Colouring is such a simple method of introducing colour to an image, but coloured pencils can be viewed as a child’s creative toy. Below, I share my knowledge, opinions and use of coloured pencils in my creative works.
“I think of coloured pencils as magic wands. I just wave them at my paper and lovely things happen.”
Quote by: Jane Davenport – Mixed-media artist.
Coloured pencils are delightful instruments of colour; I use them regularly and always thoroughly enjoy the experience. They are also quick, mess free and come in a vast selection of colours.
Knowing basic shading techniques is useful, but not essential; these can be applied while laying down layers of colour, blending hues or contrasting shades.
Colour pencil options
Coloured pencils are widely available and the difference in quality is vast. They are either made from wax or oil and this impacts the colour laydown and how lightfast the colour pigment is. There are also hard and soft leads available, which tends to be a preference to the individual. Break resistance, lead thickness, smudge proof and water-resistance all come into the equation too.
The humble colouring pencil just got more complicated, didn’t it?
Ever used a colouring pencil where you have had to press so hard to get even the slightest hint of colour? That’s a wax coloured pencil, and a cheaply made one at that. Coloured pencils aimed at kids are generally made from wax; ideally try before you buy, but in our pre-packaged world it’s rarely possible.
Generally it is safe to assume that higher price equals better quality with colouring pencils, although personal preference is important. Kids wax based coloured pencils; I own a pack of Staedtler. For a pack of 24 pencils, I probably paid about £5-£6. They’re pretty good, I do have to press fairly hard to increase the colour intensity; but they are aimed at kids (or rather parents for their kids).
Artist quality coloured pencils: I can’t possibly go through the entire range of available options here, just know there are lots. Ideally, find an art shop that sells them as individuals and test them out. Why? Because there is nothing worse than spending £50 on coloured pencils that have a five-star rating and are supposedly the ‘bee’s knees’; yet you hate using them.
Box sizes range from 12 up to 72 or more depending on the brand being purchased. For me, it’s pointless spending money on a huge range of colours that I just won’t get the use out of. My tendency is to purchase boxes of around 30-40 in quantity, then buy the odd individual colour from an art shop that supplies the same brand in singles. I know I use lots of yellow, blue and green; so those are what I’d need to re-purchase or buy a wider colour selection of. Additionally, I would not fret about mixing brands, should an art shop not supply the exact type I currently own. Getting the colour I need in a quality pencil is key.
Again, this is where individual practice must be taken into account. What I am writing here is based on me and my practice, find what works for you personally.
Colour laydown is different with artist quality pencils. The vibrancy of colour alone, is a huge indication of a higher quality coloured pencil; as is the ease of which the colour arrives on the paper. Adding colour becomes effortless and utter joy. For me lightfast and smudge proof are a must; that said I wouldn’t compromise on colour for the sake of it, I’d seal the work after, if it was a problem.
Using coloured pencils, the way I use them at least, is similar to shading with standard pencils. The more you use them, the better your skills will become (as indeed will any art skills).
Let’s suppose I’m colouring the petals of a sunflower. You need to really look at the sunflower petal you’ll be drawing. Change the way you look, I don’t mean physically (although that can help), what you see must alter. This is no time to admire a delicate petal created by mother nature; now is the time to see only shape, form and colour tones. Focus on where the light catches and shadow is cast. (Tuning into shape and form sight, will help you draw and colour many things.)
Firstly, gathering all my yellows, plus white, orange and the lighter shades of brown. I would lay down light brown blended with orange, around the edge of the disk florets (centre of the flower). Pale yellows and white on the tip of the petal, and the deeper shades of yellows in the centre of the individual petals. Not in patchwork fashion though, with blobs of colour. Just slowly building up the colour intensity, by blending the colours to create light and shade, as well as the shape and form of the petal.
Just one attempt isn’t sufficed, keep using colour, keep practicing and develop your coloured pencil skills and techniques.
Would you like to develop your use of coloured pencils?