Aren’t we all astonished whenever we see a fabulous piece of artwork?
May it be an art gallery or just friend’s sketchbook, the feeling of dumbfoundedness is familiar.
We all loved colored pencils when we were kids but hardly do we ever look back to them while drawing.
The rainbow-colored set holds the key to a plethora of drawing techniques, some for beginners and some kept aside for the professionals only.
People who have discovered the magic of colored pencils find it hard to look back. From knowing how to sharpen the pencils correctly, to grasping the tens of techniques involved in drawing, there’s a lot to digest.
We present to you 12 brilliant beginner techniques on using colored pencils and scaling up your art skills.
Don’t worry, as we’ll cover every topic in bite-sized pieces. There’s no good in biting more than what we can chew.
Let us get down to understand the basics of colored pencils, and then talk about some techniques so that anyone can also draw brilliantly with colored pencils.
Knowing Your Toolkit
Ok, now we’re down to drawing. Wait! Which colored pencils should I be using?
Well, a blade made from cheap steel can’t cut through armor. Similarly, the quality of the colored pencil you’ll be using has a significant difference in the outcome of the drawing.
No, we’re not suggesting that you spent a fortune on the set of pencils, rather reminding you to steer away from the glossy cheap ones. They would do you no good. Using a lower quality pencil will produce lower quality results.
Although lower quality pencils are much cheaper, try to avoid them. They just won’t behave in the same manner as higher quality pencils. Save yourself the time and frustration by investing a little in a nice set of pencils.
Choosing a surface for colored pencil doesn’t have as many particularities as we have while using other color mediums like acrylic, pastels, watercolors, etc.
We look for a surface that has sufficient ‘tooth’ for the pigment and the wax to lock on to.
If you’re aiming to use techniques such as Scratching, Scraping or Incising, or if you would like the drawing to possess rich texture, paperweight comes into play.
It is highly suggested that you refrain from using standard copy paper. The surface of this paper is very smooth and doesn’t have a sizable tooth. Not only will it not hold the color correctly, but you also won’t be able to practice techniques like layering and blending.
The standard copy papers are processed with bleaching agents and acids which change the color to yellow over time. That would destroy the drawing.
Therefore it is suggested that you only use paper that is suitable for drawing.
Beginner Techniques Using Colored Pencils
It’s probably the right time to remember that there’s more to drawing with colored pencils than just a few simple strokes on the drawing sheet.
It’s easy to walk into a battle with an arsenal full of unique weapons. In a similar way, knowing the beginner techniques of using colored pencils allows you to create beautiful art without too much of a hustle.
The following beginner colored pencil techniques form the foundation for any type of colored pencil art that one wishes to create.
All of us have been using this particular technique since we were kids, without even knowing that it had a name.
This is the easiest and one of the neatest way to fill color in an area. We start with making continuous concentric circles on the paper, without lifting the pencil. Any area can also be filled with several colors to give it a great appearance.
Hatching is a straightforward technique which finds its application in several styles of drawing such as using graphite, charcoal, and obviously, with colored pencils.
All that is required to do is to draw many parallel straight lines close to each other. These lines may be vertical, horizontal or at an angle; they shouldn’t touch.
Doesn’t sound tough, does it? Hatching is very useful while filing color in a block. It may be regarded as the minimalist approach.
Hatching can be used to introduce the notion of depth in an image, giving it a three-dimensional perspective.
As a beginner artist, mastering strokes is essential. Hatching serves as an excellent method to boost your confidence in your stroke-work.
Once we’re confident in our ability to stroke parallel lines while ensuring that they won’t touch, it’s time to proceed further.
Cross-hatching is a scaled up version of hatching. As you might have thought, this time we’ll be drawing two sets of parallel lines instead of just one.
The second set of parallel lines essential creates a grid or a mesh-like structure. These lines are drawn over the first set of lines at an angle.
Cross-hatching is a brilliant way to introduce shading and create tonal effects in your drawing without trying to perform blending.
If you’re doodling on the back pages of your notebook during a boring lecture, cross-hatching is an effective way of getting good results rather quickly.
It is an easy yet effective method. It’s time to create some interesting textures using the technique we just learned. Sharpen your pencil before attempting cross-hatching as it’ll appear clean and precisely drawn.
Colored pencil art is known for its smooth, waxy, and glossy finish.
Burnishing is the difference between a colored pencil drawing and a colored pencil painting.
It’s relatively simple. We apply a colorless blender on a specific region in a fashion similar to applying a layer of polish over wood. A colorless blender is a colored pencil without any pigment.
By applying thin layers of this colorless blender in a back-and-forth manner, a waxy buildup occurs giving us the desired result. Apart from this, burning lightens the color tone of the drawing while giving it the polished look.
Just like calligraphy, drawing strokes in varying fashion will help you add character to your drawing.
You can create a variety of effects in your drawing without trying any sophisticated technique or using additional tools.
