Color Pencil drawing of a Portrait of a lady face

From Sketches to Masterpieces: Using Color Pencil Drawing as a Medium

Colored pencils are a great art medium for artists of all skill levels, from beginners to professionals. They’re easy to use and versatile enough for any style or subject matter you want to tackle.

Drawing with colored pencils is an excellent way for people who think they can’t draw because they don’t have the patience or talent. Pencils are also a forgiving medium-if you make a mistake, you can erase it and start over.

The most significant challenge people seem to have drawn with colored pencils is blending and layering colors.

Another challenge is getting the colors to look vibrant and bright. Getting the colors to look smooth and blended can be tricky; sometimes, they can look muddy.

You’ll learn helpful tips and techniques to make the process easier. Plus, you’ll be able to create beautiful works of art you can be proud of.

What are Colored Pencils?

Colored pencils are an art medium made from pigment held together with a binder. The binder can be either wax or oil-based.

Wax-based colored pencils are usually softer and more vibrant, while oil-based colored pencils are typically more durable and have a higher color saturation.

The pencils have a wide color range, including bright and subtle hues.

They are generally dry mediums, meaning they do not require water to activate the color. There are also watercolor pencils that do need water to activate the color.

The most common reason artists use colored pencils is that it is one of the most versatile mediums in art. They can be used for various techniques, from detailed drawings to loose and expressive pieces.

You can layer and blend using a color pencil to create a wide range of colors, and they can be applied in thin or thick layers, depending on the effect you want.

Types of Colored Pencils

There are various colored pencils on the market, each with benefits and drawbacks. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular types:

Soft Wax-Based Cores

These pencils have a velvety-soft core, perfect for blending and layering colors. They are also less likely to create muddy colors than hard wax-based cores.

Hard Wax-Based Cores

These pencils have a more rigid core, making them great for detail work. However, blending and layer colors can be more difficult than softer cores.

Oil-Based Cores

Oil-based cores offer the richest colors and the most consistent laydown. However, they can be more difficult to blend and are not recommended on thin paper.

Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are unique colored pencils that can be used wet or dry. When wet, they behave more like watercolor paint; when used dry, they act more like a traditional colored pencil.

Pigment-Based Colored Pencils

Pigment-based colored pencils are the newest type of colored pencil on the market. They offer brighter, more vibrant colors than traditional wax-based colored pencils. However, they can be more difficult to blend and layer colors than other colored pencils.

Color Theory & Application Techniques {for beginners}

As an artist, it is vital to understand the basics of color theory. This understanding will help you create vibrantly colored pieces that are true to your vision.

We shall briefly understand essential concepts of color theory and its application techniques.

Color Wheel

A Color Wheel visual represents how colors relate to one another. The wheel is made up of primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), three secondary colors (orange, green, and purple), and six tertiary colors (red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, and blue-violet).

The color wheel can help you choose colors that are complementary or opposite of one another on the wheel. This knowledge can be helpful when trying to create contrast in your work.

Color Schemes

There are several different color schemes that you can use in your work. These schemes are defined based on the relationships between colors on the color wheel.

The most common color schemes are:

Monochromatic: A monochromatic color scheme uses different shades of one color. This color scheme can make a room or painting look cohesive and unified.

Complementary: Colors opposite on the color wheel, such as blue and orange.

Analogous: Colors next to each other on the color wheel, green and yellow.

Triadic: Colors evenly spaced around the color wheel, such as purple, yellow, and red.

Primary Colors

The primary or basic colors are red, yellow, and blue. These colors are generally used to create secondary and tertiary colors. You can’t make the three primary colors by mixing other colors.

Secondary Colors

The three secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors. They are orange, green, and purple.

Tertiary Colors

You can mix the primary and secondary colors to get six tertiary colors, and the resultant colors will be red-orange and red-violet.

Application Technique of Color Theory for Color Pencils

Now that we know the basics of color theory let’s discuss applying it when using colored pencils.

It will help if you remember the following when using colors:

1. The lighter the color, the more it will pop off the page.

2. The darker the color, the more it recurs into the background.

3. Use complementary colors to create contrast.

4. Use analogous colors to create harmony.

5. Use a limited color palette to create unity.

How to Blend Colored Pencils

Blending colors is one of the required skills for any artist. Blending is a skill that can take years to perfect, and it’s also a skill that you can start learning today with just some simple tools.

There are two different techniques for blending colors: dry and wet.

Dry blending is when you lay down each color separately and then blend them with a brush or finger.

Wet blending is when you add water to your colors before blending them.

The type of paper you’re using will also affect how well your colors blend. Watercolor or Mixed media paper will work best for wet blending, while regular drawing or Bristol paper will work best for dry blending.

