencils at the moment and those work well although the marks do merge with the paint somewhat.

  • I've been trying different ways to do the initial drawing.  The Stabilo yellow pencils are OK, but it's difficult to put in accurate detail on the key points of my portraits. 

    I'm currently trying graphite pencils.  I then bruch over the graphite lines with Gamsol to fix the lines in place.  I occasionally hear about graphite causing problems, but can't find any objective evidence that it does.  

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