You can watch the video version of this article here:
There’s always four techniques I’m constantly thinking of when I’m drawing:
I teach these techniques in my workshop. They all form part of my process of creating a coloured pencil drawing from sketch to finished polished piece.
I would argue that layering is the most important fundamental technique, and is what ultimately brings a piece together. Layering builds up tone and colour, creates depth, and transforms a dull, flat drawing into a rich and realistic one that stands out.
The amount of layers depends on many factors: the materials being used, how much tooth the paper has, what you’re trying to achieve, personal preference, and how much patience you have!
Layering definitely takes patience, and is a big reason coloured pencil drawings can take such a longg time to do. I personally find the whole process super relaxing and therapeutic, which is why I love coloured pencils so much 🙂
Here are some photos showing each layer for this fish drawing (Faber-Castell Polychromos on Clairefontaine Pastelmat):
This was for one of my 4-hour workshops, so I decided to opt for 5 layers. I always do 5+ layers, I could have done more if I felt like it but stuck to 5 for the purpose of the workshop. Starting with very light pressure, I gradually increased the pressure with each layer until the final details.
Pastelmat has a LOT of tooth and allows for so many layers. Other papers can hold a different amount of layers – all comes down to trial and error and experimenting!
For me, blending means mixing two or more colours together to create a smooth and even appearance.
It happens naturally for me as I’m doing my light layers. With each layer, the colours naturally blend together a bit more. Some of my Polychromos blend better than others, it just comes down to experimenting and allowing room for making mistakes / trying new things without expectation.
Some people like to have a spare bit of paper next to them as they work to test out how colours look and blend before drawing on their actual piece – you might find this helpful!
I personally don’t use any blending aids and just prefer blending gradually via layering – some artists like to use a solvent like Zest-It or a colourless blending pencil to help.
Read my in-depth post about Burnishing here.
Burnishing literally means covering the surface / tooth of the paper with pigment so no paper shows through and no more layers can be done.
I think of it as ‘sealing in’ my layers once I’m happy with the depth and colours created. It’s what gives drawings a shine and a smooth finish.
Burnishing can happen naturally through layering if you get to a point where you can’t easily put down any more layers. Or you can get a coloured pencil or colourless blender and increase the pressure on a later layer to burnish quicker. Some artists like to use a paper stump or tortillion.
I only learnt this coloured pencil technique a few months ago! I have always done it instinctively for years, just didn’t know there was an actual term for it.
When you’ve done your layering, the colours are blended and you’re pretty happy with the overall piece, you can slightly tint or alter the colour of a section by glazing, as a finishing touch.