Here are some tips for blending colors using both wet and dry methods.

Wet Blending:

1. Start with a small amount of water on your brush or finger. You can always add more, but removing it once the color is wet is harder.

2. Work in small sections so the paper doesn’t get too wet.

3. Use a light touch when blending the colors. The more pressure you use, the more likely the colors become muddy.

4. Experiment with different papers to see which works best with your chosen medium.

5. Have fun, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

Dry Blending:

1. Start with a light touch and build up the colors slowly. The more pressure you use, the more likely the colors and the peeling paper become muddy.

2. Use a soft brush, like a makeup brush, to blend the colors.

3. If the colors are not blending well, you can use a colorless blender pencil to help them.

4. Work in small sections, and don’t try blending the entire drawing simultaneously.

5. When you’re finished, take a picture of your drawing and view it on a computer screen. This photograph will help you see if any areas need more blending.

How to Layer Colors with Colored Pencils

As an artist, you want to create vibrant and beautiful art pieces. However, to do so, you need to use the correct techniques. One such method is layering colors with colored pencils.

Using high-quality pencils and paper to achieve the best results is essential. It involves applying multiple layers of color to create depth and vibrancy in your work. This process will ensure your colors are vibrant and do not bleed through the paper.

It is essential to start with the lightest color when layering colors. This light color will help create a gradient effect and prevent the darker shades from overwhelming the lighter ones.

It would help if you also worked from the outside when layering colors. This method will help you avoid leaving any white space in your drawing.

Once you have applied the first layer of color, you can add darker shades. You should continue to add layers until you are happy with the results.

When layering colors, it is essential to use complementary colors. Complementary colors are two colors opposite each other on the color wheel. When used together, they create a beautiful and vibrant effect.

You can also experiment with different color combinations to see what works best. There are no rules for color, so have fun and be creative!

Best Paper Types for Colored Pencil Drawings

Paper is the foundation of any artist’s work. Why? Because you can’t do it on anything else but paper!

So, what kinds of paper should you use for colored pencil drawings? That depends on your goals and preferences. If you want your work to last long, you’ll want to use archival-quality paper.

But any paper will do if you’re starting or don’t plan on framing your work. Popular types of paper used for colored pencil drawings are:

Mixed Media Paper

Mixed Media Paper is designed with multiple mediums, including colored pencils. It’s usually heavier than regular drawing paper and has a textured surface that helps the pencils glide across the page.

Toned Paper

Toned paper is pre-printed with a light color wash, which can help add depth and dimension to your drawings. It’s available in various colors, including gray, beige, and pink.

Textured Paper

The textured paper has a raised surface, adding interest to your drawings. Textured papers are available in various textures, including linen and canvas.

Specialty Papers

Several specialty papers on the market are designed specifically for colored pencils. These papers can come in various colors, textures, and weights.

White Paper

While not technically a type of paper, white paper is a must-have for any artist. It’s excellent for drawing preliminary sketches and creating highlights and accents in your drawings.

Tips for Creating Color Pencil Drawing

If you want to start drawing with colored pencils, it’s essential to understand the basics of how they work. Following are the tips to help you get started:

Get the right Art Supplies

When choosing the right art supplies, selecting materials to help you achieve your desired results is essential.

If you’re looking to create vibrant colors with your colored pencils, for example, you’ll need a set of high-quality artist-grade supplies. In contrast, purchasing hobby-grade supplies might be more cost-effective if you’re starting.

Understand the Different Types of Colored Pencils

Not all colored pencils are created equal. There are three primary colored pencils on the market today: wax-based, oil-based, and watercolor.

Wax-based pencils are the most commonly used and are known for their softness and blend-ability. Oil-based pencils are harder than wax-based pencils, providing a crisper line, while watercolor pencils can be dissolved with water to create a watercolor effect.

Experiment with Different Papers

You’ll also want to experiment with different papers to see which results you like best. You can use colored pencils on surfaces, including Bristol board, watercolor paper, and even regular printer paper.

It’s important to note that the rougher the paper, the more pigment you’ll need to lay down to achieve full coverage. Conversely, smoother papers require less pigment and more even color.

Learn Basic Color Theory

If you’re new to drawing with colored pencils, learning basic color theory is a good idea. This color theory knowledge will help you understand how colors interact and mix them to create new hues.

Red, yellow, and blue and the three primary colors. Three secondary colors (orange, green, and purple) and six tertiary colors (red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, and red-purple).

By understanding the color wheel, you’ll mix different colors to create new shades. For example, mixing primary and secondary colors will create a tertiary color.

