I see the non-photo blue pencils in the pencil section all the time, and I'm wondering what their purpose is for modern artists.

Do I need one if I want to scan in drawings where I've sketched the underlying framework? Or can I just use any color that's not my final color and use my digital art program to remove it?

With modern scanners, cameras and digital editors, do I still need to have a non-photo blue pencil in my artist's armory?

1 Answer 1


Modern scanners, cameras, and digital editors pick up the non-photo blue pencil marks that earlier scanners did not. However, this color is still easily removed from the scanned image by switching to grey scale and altering the brightness and contrast. You could do this with another colored pencil pretty easily as well.

The answer to your question depends on what type of scanner and what type of digital art programs you use. If you have a modern scanner with a modern digital art program (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) you could likely achieve the same result with a normal colored pencil, as long as it was different from your final inking color.

  • 1
    Is the non-photo blue more effective at the greyscale + B/S alterations than other colors?
    – user24
    May 1, 2016 at 2:35
  • I would imagine that any other hue in a similar shade is about as effective once in the digital art program, however, very light blue might be easier for you to see and use than very light yellow, for instance. We're getting into the realm of personal preferences here. If you're curious, I would just buy one of these pencils and play around to see if you like it. You can get a single one to try out for $2-3.
    – Monza
    May 1, 2016 at 18:40
  • The non-photo blue pencils I've seen are supposed to be nicely erasable (presumably for corrections during the sketch) while many normal coloured pencils aren't - so just grabbing a normal light blue may not be as useful
    – Chris H
    Oct 13, 2021 at 10:14
  • One other consideration is using a pencil type that won't bleed or blend if the plan is to select the pencil color and remove it digitally. If the color blends, it will be very difficult to remove the line.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 29, 2022 at 19:59

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