Colored Pencils: 30 Tips That Will Improve Your Drawing

30 Colored Pencils Tips

Color pencil artists are always looking for a new way to improve their working methods and basic techniques. If you enjoy drawing and want to enhance your colored pencil technique the following tips will help you achieve this.


A colored pencil is a highly versatile drawing medium and can be adapted to produced different types of drawings. The following the tips outlined below will allow you blending and shading in this medium will improve dramatically.


  • Use good quality pencils
  • Buy pencils from a quality merchant
  • The key to good quality drawing is patience
  • Check the light fastness of the pencils you are using
  • Layer colors carefully
  • Blend combinations of color using a colorless pencil
  • Hold the pencil sideways
  • Practice holding the pencil in a different position
  • Practice drawing pencil strokes
  • Practice varying the pressure on the pencil
  • Use a blending stick to blend colors
  • Use a handheld sharpener
  • Use a piece of sandpaper to refine the point of the pencil
  • Make a color swatch chart
  • Work a layered surface
  • Apply color pencil shading light to dark
  • Lay colors out in front of you to help identify which shades to use
  • Apply the rubbing alcohol  to your work to reduce graininess
  • Experiment with different drawing surfaces
  • Learn how to burnish with a color pencil
  • Don't use black to create a shadow
  • Don't use white to create a tint
  • Use sellotape to experiment with surface shading
  • Use an eraser to fade and develop lighter shadows
  • Use a mobile device to test combinations of color
  • Use a straight edge to create a shaded side
  • Work under daylight lighting or direct sunlight
  • Apply layers of a white pencil to create highlights in your work
  • Watch art clips on youtube
  • Work on a table, or in a comfortable environment

Use Good Quality Colored Pencils

If you are looking to create a high-quality drawing in color pencil, you will need to equip yourself and buy the best possible equipment that you can afford. There are many artist grade pencil sets on the market, all have very different characteristics. You find out the out the characters of different brands of colored pencils read my post, the best-colored pencils for blending and shading.

Buy Pencils From a Quality Merchant

My advice here to research and find out the strengths and characteristics of each different brands are. Using different brands of colored pencils will provide yourself the capacity to create a wide range of different effects in your drawings.

The Key To Good Quality Drawing Is Patience

The trick to mastering any type of skill in blending and shading with color pencils is practice. If you focus on improving your shading by concentrating on small areas and building up colors, your coloring skills will improve.

Check The Light Fastness Rating Of The Pencils You Are Using

Essentially light fastness is the ability of the pigment in a color pencil to resist fading over a sustained period. For professional artists’ hoping to sell their drawings, this is an essential consideration if their work is going to last for years.

Lightfastness rating is provided on many of the brands of color pencils, however, if you are looking for an independent evaluation of the pencils you are using check Colored Pencil Society of America.

Layer Colors Carefully

One of the real advantages and attractions of using color pencils in your drawings are their ability to layer and blend different shades of color on top of each other. This allows the artist to create subtle valves of color, tone, and texture.

Learn To Use A Colorless Blender

An alcohol-based colorless blending tool is worth using if you want to fuse and blend layers of different colors together on the surface of your drawings.  If you are looking to diminish the presence of the pencil grain on the surface of your drawings

This is a quick and effective technique for blending your initial layer of pigment without applying to much pressure onto the surface of the paper, and therefore not damaging it. You can then and progressing onto applying more color onto the top of it.

Hold The Color Pencil Sideways When Shading

The basics of holding a pencil apply, holding the pencils between the finger and thumb and draw and blend relaxed from the arm. Use the side of the color pencil to apply to shade in small circular motions.

Practice Holding The Pencil In Different Positions

Holding and shading with a color pencil in different positions will let you create marks, lines, and shade in a variety of different ways. As well as handling the pencil and holding it differently, consciously think about how much pressure you are applying, light pressure, medium pressure and hard pressure will produce a very different kind of blending, especially if you intend to layer and mix colors.

Practice Drawing Pencil Strokes

As most graphite artists do with pencil practice and create a chart of marks and strokes that can be created with your color pencil. Color pencils can be used to create sketches and line drawing

Practice Varying The Amount of Pressure On The Pencil

As well as handling the pencil and holding it differently, consciously think about how much pressure you are applying, light pressure, medium pressure and hard pressure will produce a very different kind of blending, especially if you intend to layer and blend colors.

Use A Blending Stick To Blend Colors

As mentioned earlier the real beauty of using color pencils is the ability to layer different colors in one area of a drawing on top of each other. This can be taken a stage further by using a blending stick to fuse different colors together.

Blending sticks are available in different sizes which means they can be used on drawings of a variety of sizes.

Use A Handheld Sharpener

We all know how frustrating it can be if your pencils crack when you try to sharpen them.  One of the significant problems with using an electrical sharpener is and using cheap color pencils is breakage. This problem can be reduced by sharpening good quality pencils with a handheld sharpener.

Use A Piece Of Sandpaper To Refine The Point Of Your Pencil

I first used this technique over thirty years ago during technical drawing lessons in school. Once you have finished sharpening your pencil with a handheld sharpener use a piece of sandpaper to help you refine the point of the pencil.
This technique can also be used for graphite artists who use softer grade graphite pencils or a rotary sharpener.

Make A Color Swatch Chart

This is a particularly good piece of advice if you work with a large set of colored pencils. One of the issues with the larger pencil sets is recognizing and selecting hues within a comparable range of colors. The colors on the coating of the pencils don't always give an exact impression of the color you require or need.  

The best way to promptly overcome this issue is to create a color-coded swatch chart. If labeled and organized correctly this will help you select and match the colors you need much more efficiently.

