Sanded Pencil Background

by Dina Kowal

Use water-soluble pencils, sandpaper and water to create a textured background.


  • Water-soluble pencils (Derwent Inktense Pencils used here)

  • Watercolor paper, canvas or heavy cardstock

  • Mister bottle

  • Die template (Spellbinders® oval die used here)

  • Water and brush, or Aquapainter

  • Sandpaper, medium grit (100 grit used here)

  • Waterproof stencil or mask with a fairly open design


  1. Step 1

    Lay a stencil over watercolor paper or other heavy cardstock (110# or more) and secure it with removable tape. Mist water through the stencil openings, in one small section.

  2. Step 2

    Hold the sandpaper above the wet panel, with the sanding side angled down slightly. Lightly scrape the sandpaper with a sharpened water-soluble pencil or hard water-soluble block, allowing the pigment dust to fall through the stencil into the wet areas. Where the paper is wet, the pigment will stick and lightly bleed.

    If dust is not falling, try sharpening your pencil, lightening pressure, tapping the paper, or moving to a different area of the sandpaper.

  3. Spray with water and repeat this step as needed until all areas of the stencil are filled to your liking. Be aware that additional spritzing will further activate the pigment and cause it to bleed. To add more colors and prevent muddying, allow the panel to dry completely between applications.

  4. Step 3

    This technique can also be used to add texture to a precolored image or background. Brush water just where you want to add texture. A die template can be used as a stencil to shape the background color. Work in one small area at a time.

  5. Step 4

    Hold the sandpaper as described above. Lightly scrape the sandpaper with a pencil or hard watersoluble block, allowing the dust to fall into the wet areas.

    Touching a wet brush lightly into the wet areas will activate the color after it is added, for a more blended look.

  6. The pigment will only stick where there is water. Excess pigment dust can be blown away, or brushed off when the panel is dry.

  7. Step 5

    Use the completed pieces as layers or card elements.


Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Sanded Pencil Background. Try this technique, then upload your artwork to the gallery. Show us your creations!

***Please note - Internet Explorer/Edge is not a supported browser, and will not allow you to see the videos. Please use Chrome, Firefox or Safari to view our tutorial videos.

Questions and Comments

We'd love to get your feedback or questions. Leave your comment below.

Thanks so much for a very informative tutorial
Jasmine Patrick  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 3:39 AM
Hi Dina, a fab tutorial and will try out soon. Could you let me know the name and make of the 'gentlemen' stamp as I think it's lovely. Thanks for everything. Ann xx
Ann Levers  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 5:24 AM
Thanks, this is VERY COOL! You did a great job with tutorial.
Vicky Briggs  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 6:21 AM
Very cool! Thanks for showing us! How did you get the crackel effect on your red card?
Kathy Harrison  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 6:58 AM
Brilliant tutorial, love the look of this technique! European readers might be interested to know that you can get an art set which includes 8 coloured leads and a kind of dice with sand paper. it is called Seccorell. The leads are really soft and work brilliantly for smudging too. Here is a link
Astrid Maclean  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 7:03 AM
Such a cool and effective technique. I'm dieing to try it. Thanks for your great video.
Diana Pease  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 7:19 AM
The 3 gentlemen are on a stamp by Tim Holtz/Stampers Anonymous - it's available in a few different cling sets.

The crackle on the stenciled card is a stamp from Impression Obsession. It's one of the few stamps I never put away. smile
Dina K  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 7:34 AM
Astrid, thanks for that product link! The Inktense Blocks would work in a similar way, I think.
Dina K  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 7:37 AM
This is a great technique, Dina!! I have everything to try it out. Yay!
Giovana  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 7:40 AM
LOVE the gritty texture made using this technique! Hope to try it soon. Thanks Dini for another top-notch, easy-to-follow video! smile
Gabby  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 8:12 AM
It is "way cool". Love the idea and am going to give it a try. Thanks for the wonderful video.
Kab  |  Wed May 21, 2014 at 9:34 AM
Thank you for the great tutorial, I am going to give it a try.
ggm3lg  |  Thu May 22, 2014 at 4:14 AM
LOVE this tutorial Dina - what a cool technique!
Jocelyn Knight  |  Thu May 22, 2014 at 5:54 AM
Wonderful tutorial, Dina. Both examples were great.
Susie Lessard  |  Thu May 22, 2014 at 8:26 AM
Wow, very exciting and cool technique can't wait to try it out!
Julie Heyer  |  Thu May 22, 2014 at 4:37 PM
Super-fun, Dina! When I read "sanded" on the way in to work I was thinking we had to sand the paper and I wasn't sure at all how that would work out, LOL. But I'd bought sandpaper recently for another project and absolutely loved trying this out today.
Sabrina Friel  |  Fri May 23, 2014 at 9:21 AM
I have GOT to try this !! Love this technique..Cards came out awesome ! Thank you for the idea !
kathy dumais  |  Fri May 30, 2014 at 4:50 PM
love LOVE LOVE this technique. ahve been showing alllll my inky friends this awesome idea
clare mcilhatton  |  Wed Jun 4, 2014 at 8:02 PM
Really pretty, Dina! I love the grainy look.
Kathy H  |  Sat Jun 7, 2014 at 5:28 AM
Wondering...have you tried this with the watercolor crayons? wondering if they would work as well?
Thanks for sharing your beautiful creations!
Lisabee  |  Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

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