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What are the 5 tips for using colored pencil?

Colored pencils are a versatile and accessible art medium that allow artists and hobbyists alike to add vibrancy and dimension to their drawings. With the right techniques, colored pencils can be used to create striking effects ranging from photorealistic renderings to abstract expressionist works. While colored pencils may seem straightforward to use at first glance, there are some key tips to getting the most out of the medium. In this article, we will explore 5 essential tips for mastering colored pencil drawing.

1. Choose the Right Paper

The paper you choose to draw on can make a huge difference in the final results when using colored pencils. The texture and tooth (roughness) of the paper will impact how the colored pencil pigments adhere to the surface. Here are some paper textures to consider:

  • Smooth paper – Produces crisp, clean lines and allows for detail work. However, layers of color are harder to build up.
  • Medium-tooth paper – Offers enough texture for layering colors while maintaining good line quality.
  • Rough paper – Holds many layers of color nicely but can obscure fine details.

Many artists recommend starting with a medium-tooth paper as it provides enough versatility for most colored pencil techniques. Strathmore, Stonehenge, and Canson Mi-Teintes are popular colored pencil paper brands to experiment with.

2. Master Your Pencil Strokes

From sharp, fine lines to soft shading, your pencil stroke is instrumental in creating different textures and effects. Here are some essential pencil strokes to practice:

  • Sharp, thin lines – Use a sharp pencil point and light pressure. Allows for detail and outlines.
  • Broad, side strokes – Hold pencil on its side and apply broad pressure for large areas of color.
  • Small, circular motions – Create texture and build up color gradually with small circles.
  • Back-and-forth strokes – Lightly alternate between directions to blend and gradient colors.

Aim to hold the pencil under your control, keeping your grip light. Letting the pencil glide across the paper will create richer effects.

3. Layer and Burnish for Luminosity

One of the great advantages of colored pencils is the ability to layer colors to create luminosity, depth, and vibrancy. Here are some layering techniques to try:

  • Graduated wash – Slowly build up color from light to dark using wide circular motions.
  • Cross-hatching – Create intersecting strokes in different colors to blend hues.
  • Burnishing – Go over dried layers with a light touch to create sheen.

Burnishing with a colorless blender pencil is particularly effective for making colors pop with vibrant intensity. Always ensure each layer is fully dried before adding new layers on top.

4. Learn Color Theory Basics

Understanding some color theory principles will help you use the colored pencil palette to its full potential. Here are some quick tips:

  • Complementary colors – Colors opposite each other on the color wheel (e.g. red and green) create striking contrast.
  • Analogous colors – Colors next to each other on the color wheel (e.g. blue, blue-violet) create harmony.
  • Warm and cool colors – Warm colors (red, orange, yellow) seem to advance; cool colors (blue, green purple) recede.
  • Color dominance – More vivid or intense colors will dominate and mute weaker colors.

Using these concepts, you can create color combinations that evoke certain moods, temperatures, and spatial effects.

5. Add Final Details and Accents

Once the foundation of your colored pencil drawing is complete, it’s time for final embellishments. Here are some finishing touches to elevate your work:

  • White or metallic highlights – Add sparing highlights with a white or metallic/gold pencil for striking accents.
  • Dark outlines – Go over main contours with a dark pencil to make them stand out.
  • Background effects – Lightly blend colored pencil in the background to create mood and atmosphere.
  • Textural details – Use a craft knife or sandpaper to add texture by exposing the white paper.

By keeping these accents subtle, they can enhance without overpowering your drawing. Remember, less is often more when it comes to finishing touches!

With the right approach and techniques, colored pencils can help you achieve wonderfully varied and nuanced artistic effects. Mastering pencil strokes, color layering, basic color theory, and thoughtful detailing will all contribute to colored pencil success. Be willing to experiment on different papers and use plenty of practice sketches to hone your skill. With persistent practice of these fundamental tips, your colored pencil craft will continue growing in new and rewarding ways.