Warning: If you're not interested in a nerdy essay about using a pencil with a multicolored lead, please skip right past this post.
You may require the patience of Buddha to read it...
Several readers have asked me questions about using multicolored pencils, since I often use them for drawings and/or tangles posted here, so here is a piece on the topic. It's a long post, but the longest part is about where and how to find the pencils. That is a big issue.
The short part of the post is about how to actually use them, because what I know about using multicolored pencils can fit into a thimble.
You can see my current stash in the photo to the left. I only own 2 kinds of these pencils at the moment. I'll explain that shortly.
WHAT *ARE* THESE MULTICOLORED PENCILS, ANYWAY?
or..."I've never heard of them."
Let me start by saying, let's call them something else. Let's call them "Rainbow Lead Pencils," or "Multi's." As you can see from looking at these, the name "multicolored pencils" is a misnomer. I've called them that in the past, as have others, but I'm not going to call them that in the future. From the plain brown ones on the left above, you can see that it isn't the PENCIL that is multicolored; it's is the pencil's LEAD. Same with the ones on the right, only those are also wrapped in multicolored paper (just to confuse the issue).
WHERE DO YOU GET THEM?
or...be careful what you ask for...
What you ask for is part of the problem. If you ask your art store about "multicolored pencils," you'll likely get regular graphite black lead pencils wrapped in a swirly colored outer wrapper. In other words, regular pencils with ordinary black lead.
You will need to ask for "pencils with a multicolored lead, or Rainbow Lead Pencils."
Even then, you are likely to have the clerk look at you with a puzzled expression and ask, "You mean 'colored pencils,' right?" No. "Colored pencils," at least as we talk about them in the U.S., means a pencil with a monochrome color. Only green, or only blue or only red, not green-AND-blue-AND-red-and-yellow in one lead.
The other thing you will hear from clerks is, "Oh, you mean those pencils that have multiple leads in the barrel and you click them to switch from one lead to the other?" No. Or, "Oh, we have PENS that have 4 different colors in the barrel and you click to switch from one color to the other." No. Just, no.
You are looking for one regular-sized pencil which has a single lead inside just like an ordinary pencil, (no clicking, no switching) BUT there are at least 4 different colors included in the one lead. Sometimes as many as 7 colors.
Look carefully at this pencil below. Yes, the outer wrapper is swirly colors. But look at the LEAD. You will see how the lead is sectioned into more than one color. If you look carefully at the lead, you'll see a blue-ish green on top, a slash of red underneath, and some yellow on the bottom. This is what you are looking for. (The outer wrapper doesn't tell you a thing)
Now, just as with any art tool or supplies, â chacun son goût. We each like different things and you may prefer something I dislike. For example, I like Rainbow Lead/Multi's with fairly soft leads. You may like them with harder leads. The plain brown Rainbow Lead/Multi's in the first picture have very hard leads. I use them but they are not my favorites. I prefer the soft leads of the pencil shown just above.
You may like thicker pencils which have thicker leads. I really and truly dislike those--I can't get the fine lines that I prefer, even when I sharpen the heck out of them. So I look for regular-sized pencils, not thick chunky ones.
IF THEY'RE THAT HARD TO FIND, WHERE DO I LOOK?
Oh, if only I could tell you. Luck is part of it. Remember to specify "Multicolor lead" or "Rainbow Lead" (try both names...sometimes they are called "Magic Lead Pencils").
Another major clue: If you are wondering about whether it's the right pencil and you notice it has an eraser on top, don't buy it. It's not a Rainbow Lead--you cannot erase them. None of them come with erasers.
Here's where I have found the ones I like so far:
WHY WOULD I WANT ONE? WHAT USE ARE THEY?
Good question; you might not want one! It's all a matter of taste.
I adore colored pencils, especially Prismacolors and Faber-Castells, but I would put myself in the "beginner" category with using them. The same with the Rainbow/Multi's. My previous two posts (August 25 & 26) have several photographs of how I have used them with Zentangle®, and there are numerous other examples scattered through my blog.
HOW DO I USE ONE?
Here's what I have learned about using them so far:
All the pieces below were colored with the Rainbow Lead Multi pencil I've been talking about. All were done in my wonderful Carole Ohl Tangle-a-Day calendar. Keep in mind that all of these are my first try at each of the tangles--I'd never drawn any of them before, and so a lot of them are more like sloppy sketches, but you can get a sense of how the Rainbow Lead pencil works.
Truly, I hope those of you who are interested and haven't tried these will acquire some and try them out. I can't *wait* to see what you produce. Please share!
These pencils are so underrated...they are not just for kids!
9/3/2015 06:58:22 pm
Thank you - very informative. I will put a link to this post in my next email newsletter.
9/30/2015 02:55:38 am
Thank you for bothering to tell me about your categories. I found it very interesting and helpful and I am now going to rush over to Amazon and enter rainbow LEAD pencils in the search :-)
7/25/2019 07:43:02 am
I like the sample drawings. They are beautiful. You can make multiple colors in one stroke and the color is depend on what side of the pencil you are going to use. It’s like you are making a line at the same time you are also making a colorful shadows. It is also easy to use unlike and you can finish your coloring faster than the single colored pencil. I give credit to the person or company who developed it. It’s brilliant. I like it. Thank you for sharing.
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I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society