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Learn How to Shade With Colored Pencils Swiftly & Correctly

No matter what medium you happen to use as an artist, shading will always be a quintessential part of the artwork.

How to Shade With Colored Pencils

Shading enables you to create depth in your paintings - and besides perspective, it makes them more lifelike and attractive.

Mastering any medium through this art technique requires you to understand the essence of shading and how to do it effectively using that medium.

But as all artists have experienced, shading can be a more difficult ordeal than it might seem at first glance.

So, today, in this piece we are going to discuss the various tips, tricks and methods to master the art of shading with colored pencils.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

How to Shade With Colored Pencils

Different types of strokes

Before we discuss the nuances of shading, we need to first get familiar with the medium itself.

So, in this section, we are going to learn the basic kinds of strokes that you can apply using colored pencils. Of course, this is a very basic and brief study of the various ways of application.

Hence, we recommend you to get a better grip on these strokes before you start focussing on more complicated methods and factors.

Side-to-Side Shading

The simplest and the most basic stroke that you can do with a colored pencil is this side-to-side shading.

Even though it’s the simplest stroke of all, one shouldn’t skip it. Mastering this simple stroke will ensure that you have a more fluid arm and finger control.

The goal is simple. You’ll have to keep the lines straight and smooth while going from side to side. And as a bonus lesson, you can also decrease the pressure as you gradually traverse in the vertical direction.

Many novice artists would swing by their wrist instead of maneuvering using their fingers, causing a curved line instead of a flat one. You can also use your elbows to pivot instead of your wrist to make a straighter line.

You need to master this stroke enough so that you can draw straight lines and make a smooth gradient.

Side Shading and Tip Shading

One alternate version of side-to-side shading is tip shading. The only difference between the two is that in this case, you use the tip of the colored pencil.

With this method, you get a smoother, richer and broadly toned shading. Of course, the colors are a lot denser too because the pencil sheds more pigment on the paper.

The grains of the pencil is a lot finer and seem to fit into the crevices of the paper giving a smoother appearance and broad tone range.

It may seem that tip shading is far more superior and the “correct” way to do shading. But that is not the case.

Both methods of shading are unique and cater to the different needs of an artwork. Side shading is a better option when you want a softer, more coarse and even shading.

Master both of these techniques by drawing straight lines and getting a smooth gradient. If you happen to get well acquainted with these techniques, then you are now way better at controlling your hand movement.

You should then move on to more stylistic and nuanced methods of application.


Hatching is a unique method using which you can give direction, volume, and texture to your artwork.

It’s a simple method that can add style and depth in your subject. If you apply hatching lines along the contour of the subject, then it gains form and volume.

The goal of this technique is simple. You have to keep your lines bolder, uniformly directed and evenly spaced. There should be adequate space for the paper or the color underneath to show.

The lines should be of equal length and shouldn’t look uneven. You can also keep a slight pressure variance over the application of the line to achieve a more graded effect.

Obviously, to perfectly execute this technique your pencil should be sharp and your hand movement should be swift and short.

Above all, only practice and dedication will make your art perfect.


When you apply two layers of hatching perpendicular to each other, you get crosshatching. The technique can be used to make darker areas within hatching or to make a unique visual blending effect of two different colors.

You can also play around and create more interesting textures by placing the second layer of hatching at a slight angle to the first layer, instead of being perpendicular to the first layer.

But no matter what, the lines should be the same in length and evenly distributed.

It is also now that you should experiment and tinker with the many variables of hatching and get a hold of all the sub-styles. Play around with pressure, spacing, sharpness, and hues.

Try to get acquainted with the different styles and understand their purposes.

Of course, this small section can’t do justice to this style of pencil sketching. So, read and follow other guides and tutorials as well. The knowledge will surely help you in achieving your goal.


Scumbling or ‘Brillo pad’ technique is a very unique and rare form of stroke. You can already guess that this style results in patterns that resemble the texture of the brand’s steel-wire scourer.

A more articulate description of this style will point out that the shading is done with clean circular lines of one color that intertwine with similar lines of another color.

The use of more than one color is not necessary either. You can do this stroke well even if you use only one color instead of two or three.

The size of the circle and the pressure used to draw determines the nature of the end result. You can make it look smoother with smaller and lighter circles while you can also make it rougher with larger and darker circles.

The desired result should represent a random and more organic surface. So, we recommend you to move the pencil in a more figure-8, daisy or spidery motion rather than a circular one.

This will create more random darker patches that will look more raw and authentic.

Directional Mark Making

The function of directional marks is to suggest the direction of the elements on a surface in an extremely subtle fashion.

These lines follow along the contour or represent the direction of individual elements on a surface like grass or hair.

The nature of these lines and their distribution is not fixed. You can make them sparse and uneven to emulate fluid surfaces or make them dense by overlaying to produce a more solid and rich texture.

