Coloring 101: Blending Two Colors

Coloring 101: Blending Two Colors

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.

blend-practice1a

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.

blend-practice1b

blend-practice1c

blend-practice1d

blend-practice1e

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.)

blend-practice2a

blend-practice2c

blend-practice2d

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

5-colorsAs 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?

blend-practice3b

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!

blend-practice4a

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.

blend-practice4b

rosesTo 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!

3 Comments for “Coloring 101: Blending Two Colors”

Tammy

says:

I’m with Margie! I’d love to learn “how” to color. I was terrible at art as a child-and even now. I would appreciate learning how to color. Are you familiar with Peta Hewitt? If not, she has done some coloring videos, and the ones that help me most are the ones done at real life speed (not sped up). For example, she did a coloring video with one of Johanna Basford’s drawings, the duck pond, where she told the colors she was using, and then you could color along with her. My duck pond turned out ok, and I learned a lot, but I’d love to learn more.
You (or someone associated with the site) could take a certain picture-perhaps even a web freebie from a well known author that people could print out even if they didn’t have the specific book. I’d love a real time walk through, showing how to build up layers, shading (“we’ll use these colors in this leaf and blend them together” (with the pencils themselves, a blending pencil, or even OMS)), honestly, just someone who can do really pretty coloring showing the rest of us HOW we, too, can make that happen. It’s good that some people are willing to talk about how they do it, but I’m a better visual learner. I’ve watched the speed colorings from Kourtney Farro, Claire, Peta Hewitt, and others, but that’s not helpful to me-I need to be talked through what a person is doing, too.
Sorry for the long essay, but that would be my dream. Lol. I’ve even been looking for a class similar to this, but the classes on using color pencils seem to mostly focus on how to draw instead of how to color. If anyone knows of a class or videos along this line, I’d love to know about them; if someone were willing to do classes or videos like this, I feel sure there would be a great response. Thank you.

Margie Christian

says:

I was wondering if you could teach people HOW to color. I noticed the way I color is a bit uneven in what I choose to color. I have carpal tunnel so I don’t know if that could be the problem. Any suggestions?

says:

Margie, if you have carpal tunnel, you might find markers easier to use than colored pencils. Also, with colored pencils, you don’t have to use heavy pressure to get good coverage, as long as you are willing to spend more time on it. Light pressure, with multiple layers, will build up the same vibrancy of color. It just takes longer. And you might find it easier to control where you lay the color if you are using a lighter pressure.

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