Colored pencils aren’t like your basic pencil. They’re made from a combination of oil or wax based material, pigments, and binders. You should look for pencils with a softer core. While a basic cheap pencil will do the trick, you can do so much more with quality tools!

Sometimes coloring a whole page with the same tool can feel a little one-note, and sometimes you may want to bring a little more magic into your work. You’ll find that the more you learn about color, the more you want to experiment! There are numerous ways to add interest to your coloring and today we’re going to go over a few techniques and tricks to use with colored pencils.

The most basic way to color with pencils is by moving the pencil side to side or in a circular motion (called scumbling). You probably know that the color will be lighter if you push lightly and much bolder if you push down hard. But there are many essential techniques that you should know.

  • Stippling/Pointillism

This is the process of applying color with dots. The more dots you add to an area, the darker it will look and the fewer dots you use, the lighter it will look. This technique also makes it easy to mix colors as you just add dots in additional colors!

  • Hatching

This technique uses parallel lines to fill in a space with color, like stippling. You can layer colors and change the pressure to adjust the darkness and tone of your coloring page.

  • Cross Hatching

Cross hatching uses crossing lines to fill in a space. Try using different colors for different directions and follow the contours of the design you’re coloring.

  • Burnishing

Burnishing is the name for applying great pressure while using colored pencils. This creates a silky finish and looks beautiful when used on darker areas of the design. Use this technique over previously applied light layers of color to produce rich and vibrant results.

  • Scraping

This is a technique that requires using thicker paper and will only work after burnishing. Using a sharp blade (like a hobby blade) carefully carve bits of color away from the paper. This will create a textured effect and is great for fur and hair.

  • Solvents

Mineral spirits, turpentine, and rubbing alcohol will break down the binder in your colored pencil and allows you to blend the colors creating a smooth, even finish that conceals the paper’s texture. This will generally only work with thicker paper, so make sure to test this on a small piece to make sure that it wont be damaged.

  • Eraser
    A quick trick is to use an eraser to tone down the color or even to add effects to the page by applying pressure to the paper with the eraser’s edge. This will create a look that’s similar to scraping but is more effective on thinner layers than thick ones.
  • Colorless blender
    This is a tool that comes with some sets of professional pencils but can also be purchased separately. This is a pencil that has no pigment in it and can be used to blend colors and soften edges in your coloring. 
  • White pencil

White and very light-colored pencils will help blend color into the white of the page and will also lighten the shade. This is very useful for ombre effects.

All or some of these techniques can be combined to create your own coloring style! Use a light touch with colored pencils and apply thin layers of color. This will minimize hand fatigue, protect your paper from damage, and creates a really smooth finish. Try layering multiple colors over your base color or even using pencils over another medium like marker or watercolor paints.

Remember the following basic tips:

  • Make sure your pencil is sharp and keep your sharpener close. A sharper point will result in brighter colors and is easier to use. If your pencil is brittle and hard to sharpen, try using a piece of sandpaper.
  • Add a few sheets of paper under your page to create a smoother coloring surface.
  • Try to test new techniques on a small piece of paper that is the same or similar to the paper your coloring page is printed on.