Introduction: How to Draw With Colored Pencil

I have always loved art. More specifically drawing and painting, I was never very good at pottery or papier mache. I do love pretty much anything else besides sculpture in the art world. I have used tons and tons of different mediums and I love them ALL! Crayons, colored pencil, ballpoint pen, acrylic, oil paint, water color, chalk, pastels, inkwells, watercolor pencils and crayons and basically anything else you can think of. I love it all. Anything I can experiment with I enjoy.

Colored pencil is the most fun, I think. You can just do so much with it. Not only that, but it is very helpful when learning how to shade. Just do a whole bunch of really light shading and slowly add more and more, maybe in different hues, depending on the drawing, Basically this medium is the best ever, in my very experienced mind.

There are a lot of things you can do with them and it is a very wonderful medium. I am not a professional and am still learning , but I am very excited to show my process. Basically the main thing to remember is that everyone has their own style and different techniques work for different people. As Susan Sauerbrun said, “ It takes daily practice and endless repetition of the same gesture, the same discipline and ritual procedure to achieve the mastery that finally allows an artist to create perfect forms without any apparent effort.” (Artist’s Statement, Painting, 64).

I have taken tons of art classes, but I am not totally sure exactly what I am doing most of the time. Usually I just sort of wing it and explore and figure out the approach that works best for me. I am sure there are names for the things I do, but it is not something I am really worried about right now. Art is about having fun and expressing yourself. Though it is true that in the beginning of your art career, focusing on learning the skills rather than your own technique can be very important that way you allow yourself to discover what you are capable of as an artist and after that you can play with the different techniques and figure out your own method as an artisan.

I personally love, love, love Prismacolor colored pencils. They are by far my favorite may possibly be the best colored pencils on the market (that I have tried at least). What is great about them is they have a really soft wax that spreads really easily over different papers and surfaces. But beware about the softness of the pencil as they are known to sometimes clog up electric pencil sharpeners. Also the layers build up really quickly which is fantastic for that pretty, full coverage look you usually want with colored pencil drawings.

What is also fantastic about these is they can be whetted down and used as a kind of paint or solvent in your picture. In his article Colored Pencil Product Review, Matt Fussell makes a good point, suggesting they could probably be their own separate art median. They also come in tons of different colors and you can buy them individually or in a pack. And when bought in the case they come in a lovely tin case, perfect for safely storing your beloved art wands! The only problem is they are kinda pricey. A good set of 132 different colored pencils can be in the mid hundreds for cost. Do not fret though as you do not have to use Prismacolor. Anything will work, you just may have to do a few things different, but you will have to anyway as you are discovering your own style and what fits best with you.

Step 1: Finding Your Subject

Ok so let us get started! First you need to find your image. Now I am doing a person, because I think people are way more fun to do in colored pencil and it may be easier to follow if you were to also do a person, but portraits and humans are very difficult to do so if you are not very experienced, or know you have trouble drawing people, maybe pick something a little easier out. And do not worry about being original right now. Eventually you may want to come up with your subject totally from your mind, but doing a realistic picture, that is even difficult for experienced artists, so right now focus on attaining the skills rather than jumping into being a full blown artist.

Step 2: Outline

Once you have your picture it is time to outline. Some people like to just go ahead and do a sketch of your chosen image onto the paper without any rules or anything. Usually that is my normal mode, but here I can show you how to do it using the grid method for a more accurate representation of the picture you chose. This may be sort of hard if you do not have some kind of light source.

If you think your paper is thin enough you can trace pretty easily, though, I would not worry about it.

Now you can either print out your image, or just use some technological features to add a grid to your image. On a piece of regular paper draw a grid with the same amount of squares, I usually just use a ruler and use the width of the ruler as the width of the squares. Number each side of your grid, just so it is easy to keep track of. Double check and make sure the grid on your photograph is the same number of squares and looks similar. Next begin to sketch out your picture onto your paper making sure the lines match up in the squares. This may take some time, but try not to spend too much time on it as it will just be used to get the basic outline. When it is all drawn out trace it onto your final paper. It should be fairly close to the original picture. If you do not have a light table, trace the backside of your outline with charcoal and put it over your final paper and retrace over the lines with a fair amount of pressure. This should leave a very light charcoal outline so you have a more accurate guide.

Step 3: Face

Ok so now it is time to start actually drawing.

