Colored Pencil Basics and Tips

High Angle View Of Multi Color Pencils
Fernanda Hibari Miyashita /EyeEm/Getty Images

This lesson introduces some basic color pencil strokes that will be useful in your drawing. It is a good idea to spend some time exploring the colored pencil medium with small pieces before attempting a major drawing.

As with graphite pencil, there are a range of techniques which you can employ when drawing with colored pencil. Which one you choose will depend on the final effect you are aiming for:


Using a straightforward side-to-side shading motion, a smooth even layer of color is built up. A very light touch can be used to deposit the faintest amount of pigment for graduated shading.


Rapid, regular, evenly spaced lines are drawn, leaving a little white paper or underlying colour showing.


Hatching overlaid at right-angles. This can be done with different colors, or carried through multiple layers, to create a textured effect.


The 'brillo pad' method, tiny overlapping circles rapidly drawn. Again, it can be used to build up a single color or different colors.

Directional Marks

Short directional lines which follow a contour, or the direction of hair or grass or other surfaces. These can be densely overlaid to form a rich textural effect.

Incised Marks

Incised Marks: Two thick layers of color are overlaid, then the top color gently scratched into with a blade or pin to let the lower layer show through.


Burnishing is simply layers of colored pencil overlaid with strong pressure so that the tooth of the paper is filled and a smooth surface results. This image shows a burnished surface compared with a basic overlay of color. With some colors, especially with waxier pencils than the watercolor pencils used for this example, a quite translucent and jewel-like effect can be obtained with careful burnishing.