How to Use the Subtraction Technique in Your Coloured Pencil Drawings

Nov 18, 2021
How to Use the Subtraction Technique in Your Coloured Pencil Drawings - Blog - Bonny Snowdon Academy

This week, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the subtraction technique, which is a coloured pencil technique that I use all of the time to create shapes, texture and highlights, for example, in a drawing. 

It's a relatively simple technique. All you need is an eraser or a craft knife like the Slice Tool, and you gently remove the pigment that you've already laid down to create fabulous, realistic fur and texture. 

So, when I'm working on a drawing, I like to try and ignore the detail in the fur as much as I possibly can, and focus on working the values, tones and colours in first. Once I've done that, I'm free to come in over the top of those initial layers, and start working some lovely detail into the piece. 

I use a combination of a Tombow Mono Eraser and a Slice Tool to carefully remove pigment. I absolutely love the Tombow Eraser; it's very small and is just like using a white pencil, which allows you to be quite precise and create lovely, soft highlights. I also use a blusher brush to wipe away the excess pigment that accumulates. It's one of the less expected additions to my pencil pots, but it really does work a treat! 

You'll find, when using the Tombow Eraser, that the more you use it, the more pigment it picks up. All you need to do to tackle this is keep a little piece of sandpaper on your drawing board. You can rub the end of the eraser on that every now and again, and it'll lift off all of the pigment, making sure you don't transfer it back onto your paper.

Once I've used my Tombow Eraser and feel happy with the sections I have subtracted, I move on to using the Slice Tool. I prefer to use the Manual Pen Cutter, which has a blade that stays out. It can take a bit of time to figure out how to hold the Slice Tool in a way that's best for you. I tend to hold it upside down, because I'm right-handed, and turn it around to the left a little bit. Then, I can use the edge of the blade to gently scrape out some of the more prominent highlights.

It really is a fantastic way of achieving that gorgeous texture and detail that we're all aiming for in our a drawings. 

Click on the video shown above to watch me putting the subtraction technique into practice and to hear more of my thoughts and tips on how you can use this technique in your own coloured pencil drawings.

You can also find out where you can buy a Tombow Eraser and a Slice Tool with my Materials Guide. You'll find a discount code for the Slice Tool there. 

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