Six mistakes to avoid when working with colouring pencils

Are you colouring starting out or switching medium to using colouring pencils? Then we’ve got six tips to avoid when using colouring pencils, to help improve your colouring.

  1. Make sure to layer, layer, layer
    If you’re trying to blend and not seeing the results you want this might be because you simply haven’t added enough layers, this is particularly true when blending with spirits. With each layer, you’re adding more pigment and reducing the chances of blotchy spots from the paper showing through, for best results aim to have at least three to five layers.
  2. What’s burnishing and how can it affect my colouring?
    Burnishing is when you apply too much pressure to the pencil when colouring and flatten the tooth of the paper, for example, if you have just sharpened your pencil and notice the led has gone down too quickly despite only colouring a small section, you may be burnishing your work. When adding another layer or trying to blend colours over a burnished section the result can mean the additional colour can sometimes scrape off, and this is often due to there being too much pigment on the paper. To avoid this, start by colouring with very light layers in circular motions, don’t worry so much about filling in any grainy areas of the paper coming through, as you will fill these in with each layer! Later on, you can apply more pressure and ‘burnish the paper’ in your final layers, ultimately giving you more control of the blend.
  3. Not having a sharp enough pencil
    Blunt pencils create grainy patches on the paper which is not good especially if you are trying to add layers or colour in soft skin tones. A sharp pencil can get into all the grooves of the paper – for best results make sure you rotate the pencil nib while applying it to the page to give an even application, it also helps save the led and avoid having to re-sharpen it.
  4. How to avoid streaky colouring
    By applying a smooth application of colour to the page when you go back and add in another coloured layer it means, firstly you won’t see as many stop and start points on your page, but it will be easier to apply an even coverage of the additional colour. To do this, make sure you start on the page in small circular motions with a sharp pencil and work across the page by overlapping them. Many colourists in the early days fall into the mistake of colouring in back and forth lines and going over them in another direction, this can appear quite hatched and noticeable when looking at and touching the paper.
  5. Go light on using black
    When shading it’s easy to reach for the black to make our pieces darker, but often it can actually ruin the work, creating muddy and dark tones, this is something to be avoided, especially when colouring in light tones, for example when shadowing pale lips, it can be much more effective to use darker shades of the colour than only using black.
  6. Don’t rush to the finish line!
    The devil’s in the detail. When an artist chooses colouring pencils as their medium, they’re making a big commitment on time, so why rush? If you’re making sure to add layers and not to burnish your work too early then you’ve allowed yourself the opportunity to carry on colouring as you’ve persevered the paper. Now you can go in and add in the final details and keep working your layers!  

For more details on different techniques when using colouring pencils you can view our full guide here.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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