Use a Variety of Colors

It can be tempting to use only a few colors when starting. However, using a variety of colors will help you create more exciting and realistic drawings.

In general, you’ll want to use three colors for shadows, three for mid-tones, and three for highlights. This choice will give your drawing more depth and dimension.

You can also experiment with complementary colors. Mixing purple and yellow colors will create a more dynamic drawing.

Experiment with Different Techniques

As you become more comfortable drawing with colored pencils, you’ll want to experiment with different techniques.

Some popular techniques include layering colors, burnishing, and stumbling.

Layering colors is the same as it sounds, adding multiple layers of color to achieve the desired effect. Burnishing is the process of rubbing a color with a darker color to create a more intense hue. And stumbling is the technique of using light over a dark color to soften the edge.

Add Details and Highlights

Once you have the basic shapes and colors, it’s time to add details and highlights.

Details can include adding texture, lines, and patterns to your drawing. Highlights are used to bring out the focal points of your picture and should be used sparingly.

You will create beautiful drawings with colored pencils that look like you painted them with a brush with regular practice.

Create Contrast with Layers and Glazes

One way to create more contrast in your drawings is to use layers and glazes.

Layers are the standard way of adding color to a picture. Each layer is applied on top of the previous layer, building up the intensity of the color. Glazes are thin layers of color that are used over a dry picture. They add a transparent layer of color that can change the overall tone of your drawing.

You can use both techniques to create more contrast in your drawings. If you want a more subtle effect, use glazes. For a more dramatic effect, use layers.

Use Markers for Extra Vibrancy

If you intend to add additional vibrancy to your drawings, you can use markers in addition to colored pencils.

Markers are the best way to add bright highlights and intense shadows. You can also use them to create more realistic-looking textures.

Do not overuse them; they can quickly overwhelm your drawing and make it look busy.

Use a Fixative for Color Pencil Drawing

When you’re finished drawing with colored pencils, you’ll want to use a fixative to help set the color.

A fixative is a clear spray that you can apply to your drawing. It will help prevent the colors from smudging and fading over time.

You can find fixatives at most art supply stores. Read the instructions on the Fixative carefully before using one, as some fixatives can change the color of your drawing.


Colored pencil drawings are a beautiful way to capture a moment, tell a story, relax, and enjoy the creative process.

Following simple tips, you can draw with colored pencils like a pro. We trust you enjoyed this guide and that it inspires you to pick up your colored pencils and start creating.

Please share your drawings with us on social media; we love seeing what our readers come up with.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do Colored Pencil Drawings Sell?

    The artist’s ability and technique significantly influence how much value and marketability their colored pencil drawings have. Fortunately, they are becoming increasingly popular among art collectors as both an artistic medium and an investment. In addition, innovations in colored pencils mean a greater range of colors, textures, and styles are available than ever before, making them suitable for virtually any subject.

  2. Do Colored Pencils Expire?

    Colored pencils are practically immortal; they never expire! Of course, being exposed to light and air can cause their pigments to become duller over time. To keep your colored pencils in top condition for longer, store them in a cool and dry place. That way, all vibrant colors will remain intact, allowing your artwork to last indefinitely.

  3. Which Color is Best for Drawing?

    Perfectly attaining the look you strive for in your artwork depends on choosing an appropriate color palette. Black and white are timeless staples that will immediately draw attention to your work, while blue and green hues can provide a relaxing ambiance. Ultimately, it’s best to play around with different shades until you find one which effectively helps accomplish your desired result.

  4. How Many Color Pencils Do I Need?

    Your color pencil requirements will vary depending on the type of art you are creating. Assess what your needs are and invest in a quality set accordingly. If basic coloring or sketching is all you need, then a set of 12-24 pencils should be enough; however, for more complex projects and artwork styles, it’s best to invest in 36-48 so that you have access to an extensive range of colors and options.

  5. Does Color Pencil Fade in the Sun?

    Colored pencils are, unfortunately, susceptible to the damaging effects of UV rays, and their pigments can fade rapidly in direct sunlight. To prevent this unfortunate discoloration, store your colored pencil drawings in a calm and dark area, preferably away from any sources of moisture such as humidity or dampness. Additionally, you may opt for extra protection by using UV-resistant glass frames or mat boards to keep them safe from fading caused by ultraviolet light exposure.

  6. Are Color Pencils Erasable?

    To some extent, colored pencils are erasable. However, the degree to which they can be erased is contingent upon the quality of the paper and the pressure applied while coloring. To guarantee the best results when erasing a mistake, use an excellent eraser combined with light strokes. Moreover, certain colored pencils have been formulated with greater wax content than others; these will render more effective erasure qualities.

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