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What is the purpose of the blue pencil?

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What is the purpose of the blue pencil?

Howdy folks,
Fist of all, since I'm new to this forum, I must give admiration and credits to all those who inspire newbies like myself to achieve the next level, very inspirational stuff.
I'm currently an illustrator/graphic designer who has worked both professionally and freelanced, I have drawn my entire life and have even gotten the educational background, at least that's what my degree says. I've never been fortunate enough to have taken an animation class except what I've gained from self tutorials and books. My question is this, and I apologize to the experts as this may be like asking a baseball player why he wears a baseball glove, but what is the deal with the colored blue pencil used for character sketching? Just curious, as it always seems to be an oversight on the materials list and to the purpose. I assumed at first it may have been a non-repro thing as in the pen and ink world. Actually, I prefer do most of my rough sketches in the colored pencil as it doesn't smudge nearly as much. Could this be the answer?
Anways, any insight would be appreciated, I'm in awe of the work the members are doing, I can't wait to post my own stuff, the feedback from this forum will be highly acknowledged.
See ya.....

Most animators I have seen work use a variety of pencils and don't limit themselves to a certain kind. The main 'technical purpose' of the blue pencil as far as I know is that it's easily erasable and supposed to not show on xeroxed copies. I can't confirm that, though. Whenever I xeroxed a blue sketch I didn't get a completely blank piece of paper. It always shows.
However, if you sketch in either red or blue, clean the drawing with a pencil or inkpen directly over your sketch, scan it and filter out the colour you sketched in, you're left with a more or less clean ink or pencil drawing.

My personal experience is that blue pencils, or Col-Erase pencils of most colours, allow you to work very losely and create dynamic, ruff poses. For inbetweening purposes, I was taught to erase that initial, ruff sketch until only the defining lines are left which can be tied down further with a properly sharpened Col-Erase. The resulting lineart is quite exact, smooth and dynamic and fit for tracing with stronger drawing equipment. However, that's just one approach.

"non-photo" blue

the light blue, or "non-photo" blue as it is sometimes called is not supposed to show up on a stat camera, and sometimes photocopies


Thanks y'all,
I figured it had something to do with the repro aspect, not showing up on the camera and such. Thanks for the insight, look forward to getting more feedback soon.
see ya...


Some artists, knowing that blue pencil "will not show", tend to be more uninhibited and loose when roughing it out. thus more creative. the objective/analytic part of the psyche is held at bay: "it's ok to make a mistake, it won't show."

Once they hold a pencil-- ding! it's clean up time, and the mindset is geared more towards the "technical" aspect of drawing-- good strokes, proportion, modelling, cleanliness, etc.

Don't worry.  All shall be well.

Not to mention blue pencil also looks cooler than the typical grey. :p

"Animation isn't about how well you draw, but how much to believe." -Glen Keane


alot of people are switching over to red aswell. I personally use red when animating, cause i find it is easier to see which line i am working with. Also it gives me the chance to build on the drawings with another colour, say blue, or Tuscan Red, and it will show up nicely. If you start with blue, it usually ends up too dark to draw ontop with any sort of clarity. But then maybe im just a heavy drawer..

"The only obsticle i have to over-come, is what to turn this blank peice of paper into" .... by Me... or probably someone more important than me... :)

Back when Disney had a 2D animation department, the rough animation was done in red. This allowed the cleanup artists to hold a red gel over the drawing and see just the cleanup line they were working on, and then compare it to the rough by removing the gel. When the finished drawing was scanned into CAPS, they'd filter out the red and be left with just the graphite cleanup line.

Since it never showed up in the scans, there was some wacky stuff added to those roughs in red pencil, lemme tell you.