At the time I did this I did not have all of my Prismacolor pencils so I had to use cheaper brands for certain colors. Sometimes you will have to do this and it is a great way to experiment and refine your skills. It is good to try and look at all the base colors and put those in first, but when I draw I kind of like to work with one part at a time and for me that helps keep it as close to the picture as I can. I always start with the face. For me that is the part I enjoy most and it is so important to the picture. I used a sort of grainy, brown paper because it makes the color really pop and it kind of holds it better, but the problem is that if you are using pencils other than prismacolor, it does not blend super well. I started by taking a light peach color by Colorray, and blocking in the face. Use a lot of pressure because you want it to cover as well as possible. Basically for the skin I used the light peach, a white Prismacolor and a brown Crayola. I ran out of medium browns so the brown I used is actually pretty dark so I had to use it very lightly and then go over everything with a colored pencil blender, which is basically just a colorless colored pencil; very waxy. This brightens the colors, and blends them very well. Sometimes I use the blender for white and black pencil drawings because it makes the pencil extra dark which makes for a dramatic effect when used properly. Once the peach is blocked in, I started with the highlights, starting with very light layer of white on the higher parts of the face, her forehead, nose bridge, chin, upper lip area. Then I went in and added another layer of white in the middle of the already highlighted area, making for a little brighter look. next I used the brown and very lightly outlined the the nostril, cheek line and outline of her hair on her face and the indent between her eye and nose. Then I continues shading very lightly adding small layers. Again I went in with the blender. I also added a touch of orange to give her skin a more glowy look. In the picture she had some kind of rhinestones on her face so I put those in after actually, but it might be better to do before. I lightly outlined the stones and colored them in with white. Then I took a light blue and outlined one side of both of them on the opposite side the light would be shining on her face. Then I took the dark brown and lightly shadowed underneath them to make it look more 3D.

Step 4: Eyes

Eyes are hard for a lot of people. I started by filling in the whites of the eye with white! Who would have guessed! I used a very small amount of brown to outline the white to give it some shading. Next I took a light blue prismacolor colored pencil and colored in the iris. I then took white and added in the highlights and used black to shade in the top.

In the picture she had a lot of dark, smoky makeup on and I thought that would be so much fun to draw. I love doing makeup in real life and it was exciting to try and draw it. I started by taking a light blue prismacolor pencil and filling in the eyelid and directly under the eye. I then took black and outlined the lid and the eye itself then brought out the black as much as I could to create that smoky look. After I put in a light highlight on the eyelid. The eyelashes were just a bunch of little strokes and of course, afterwards, more blending.

Step 5: Lips

In the original picture I was basing the drawing off of, her lips were a very bright red with a dark burgundy outline. Unfortunately, I did not have my red prismacolor with me so I decided to make it a little more interesting and I used a very light Crayola violet and colored in the lips. Then I outline them in black and blended it inward. I kept the top of the bottom lip a little lighter and then went in with the white and added some highlights to them. Afterwards I found some red and drew a very light layer over to give it a little extra something.

Step 6: Head Dress

The head dress thing was much more difficult. It was very colorful, metallic, and detailed. I started off with the first strand. I just made little pearls of white then added in some light blue and after I filled in where the skin shone through, I outlined the strand with the dark brown.

The next strand was a little more complicated. It was much thicker so it was harder to just make look busy and shiny. I started by drawing sort of little double-Us up the strand in a sequence. Then, in between, I put in some browns and yellow to make it look kind of gold-ish and added some more highlights to try and make it more metallic looking. The other strands were pretty similar. I just put in some kind of pattern with the white and went back in with blues and grays if it looked more silver, or oranges and browns if it looked more copper.

Step 7: Hair

The hair was tricky. Usually I would block it in first and then work on it, but I was not sure how it would go so I started with a small chunk to work on and see if I liked the way it looked. This is something you may find yourself doing often and it is a great way to explore your style and figure out what looks best.

Eventually I figured out what looked best. In the picture she has kind of wild, fiery curls and I wanted it to look very curly and pretty, and fun. I used a bright orange prismacolor pencil and filled in the hair. Then I drew a few curls here and there by adding a bunch of strokes of black and dark brown. Then I filled the rest in with a mixture of the black and brown. I added in black where there were shadows and blended it out using the dark brown.

Step 8: Torso

Now that most of the head was done, I needed to start working on her torso/neck. I started with her jewelery. I used the same techniques as the head dress. I filled in the skin, leaving the other necklaces blank for the time being. I used brown more here with black as her body was more shadowed than her face.

Then I moved on to her bralette. It had lots of rhinestones and stuff so it was a bit of a challenge, but I employed similar technique, using the white and adding in colors like blue and violet to create a reflective look. Then I just colored in the remaining space black and added a few highlights. The picture had quite a bit of shadow so I drew in the most visible parts of her arms and shaded them. Then I put in black for the background and blended it into her skin using the brown.

Step 9: Headdress Feather Top

The feathery part of her headdress was the most fun. I outlines all the feathers and I just started filling them in with a dark blue by Crayola. Then I would outline it in black and add lines of white to show the texture of the feather. I just repeated this on all of them then added in black underneath to make it look more real.

The part holding the feathers was very metallic and silvery. I started by coloring it in all white. Next I drew a line down the middle with black and made two rows of little squares. Then I added gray and black shadow to them making it appear more shiny and dramatic and metallic.

Step 10: Touch-ups/Finishing

I did the same thing with the feathery thing protruding from her left side. Then I filled in the background black towards the bottom and white in the top left corner.

I still had some things to finish, like her necklaces and a few more details. I used black and white for her necklaces. One of the necklaces had a very thin chain so I just used black to draw it out, plus the contrast looked great against her skin. I hope this tutorial was helpful to you, readers. I enjoyed doing it. You will find your own styles and ways of doing things so do not rely completely on my confusing formula for how to draw with colored pencil. Find your technique as an artist.