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How do you shade with colored pencils easy?


Shading with colored pencils can seem daunting to beginners, but it’s easier than you think with the right techniques and materials. The key is layering colors gradually to build up tones, blending edges smoothly, and choosing the right paper. By following some simple steps, you can create beautiful, realistic colored pencil drawings with shading that adds depth and dimension.

What supplies do you need for easy coloring pencil shading?

Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:

  • Colored pencils – Pick a set with a good range of tones from light to dark. Aim for at least 24 colors but more is better for more nuanced blending. Go for softer leads if you want smoother blending.
  • Paper – Choose paper with some tooth or texture like lightweight drawing paper rather than super smooth paper. Strathmore, Stonehenge, and Bristol papers work well for colored pencil shading.
  • Blending tools – Blending stumps, tortillions, or a colorless blender pencil allow you to smooth and fade colored pencil. A craft knife can also help lift and blend colors.
  • Erasers – Kneaded and plastic erasers help erase clean lines and small mistakes in your shading. Be gentle though to avoid damaging the paper surface.

You may also want sketching pencils, a clipboard, ruler, and pencil sharpener, but those aren’t must-haves. Focus first on quality colored pencils, paper, and blending tools.

How do you prepare for easy colored pencil shading?

Proper preparation makes shading much easier. Follow these tips before adding color:

  • Start with a light preliminary sketch to plan out the composition.
  • Use a kneaded eraser to clean up any stray sketch marks.
  • Secure the paper to a drawing board or clipboard to keep it still.
  • Sharpen your colored pencils to a fine point for smooth coverage.
  • Number your pencils from lightest to darkest to make blending easier.

Taking these preparatory steps will give you a clean foundation to build up colors evenly.

What are the basic colored pencil shading techniques?

Mastering these core techniques is key for easy, gorgeous shading:


Slowly overlaying multiple thin layers of color on top of each other is fundamental for colored pencil shading. Start light and keep layers sheer by barely touching the tip to the paper. Build up color gradually, one light layer at a time. This allows precise control in creating smooth, even tones.


Increase pressure as you layer to burnish and compress the waxy colored pencil pigments. This fills in the tooth of the paper for saturated, uniform color. Burnishing also blends existing layers together for seamless transitions between tones.


Use blending tools to softly fade or smudge colored pencil strokes at edges. Blending stumps or tortillions allow you to gently blur and mix colors. A colorless blender can also dissolve pigments to sheer out tones. Blend in small circles for the smoothest gradients.


A kneaded eraser can lift and remove color to create lighter areas for highlights. You can also use a craft knife to carefully scratch away and lighten colored pencil. Lifting reveals the white of the paper beneath for clean, bright highlights.

As you layer, burnish, blend, and lift colored pencil, you can achieve any tones from faint tints to rich hues for dimensional, professional shading.

What are the steps for basic colored pencil shading?

Follow these steps to start shading with colored pencils:

  1. Map out the light and shadow areas with simple sketches. Shade the shadowed areas with light pressure and pale colors first.
  2. Add darker colors to the shadows, increasing pressure to deepen and burnish the tones.
  3. Make colors gradually darker as you move towards the center of shadows.
  4. Blend edges of shadows softly outward so they fade seamlessly into lighter areas.
  5. Build up successive thin layers of lighter colors in the highlighted areas.
  6. Lift out small highlights with a kneaded eraser or craft knife.
  7. Burnish throughout with heavy pressure to unify tones and saturate with color.

These steps create basic contrast between lights and darks. You can add more layers and blending for smooth, continuous shading.

How do you shade different textures?

Vary your shading techniques to capture realistic textures:

  • Skin – Layer colors lightly, blend completely, and lift subtly to shape smooth contours.
  • Metal – Burnish intensely and starkly contrast lights and darks for shiny surfaces.
  • Fur – Use linear strokes and minimal blending to suggest fluffy fur texture.
  • Bark – Build up layers of grays and browns, then carve in cracks with a craft knife.
  • Clouds – Lift out boldly with a kneaded eraser to create soft, puffy edges.

Observe textures in real life to see how light interacts with different materials. Match your shading techniques to create convincing realism.

How do you add dimension through colored pencil shading?

Shading creates the illusion of form on a two-dimensional surface. Use these tips to make pencil drawings pop:

  • Deepen tones as you move further into the composition to push elements backwards in space.
  • Make background colors cooler and more subdued so foreground elements advance.
  • Blend edges softly to round surfaces, sharpen edges to convey flat planes and angles.
  • Direct your pencil strokes to follow the contours you want to define.
  • Establish a light source and keep shading consistent with the light and shadow placement.

With practice in visualizing and rendering light across forms, your shading will take on greater dimension.

What mistakes should you avoid when shading with colored pencils?

Watch out for these common colored pencil shading mistakes:

  • Applying too much pressure right away can prematurely saturate the paper.
  • Skipping blending can leave choppy, harsh transitions between tones.
  • Choosing colors that are too different can create disjointed, muddy shading.
  • Blending too much flattens form and washes out definition.
  • Smudging with your fingers oils up the paper’s texture.
  • Sharpening destroys points, so use a light touch and sharpen less often.

Shading carefully, patiently, and intentionally will help you achieve vibrant blends and dimensionality.


Shading with colored pencils is very approachable with the right materials, techniques, and practice. By mastering basic layering, burnishing, blending, and lifting, you can create amazingly realistic drawings. Observe the textures and lighting of real life subjects. Translate your observations into colored pencil using strokes that shape form and add depth. Soon you’ll be able to shade smoothly and deftly for drawings rich with dimension. Just take it one light layer at a time!