Drawing with Colored Pencil: Setting Yourself Up for Success

Learn some basics on drawing with colored pencils by using Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil.

holding the colored pencil, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

If you hold a sharp pencil in an upright position, it will help you create a smoother layer over the minute hills and valleys that make up the surface of a sheet of paper.

holding the colored pencil 2, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

Conversely, a pencil held horizontally will cover the paper quicker but will also show more of the texture on the surface of the paper.

TIPS: For the most control over your pencil, hold it the same way you write.

overhand grip, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

Even paper that feels smooth has some degree of tooth to it. Experiment with various ways of holding your colored pencils to try out the different effects that you can achieve. Adjusting how you hold the pencil can help you get the type of line you want.

TIPS: An overhand grip helps you create strong applications of color with heavy pressure.

holding the colored pencil 3, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

Keep a couple of things in mind during longer drawing sessions so that you remain comfortable.

  • Maintain a loose grip on your pencil. Gripping it too tightly can hurt your hand over time.
  • Apply the least amount of pressure needed to make the mark you want. The more you push down on the pencil, the tighter your grip will become, adding to muscle tension.

Transferring a Line Method

To transfer a line drawing onto a clean sheet of drawing paper, you can use a light box or graphite transfer paper.

Drawing on a separate sheet of paper will keep your final drawing cleaner and allow you to make mistakes, take risks, change your mind and erase, increase or decrease the size of certain items, and cut out parts and move them around until you’re happy with your composition. You can work out your entire concept before transferring it onto the final paper. The oils from your hands and erasing can affect a paper’s surface, so it’s important to keep it as pristine as you can before adding your colored pencil layers.

light box, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

Light-Box Method

Use a light box for the most controlled and direct method of transfer. Simply tape your prepared line drawing onto the light box’s surface, tape your final sheet of paper over the line drawing, and tape that at its top edge. Then use a sharpened sketching pencil to trace the line drawing onto the final paper.

TIPS: You can make your own light box by placing a lamp under a glass table.

light box 2, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

Transfer-Paper Method

Carbon or transfer paper can also be used. First, tape your final drawing paper in at least two places to keep it from shifting. Over that, tape the line drawing you wish to transfer along its top edge. Slide a piece of transfer paper between the two with the graphite-coated side facing down. You can now draw over your line drawing and leave marks on your final sheet of paper.

When your drawing is complete, remove the line drawing and transfer paper, and use a kneaded eraser to clean up any bits of graphite or errant marks. Now you’re ready to secure your paper to the hardboard backing.

TIPS: It’s a good idea to give your paper some support while you draw. Attaching it to a piece of lightweight, hard, and inflexible backing will keep the paper from tearing, bending, or puncturing while still allowing you to move it around as you work.

Basic Colored Pencil Strokes

The sky’s the limit when it comes to pencil strokes; there is no wrong way to go. In fact, the more ways you are comfortable laying down color, the better. You might want to convey texture with your strokes, or you could be going for a smooth, airbrushed look without visible strokes. Having the ability and knowledge to choose what type of line will work best is an important tool in your drawing arsenal.

yellow colored pencil, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

You can imitate a number of different textures by creating patterns of dots and dashes on the paper. To create dense, even dots, twist the points of your pencil on the paper.

blue colored pencil, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

Practice making different types of strokes.

red colored pencil, Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil

The direction, width, and texture of each line you draw will contribute to the effects you create.

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Beginning Colored PencilWhat medium is as immediately relatable as the colored pencil? Vibrant, versatile, and familiar, the simple colored pencil is the proverbial first step on your journey of 1,000 miles on the road to becoming an artist.

Beginning Colored Pencil is an inviting and approachable guide loaded with everything an aspiring artist needs to know about colored pencil, including tools, materials, composition, and color theory.

Walter Foster’s Portfolio series takes a technique-driven approach, emphasizing topics like blending, shading, and creating form and texture to provide a well-rounded approach that allows readers to master key concepts. We present step-by-step demonstrations with a fresh, contemporary design to keep lessons vibrant, so you can practice your fresh, new skills. Get in touch with your inner creativity, and dive into colored pencils today!