Colored Pencil

Colored Pencil

If you’ve had some experience drawing, but haven’t tried colored pencil, you might be surprised at what a great medium it is.

The image of the Golden Retriever is only about 3 x 4 inches in size. The other two images were done on paper that was approximately 9 x 12. I have an electric pencil sharpener and keep my pencils needle sharp so the very tip gets into the tiny pockets of texture that are in the paper. If you don’t, the pigment will sort of skip across the surface, leaving tiny blank spots.

I also work with my pencil held nearly vertical and work in small (very small) circles of motion and a very light pressure. As with watercolor painting, you want to work light and with each pass through, the color will become a bit darker. Continue this until its the look you want. Its good to do a very light preliminary coat across the whole project and then go back and repeat until its what you want.


I use gray paper (I like Canson MiTients and Black Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper). For colored pencils, I have two brands. I use Prismacolor when I want to use wax-based pigment and Rembrandt or Derwent for oil based pigment.

Wax Based

Wax based pencils, with each pass or layer, build up thin layers of wax and eventually no more pigment can be added. Its as if your pencil tip just sort of slides across the surface, leaving nothing behind. The layer will look shiny. You can spray fixative on the art and you can add more pigment. This has a limited amount of success. You wouldn’t be able to add lots more layers.

Oil Based

Oil based colored pencils have a different feel to them. You apply them the same way, but they don’t lay down thin layers of wax. A side-benefit is that you can dip the tip of the pencil into some paint thinner and it will let you, if you work quickly, do a few strokes of pigment as if its oil paint.

My Preference

All that being said, I do work with the wax based pencils the most. I’ve learned how they work and I have had a lot of success with them.


I prefer to use an electric sharpener. Using a hand held sharpener adds the possibility of tilting the pencil as your sharpening it. This can lead to broken lead. Its difficult to hold the pencil perfectly straight and be turning it at the same time.