And How Can I Use it With Coloured Pencils?

What is drafting film? Is the latest question on everyone’s lips in the coloured pencil art world.
Traditionally used by draughtsman, this translucent surface is becoming increasingly popular with artists, particular pencil artists.

There are various brands you can buy, but you want to look out for the matte type rather than the smooth, as the smooth will take barely any layers. I am in the UK, and the brand I am using is Polydraw that is matte both sides.

Firstly the layers, because we all know how important layering is, and I found that you can actually get a fair few down onto the paper. Nothing like the amount you’d achieve on something like Pastelmat, but enough to get a really good blending of colours.

This is the first time I have used drafting film and it certainly won’t be the last, I absolutely love how my pencils glide over the film so effortlessly. And the amount of details you can get in with a sharp point is amazing.

I’ve used a mix of most of the brands I own on this piece, predominantly the Faber Castell Polychromos and the Caran D’Ache Luminance but there’s an appearance from some Pablo’s and Lightfast there too.

But the accolades for drafting film don’t stop there for me because there are some other wonderful points about it. So let’s dig in even further.

Changing the Background Colour

Drafting film with Coloured Pencil

Because of its translucent nature, you can change the colour of the background mount to give your work a different look or feel. You won’t achieve an impactful colour, it will be quite soft and muted, but that can be perfect depending on the piece.

You can see here where I’ve taken a quick pic to show that you can see the wood grain of my desk through the film.

And whilst it is often compared to tracing paper, it’s really nothing like it at all. It’s not something that can be screwed up, creased or torn like tracing paper. And although it is possible to put a crease in it, you’d have to be going out of your way to do so.

Using the Tombow and Other Erasers

Another great advantage of using the drafting film, is that you can be quite tough with it and erase your work right back to the film. So mistakes are never a worry as you can remove them with a decent pencil eraser.

But it’s not just about mistakes, because you can use something like a tombow eraser to great effect, creating fabulous fur textures or depth.

Using the Slice Tool

Drafting Film with Coloured pencil and the Slice Tool

For me, the drafting film comes into it’s own when used in conjunction with the ceramic slice tool. I love this tool anyway and use it a lot on my work on Pastlemat paper, but used on drafting film? Wow! It just catapults it to the next level.

The ceramic tool from slice has a rounded edge, so it’s far more gentle on your working surface. I wouldn’t want to go near the drafting film with a scalpel for instance. But the slice tool works so well to pull out pigment, allowing you to achieve brilliant fur effects.

You can see on this pony ear how well it does, and once the little fur lines are created, you can leave them as is, or go back in with your colours.

The Reverse Side

Finally, another little gem with the drafting film, is that you can draw on the reverse side. There are numerous options on how you can use this, from creating muted colours or backgrounds, to adding complimentary colours to change or enhance the colours on the working side.

If you wanted to get your darks darker, a quick flip of the film will allow you to layer darks on the reverse side exactly where you need it, this will bolster the effect on the front.

You can do the same for your whites or highlights. Either using the slice or by preserving your whites, you can go in with your white pencil on both the front and the reverse to really make the colours pop.

In Summary

I think it’s fairly obvious how much I am enjoying using this drafting film so far, but I am very early days with it. I don’t know that it would be the right choice for every subject. For example, I doubt I would choose it for something like a landscape scene.

But that’s the joy of having all these different papers available to us, we get to experiment and find what’s right for our individual style and subject.

So the next time someone asks you, what is drafting film? You’ll be able to tell them, and hopefully you will fall in love with it too!

If you’ve used drafting film, I’d love to hear about your experience with it or see your work, so do feel free to leave a link and a comment below.

Reference photo credit Elizabeth Erga
You can find the full tutorial for this Fjord pony on drafting film at Bonny Snowdons Patreon Channel.

Some items I recommend may be affiliate links, this means if you buy through my link, I receive a small commission. All products I recommend are used to death and loved by me and using my link incurs no extra cost to yourself.

3 Comments

  1. This is very detailed and helpful information. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Very comprehensive explanation of drafting film for me, off now to get the new supplies! Will be back soon no doubt.

    1. You’re very welcome Lesley, I’m glad it was helpful. Now, I hope I don’t have to send out search and rescue for you if you’re down a rabbit hole of an online art store 😉

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