How to draw with colored pencils – Ultimate Guide

How to draw with colored pencils

Easy to find at any discount or department store, colored pencils are great for beginners. However, professional artists also use colored pencils to great brilliant works of art worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Whether you are a complete beginner artist or a more skilled artist who simply wants to try a new medium, colored pencils can create beautiful drawings with vibrant colors.  If you are wondering how to draw with colored pencils, read our complete how to to get started guide.

How to draw with colored pencils

Types of Colored Pencils

Colored pencils can be found in art supply stores, discount stores, or even in your local grocery store. But, you may notice a huge difference in price in the various kinds of colored pencils.

You may ask yourself if those high-priced colored pencils are worth the difference in price. 

The biggest difference in various brands of colored pencils is the ratio of binder to pigment.

The pigment is what makes the color of art supplies, and in colored pencils, the pigment is held together by a wax or oil based binder. Wax based colored pencils give a lovely sheen to the drawing and the colors can be layered, one upon the other.

Oil based colored pencils behave a bit differently on the paper, but they also are good for layering.

One disadvantage of wax based colored pencils is that a drawing with these pencils may develop a wax “bloom” or a white surface on the drawing after a few weeks.

This wax bloom can be wiped away, but it can be prevented by using an artist’s fixative. Oil based colored pencils do not develop a bloom, but they are more prone to smearing than wax based pencils.

Prismacolor is a wax based colored pencil brand that many professional artists swear by.

The colors are rich and vibrant, and they layer well. Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils are an oil based colored pencil brand that is fabulous. Prang colored pencils are a good brand for children. 

One big difference in the various brands is the hardness of the pencil. Soft colored pencils have a higher percentage of pigment to binder. These pencils lay down layers of brilliant color.

The disadvantage is that they break easily, they’re crumbly, and soft colored pencils don’t hold a sharp point very well for long.

Hard colored pencils have a lower percentage of pigment to binder.

They hold a sharp point much better than the soft ones, so if you like to make drawings with lots of detail, you probably will want a harder pencil. They last a lot longer than soft colored pencils, but hard pencils will not give as much vibrant color to your drawings as a softer pencil.

You may want to buy some hard colored pencils and some soft colored pencils. You can use both of them in the same drawing, using the soft pencils for shading and coloring and the hard ones for the details of your drawing.

Paper for Colored Pencils

Any kind of paper can be used for a colored pencil drawing, but many artists like working on Bristol paper. This heavy paper comes in two surfaces – vellum and smooth.

Traditionally, the vellum was preferred for colored pencil because it has a slight texture that can grab the colored pencil pigment, giving the drawing greater texture and interest. 

However, artists who love drawings with lots of detail may gravitate toward Bristol papers with a smooth texture. This kind of paper allows for lots of fine lines without the “tooth” of a vellum surface interfering.

Best paper for colored pencils
Paper for Colored Pencils

Ultimately, whether one prefers a vellum surfaced paper or a smooth surfaced paper is up to the preference of the artist. 

You can also buy a pad of inexpensive colored pencil paper at any art supply store.

This heavier weight paper has a smooth surface and works well for colored pencil drawings. Some people also like using toned paper for their colored pencil drawings, just to add an additional layer of interest. 

If you would like to see the buyer guide I have for the best paper for colored pencils, I have one here. All the research was done for you.

I also have a buyer guide for the best pencil cases and sharpeners.

Getting Started with Your Colored Pencil Drawing

To get started with creating your colored pencil drawing, first sketch in the basic outline of your subject in a graphite pencil.

Sketch very lightly so that you can erase and make any changes easily.

Take your time and just create a light impression of the drawing.

You should not try to add any details at this point. 

Start filling in the lines of your drawing using just the primary colors of your colored pencils.  

Next, you will start filling in the drawing with other colors adding more details and shadows.

You can use some of the following techniques to create dimension and interest in your sketch. 

  • Layering
  • Burnishing
    • Burnishing is another word for blending with colored pencil. This technique helps the color on the page look like a single color rather than individual pencil strokes. You can use a blending tool or a light colored pencil to smooth out the pencil strokes and give your colored pencil drawing a shiny surface.
  • Stippling
    • Stippling is used in all sorts of drawing media to provide interest and fill in the color. This technique uses dots to fill in a space with color. The dots can be closer together or further apart. 
  • Hatching
    • Hatching adds texture and interest to a drawing by drawing multiple parallel lines, lifting the pencil after each line. They can be close together or further apart.
  • Cross-Hatching
    • Cross-hatching is similar to hatching, except on top of one set of parallel lines, a second set is drawn in a different direction. Cross-hatching creates fascinating texture and shading in the drawing. 
  • Scumbling
    • Pretty much anyone who has scribbled with a crayon has practiced scumbling. Scumbling fills in a section of a drawing with circular marks on the paper. You don’t lift your pencil from the paper when you are scumbling. 

As with any kind of art, drawing with colored pencil takes practice to gain skill.

One nice thing about colored pencil is that the artist has great control over the art media.

Don’t get discouraged if your first few drawings are not exactly as you pictured it.

Just keep practicing, and you will eventually gain skill with this fun and interesting art medium.

If you would like some tips on What to draw with colored pencils then have a look at this post.

How to draw with colored pencils – Supporting video

This post I have 2 supporting videos that I have found that can further reinforce what I have just discussed.

The first one is aimed at a more experienced artist wanting to use colored pencils.

The second supporting video is aimed at the beginner.

Video #1

Note: Jazza likes to talk, so if you want to skip ahead to where he starts drawing skip ahead to the 4 minute mark.

Video #2

Wrap Up

If you’ve been wanting to learn how to draw with colored pencils, we hope How to draw with colored pencils has helped!

We shared the types of supplies you need and tips for getting started. It can be a fun creative hobby or even an excellent way to make money as a side hustle!

Share these ideas with your artist friends on social media and stay tuned for more drawing tutorials from us in the future.

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Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

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