Non-Photo Blue is the New Black

Good planning is an essential part of any artwork.

This often-neglected aspect is a key step to creating a strong foundation to build your masterpiece on.  Every art form and artist has their own approach to initial planning, so we thought we’d demystify one of our favourite tools for sketching and penciling comics and illustrations – the non-photo (or non-reproduction) blue pencil.

Artsavingsclub-Blog-Post-Non-Photo-Blue-is-the-New-Black Tools

This type of pencil was originally used by comic book artists and draftsmen as the light blue colour does not reproduce with older black and white photocopiers.  That way artists had the ability to pencil and ink on the same page, and not worry about fading the ink when erasing the pencils afterwards.

The blue rough sketch was left untouched under the linework, but invisible in the reproduction.  Due to the fast paced world of comics, it was a far more efficient and reliable way to work through pages and pages of amazing comic book artwork. Imagine having only one month to write a storyline, and adapt it into roughly 30 pages of comic art, from rough pencils all the way through to intricate, vibrant, polished artwork.  Needless to say, in the comic industry, every second counts.

Sketch Stages

Due to technical advances, they aren’t used for the same purpose these days, but many comic book artists still favour them for different reasons.  For us, we love using it to plan our initial layouts, and since the non-photo blue is a different colour to traditional graphite, it allows us to go in and refine our original draft without getting confused or wearing our paper down with erasing and clean-up.  This allows you to work through your artwork in stages (rough draft, refined pencils, and final ink), adding detail along the way.  We’ve created an illustration to show this layering process, which you can see in the post photos.

These blue pencils can be difficult to come by these days, but luckily Caran D’Ache makes the non-photo blue ‘Sketcher’ pencil, which we absolutely love using.  On the other hand, if you like more precision in your drawing, the sky blue Pilot Color Eno lead for 0.7 mechanical pencils produces very similar results.

Both of these products (and much more) are available on our site – maybe you can use them to plan your next artwork.

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