TUTORIAL - Turpenoid PrismaColor Technique - by Sheff


Hi Guys,

I thought I’d post this demo as it’s very easy and most of you probably already have the materials on hand.

One of the things I see students struggling with is making a transition from drawing in line to drawing with form. Line is one of those things that people tend to cling to much longer than necessary.

Here is the deal, in order to improve or learn something new, you want to take something that you are already good at, or confident with, such as your drawing skill and make it easy to turn line into value. That way you can rely more on shape than you do line.

Basically take a kleenex with a couple of drops of turpenoid and use it to smear the stroke of prisma pencil. You are now turning a line into value/shape. I forgot who said it but it was an excellent example, when you look at a yearbook with all the groups of people with faces smaller than your smallest fingernail, you can still recognize who the person is because of the shapes of light and shadow on their faces. Shape can communicate more than line and this is an important thing to realize when you move into paint.

This was a demo that I did for my illustration students. Aside from the technique, a photocopier was utilized.

Here is the original image. It’s kind of beat up as it has seen a lot of travel back and forth from my house to the school. It’s prisma on 11 x 17 vellum. The important thing is that I am ONLY using line.

This is a photocopy of my line drawing. The advantage of using the photocopier is that my lines are fused to the paper. Put the original line drawing in the machine and put a sheet of the same vellum in the bypass tray. The machine then copied my drawing onto the fresh sheet of vellum. This serves two purposes; 1) it makes your lines permanent and 2) if you screw up while applying value, you can still make another photocopy of your original drawing and start again. If you were working on your original and had to start over, you would have more work having to redraw your image and more likely than not it wouldn’t have the same degree of ‘freshness’. Often times when you project or trace a drawing to put it onto an opaque surface, you tend to lose some of the spontanaety of the original drawing. By using a copier, you keep the freshness and the copy acts as a safety net, enabling you to be more daring than you would otherwise be if you were working on your original.

This image is made by applying your black prisma pencil to make your shadows and using the kleenex with turpenoid to blend out your lines. That way they read as shapes of value. The light areas are made with a kneaded eraser. Electric erasers will also work with this technique, but I save that for highlights in the hair and eyes.

Now this is another copy put onto a fresh sheet of vellum. This time, I copied the value drawing above. Now my values are established and not moving, I now use only the colored prismas and leave out black. I don’t need it as now the toner from the copier is my black and it’s not moving.

Here another class demo where the same idea about is line, except this time I am tracing reference from National Geographic.

The advantage is you can use the copier to increase or decrease the size of your line drawing before you apply value.


As long as you are confident in your drawing skill you can see that it doesn’t take much to make something start to take shape very quickly. You can use this technique for drawing from life.

You can use different colors.

You can work very smooth.

Or you can work with more turpenoid to get more of a ‘brushtrokey’ kind of feel.

Here a student left me with a very soggy kleenex wet with my turpenoid. I didn’t want to waste the turp so I drew the model. The more turpenoid you have in the kleenex, the harder it is to control and the less smooth/rendered the results will be.

If you over wet the kleenex, adjust your drawing style to suit the medium.

Different types of vellum will yield different results. This is done on stationery store vellum, like the kind in a wedding invitation.

You can also mix colors by holding more than one pencil at a time to put down your initial values.

You can also draw very small from life and blow up your drawing to apply color.

You can do pretty much anything you want with this technique.



Awesome tutorial here! Thanks so much for doing this, and so quickly! I have never seen this technique done in quite this way, and it looks like an excellent way to transition from line to form. Great stuff, and very informative! :thumbsup:

Cheers! :slight_smile:



I’ve had a couple of people show me this and variations that they use. Probably the most well known guy who does this is Sergio Martinez. There was an old article in Step-By-Step about his technique.

I met someone who does the same thing with prisma except he uses Simple Green instead of turpenoid and draws on duralene. He also uses a color copier instead of a straight black and white copier. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.


Fantastic tutorial, must try this out!

One question:

  1. What does using vellum/prismacolor brand do for the picture? What are the benefits, as opposed to, say, regular photocopy paper and faber castell colored pencils?

I really like this…


Nice tutorial :slight_smile: I do charcoal paintings and this is my first time saw this product and technique. Thanks for sharing.


Vellum stands up to the constant rubbing on the paper and maintains enough tooth to still grab the pencil. It also enables the turpenoid to evaporate easily. I would venture to guess that the high cotton content of the paper keeps liquids from affecting it too much. I like the tooth and the feel of the paper. The tactile feedback when the pencil goes over it is more satisfying at least to me than doing this technique on tracing paper. Think about when you wash your pants with a dollar in the pocket and a receipt in the other pocket. By the time it gets through the dryer, the money will have held together better than the receipt. It’s the fibers. Money is more like cloth than it is like paper. Same for vellum.

If Faber Castell pencils are wax or petroleum based then the turpenoid will dissolve it and the technique should work. If the binder holding the pigment together is something activated by water, like a watercolor pencil, then maybe the it won’t work as well.

Any solvent that will break down oil or wax should work, but it just depends on what you like working with. Different solvents will behave differently.

If you have the stuff try it and see. Good Luck!


Thanks for the reply, nice explanation.


