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8 Basic Colored Pencil Techniques for Artists in 2022

8 Basic Colored Pencil Techniques for Artists in 2022

Source: Pixabay

Colored pencils are a versatile and interesting art medium. They do a fantastic job of capturing fine details and provide you with an incredible degree of control. On the one hand, at times, artists are hesitant to use them because they feel like working with them takes them plenty of time and requires much patience. But on the other hand, it is all about your approach. With the right colored pencil techniques, this art tool can work in a breeze for practically any age level with remarkable outcomes. Here we curate a selection of colored pencil drawing ideas for your reference.


8 Colored Pencil Techniques That You Should Know

1. Scumbling

Source: Fine Art Tutorials

Scumbling is one of the colored pencil ideas you might be fond of exploring as a kid without even knowing their name! This method involves creating continuous circular marks on the drawing surface without lifting the pencil. It is an incredibly effective way to fill in various areas with plenty of colors. For this colored pencil tutorial, I relied on the pencils from my favorite brand Prismacolor. I genuinely cannot get enough of them because of their waxy property and unparalleled quality pigments. This enables them to produce oh-so-luscious-and-rich colors, making my drawings just about the same as paintings! 

2. Burnishing

Have fun trying out burnishing various colors and tones over one another. For instance, make a dark color look brighter by burnishing a light color over it. (Source: Fine Art Tutorials)

Burnishing entails layering along with using the colored pencil blending techniques until there is not any visible paper tooth on your colored pencil layers. Ideally, you use this method on paper with a tooth to it. With heavy pressure application, you will have more of the binder and color released onto the drawing surface and crushed into its tooth. The result is a thick layer that appears somewhat like a pastel. Now that you get a thicker pencil layer on the surface producing smoother and more blended effects is with more ease. One pro tip is that you have the option to use the colored pencil to work this technique or burnish with a colorless blender layer on top.

3. Scraping

Mussel shell (Source: Ester Roi)

Only from burnishing can scraping do. After having achieved a lustrous area, you scrape away at the parts you intend to remove using an XACTO knife. Because this method will probably appear scratchy, you had better use it where you plan to be highly textured, for example, individual fur. Else, you may like drawing with colored pencils this way to remove color and work again on a problem area.

4. Back and forth stroke 

Source: Art is Fun

It seems safe to say that this is the most prevalent of all the colored pencil techniques. Back and forth stroke is likely the way you create drawings with crayons as a little one! Essentially, you draw with the pencil in an uninterrupted back and forth motion on the surface without lifting your pencil. This method works best when you plan on shading with colored pencils. 

5. Hatching or cross-hatching 

Landscape with Three Gabled Cottages Beside a Road by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. In this etching by this prolific painter, you can notice he created light areas and the depth illusion with hatched lines.


OK, how to use colored pencils this way? Hatching means drawing lightly a range of parallel lines all of which have the same direction in quick strokes. You can create closely spaced lines, ones with some distance from each other, or any in-between variation. Lift the pencil off the surface after each line, then put it down again to draw another line. Give your work more depth and complexity by layering colors. This is a great method for hair, grass, and other objects that have a distinct linear quality.


Cross-hatching means drawing a range of parallel lines (hatching) and creating a new range of parallel lines heading in another direction over the 1st series of lines. Ideally, use the method when you are shading with colored pencils. You will get to work out some fascinating textures through drawing this way.

6. Stippling

Remember that you have the choice to draw various-sized dots based on the sharpness of your pencil. You will have thicker dots whose look is softer when using an unsharpened pencil. (Source: Fine Art Tutorials)

Stippling is one of the favorite colored pencil techniques that involve creating dark and light areas in artwork with dots. Particularly, how to draw with colored pencils using this method? After holding the pencil vertical to the surface, make the dots by dropping the hand. Seeing that another dot will be formed with your hand bouncing, this recurrent stippling action can be relatively swift. But on the other hand, keeping it neat generally takes practice. You will create many closely spaced dots to make shadowed areas. When it comes to lighter areas, draw fewer dots at a greater distance in space. Also, remember that the tip of your wax pencil likely breaks if you apply an excessive amount of pressure with this pencil. The method indeed works better with oil pencils. 

7. Rubbing alcohol or oil

A Q-tip is helpful in this technique. (Source: Empty Easel)

Many artists also entertain these colored pencils drawing ideas. Rubbing alcohol is a fantastic solvent for your pencils. It generally breaks down the pencil’s wax binder and enables the pigments to mix thoroughly like paint. In comparison with other accessible solvents, it is less toxic and easier to get. Just add a little rubbing alcohol or oil to a cotton ball. Follow up with rubbing on the places you intend to blend. A pro tip to working out this technique is using a limited amount of the blender on your cotton ball. You can go with a Q-tip for small areas.

8. Watercolor wash

The work was created using colored pencils and watercolors (Source: Belinda Del Pesco). You do not have to use only colored pencils when working with them - Unleash your creativity. Keep in mind that “Real You is all you have, and all other paths are false. And in the best case, Real You is so happy to finally be recognized, it rewards you with Originality” (Mary Karr). 

Drawing with colored pencils does not imply they are your only art medium. You can definitely increase its appeal by making use of other mediums. While there are lots of ways for mixed-use to complement the colored pencil art piece, watercolors are unmatched for this case. And ideally, fill out larger areas with watercolors and use colored pencils to draw the details. You likewise have the choice to work with watercolors in an incognito way to provide the subject with more volume. For instance, fill out the hair using watercolor whilst shining each hair strand with colored pencils. Or else, use watercolors for the most part and apply the hatching technique using colored pencils. 

All in all, these 8 colored pencil ideas form the basis for any piece with this medium that you will create. Use each of them alone or in different combinations to give birth to the artwork with downright stunning effects! Likewise, do not be afraid to experiment with other mixed art media combinations. For instance, white acrylic will probably be a perfect way of adding highlights to your finished piece. Because there is no end to possibilities, see to it that you encourage experimentation! On top of this, always remember that quality, pigmented pencils will elevate your piece of art, making it appear more professional. I highly recommend Prismacolor, but you can use other trusted brands when following this colored pencil tutorial - such as Faber Castell Polychromos. To learn more about the different reliable brands out there these days, check out my curated list of the best colored pencils. Likewise, bear in mind that these methods will work differently subject to the paper you use - for example, textured vs smooth paper. 


Related Questions

1. Oil colored pencils vs wax colored pencils?

They mainly differ in the core contents. The oil pencil core is formulated from oil binder and pigment. Whereas, wax binder and pigment makeup wax pencils. The binder-specific difference aside, they perform a bit differently. A good instance is when you use the burnishing colored pencil techniques. You should apply more pressure with your oil pencil onto the surface to release its binder thickly and smoothly. Meanwhile, when it comes to the wax pencil, you will need less pressure to release pigment onto the drawing paper.

2. What color pencils make the skin?

White, brown, yellow, and red. Using these color combinations will result in various skin tones. Use blue in the mixture for shadows. Apply more yellows and whites for lighter tones.

3. How to erase colored pencils?

There are five basic and easiest ways to remove these pencils:

  • Using a vinyl eraser
  • Using an artist's tape
  • Using an electric eraser
  • Using a kneaded eraser
  • Using a colored pencil eraser

Please read through this ultimate guide to know how to apply these ways the right way, right away.