Glossary of terms

Colouring terms glossary

Alcohol markers – This ink will bleed through most papers but has excellent colour range and blending abilities. These are popular as they don’t streak and allow you to achieve seamless colour. Popular brands include Promarker, Spectrum Noir, Copic, Touch and Chameleon.

Analogous – Ideal for use on backgrounds as these colour combinations don’t create contrast, an analogous harmony is created by taking colours that sit right next to each other on the colour wheel.

Back and forth stroke – Back and forth stroke is one that you probably did when you were a child! This is where you move your pencil in a back and forth motion without lifting your pencil off the page. This is a good method for colouring areas with solid colour. 

Blender pencil/pen – A blender pencil is a pencil which has a colourless core which can be used to blend other coloured pencils together. A blender pen is a pen which has colourless ink and is also used to blend together other coloured inks. Blender pens are found with alcohol markers, such as Copics, as the alcohol based ink allows you to blend. 

Blending – Blending is a very important part of colouring. It is a technique that can be done in lots of different ways but the aim is to merge your colours into one another so they seamlessly flow from one to another. 

Bokeh Bokeh is a technique in photography that produces a spotty blur from out of focus light. In colouring, some colourists like to create this same effect using colouring techniques. 

Burnish – Burnishing is a blending technique used in the colouring community where you take a colourless blending pencil, or the lightest shade of the coloured pencils you have used in the image, and blend all the colours together. The result is a glossy, blended effect.

Chalk pastels – These are most often used to colour backgrounds as they can create a soft and gentle effect. Don’t confuse them with oil pastels. Popular brands include Inscribe and PanPastel.

CMYK – This colour system is mostly used for printed design and describes the different colours combined to create an image – it stands for cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K).

Colour challenge A colour challenge is something that is often done for fun in the colouring community. Colourists are invited by whoever is hosting the challenge to complete a picture in a certain way (i.e. using a specific colour palette or using a specific technique like crosshatching).

Colour wheelA circle of colours showing the relationships between primary, secondary, tertiary and complementary colours. An extremely helpful tool for people working with colours – great for finding complementary colours. 

Colour-along Colour-alongs are very popular in the colouring community. They are often done as videos where colourists will post a video of them colouring and chatting so you can watch the colour-along as you colour the same picture. These can also be done in online colouring groups (like our Friends of Colouring Heaven Facebook group) where an image is selected and colourists are invited to colour this specific picture. All the designs created during that session are then added to the colour-along photo album. 

Complementary colours – To create a complementary colour pairing you take two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel. This colour scheme aims to create high contrast, which makes things stand out more.

Cool colours – Colours that evoke images of cool things like snow or the sea. Colours like green, blue and violet.

Crosshatching – Crosshatching is very similar to hatching except, as the name suggests, you draw a series of parallel lines and then draw another series of lines in a different direction on top of the first set of lines. This is a brilliant method to create shading in your colouring and also for adding texture to your colouring. 

Earth colours Colours that remind us of things like soil, rocks etc. Neutral colours (not included in the colour wheel) like beiges, browns, greys, ochres etc. They are made by mixing complementary hues.

Fine liners – Very fine tipped, usually 0.3-0.4mm, pens, which are used for small spaces. Popular brands include Triplus, Staedtler and Stabilo.

Gel pens – These pens have a gel ink which lays down very thickly. You have to leave these pens to dry otherwise they will smudge. Popular brands include Sakura Gelly Roll and Uniball Signo.

Greyscale colouring – Greyscale colouring is a type of colouring where the image is printed in a range of greys and blacks which show shadows and highlights in the image, rather than just line art. Imagine colouring an old black and white photograph – this is essentially greyscale colouring. The different shades of grey act as a guide for your colouring – match the lightness or darkness of your colour to the grey that you’re colouring over. This style of colouring can create much more lifelike results.

Hatching – Hatching is where you draw a series of parallel lines. They all go in the same direction and can be a variety of distances from one another.

