Explore the Basics of Burnishing

Burnishing is a colored pencil technique that’s used to create an opaque look similar to oils, acrylics or airbrush. To achieve this opacity, you start with the darkest value, then lightly layer wax- or oil-based colored pencils on top of it until you arrive at the lightest value. Gently blend the colors by going over all but the darkest hues with a white or light colored pencil, such as 10-percent gray or cream, or a olorless “blender” pencil. Blend over the lightest colors first to avoid dragging your darks into these areas. Once you’ve finished blending, repeat the entire process of layering and burnishing until the surface of the paper is completely covered.

When burnishing, it’s important to build your colors gradually. As you get more pigment on the surface, you’ll have to increase the amount of pressure you use to completely cover the surface. A sharp pencil is key here: Dull pencils are difficult to control. Also note that some colored pencils with a low wax content are hard and dry and thus don’t lend themselves to the burnishing technique.

1 I began by drawing the flower petal on my working surface. Then I applied my initial layers of color.

2 Next I burnished over the petal with a white pencil.

3 When the burnishing was complete, I repeated the entire process, applying new layers of color.

4 I then finished the petal by adding the drops of water.

“Visually, I love Italy and France where the architecture is coherent with the landscape,” says Beverly Erschell, who studied at Stephens College and the Cincinnati Art Academy before receiving an M.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1971. Her works are a part of many important corporate and museum collections. Among her gallery affiliations are Wallace Fine Art in Longboat Key, Florida, Walter Wickiser in New York City, Deemer Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, David Kike in Dallas, Texas and Miller Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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