Layering and Blending Colored Pencils

There are two colored pencil technique secrets to building up layers of colors. The first is to maintain the texture of the paper. Choose a paper sith some tooth or fine texture for pencil drawings. The tooth of the paper catches and holds the pencil. As long as this tooth exists, you can add layer after layer of color. Use a light or medium touch when applying color.  If you press hard, you will burnish the paper smooth creating a platform of pencil wax. Subsequent strokes will either skip across this surface without leaving color or will deposit irregular blobs of pencil wax and pigment.

The second secret to succesful layering is to use complementary colors in your shadows instead of reaching for the black pencil. Complementary colors sit on opposite sides of the color wheel: magenta and green, cyan and orange-red, yellow and violet-blue. These colors will combine with the principal color of the object to make a low chroma brown or gray shadow. The black pencil shadow is often too jarring and does not feel like a part of the shaded object.

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11 thoughts on “Layering and Blending Colored Pencils

  1. Irv Statler says:

    Have you any tips on choosing combinations of colors in layering and blending as, for example, for various different skin tones or shadows?

    • I like building up with a random suite of colors that almost always include the prismacolor process red, true blue and canary yellow. I also use a random smattering of other colors.

      • Irving C Statler says:

        Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my question, but I am still uncertain. I guess the answer is to just experiment.

        • Yes, experimenting is really important. I am sure there are some people who have formulas of pencil combinations but I just keep a piece of the same kind of paper as I am drawing on at my side for testing colors and blends.

  2. Al Phots says:

    I was wondering what pencils you recommend please ?
    I have seen the spectrum noir pencils and they seem simple enough but are a little expensive for my pockets
    Any help / advice would be appreciated

  3. I am getting ready to order some more pencils and only recently discovered the colorless blending pencil. I’m planning to get one of those, too. Love this website and I know I’ll be back often to learn some more techniques!

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