The most fundamental colored pencil stroke is one you know already: simple side-to-side shading. Practice keeping the marks straight, letting the fingers adjust the direction of the pencil or pivoting from the elbow. Many beginners accidentally curve their lines, pivoting the hand from the wrist, so that the surface they are shading looks rounded rather than flat.
Side shading or tip shading? Is there a right way to shade with colored pencil? I don’t think so: it depends on the effect you want. Let’s take a quick look at the difference between side shading and tip shading with colored pencil.
On the left is an area of side-shaded pencil, and on the right is some tip-shaded colored pencil. The paper grain in the side-shaded area is much more obvious, appearing coarser and more open. The tonal range is also more limited. When shading with the tip of a sharp pencil, you can achieve a much richer, denser layer of color. The grain appears finer and the pencil tip is able to get right into the paper grain, and you can create a broader tonal range.
stippling – Stippling involves placing lots of tiny dots on your paper. The dots can be close together, far apart, or anywhere in between! Practice stippling by drawing dots that are close together and also by drawing dots that have more distance between them. Also, notice the difference between dots made when the pencil is sharp vs. when the pencil point is dull. Stippling is a great way to add some interesting texture to a drawing.
Colored Pencil Basic Shading. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Discover how to sharpen a colored pencil to a nice, fine point! Learn how to prevent your Prismacolor colored pencils from breaking.
For best results, keep your pencil sharp. Rapid, regular, evenly spaced lines are drawn, leaving a little white paper or underlying color showing. Close-up like this they look pretty irregular, but when you use hatching in a drawing, the slight variations don’t look so dramatic. It does take some practice to get them even though! It’s a good idea to practice on some spare paper first, so you get your hand moving the right way before applying pencil to your work.
For this lesson, you will need some good quality drawing paper, and a few sharp colored pencils, including a colorless blender if you have one.
Scumbling in colored pencil means something rather different to the dry-brush painting technique. Colored pencil scumbling is a method of shading using tiny circles, sometimes called the ‘Brillo pad’ technique, due to the texture of that brand of steel-wire scourer. The texture created depends on the size and pressure used to draw the circles – you can create a very smooth finish or a rough and energetic surface. Scumbling can be used to layer a single color or with alternating different colors.
scumbling – Scumbling is another technique you probably used as a kid without even knowing that it had a name! Scumbling involves making continuous circular marks on your paper, without lifting your pencil. This is another good way to fill in different areas with lots of color.
Crosshatching is basically two layers of hatching drawn at right-angles. This is a very useful technique in colored pencil drawing. You can use crosshatching to create a darker area within a layer of hatching, or to create a visual blending effect of two different colors.
Richard Klekociuk’s beautiful colored pencil art depicts stunning Tasmanian landscapes. Come see his colored pencil drawings that often blend realism with Christian symbolism and abstract imagery!
Although I prefer Prismas, you can use any brand of colored pencil when following this colored pencil instruction. The techniques are totally the same!
You can also use a more ‘concave’ scumble technique to create textures. Using a sort of figure-eight or ‘daisy’ shaped scribble and spidery lines, rather than a round circle, creating random dark patches and a more organic looking surface.
This colored pencil instruction will teach you some basic colored pencil techniques that will have you creating fabulous colored pencil art in no time!
Hatching with colored pencil allows you to rapidly apply color and create texture and direction. Hatching is often used in one direction, but can also follow the contours of the surface to help create the sense of form and volume.
Directional mark making. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.
As always, practice makes perfect with crosshatching. Experiment with lineweight (how hard you press the pencil), spacing, sharpness and color. See how it looks when you use just a couple of layers, compared to multiple layers. Experiment with using the light or dark tones first. By trying things out on spare paper (a failed drawing on good paper is ideal for this), you’ll have the confidence to use these more interesting techniques in your final work.
Directional marks are lines which follow a contour, or the direction of hair or grass or other surfaces. These can be densely overlaid to form a rich textural effect. Directional marks can be short and broken or quite continuous and flowing depending on the texture you are aiming for. Often directional mark making is used quite subtly, overlaid with even shading and blended, to create a suggested direction without being dominant.
Practice adjusting the amount of pressure that you apply to the pencil as you shade to precisely control the amount of color you lay down.
Once you master these colored pencil techniques, you can use these colored pencil techniques to layer colors over top of one another to create a rich, luminous depth.
This doesn’t mean that shading with the side of the pencil is wrong – it can be a useful technique for sketching when you want soft, grainy and even-toned shading.
You can also create interesting textured effects by adding the second layer at just a slight angle, or by layering sections in at random angles. Again, these examples are zoomed in so that you can see the lines and effects clearly.
Colored Pencil Scumbling. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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cross-hatching – Cross-hatching involves drawing a series of parallel lines (hatching) and then drawing another series of parallel lines going in another direction on top of the first set of lines. This is a great way to create shading in a drawing. You can create some interesting textures through cross-hatching.
Colored pencil crosshatching. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.
simple colored pencil hatching. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.
For this colored pencil instruction, I used Prismacolor Colored Pencils (this links to Blick Art Materials, and if you make a purchase I get a small commission that helps support this site). These are my favorite brand of colored pencils because they are waxy and full of pigment. This allows them to create color that is so rich and luscious that your drawings actually resemble paintings! All of the drawings that you see on the right and left hand side of this page were created using Prismacolors.
Hatching can be done so that the lines begin and end very precisely, or you can vary the lineweight, lifting the pencil to create a graded effect.
back and forth stroke – The back and forth stroke is probably the most common of all the colored pencil techniques. This is probably how you drew with crayons as a kid! Basically, you just put your pencil on the paper and draw in a continuous back and forth motion, without lifting your pencil off of the paper. This is a good way to fill different areas of your drawing with a lot of solid color.
Shading with the side and the tip of the pencil. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.
hatching – Hatching involves drawing a series of parallel lines. These lines all go in the same direction. The lines can be close together, far apart, or any variation in between. The pencil is lifted from the paper after each line and then placed down again to create a new line.
These colored pencil art bird drawings depict a variety of birds in colorful scenarios, with the aim to expand our usual view of the creatures we meet in nature.
This lesson introduces some basic colored pencil strokes which will be useful in your drawing. It is a good idea to spend some time exploring the colored pencil medium with small pieces before attempting a major drawing.
These colored pencil techniques cover the 5 main ways that you make marks with colored pencils: stippling, hatching, cross-hatching, back and forth stroke, and scumbling. You can see examples of these 5 techniques on the left!
These 5 colored pencil drawing techniques form the basis for any colored pencil work that you will do. You can use each of these techniques alone or in various combinations to create some really interesting effects!
These basic colored pencil techniques form the foundation for any type of colored pencil art that you would like to create.