How to use Coloured Pencils

People colour for all different reasons, if you’re colouring purely for fun and the results aren’t so important, then colour in a way that you feel most comfortable doing. However, if you are looking to improve your results there are some techniques that you can use.

Let’s start by explaining the key components of effective colouring using coloured pencils:

Applying colour

Colour using small circles, long ovals or zigzag lines (which create a more uneven finish). Colour in different directions to create a smooth, flat finish so the strokes don’t show. Start with long ovals, then a final layer of short circles if necessary. For hair or fur, use directional strokes.


This is how hard you press the pencil onto the paper. Use more pressure to create more saturated tones, and less pressure for lighter tones. You can also create a medium tone by using light pressure to add several layers. Light pressure is the best way to start off for your base when layering colours.


This is colouring the same or different colours on top of each other. Use a light pressure and build up your colours gradually, combining pressure with layering get a creating realistic shading and vibrant colours.


This is the transition of one colour to another. Use a mixture of layering and pressure to blend colours.


This is when you rub over the top of a finished area of colouring with a colourless burnishing pencil to push the colour into the grain of the paper, removing the visible texture. It also reduces smudging. You can also blend using a blending pencil, paper stumps, a colourless solvent, a solvent pen or one of the lighter shades you have used for that area. Don’t use a light coloured pencil over the darker shadows though as it affects the colour, making it milky-looking and less vibrant. Instead switch to the mid-colour pencil you’ve used in that area to burnish the shadow areas.

Choosing a light source

Choose a light source and keep it consistent through your design – imagine how that light would effect each element of the design when colouring it. In doing so, it helps you determine where to add your highlights and shadows to create a realistic look. Dark purples, blues, greens, browns or greys all create effective shadows, giving slightly different affects, so do experiment.

Enjoyed this guide to using coloured pencils?  You’ll love our other how to colour guides.

Coloured a beautiful page and want to share it with your friends and family? Take a look at this article about how to photograph colouring pages.

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