Colored Pencil Drawing: A Few Simple Techniques to Try

Colored pencils are an exciting art medium that allow artist to draw in a variety of styles including hyperrealism.

There are many advantages to using colored pencils for drawing: they are affordable, odorless, very portable and not messy. If you are interested in trying out this exciting medium, here is a simple project to try!

Array of Colored Pencils

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Simple project with colored pencils: drawing a marble

For this demonstration of colored pencil drawing, I started by setting up a still life with a marble on white paper and took a reference picture. You could also work from life, but in the case of the marble I wanted a picture to work with since the marble was going to roll very easily. I recommend trying your first drawing on a simple subject and on small scale as layering colored pencils is quite time-consuming.

Beginning Sketch Using Colored Pencils

Start with a very simple drawing of the main outlines, trying to make that drawing as light as possible since you don’t want it to show in the finished drawing.

Adding Shading - Drawing with Colored Pencils

The first layer I used is a light layer of blue. When drawing with colored pencils, you want to try to have the least possible lines showing and be as even as possible.

Colored Pencils and Work in Progress

As with any other medium, it is very helpful to learn to look at the subject, paying attention to the variations of colors and the quality of edges.

When working on the marble, I am looking at the variations in tones and hues of blue. I selected a few colors and am drawing the different colors I see by drawing one layer of color on top of the previous color.

Shading with Colored Pencils

You can layer colors using a crosshatching technique, which means you’ll alternate the directions of your strokes so that after awhile, the strokes are no longer visible.

Highlights with Colored Pencils

Here, I am layering a light yellow on a previous layer of blue. The white of the paper is still showing at this stage but will disappear in the later stages as I add more layers and also use a burnishing technique.

Colored Pencils - Adding Tones

I continue working and adding layers.

Drawing with Colored Pencils: Variances in Color

Be sure to pay attention to subtle changes of colors.

Adding Shadow with Colored Pencils

I start working on the shade. If you can add a shade to the object you are drawing, it helps with anchoring that object on the paper; without the shade the marble would seem to be floating on the page. In this example, I had two different shades coming from two different light sources.

Colored Pencil Palette

For this drawing, I used a limited palette of nine colors, mixing most colors on the paper by layering them.

Closer Look at Colored Pencil

Burnishing a colored pencil drawing means achieving a very smooth texture that will fill all the tooth of the paper. This can be achieved a few different ways: heavy layering, using a light or colorless blender, using a paper stump or a tool like the back of a spoon. In this drawing, I used a colorless blender pencil.

Blending Colored Pencils

I also used a paper stump to burnish the drawing.

Burnishing with Colored Pencils

Here is the bottom part of the marble before burnishing.

Continued - Burnishing with Colored Pencils

And here it is after I started the burnishing process.

Lifting Color, Adding Highlights

I also used a bit of poster putty to lift off some color and add some highlights. You could also use an eraser or lift color with masking tape applied to the surface of the paper — be sure to lift very carefully.

Finished Drawing of Marble - Drawing with Colored Pencils on Bluprint

Here’s a look at the finished drawing.

Have you tried colored pencils before? What were your main challenges?

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