Although I prefer Prismas, you can use any brand of colored pencil when following this colored pencil instruction. The techniques are totally the same!
Reader Question: I love your site and cannot wait to invest in color pencils to reignite my passion for sketching in a whole new way. My only question; what kind of paper or canvas do I use?
This colored pencil instruction will teach you some basic colored pencil techniques that will have you creating fabulous colored pencil art in no time!
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.
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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.
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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!
You can choose to use white paper or colored paper – it’s up to you. Depending on how much pressure you apply, the color of the paper will show through unless you press really hard or layer enough colored pencil to cover the paper. Some artists like having the color of the paper show through, so it’s up to you. I’d suggest trying both white paper and colored paper and seeing which you prefer! It may even vary from drawing to drawing, depending on your subject matter.
A good all-round paper for colored pencil drawings is Canson Mi-Teintes Drawing Paper. I also like hot-press (smooth) Arches Watercolor Paper if I want to use white paper, and Strathmore ArtAgain Paper if I want to use toned paper.
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.
When looking for drawing paper for creating fine art drawings, be sure to choose one that is labeled archival or acid-free. These are the longest-lasting papers you can buy for drawing. If the paper is not labeled as archival or acid-free, that means that it contains acids (as most normal papers do) that will, over time, turn the paper yellow and/or fade and deteriorate, along with your artwork. If you plan to sell your drawings, then definitely use paper that is archival and acid-free.
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.
Reader Question: Which paper is good for colored pencil? I have a sketchbook with papers of yellowish texture of 130 gsm. Is this good?
Discover how to sharpen a colored pencil to a nice, fine point! Learn how to prevent your Prismacolor colored pencils from breaking.
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.
For sketching with colored pencils, the 130 gsm sketchbook paper you have will work just fine. In general, sketchbook papers are usually lighter weight than drawing papers, so they are ideal for practicing, sketching, trying out new techniques, planning out works of art, and creating quick studies.
Thanks so much for your message! When shopping for good drawing paper for use with colored pencils, I would suggest looking for paper that is labeled archival and/or acid-free, because other papers will yellow with age. Also look for paper that is fairly strong and sturdy.
These basic colored pencil techniques form the foundation for any type of colored pencil art that you would like to create.
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.
I wrote a page about drawing papers for use with pen and ink, and many of those papers are valid for use with colored pencils also.
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!
For creating fine art drawings with colored pencils, I’d generally recommend heavier paper that is at least 160 gsm or higher. For example, my favorite paper for colored pencils, Strathmore ArtAgain Paper (see below), is 160 gsm, but I have also enjoyed creating colored pencil drawings on much heavier 300 lb smooth watercolor paper (which is about 5 times thicker and stronger than your 130 gsm sketchbook paper). These papers have never buckled or warped after I applied many heavy layers of colored pencil.
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.
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!
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Technically, your 130 gsm paper might also be alright for creating fine art drawings in colored pencils, depending on how many layers of colored pencil you apply. Lighter paper may warp slightly if too many layers of colored pencil are applied, especially if you use heavy pressure when applying your layers (which is something I often do to build up the colors). The paper may appear to buckle and wave if this is the case (which has happened to me when drawing lots of layers on paper that is 130 gsm or lighter).
Heavier paper won’t bend or crease as easily as the lighter paper, in case of an accident or mishandling of the artwork. Plus, the heavier drawing paper is able to withstand more erasing and reworking. For these reasons, heavier drawing paper is recommended for creating fine art drawings.
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.
Colored pencil works well on printmaking paper also – which is nice and sturdy!