Thanks for sharing that tutorials. I have seen people get the same results with graphite power mixed with various liquids and paint the mono tones with a brush. I should try your method one day when ever I buy a bristol pad.


Hey Sheff,

Nice Tutorial buddy, it’s too bad everyone can’t see it in action, it is more impressive when you watch it done and see how fast the technique really is. Talk to you soon :thumbsup:


I have a question. Can you use a normal number 2 wooden pencil instead of prismacolor?


Kyle - Yeah, you have to see it in person to undertand how fast it is. I also like how it can echo an older drawing look. One thing I forgot to add that is vital to the technique is an electric pencil sharpener.

Pushav - I don’t know about a wooden pencil. If you want to smear graphite and make it smooth, use a woman’s make up applicator, like the kind in a compact used to apply foundation. Then you can use your kneaded eraser to model form. You want to do this on a textured surface that has enough tooth. I don’t think it will work with turpenoid as the graphite binder is not petroleum based.

I have seen people do this with powdered graphite and a solvent, but I can’t remember what the solvent was. I want to say benzene, but I’m pretty sure that’s not right and benzene is really really bad for you (nerve damage bad).

 Rebecca's [b]WARNING:[/b]

Benzene is HIGHLY HIGHLY [color=Lime]TOXIC [/color]and should never be used really…with a ventilator’s mask if absolutely necessary (which it shouldn’t be if you’re not a construction worker).

Sorry, Sheff, I just had to interject that...thanks. :)

For example if you want to do this with markers or marker ink, you use rubbing alcohol, but you make your lights opaquely with colored pencil rather than erasing back to the white of the paper.

 But I like the cheap wooden yellow #2 pencils as well.  I like getting them in bulk.
 paperclip - glad to help! 
 Good Luck,



Someone’s work who you should see is magic man’s ~ he does excellent work in Prismacolor:

Siren’ Slumber

Transition of life and death.

Gladiator (Speedpaint artwork)

Alien Speeder

Bone Studies (He has a strange title which I won’t repeat).

The little dancer, speed paint.

Where has my skin gone?
Death Dealer

The Benevolent Demons Report to jesus that he is a drunky.

The Wizard Takes a Pee Over the Railing.

Master Study, Michaelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl - graphite + prismacolor process.

[left]Cheers, :slight_smile:



Hi Rebecca,

That’s some nice work!



I agree! Magic man may have heckled me in the past, ROFL, but I’ll still pimp his threads! :scream:
Nah, he’s a great guy, lots of drive and initiative…and, I think he’s like 12, lol. Just kidding, mm…nah, early twenties, I think. It just bothers me that there are people who were born in the '80s, lol…:rolleyes: :smiley: :scream:

I think he would really admire your work a lot…and could learn a lot from your technique. It’s why I pointed out his work to you. Maybe you two can discuss some techniques here. :slight_smile:

Cheers, :slight_smile:



Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttttttttt tutorial PixelColada, I have to try this sometime.


Oh well. It looks like i am walinking 4 blocks to my local craft store and getting some prima color pencils and some turpenion or odorless substitute.

It is nice to buy wooden pencils in bulk. 2 dollars can get you a lot of them. Lol.

PixelColada-Some people use acetone and ground graphiite or charcoal. I finally remembered. The downside is acetone is highly toxic. Your method is safer.
And i have another question. What would you recomend that I do if I were to color glaze the picture traditionally? What materials should I use?


For anyone with an interest in using this technique…



[/b][/color] [left]Benzene is HIGHLY HIGHLY [color=Lime]TOXIC [/color]and should never be used really…with a ventilator’s mask if absolutely necessary (which it shouldn’t be if you’re not a construction worker).





Pushav - That’s it! I knew it wasn’t benzene. Thanks!

With regard to glazing, I wouldn’t glaze with this technique after I did all my opaque line work. You’d end up rubbing out everything you did.

What I would do if I wanted a color to unify an initial wash over the whole piece would be to do a thin color wash across the whole thing and have a transition in that thin wash. You might go from warm to cool, saturated to unsaturated, light to dark etc. And then when yo have that established, pick out your lights with the kneaded eraser. Then I would draw back into those lights with opaque colored pencils.

If I needed to do a glaze over the whole thing after I was done, I would probably do it with acrylics with very little water through an airbrush. I would do a little at a time so as not to buckle the paper, or maybe mount the paper to something white like foamcore before spraying. I would also not try to load the airbrush with too much pigment and I would only use transparent colors for that.

I haven’t tried to glaze using this technique as it’s easier to do in photoshop after you scan it.

With regard to turpenoid toxicity, you might try simple green. I believe that is less toxic or non toxic. It doesn’t smell harmless though. I think almost everything we use is harmful in some way when used to excess.

Rebecca - Thanks for emphasizing the warning about benzene.

Skurai - glad you liked the demo. I look foward to seeing what you do with it.


Rebecca - Thanks for emphasizing the warning about benzene.

No problem :wink: ~ Sorry to have hijacked your post, but that stuff is lethal! I once bought a solvent containing it without knowing, and it’s a BIG bad toxic chemical…no wonder I walk like a chicken. :scream:

Cheers, :slight_smile: