28 Easy Ways to Get More from Your Colored Pencils

colored pencilsWhether you are new to adult coloring (if so, welcome!), or an experienced colorist, there is a lot to learn about colored pencils. And good quality colored pencils can be expensive, so using them in the right ways can help you get a lot more out of them, saving you money and frustration.

Here are a bunch of tips and hacks I have learned over the years, from trial and error and from my niece who is a colored pencil artist. So give these a try, and let me know what you think!

Getting Good Colors

1. Don’t have the 200+ set of colors (sigh!)? Lightly layer the colors you do have to create new ones.

2. Use complementary colors to create shadows instead of always reaching for a black pencil. A complementary color will blend with the main color to make a gentle brown or gray shadow that is less jarring and more natural-looking. Example: Use blue to create shade for a red element.

3. Use several darker colors to create a more natural-looking, intense black than you will get with a black colored pencil. This works best when blending dark green, blue and red.

4. For more even coverage, color with small, circular strokes instead of side-to-side or up-and-down ones. This type of stroke is even more important when blending.

5. The rougher the surface of the paper, the sharper you want your pencil to fill in all the hills and valleys in the paper’s weave.

6. Spray workable fixative on your coloring to add some tooth to the surface so you can add more layers of color.

Finishing

7. A colorless blender pencil is fabulous for blending colors and burnishing. If you don’t have one, you can use a colored pencil in a light shade, or even an alcohol-based colorless marker.

Textures

8. Place a fine grit sandpaper under your coloring page and gently color over it to create a bumpy texture. You can use this for a single element or open areas, such as backgrounds. This works best with lighter paper.

9. Similarly, place any flat, textured surface under the paper to create different patterns and textures. I’ve used leaves, textured ribbons, even a grater (with care).

Be Gentle

10. Regardless of the type of paper you are coloring on, keep your layers light and build up your colors and accents (shading, textures, etc.) gradually. Bonus: your hand won’t get so tired in long coloring sessions, and if you do want to fix a “mistake” it will be easier.

11. One way to keep your layers light is to hold your colored pencil loosely when putting down layers of color and let the tip glide over the paper as you make strokes. Don’t squeeze your colored pencil or press darn hard.

12. Most higher quality colored pencils have a soft and delicate core. When you drop or bang colored them the core could break or shatter. Broken cores make sharpening near to impossible.

13. Also be careful when sharpening colored pencils: don’t wiggle the pencil around in the sharpener. Try holding your pencil still and turning the sharpener around the pencil instead of vice versa.

14. If the core of your pencil shatters, there is hope. One way is to put it in the oven at 200 degrees for 2 to 5 minutes, remove it and then cool it to room temperature before using it.

15. Another way to try to fix a shattered or broken core is to put the pencil on a heating pad set to low, turn it often, and cool to room temperature before using it.

  • “Anti” Tip: Some folks recommend using a microwave to fix the cores. But I have heard too many stories about the core melting and wooden case cracking, so I don’t recommend this.
Using it All

16. A pencil extender is a great tool to get the most out of every colored pencil, saving you money.

17. If your pencil stump is even too short for a pencil extender, glue it to the end of another stumpy pencil and keep sharpening and coloring.

Erasing

18. Most colored pencils are not completely erasable. However, if you must, an electric eraser is your best bet.

19. You can at least partially lift stray marks off the paper with Silly Putty, or any putty you use to hand artwork on your walls. Press the putty firmly onto the mark, gently lift it off. Knead the putty and repeat as necessary.Use the same technique if you have a “real” artist’s putty eraser.

20. You can also use Scotch™ Magic Tape or masking tape to temper stray marks. Lay a small piece of  tape over the stray mark and lightly rub over the mark with a sharp colored pencil. Gently and slowly lift the tape off the paper. Repeat with fresh pieces of tape as necessary.

21. A sharp white pencil rubbed on a stray colored pencil mark can fade it.

Finishing

22. A colorless blender pencil not only blends and brightens colors, but it also eliminates the paper’s divots – the tiny white spots, or “speckling” – that can show through the pencil.

23. Spraying a finished coloring project with fixative will help prevent wax bloom.

24. You can use hand sanitizer as a solvent for burnishing.

25. When using a solvent to burnish colored pencil in tiny areas, use the pointy cotton buds that nail artists use.

26. Afraid of using solvents? Take a tissue treated with aloe vera, wind it around a cotton bud and carefully rub your finished coloring to add a delicate sheen and minimize any speckling.

27. When you finish your coloring, go back over black borders and line-work with an ultra-fine black marker or gel pen. Your colors will pop.

Self-Care

28. If you color a lot, make sure to stop every five or ten minutes, take a few deep breaths and relax your neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Your muscles and joints will thank you. Set a timer to make sure you take these breaks.

Do you have any tips or tricks about colored pencils that work for you?  Share them with us in the Comments section below!

10 Comments on “28 Easy Ways to Get More from Your Colored Pencils

  1. This is a remarkably thorough review and has inspired me to try the book. Thank you for your attention to detail. I look forward to your future reviews, tips and suggestions. Thanks again and Happy New Year. Gail S.

  2. These are great suggestions and I share the article with my family and coloring friends! Thanks for sharing!

  3. All the tips in this article are very helpful. I will be sharing this info with my coloring friends.

  4. These are some great tips, I especially like the ones for getting texture.

  5. I’m pretty new to coloring. Could you tell me a good starter set of pencils? I have and use basic corolla and other Walmart pencils.

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