A Colored Pencil Tutorial
One of the advantages of colored pencil is in the ability to easily blend multiple colors together to achieve new colors and form seamless color changes. All it takes is a light hand and a little patience, and you can get some really beautiful results. Let’s get started with a basic red and a basic yellow; we’ll blend them together to create an orange color.
To practice the technique, first draw a long rectangle and divide it into three sections.
Practice Lesson 1: Create a New Color
Starting with red, very lightly color in the first and second cells. Then do the same with yellow, filling in the second and third cells. The important point here is to use a very light touch. The key to getting a nice even blend is to build up multiple layers gradually. Don’t try to add too much color at once, or you won’t get a smooth result. You’ll notice that the middle section will have a better saturation than the end cells, because you’ve added two layers in the middle. Add a light second layer to each end so all the cells have two layers.
You’ll notice in the above example, the red has been colored in with a stroke angling from top left to bottom right, and the yellow has an opposite angle from bottom left to top right. Changing the angle of your strokes on each layer helps achieve an even blend.
After adding the first layer, repeat these steps. Continue repeating for each layer until you have achieved a full saturation of the paper. Shown below are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th layers, plus the final result. I hurried a bit with this example, and didn’t change my stroke directions as often as I should have, so you can see the right-to-left strokes in the final image. As you’ll see in the other practice lessons, a little more care with each layer gives you a more even result.
Practice Lesson 2: Seamless Color Changes
Using the exact same technique as in Lesson 1, you can achieve a seamless blend from one color to another. For this practice, you want to pick two colors that are close together in hue. In this example, I used the same red as in Lesson 1, but switched the yellow out for an orange. The images below show the start, middle and end of the blending, but again I used about seven layers to achieve the blend. (Note: How many layers you need will depend in large part on the type of paper you are using. Some papers allow you to layer a lot more than others.)
I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re looking at the above images and thinking, “But Mary, while those colors are much closer to each other, there are still three distinct colors showing! I thought we were doing a seamless color blend!” It’s true. The blend above isn’t seamless. To do that, our orange would need to be much closer in value to the red, ore of an orange-red than a true orange. BUT, you *can* achieve a seamless blend from red to orange. You just need to use more colors.
Practice Lesson 3: Blending with Five Colors
As you can see in the image at left, I’ve chosen 5 colors. The first – PC-924 – is the same red that I’ve been using since Lesson 1, and the last – PC-918 – is the orange we’ve been using. The other three were chosen to slowly change hue from the dark red to the orange.
The technique is the same, except that you are dividing your area into more sections. Think of doing the exercise from the first two lessons, but doing it 4 times across the row. The pencils are the areas of solid color, with spaces between where you will blend two colors together. So for the five colors in this example, we’ll need nine sections in our practice row. I’ve marked these on the image below, which shows the completed blend with all five colors. That looks like a pretty seamless blend, right?
I hear you thinking hard again. “Mary, that’s all well and good if you have a hundred colors of pencils, but I just bought a 12-pack of pencils at the corner store, and I have one red and one orange. I can’t do a smooth transition like that!”
Yes, you can! I’ll show you how! Bring your red and your orange and follow along.
Practice Lesson 4: A Seamless Blend Using Only Two Colors
OK, the technique for this is slightly different, but uses the same principle of gradually building layers. I’ve marked approximately the same nine sections as we used with the 5-color blend, and numbered the section marks. For the first layer, you’re going to color with the red from the far left cell all the way to mark 8, leaving the last section uncolored. Then color with your orange starting at mark 1 all the way right. So the first cell is all red, and the last cell is all orange. Remember to use a very light stroke for each layer!
For the next layer, again do red from far left, but only go as far as mark 7. Then the same with orange, but starting at mark 2. Can you see where this is going? For each layer, you repeat the same steps, but subtract one section from the area you color.
- Layer three will be red to mark 6 and orange from mark 3.
- Layer four is red to mark 5 and orange from mark 4.
- Layer five is red to mark 4 and orange from mark 5.
At this point, you’ll notice that after completing layer five, you haven’t colored the section between marks 4 and 5. To complete the layer, color the middle section with both red and orange.
- For layer six, color with red to mark 3, orange from mark 6, and color with both red and orange between marks 3 and 6.
- For layer seven, color with red to mark 2, orange to mark 7, and both colors between marks 2 and 7.
- Finally, for layer 8, color the first section red and the last section orange. Depending on your paper, you may need to use both colors between marks 1 and 8. If it’s already saturated, you can skip that part.
At this point, you should have a completed blend going from dark red on the left to orange on the right, as shown below, using only one red and one orange pencil.
To end, here’s an example from an actual coloring page – using Olivia Julia Dunggat’s design “Bungai terung” from this issue. I used 3 colors of pink – from a dark, almost purple shade to a bright neon pink on the flower – with our familiar dark red for the middle spiral. I also did some two-color shading on the outer sections of each leaf, with a darker green at the base and a brighter green at the tip. As you can see, the shading is more subtle in smaller areas. You can do shading with more colors in small areas, but it requires a lot of patience and a very sharp pencil!
I hope this encourages you to try blending with colored pencil!