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The Main Techniques for Using Colored Pencils



techniques for using colored pencils

Use colored pencils? Simple! We all took our very first steps in the world of art using colored pencils and crayons a bit haphazardly. For this reason, most people look to colored pencils as something simple, childish, inferior to other artistic techniques. However, this is not correct: with these drawing ideas, it is, in fact, possible to create real works of art, which have nothing to envy to works obtained with oil colors, acrylics, or watercolors.

It must also be said that, as children, our parents and our teachers did not put quality pencils in our hands: our scribbles were done in the best possible way with extremely cheap colored pencils, bought not in a shop—fine arts, as well as on newsstands.

Those who use colored pencils for artistic purposes – or perhaps to create sketches in the field of architecture, advertising, and fashion – instead turn to quality accessories, such as the Caran d’Ache, Derwent, Lyra, and Cretacolor.

To achieve satisfactory results, however, you need to practice a lot, have a good eye, and yes, of course, you also need to know the proper techniques. Just as in the world of painting with oil colors and acrylics, no one is ‘born learned’ in the world of colored pencils. For this reason, therefore, in this post, we want to explain to beginners how to use colored pencils and then see in detail the main techniques to try.

Using colored pencils: preparation

You don’t need many accessories to draw and paint with colored pencils. To start, it is enough to count on a set of pencils, an album of drawing sheets, an eraser, and a sharpener. The direct support for using colored pencils is, in fact, paper, which can be smooth to allow the definition of minimal details, or rough, to have a completely different effect. However, it is essential that the paper has a sufficient thickness to not deteriorate quickly with the pressure of the pencils. After all, paper is not the only support to consider: colored pencils can also be used with satisfaction on cardboard, cardboard, and canvas cardboard.

The same colored pencils must prepare with care. They first chose an excellent range of colors (possibly using watercolor pencils if we wish to try this peculiar technique). Then comes the time to prepare the tips of the pencil, with a sharpener, with a pencil sharpener, or with sandpaper.

It should also be said that, based on the technique used and the result obtained, it is possible to create more or less pointed tips: a pencil does not necessarily have to turn into an awl!

How to Use Colored Pencils

Once all the necessary drawing accessories have been prepared, the work can begin. The first step is to draw a sketch, drawing light and thin strokes: in this first phase, it is also possible to use a simple drawing pencil, taking care to be very light on the sheet. Once this is done, you can start painting with colored pencils, bearing in mind that different pressures correspond to different results.

Placing the pencil weakly against the paper makes it possible to create faint, barely perceptible, and non-opaque backgrounds. By increasing the pressure, the layer becomes more opaque, whereas, by using even more energy, it is possible to obtain a uniform and very marked color.

We are not talking about liquid colors, as are oil paints and acrylics. It is therefore understood that it is not possible to mix different colors except directly on paper. But how do the colors of colored pencils mix? There are many and different methods, all to try and fish out according to the moment’s needs. In general, however, the colors mix by overlapping each other, basically overlapping the lighter color with the darker one. 

Specifically, it is possible to mix more colors with the hatching technique, which creates shades by drawing dashes of different colors very close to each other. With experience, it will be possible, through this technique, to create different intensities of color, pressing more or less in tracing the dashes, making them closer or further away, with more or less pointed pencils.

It should also emphasize that the dashes in the case of filling a rounded object. Such as the classic apple in a still life – can be curved. Another widely used technique is cross-hatching: in this case, two layers of parallel lines have been created that cross each other, giving life to a new color. Slower but particularly fascinating is the pointillism technique, in which the colors are painted and mixed, creating many small dots close together.

More sophisticated is the bluing technique, which involves fading a layer of color with a white or gray pencil to create curious plays of light. Finally, the frottage technique is particular but less predictable. To put into practice, it is necessary to place the sheet on an irregular surface, color with a colored pencil, and, spreading this first layer, slightly move the sheet, and then use (on an always irregular but different surface).

Furthermore, to make shades, you can also use your fingers or, to be more precise, a particular streak. We should not forget the watercolor pencils, which give an edge to work, bringing the world of drawing closer to that of painting, both in terms of technique and result.

A drawing with colored pencils must be carried out by gradually strengthening the colors, adding one detail after another, enriching the subject with the necessary shades, highlights, and shadows to give the effect of three-dimensionality. When you are sure that you have completed the work, the last step is to finish the job with the fixative spray, protect it over time, and keep it unchanged.

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