Hue – Hue is often confused with the word colour. Colour is a name that refers to all hues, tints and tones. When someone asks “What colour is it?”, usually what they really mean is “What hue is it?”. A hue is the basic ‘colour’ that can be identified, i.e. green, red, yellow etc. A hue can then be modified in a number of different ways to transform it into a tint, shade or tone. A tint is made by mixing a hue with white, a shade is made by mixing a hue with black and a tone is made by mixing a combination of both black and white.

Layering – Layering is where you colour more than once over the same bit of design. This layering of colours allows you to create more depth of colour and more realistic shading in your work.

Lightfast – Lightfast refers to how well the colour will stand up to sunlight. If a pencil doesn’t have a very good lightfast rating, a picture coloured with it will fade quite quickly when finished if left open to the light. A pencil with a high lightfast rating will keep its colour and vibrancy for a long time. Professional artists will tend to reach for high lightfast rated pencils as their work will be on display so they won’t want it to fade.

Monochrome – When you colour in only one colour.

Oil-based pencils – These pencils are less common and have a harder lead than wax-based pencils. This makes them stronger but still allows them to blend and layer. Popular brands include Faber Castell Polychromos and Marco Raffine.

Oil paint – A type of paint where pigments are mixed with drying oils, such as walnut, linseed, or poppyseed. Popular brands include Winsor and Newton, Rembrandt, Old Holland, Gamblin, Williamsburg, Blick, and Utrecht.

Open stock This means you are able to buy single pens or pencils rather than having to buy them in sets. It is a great way to be able to try out a new type of pen or pencil without committing to a big expense.

Pigment – Pigment refers to the colour of your pen/pencil/paint etc. If a pencil is ‘highly pigmented’, this means the colour of the pencil when it is on the paper is bright, vibrant and solid. If a pencil isn’t very pigmented, the lead of the pencil may look very bright but when you apply it to the paper the colour will be light, translucent and not very vivid. Better quality equipment tends to have better pigment.

Pointilism – Pointilism is a colouring technique where you use only dots to complete your image, using colour theory and optical mixing of colours to create your picture. You can vary the size and distance between the dots to create different textures and shading.

RGB – A colour system that considers red, blue, and green as primary colours. This is the system that is used digitally for colours that will be viewed on a screen. Combining these primary colours produces secondary colours, which are cyan, magenta and yellow.

RYB – Stands for red, yellow, blue. It is a system often used in art education, especially in painting. It formed a foundation for the modern scientific colour theory which decided that cyan, magenta, and yellow are the most effective three colours to combine. From this the colour model CMY (K) was made.

Saturation – Saturation refers to the intensity of a hue. If a picture is very saturated, the hue will be very vibrant and pure. If a picture has low saturation, it may appear pale and washed out.

Stippling – Stippling involves drawing lots of tiny monochrome dots on your page. The dots can be however close or far apart as you’d like, to create light or shaded areas. This technique is most effective using pens, markers or fine liners.

Tooth – Tooth is a term that refers to the texture of a specific paper. Paper has small indentations which creates the texture – if these indentations are larger, the paper will have more tooth, if they’re smaller, the paper will have less tooth.

Warm ColoursColours that evoke images of warm things like fire or the sunset. Colours like red, orange and yellow.

Water-based pens – These pens are a cheaper option and don’t tend to bleed through paper. This makes these pens good for double-sided books, however they don’t blend so can look streaky. Popular brands include Triplus, Tombow, Crayola, Staedtley and Supertips.

Watercolour pencils – These pencils have a water-soluble core and when water is applied can look like watercolour paint. You can either apply water with a brush, an aqua pen or you can dip the pencil straight into water. Popular brands include Staedtler Karat Aquarell and Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer.

Wax-based pencils – A wax-based pencil is very common in coloured pencils. They’re usually the cheaper option but can develop a ‘wax bloom’ over time (a milky film). However, they have great blending abilities and are usually soft and high in pigment. Popular brands include Staedtler, Prismacolor Premier, and Ergosoft.

WIP – Stands for work in progress. This term is used in the colouring community to refer to a picture that a colourist has started colouring but hasn’t yet finished.

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