But ultimately, the craft in this technique is all about the subtlety. Often it is used along with shading and is blended softly to not harshly grab attention.

It rather intends to just softly suggest the texture.

Shading With Colored Pencils Tips & Tricks

Now that we have discussed the various kinds of strokes that you can make with colored pencils, we shall talk about the many tricks that you can use to achieve various effects of shading.

These tricks are not about the fundamental aspects of shading with pencils but are more about the different overall styles and approaches of shading.

The following are some tips & tricks that you should adopt if you want to refine your craft of shading with colored pencils.

Pressure Shading

The simplest way to do shading is by manipulating the pressure of your application. It also looks the most natural and true to the effect of colored pencils.

The process is simple. You have to start putting the color with as less pressure as you can put on the lighter section of the solid. Then gradually increase the pressure as you move towards the darker sections of the solid.

Do this slowly and evenly until you fill up the solid.

The science of pressure shading is simple. The more pressure you apply, the more pigments are shredded by the tip of the pencil.

You can also do this in layers where you fill up the entirety of the solid with an initial light shade. And then you can redo the darker regions of the solid by adding more layers and putting more pressure.

This technique helps in getting a wider range of hues from your pencils than intended. A single color in a basic colored pencils kit will at least produce two or three different shades at different pressure points.

Practice this technique before you plan to move on to more nuanced tricks because you will only use them in conjunction with this method.


Using pressure shading often leaves white spots in the shaded region. This can often be an undesirable effect especially when you need your artwork to be smooth.

One unique way to tackle this problem is by using colorless blenders to mix the shades together. This is called burnishing or colorless blending.

These unique blenders are just regular colored pencils without the pigments. They often come accompanied in pencil sets that are meant for semi-pro and pro artists.

If the quality of the result is incredibly important to you, then it is highly advised that you should use the colorless blenders of the same brand as the pencils.

They contain the same wax and oil that is used in making the colored pencils. This will result in smoother and more even blends.

To do this correctly, one should start from the lighter regions of the solid. Move the blender in an overlapping circular fashion. Then, gradually, shift to the darker regions of the solid.

This way, the end result will have intensified colors and the white specks will vanish.

Using dark colors to do shading

The most contributing factor to shading is contrast. And what better way is there to increase contrast other than using a darker shade of the same color?

But you should be careful while shading with this technique because any error in estimating the behavior of the color will result in unwanted streaks and spots that will require a lot of fixing.

Often, you can apply darker colors in the second layer with medium to high pressure over an even spread of a lighter shade.

It is recommended to pick the darkest shade first and then gradually use lighter and intermediate shade to blend the gradient in the solid.

You can also use colorless blenders to make the transition look more even and smooth.

But many times artists get carried away and put too much pressure on the paper that makes it worse. So you have to get acquainted with the colors and their behavior well enough to plan out your shading beforehand.

Otherwise, you’ll commit a lot of errors and the end result will not be desirable. Of course, practice is the key here as well.

Blending light on dark colors

In this technique, you start with the darkest spot of the solid with the darkest color rather than the lightest one. And instead of reducing the pressure to vary the gradient, you shift to another shade of the same family.

You can use this relatively lighter shade to also create a blend between the two regions. This way you have no need for a colorless blender. And you repeat this step until you fill up the entirety of the solid.

Of course, this technique has a lot more careful planning than the ones mentioned before. And any error is much harder to fix as it’s harder to put an impression on darker shades with lighter colors.

You have to carefully craft a mental picture of the final piece to correctly control the regions of the various shades. Along with that, you’ll also need to softly blend the various shades.

There is no alternative to learning this technique than to practice it repeatedly. This needs a lot of intuition and visualization to perfectly execute but the result will be worth it.

Shading with solvents

To achieve even smoother and watercolor-like blend, you can, of course, use watercolor pencils. These pencils behave like ordinary colored pencils but also blend with water.

Of course, to the more careful eyes, the two variants perform differently enough to make not interchangeable.

But there are still many other solvents to consider. The colored pencils may not have to be just water soluble to achieve this smooth blending.

Ronson or Zippo lighter fluids also work for colored pencils. Besides that, you can also use rubber cement thinner and Turpenoid to blend the pigments of colored pencils.

The purpose of these solvents is to achieve a very smooth and natural blend between different regions of shade. Of course, no two solvents are bound to behave exactly the same.

The key to mastering his technique is, obviously, practice but in this case of practice, you should focus on understanding the key features of different solvents and how they can be used to achieve different results.


With that, we are done!

We have laid out all the fundamentals of shading with colored pencils. We have also sprinkled some nuanced methods and tips in the guide to help you get further in your goal.

These pieces of advice and the knowledge will surely help you in shading with colored pencils correctly and swiftly.

But of course, all of this will bear no fruit if you are not diligent in your practice. So, dedicate yourself to the art and you shall master the craft.

Finally, we wish you well and thank you for reading!

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