Work On A Layered Surface

Creating a uniform surface with colored pencils can be difficult if you are working on a single sheet of paper. The texture beneath the paper will show if you apply any pressure onto the surface of the paper, this can cause further problems if you are looking to layer different colors on top of each other.
To solve this problem merely place a firm but uniform surface beneath the paper you are shading onto, this should eliminate any textures picked up by the pencil you are shading with.

Apply Color Pencil Shading Light To Dark

This is a simple but basic rule that all colored pencil and graphite artist follow when shading and using colored pencils. Add your lights shades first and proceed onto the deeper shadows as you advance through the illustration.

Lay Colors Out In Front Of You To Help Identify Which Shades To Use

If you are using a lot of varying colors in your art and are uncertain how to mix them in your artwork, it can be a dilemma. A simple but effective piece of advice is to set out the colors you are thinking of using in front of you. This will allow you to match the pigments visually and pick the contrasting or parallel colors you need to render your artwork.

Apply Rubbing Alcohol To Reduce Graininess

Graininess can be an issue for many colored pencil artists. However, it is a problem which is easily solved by applying liquid alcohol to the surface of the drawing. This can be accomplished in various ways. Apply liquid alcohol to the surface with a fine brush or and cotton bud. This will fuse the color together on the surface of the page and reduce any graininess.

Experiment With Different Drawing Surfaces

Colored pencil is an excellent medium to produce drawings with. However different effects can be achieved when you begin to work on different surfaces. Drawing on black card or paper is an obvious choice. However, subtler results can be obtained on a textured surface, collage, or an off-white surface. The trick here is to experiment and find which option suits you best.

Learn How To Burnish With A Color Pencil

To burnish the colors on the surface of your drawings use a colorless pencil to blend, merge and fuse the colors on the page. This is a simple but effective trick which can make a real difference to the quality of your artwork.

Don't Use Black To Create A Shadow

This is another simple but basic rule which I was taught during my school years. Use the darker colors in the palette to mix a dark shadow.

Don't Use White To Create A Tint

Organize the lightest colors yellow and off light and progressively layer them next to each other to create lighter tints in your drawing, instead of using the white pencil in your pencil set immediately. This will enable you to create a subtler range of hues when blending colors together.

Use Sellotape To Experiment With Surface Shading

Many methods can be applied to add light and dark areas to your drawing when using colors pencil. One way is to implement an initial base layer of color onto the page and then cover that area or a section of it with sellotape. Continue to apply color onto or next to the tape and then carefully remove it, taking care not to tear the page. The exposed area will now appear lighter.

Use An Eraser To Create Lighter Shadows

Another quick and immediate method for creating light and dark areas in your drawings is to use an eraser to fade sections of your work. This can be achieved very quickly with a plastic ruled edge which can be used to create faded edge when an eraser is passed over it.

Use A Mobile Device To Test Combinations Of Color

Mobile devices are excellent for generating instant digital reproductions of artwork. So, if you have spent a significant amount of time creating a drawing you are unsure which combinations of the color of using next, take a digital photograph of your work.
Print out a copy and test different combinations of color on your printout continuously to find an agreeable variety of colors.

Use Template To Create A Shaded Edge

A cut template is an excellent way to create clean cut sharp edges in your artwork. Just cut a piece of paper or card to the desired shape and place it on your artwork. Color pencil can then be applied over the template and onto your drawing to create a shaded edge.

Work During Daylight Lighting Or Direct Sunlight

Working under direct daylight is essential for many reasons. Firstly, direct sunlight will
give the highest visibility to complete your artwork without causing overt eye strain. However, if you have no option but to draw during the evening or night hours, I would suggest that you use a daylight lamp to create the best working conditions.

Apply Layers Of  White Pencil To Create Highlights In Your Work

Build up layers of light color on the surface of your drawing progressively building up pressure on the pencil to create highlights on the surface of the picture. This an excellent way to create a playoff area of tint and shade in parts of your drawings.

Watch Blending and Coloring Clips On Youtube

Youtube is an invaluable source of information for artists looking to extend their knowledge of drawing techniques. Many of these clips are narrated by specialists who can suggest step by step advice on color blending methods that you may already grasp and want to develop further.

Draw On A Table, Or In A Comfortable Environment

Drawing on a table, or in an environment which is conducive to creating working is essential. Make sure that you have a good quality drawing table or drawing board, with a comfortable seat and as mentioned earlier a well-lit environment.


I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and have found the information presented here informative, for further info please visit my resources page. Please remember all the resources on are under continual development. If you have any further information to add or have enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below.

Additional Questions

Common Colored Pencil Problems

What are the most common colored pencil problems? The most significant issues I have found when using colored pencils is the lack of color transfer when working with cheap quality pencils and the breakage issues that also result when using them. My advice here to invest in quality colored pencils, but remember you don't have to buy the most expensive brands.

How To Draw Light With Colored Pencils

How do you draw light with colored pencils? You can draw light quite easily by organizing the lighter colors in your pencil set in order in front of you. Begin by applying your first layer of colors, this could be a pastel shade like a flesh tone and then a light blue. Remember to blend and apply the color light to dark, and finally add pure white using increased pressure.

What Erases Colored Pencil?

What erases colored pencils? Use some of the techniques described earlier in this article. First, use an eraser to rub away the top layer of pigment already applied to the surface of your drawing.

Next, use a strip of sellotape and apply to the surface of the area you want to erase. I good trick here leaves a small piece of tape from which you remove the tape at a later stage. Next, remove the sellotape, to lift the pigment from the surface of the paper. Repeat until all the pencil is removed.








Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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