Similar to a paintbrush, you can tilt your colored pencil to get broad strokes or fine lines.
You may want some areas of the drawing to represent a darker, saturated hue while the other to be very subtle and light in color. This is where pencil pressure plays a significant role.
Practice by moving your wrist around and tilting the pencil a little. You’ll be amazed by the variations that you create.
This technique required patience and practice. If you’re having a hard time, you can try some Chinese calligraphy. As difficult as it is, it might give you a lot of insight towards the application of pressure.
Of course, toned and colored sheets will create slightly different effects – so if you plan on using this technique in your next colored pencil drawing, take a minute to think about paper selection before starting.
Scrapping is a technique to create a significant amount of texture, such as drawing leaves, hair, animal fur, grass etc. Using this method we can achieve an astounding level of detail in our drawing.
It is not as simple as it sounds. We’ll need the help of an X-ACTO knife or any similar sharp blade as the technique requires us to create extremely thin lines.
While there are a lot of use cases of it, we need to be careful with the type of paper we’re using. Using a toned or colored sheet may produce different effects than your usual expectation.
Imagine you’re drawing a leaf and you want to emphasize the pattern formed by the veins of the leaf and give it a realistic feel. Details can be overwhelming – but only if you let them be.
Incising is closely related to the scraping technique we just covered.
Incising deals with creating deep impressions on the paper before we draw with the colored pencils, unlike incising where we scratch after we’ve drawn on the surface.
How do we do it? Well, the easiest way is to first obtain a piece of translucent sheet like a wax paper, tracing paper, or a parchment paper.
Then, using a pen or a graphite pencil (as we need a more rigid tip), press down on the paper and draw incision line, hard enough to make an indent on the paper below.
This will introduce indent lines on the surface of the drawing sheet, and we can now continue our work with colored pencils. Remove the transparent sheet.
Now when we draw using a colored pencil, it will go over these indent ‘valleys’ and leave a white (or the color of the sheet) line behind.
Often, you may feel that just using one color for some area isn’t adequate to construct a representational effect. Here, you would like to use multiple layers of wash.
We employ the layering technique in which we combine colors with different hue and value. Layering embodies depth in the shade, and the outcome is significantly better; it appears more realistic.
Choosing the right color for layering isn’t tricky at all. You may select similar colors, or even one with entirely different contrast, as long as it gives the appropriate result.
Rubbing is a very interesting technique and a variation of incising. It can be regarded as one of the most effective ways to add texture to a drawing.
This is one of those tricks which we have used as kids without formal knowledge. We start by taking a textured surface like a leaf or anything else with bumps and ridges and place it underneath our drawing sheet.
We rub our colored pencil(s) over the surface. The texture starts to appear on our drawing. A thicker sheet of drawing paper would not give as good a result as a thinner one. Nevertheless, this technique remains highly effective.
Tortillions, which are similar to and sometimes referred to as blending stumps, is an excellent tool for mixing colors in your drawing.
Drawing made using charcoal and graphite primarily use tortillons to give a blending effect, but provide equally good results with colored pencils.
They are a great tool if we’re looking to push the color around physically. Tortillions are used to create effects such as smudging, shading, blending and smoothening of the image.
The next technique that we’ll learn is using mixed media with the colored pencils, viz, watercolors.
Every elementary school kid who paid ample attention during the science lecture knows that oil and water don’t mix. Also, our colored pencils are simply either paraffin wax or oil mixed with pigment. I think you can see where this is going.
After drawing a few strokes using the colored pencils, we add a wash with watercolors. Some fascinating details and patterns are formed as the wax separates from the watercolors. This is something unique usually not found in other drawings made from colored pencils.
Polka dots are surprisingly simple yet appealing to the eyes. Stippling is somewhat similar, just scaled down a little.
We draw a lot of tiny dots on the paper. A lot! They can be in the proximity of each other, far apart, or basically anywhere.
Here, the sharpness of the tip of the pencil plays a crucial role. A blunt or dull tip will give a different appearance than a sharpened tip. Stippling is a fancy way of adding texture. Try out several variations yourself and find which you like the most!
Making The Most Out Of These Techniques
Knowledge is of no value if you don’t put it into practice.
We have covered quite a many techniques using colored pencils. When you begin, you may not be impressed with your first attempts. They probably look nowhere near your expectations.
The key is to remember that it takes hours of practice before we can become an expert in any skill. While natural talent is definitely a thing, the artists have spent countless hours honing their skills before they presented their work to the world.
So don’t worry if you’re not able to bring to life your drawing in the first few attempts. Irrespective of the technique, focus on it, experiment with it and add your personal touch. Art is very fluid, nothing is ever written in stone.
We have covered over 12 techniques ranging from first-timers to the ones for those with some experience. While there are several other tricks, a beginner should firstly stick to these.
Confidence develops over time. If you believe you have mastered these techniques and have several drawing under the belt, consider yourself ready for the next level!