Illumination Coloring Process


Each illumination goes through an extensive design process before they get to the stages you see here. These progression shots though can give you an idea of some of the colored pencil drawing section of the process. Museum-quality, limited edition, signed numbered prints are gilded with 24kt gold or with pure palladium. 2023 update: I've started using Caplain leaf instead of palladium. It is a mix of ~80% gold with palladium and platinum and is much softer and therefor easier to use than palladium.


I no longer use silver as I had in the past since it can tarnish. When it comes to hand gilding on limited edition museum quality reproductions of colored pencil illuminations, no two will be the same and sometimes the gilt work looks better with little fine detailed outlining with colored pencil. For this reason, I keep a list of which pencils I use on each work and I have chosen a printer who is so incredible that I have a hard time distinguishing between an original and a print and can thus use the same set of pencils from the originals.

How I started illuminating with colored pencil:

My parents gave me my first set of Berol Prismacolor pencils sometime in grammar school and I loved them! Loved the colors, the smell and the versatility and they thus became a staple of my art supplies though I was primarily focused on 3D art forms. I was also introduced to the ornamental border designs around this time though I wasn't making any of my own at the time. About 20 years later, when I moved to China after college, I wanted to give meaningful gifts to friends that I could make myself and began printing small inspirational quotations and creating colorful borders around them. I was very taken by the style of Chinese painting with bands of color seen in palaces and temples which let itself well to pencil work so started incorporating some of those patterns into my work as well. Thus it was in China that I revived my interest in flat artwork both with colored pencil and with paint. After my return to the US, I added pure metal gilding to both art forms. 

Suppliers I use:


Though I use a variety of colored pencil brands, Prismicolor still makes up the majority of my colors including the Light Fast sets that are no longer available and sometimes the Verithin line as well. These pencils have a bit of an interesting history.

The Berolzheimer family from Bavaria started a pencil factory in Furth which is near Nuremburg Germany back in 1855. The next generation in the family built a factory in New York state and started the Eagle Pencil Company. At first, Eastern Red Cedar from the southeastern states was used but later incense-cedar from the coasts of California and Oregon were used which may explain why I fell in love with the smell of my first set of Berol pencils! In the 1950's the family run business changed its name to the Berol Corporation. It was a six-generation family business before it was sold in 1985. Members of the Berolzheimer family continued in the pencil and wood business though and their efforts have been distilled into the Cal Cedar company which makes environmentally conscious wooden pencil slats and the newly revived famous Blackwing graphite pencils.

I still have a healthy dose of nostalgia for the origional Berol brand and occasionally scour the internet for Berol and Eagle pencils, especially the discontinued colors which I like to use in my illuminations for an extra bit of old school excitement.