The Secret to Creating Vibrant Color with Colored Pencils


Ok, I think I’m onto something here. Those that know me know that I take things quite literally. I haven’t decided if that’s an asset or a flaw in my personality. However, when it comes to coloring that can get me into trouble. You see I follow the instructions closely. Very closely. And you know what I’ve recently discovered? There is one essential word missing from my colored pencil project tutorials. That word is REPEAT.

As a person that is addicted to learning, I will research a technique and then try to pull it apart to fully understand what it’s about and how it is to be used when I color. I can honestly say that I had not considered “layering colored pencil” as a technique to study, but maybe it should be next up on my list.


Before doing so let me share my current routine when coloring from a tutorial or class. I pull together the colored pencils called for on the project supply list, prepare my image and then start coloring. Following the instructions, which normally say something like “color this section with your blue, violet and blue green pencils”, I color the appropriate areas.

When I looked at what I just colored, I didn't stop to ask myself if it looked done or close to what I thought I should have on the paper. After all, the instructions told me to color and move along to the next step.

I guess I should have known to do an assessment and then repeat layering with the called-out colors until I got the desired result. Maybe others don't need instructions with their pencils, but I guess I did. Have you ever noticed the instructions on a shampoo bottle:

Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat

When I read that it made me laugh, like who doesn’t know how to shampoo their hair? Turns out it’s probably there for a reason! And had something similar been on my pencil box then I may have learned to create vibrant colors years sooner. So instead of laughing at the shampoo instructions, I'm going to modify it for my own coloring mantra so that eventually I naturally lay down multiple layers of the called for colors whenever I use my colored pencils.


I wish I still had the container my pencils came in to see if there were instructions on the side. If it did I missed it, if it didn't it might have looked like this and it would have been my mantra from the start:

  • Apply a layer of color

  • Assess

  • Repeat

By my example above using those three pencils, the blue, violet and blue green, by simply going back and adding additional layers of these colors resulted in much better coverage and more vibrant color then when I had just done one pass (layer) with each of these colors. For someone like me, it would have been extremely helpful to have heard or read that early in my coloring exploration. Ok, truth be told, I may have heard or read about this, but it took until now to have meaning for me.

I also know that as I add color to other areas of an image the newly introduced color can impact what is already on the paper. I do take the time when I’m finished (or think I am) with a project to assess the overall colors and tweak them if necessary. It will be interesting for me to see if I do less adjustments at the very end of my project when I consciously concentrate on building up my layers section by section as I color. I can’t wait to see, I’m off to try it now.

Oh, before I go, I just want to leave you with a few thoughts for you to think about when you are coloring. When you think you are done with a color, if you can still see the paper or the color is not as intense as you desire . . . add another layer(s) before moving on!

What's happening in the Corner . . .


Do you like to color images with people in them? Do you freeze when you get to the point you have to color skin? Don't know if you should approach coloring legs or arms different than a face, what colors to use, or even how to shade skin?


If so, come spend a month with us in the Corner while we will focus our coloring on skin. With practice, you can overcome the fear of coloring skin.


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