Techniques and Tips

Colored Pencil Techniques for Beginners

Colored Pencil Techniques for Beginners

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It’s one thing to be able to pick up a set of colored pencils and color an image that was originally rendered in graphite, or to draw something that’s pleasing to the eye. Just about anyone can begin a colored pencil drawing–that’s part of the beauty of this medium. But artists have developed colored pencil techniques that beginners can learn, practice and incorporate for artwork that is nothing short of astonishing.

Kelly Hoernig, author of Colored Pencil Collage: Nature Drawing and Painting for Mixed Media, explains some of the basics of using this medium below.

Colored Pencil Techniques: The Basics by Kelly Hoernig

There are a few things to know about colored pencils. First, you have to find a brand you like the feel of. Go into an art store and play with their selection of colored pencils in the store’s demo area or buy a few of each brand to try at home. Believe me, you’ll know what you like almost immediately. I prefer Prismacolor because the lead is wax and very soft bodied for blending.

Layering is important in my work. I use a light touch and a 30% pressure for all of my strokes. I can strengthen the color easily by applying another 30% pressure layer on top and can achieve the darkest value in about seven steps. This layering technique will let you accomplish about 12 layers before losing the texture of the paper, and that is an important consideration to me. There are many layering styles from coloring at full pressure to using a blending pencil, but I choose this method because it’s how I taught myself to create values.

Next, is the stroke in which you render the work. I use circular and linear strokes. I prefer circular strokes because I don’t have to think about direction or pressure as I fill in and include values. Circular strokes give me the freedom to just create without thinking too much, and I appreciate that.

For blending colors, I call this step “marrying.” Hold out your hands, fingers pointing at each other. Now, with your fingers open, go into your other hand. Where your fingers come together is the faded portion of the two colors. Where the palms are, the color is the strongest. So as these two colors come together, they “marry” one another to make a new color.

Line work is so important to my work because it cleans or crisps up an edge. It’s a component in my designs that I don’t ignore because it can add movement, elegance or make something seem flat and uninteresting in one stroke. Think of a paintbrush tip: You can press it flat and pull it up to a fine point all in one motion. You can use that same pressure with the pencil tip and create what I call “thick/thin” pressure lines. You’ll love this technique and be surprised at the impact it will make on your work.

As with any new tool, the key to using colored pencils is practice. I suggest three colors and regular printer paper to start. They’re inexpensive and with just three pencils, you can create wonderful images. ~Kelly Hoernig

Hoernig goes on to explain how to use colored pencils in collage art by teaching you about the tools, textures, surfaces and embellishments that you can incorporate into your art. As she says here, it’s important to experiment with a variety of colored pencils, so now’s the time to get the Colored Pencil Collage Ultimate Collection. It includes Hoernig’s how-to book and a set of Prismacolor Premier colored pencils, and this combination is only available at North Light Shop.

Happy drawing!