is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Can You Use Colored Pencils on Canvas?

can you use colored pencils on canvas
As an artist, it’s important to remember the rule that there are no rules in art. With that said, it’s essential to make sure that our art-making process is sensible. You should not try to work with materials that don’t do well together. But did you know that colored pencils and canvas have a bit of chemistry?

If you ask me, “Can you use colored pencils on canvas?” my immediate response would be a big, resounding “YES!”

However, they are mediums not meant for each other. So you will have to use special techniques and be more careful to produce something worth looking at. However, the results are magnificent!

Why You Can Use Colored Pencils on Canvas

Chances are, you learned how to draw on paper, first and foremost. And chances are, you never really moved away from drawing on paper. But if you restrict yourself to that medium, you don’t know what else you can accomplish. Canvas has a very different texture from paper. As such, it can produce a vastly different picture than what you can generally do.

Unprimed canvas has an incredibly rough surface, making it an incredible drawing surface for soft colored pencils. Even a minimally primed canvas is a beautiful surface because of its toothy surface.

Canvas is NOT as Straightforward as Paper

Even though the canvas is a great drawing surface for colored pencils, it is not as straightforward as drawing on paper. For one, the toothy texture of the canvas gobbles up the pigment from the colored pencils like crazy. You will have to sharpen your pencils a lot more times than usual.

Because canvas eats up pigment too quickly, you will need to be more controlled in your application of pigment.

Why You SHOULD Use Colored Pencils on Canvas

why you can use colored pencils on canvas

As challenging as using colored pencils on canvas is, you should give it a try. As an artist, do you really want to pass up the opportunity to try something new, something bold, and something satisfying (once you perfect it)? Here are a few reasons why you should at least practice using colored pencils on canvas.

Highly Saturated Color

The weaves of canvas take a lot of pigment. Therefore, it makes sense that a colored pencil drawing on canvas is highly saturated with color. However, you need the right amount of pressure and a very sharp colored pencil to achieve this effect.

Trying to get a bright and vibrant color on the canvas will lead to high wear on the pencil. So be prepared with your sharpener close at hand.

And if you don’t want a highly saturated color, you can still achieve that with less pressure on the pencil. Canvas produces a nice airy feeling if you don’t apply too much pressure, and the white of the weaves slightly shows. This technique is excellent for skies and other atmospheric environments.

If you want a more saturated and vibrant color, you should not prime the canvas. Priming the canvas smoothens its surface. The more you prime it, the more it will function as paper does. You can still prime your canvas according to your desired results, of course. The more textured you and the more vibrant you want your drawing to look, the less you should prime the canvas.

High Versatility

On the other hand, if you want a very smooth drawing surface, you can coat the canvas with gesso. The more coating of gesso you apply on the canvas, the smoother its surface gets. And why would you want a smoother canvas surface? The smoother the surface of the canvas gets, the more detailed you can be with your drawing.

So, depending on how detailed you want to get with your drawing, smoothen down your canvas with gesso accordingly.

Durable Support

Canvas is a lot tougher than paper. Therefore, it is a lot more durable and can take on more burnishing and erasing than paper. The superior durability of canvas makes it fantastic for correcting minor and major changes.

More Painterly Effects

Colored pencils on canvas can take on a more painted look than on paper, primarily if you use a solvent on colored pencils. While one is not better than the other, drawn and painted looks are better for specific subjects. Both approaches have their place in the world of art. But if your work deserves a painted look more than a drawn look, canvas is the way to go.


Using colored pencils (or other drawing supplies)on canvas is constantly getting more popular. If you haven’t joined this bandwagon yet, you might be limiting your creativity. Of course, drawing with colored pencils on canvas is not as straightforward as with paper. But with a little bit of experimentation, you can produce great works.

So, can you use colored pencils on canvas? Your answer should be a resounding YES!

Leave a Comment