How to Use Coloured Pencils

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

Hey friends, welcome to my blog! Today I'll be sharing with you different techniques for coloured pencils (aka pencil crayons). Also, I'll give you some insight into some of my favourite brands that I use for my own artwork. This blog is for any creative person, whether you're a professional artist or just getting started on your artistic journey.

Woman artist holding pencil crayons
Artist Kas Rea

How to Hold Coloured Pencils

  • Hold your pencil in the middle or near the end. This encourages you to not put a lot of pressure on your coloured pencils, since too much pressure too quickly makes it difficult to erase and could potentially indent and damage the paper.

  • Holding your pencil near the middle or end also allows you to make bigger marks on the paper.

  • If you hold the pencil at a bit of an angle, it will be easier to colour big areas quickly and you won’t need to sharpen your pencil as often.

A close up of a hand holding a blue pencil crayon. The background is simple and light
Holding a coloured pencil

How to Create Tints and Shades

  • Tint refers to how much white or lightness there is in a colour.

  • To lighten a colour, gradually add more white and less of the original colour.

  • Shades refer to how much darkness is in a colour.

  • Shades are when black or another dark colour is added to the original colour.

  • The chart below is an example of tints and shades that you can practice at home. Tints are on the left, from numbers 1-4. The original red is number 5. Shades are on the right from 6-10.

A chart with rectangles and numbers 1 to 10. Each rectangle is coloured slightly darker than the previous one
Chart of tints and shades

Blending

  • Gently layer two or more colours on top of one another to blend them. Blending two colours together will also create new colours.

  • You can use white to blend colours together. Be mindful that white will also lighten colours

  • Instead of white, you could use a colourless wax blender. This blender looks like a pencil crayon, but it has no colour, only wax. The wax will blend colours together without lightening them.

  • You do not need to push hard to layer or blend, as the pressure can cause your paper to warp and the wax to be compressed, making it harder to blend and add other colours.

  • Keep in mind that coloured pencils blend differently than pencil, charcoal and chalk pastels, and tend to take more time.

A colourless pencil crayon, used for blending. Light background
Colourless wax blender

Highlights

  • Highlights are areas that are lighter and reflect light.

  • To create highlights, as you colour, plan where your highlights will be and leave some white paper showing.

  • You can also colour and then erase the pencil crayon to create highlights. A fine tip eraser is great for smaller areas.

  • Another way to add highlights is to use other media on top of your drawing. Gouache and acrylic paint works great for highlights, just make sure to not add a lot of water, as the water can warp and damage paper. A white gel pen also works well for highlights.

Close up of white gouache paint in a tube
White gouache for highlights

Taking Care of Your Coloured Pencils

  • To sharpen pencils, make sure you use a high-quality pencil sharpener. I really enjoy metal sharpeners.

  • Coloured pencils do not always need to be razor-sharp, as this causes the material to be wasted and to break more easily.

  • To ensure long-lasting results, store your coloured pencils in the proper cases that have individual holders. This prevents the pencils from clanking together and potentially breaking the material inside.

  • These cases also make it easier to find the colours you need.

Coloured pencils in a black case
Coloured pencils in their case

Brands

  • I personally love Prismacolor, an American company that makes coloured pencils, art markers and more. There is also Prismacolor Scholar, which is more suitable for beginner artists and comes at a lower price. Both brands' pencils are very soft, meaning that they smoothly blend together creating a rich drawing experience.

  • Faber-Castell is another brand that I enjoy using, although admittedly they are my second preference to Prismacolors.

  • If you are in the Saskatoon area, I highly recommend purchasing supplies at either Hues Art Supply or Art Placement, and regardless of where you’re living, remember to shop local whenever possible.


Bringing it All Together

  • Below are some artworks I've done in Prismacolor and I’ve used the tips I provided earlier.

  • For the lips, I used gouache for the highlights.

  • I used darker shades of green in the leaf.

  • I used a white pencil crayon on the dragon’s face and body for highlights.

  • In all of these pieces, I used a colourless wax blender.

Below is a time-lapse video of a coloured pencil piece Fish. I used tan paper to pop the vibrancy of the yellows and whites.

That's it for now! I'd love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section and feel free to check out my new Youtube channel! To stay in touch, sign up below for my artist newsletter. Thank you for reading, I'm so glad you're here.


Much love,






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