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Tips & Techniques

Questions on color mixing? Looking for tricks to achieve the subtle tones that make your design look more realistic? Find out the tips and techniques from the experts. Once you get the know-how, you’ll be amazed by the results. 

Applying a Wash

Apply a wash is a painting technique where a diluted color is applied over a painted area to create a see-through effect. In the example at right, a wash was used to create a translucent rainbow over Niagara Falls.  In the image to the bottom, a wash was used to depict smoke rising from a chimney. The effect is soft and gauzy. It might also be used to represent mist or fog rising off a body of water, or warm breath exhaled in cold winter air. If you are unsure of how much to dilute the paint or execute the technique, the best thing to do is to experiment on a scrap piece of paper until you get the results you like. It’s best to start with more dilution than less (we suggest 1 part paint to 10 parts water); you can always add another layer of the wash if you want a more opaque look.

wash1 chimney smoke1



Detailing is what takes your painting from ordinary to extraordinary. It adds life and realism, and it draws the eye into the painting to see what other surprises lay in store. It’s like the chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream—yummy!  Look at all the wonderful detail in the painting left: the shadows and edges of the house siding, the decorative trim on the screen door, the highlights and shadows on the Adirondack chairs, the cat in the window, the bowl on the table inside the cottage, the ribbing inside the canoe, even the fishing pole and tackle box on the dock. All of it contributes to a fascinating scene, and you feel like you are there. Even when you do paint by number, you might want to have a selection of brush types and sizes at hand. We recommend a liner brush for fine line details and a #4, 6, or 8 flat brush for larger, open areas. If you feel that such fine details are too difficult to achieve with a brush, or if you don’t have a steady hand, try a sharp colored pencil or fine-tip permanent marker.


Before DetailingAfter Detailing



Drybrushing is a painting technique where a softly-blurred edge is created between two colors using a dry brush and light dabs of paint. It can be used in different areas of a design, but it is always used for the same purpose—to soften the edges of a particular area.  Whether you use it to soften areas of a face, a snowy landscape, a calm lake, or a  cloud-filled sky, the technique of drybrushing is always the same. After the areas on either side of the dotted line are painted, pick up a bit of the lighter color on your brush, then dab the brush on a paper towel until it is almost dry. Lightly dab the paint at the edge of the darker color. You want the lighter color to appear to melt into the darker one. It seems complicated, but it really is not.


Practicing Drybrushing

Step 1: Turn your canvas board over. If you’ve already started painting your design, be sure your board is completely dry. You may want to lay a couple of paper towels under the board to protect any areas you’ve already painted. Draw a circle about 1/2" in diameter.
Step 2: Now draw a semicircle next to it as shown here.
Step 3: Paint the semicircle with any dark color from your kit. Let it dry. In this case, we selected a dark blue.
Step 4: Paint the circle with any lighter color or white from your kit. Let it dry. We selected a lighter blue.
Step 5: Dip your brush once more into the lighter color. Dab your brush on a dry paper towel until almost all of the paint is gone and the brush seems dry.
Step 6: Dab your brush at the line between the two areas, spreading from the lighter circle into the darker semicircle. On your practice circle, the line you drew is solid, but on your canvas board these drybrushing lines will appear broken to show you where to use this technique.


Examples of Drybrushing

Broken lines on the canvas indicate edges to drybrush.


Drybrushing Quick Tips

  • Keep a second paintbrush handy just for doing drybrushing. This additional brush doesn’t need to be anything special—a gently-loved paintbrush with fly-away bristles is a perfect choice.
  • If drybrushing is needed in a large area, work small sections at a time.
  • You can create different drybrushing effects if you use strokes instead of dabbing your brush on the canvas board. Try straight strokes and curly ones for different effects.

    Before DrybrushingAfter Drybrushing

Understanding the Numbers on the Paint Pots

The first number on the pot is the one used on the canvas board and chart. The second number (shown in parentheses) is our identification code; you will need to send us this number if you need more paint.

When you see the next to the pot number you will also see this next to the key: This indicates that you will find two pots of this paint color in your kit. In many cases, you will find that this particular color is used for large areas of your design or in many different mixed colors.


Blotchy or Streaky Colors

Always be sure to stir your paints before using them. If your paints have been sitting for awhile, you may want to stir them again. Paint pigments vary from color to color affecting the paints' consistency. You may need to use more than one coat to produce a clean, even color or to cover the printed numbers on your canvas.


Out of Ingredients for Your Kit?

Have you run out of or need replacement ingredients for your kit? We can help. Please fill out the Contact Us form and be sure to include the kit name and number, and the paint color name and number so your request can be processed quickly. 



Feathering is a painting technique where the edges of two colors are blended with small, distinct brush strokes. As you fill in an area, draw little strokes of one paint color into the edges of another color to create a jagged edge.

Feathering lends itself to many different subjects—from creating a refection to giving grass a “spikey” look. Whether you use it to create a small tuft of grass or a large refection in a lake, the technique of feathering is always the same. Look at the picture on your box to determine which color appears to be going into the other color.

It may seem complicated at first, but feathering is really easy.
The best place to practice painting techniques is the back of your canvas board.
Don’t worry—once you frame your design, these practice areas won’t show.
Feathering - Tips

Step 1: Turn your canvas board over. If you’ve already started painting your design, be sure your board is completely dry. You may want to lay a couple of paper towels under the board to protect any areas you’ve already painted. Draw a square about 1".

Step 2: Now Split the square in half horizontally.

Step 3: Paint the upper half of your square with a light color, such as blue or white.
Feathering - Tip 1

Step 4: Paint the lower half of the square with a darker color, such as green or brown.
Feather - Tip 2

Step 5:Using small strokes from the lower half to the upper half, create the look of “spikey” grass or wheat to soften the edge between the two halves of the square. On your practice square, the horizontal line you drew is solid, but on your canvas board the feathering areas will appear broken to show you where to use this technique.
Feather - Tip 3

Broken Lines on the canvas indicate the edges to feather.
Feathering Reduction

Without Feathering
Without Feathering

With Feathering
With Feathering

Quick Tips:

  • If feathering is needed in a large area, work it small sections at a time.
  • When several colors are involved in feathering, you may find it easier to paint these areas by working from the background to the foreground. Paint what is furthest from you first, and work to the item that is closest to you. A good example would be to paint the sky before the hot air balloon.

Creative PencilWorks Ideas

Change the colors in any PencilWorks design to resemble your pet or match the colors of your room.  Simple changes can make the design your own.  A simple mat and frame will turn your PencilWorks creation into a work of art.


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