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Colored Pencil Basics

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.


Craft Uses For Colored Pencils

If you are a stamper, card maker, scrapbook artist. journal maker, or mixed media artist, then colored pencils should be part of your stash. While some sets can be pricey ,there are very reasonable alternatives. They are an investment that will yield back hours of fun and craft enjoyment.

So the obvious use would be on coloring books ! Those of us who love to color, love the idea that colored pencils can be more forgiving than markers.Unlike markers, you do have a chance to erase if you color lightly enough.

Stamped images are another place where colored pencils can be an effective tool. You don't have to use any special inks if you are using colored pencils.You don't have to be concerned that any inks will run over the image.

Digi images can also be completed with colored pencils. It's the perfect way to get a great deal of detail with very few supplies.

You know those little tiny stamped images, we all love. They are often very difficult to color. With a sharpened colored pencil, you can get into the tiniest spaces and still shade and blend.

I have the Cricut Design Space program. There are a lot of images to print and color. I love to spend time grabbing my pencils and have a ball making cards and images for my art journals.

Other Reasons Why Colored Pencils Are Good For Crafters

  • They are very portable-you can carry a small pouch of colored pencils when you travel or just every day.I get tired waiting in my doctor's office. I love to have a small book and a few pencils to pass the time away.Perfect for a plane trip too.
  • They are not expensive-yes there are expensive if you invest in real artists pencils, but there are plenty of sets that are not that expensive. Several pencils come as singles. So you can try them out. Do your research and decide how much you are willing to spend. The only thing that I would tell you is that if you start out with a really cheap set, your results may meet your expectations.
  • They are easy to learn -unlike other markers and pens, colored pencils are relatively easy to learn. With a few blending techniques you can get good results. If you want to go further, you can learn some additional techniques to take you even further.

Masking tape can be used to hold down your paper while you work on your projects

Small Girl For Scrapbook Page


Free Colored Pencil Classes

  • Free Colored Pencil Classes
    There are about 9 different classes that you can take on this page
  • FREE Copic Coloring Class
    Beginners Copic Class with tutorials on Blending, Shading, Skin, Hair, and Lightsource. Includes Spectrum Noir, Promarker, and other Alcohol Marker brands!
Colored pencils are far more forgiving than other mediums when coloring stamped images

Colored pencils are far more forgiving than other mediums when coloring stamped images

Where To Get Free Images

There is a wealth of free images for you to harvest for your own use, if you know where to find them. For the most part, these images are for non commercial use. That means that you cannot use them to make things to sell. Many of these images are covered under what is called an Angel Policy.

The first way to search for images is to go to your favorite browser and type in the kind of image you would like to see. You could specify flowers or specify the type of flower you are looking for.So you could specify daises-images to color. Next go the the images and download the images that you would like. Print them on your computer and you are all set.

If you have a machine like a Cricut, or a Scan and Cut, you have a wealth of images and projects where you can use your colored pencils. For Cricut users, there are over 30,000 images many of them just for coloring. Some you can print and also cut them in the Cricut computer program. Take time to browse your machine's system. You may be surprised at what you find.

Finally, do not overlook any stamp sets that you might have. Stamping is fun and coloring images with your colored pencils is both relaxing and rewarding. If you have the matching die set, you can get a perfectly colored and cut image.

Free images sized correctly and colored with your colored pencils can be used for all kinds of paper crafts. Think about greeting cards, art journals, altered books, planners, and scrapbook pages.

You will need to print them on good card stock or water color paper, depending on what you plan to do with the finished project.

Free Coloring Pages


Types Of Colored Pencils

There are basically two types of colored pencils.

Oil Based Colored Pencils

The oil based pencil is harder and does not have the waxy feel. Their cores have a thick coating which helps to prevent breakage. They don't leave the waxy crumbs on the paper that the wax pencils do.

  • Faber-Castel Polychromos colored pencils are recommended for their high quality. They are available in different size collections or as singles.
  • Polychromos colored pencils have a hard core. 120 colors are available in sets and as singles.
  • Caran d'Ache Pablo colored pencils, if you want pencils that feel softer and creamier- more like waxed based colored pencils- than Faber-Castell brand. See the color chart for this collection
  • Lyra Rembrandt PolyColor are available in 72 colors. The consistency is a cross between a Pablo and Polychromos pencil. in a set of 120 colors.

Wax Based Colored Pencils

Wax based pencils are the most common types of pencils on the market. The core inside the pencil casings contain pigments bound by wax. The drawings have a creamy texture as a result. The downside to wax pencils is that they are very prone to breakage and wear down quickly.

  • Prismacolor They contain high wax and blend very smoothly. They are best known for their creamy and soft consistency. The drawbacks are that they require frequent sharpening, since they wear down and break easily. They also create bloom, a thin, powdery film of wax that appears on the surface after application. Prismacolor Premier is their artist grade line. It has 150 colors. Verithin pencils have the hardest, thinnest and lowest wax content cores of any colored pencil. They are valuable for producing layouts, cleaning up edges and working for small areas.
  • Derwent Pencils have thick cores and are available in 72 color ranges. They are moderately hard. The artists pencils are available in a set of 120. Their studio pencils come in a set of 72 or you can buy them in smaller boxes. Not as bright as the Prismacolor or Polychromos. See the Derwent Color Range
  • Spectrum Noir come in five tins with 24 colors in each tin. Each tin is sold separately. They are considered a wax and oil blend. There are 120 colors are available. Each tin has a complete family of colors that are meant to blend seamlessly. See the Spectrum Noir Color Chart

Water Soluble Colored Pencils

The strength of these pencils is that you can blend them with water

  • Faber-Castell Albrecht Duerer water-soluble colored pencils come in a range of 120 colors. They are the only brand in this category that completely dissolve when water is added.
  • Caran d'Ache Supercolor II soft pencils have the same 120 color range and have the softest cores of any water soluble colored pencils. They dissolve nicely when water is added.
  • Caran d'Ache Neocolor II resemble crayons, but are are highly pigmented wax pastels. The texture is creamy, intense, and dissolves easily. Because of their high waxy content, you can only sharpen them by hand.
  • Lyra Rembrandt-Aquarell pencils have the same core hardness as the Lyra Polycolor oil-based line.
  • Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils come in 36 colors that match the popular Premier colors. However, these watercolor pencils have a drier and chalkier feel.

Other Non Classified Colored Pencils

  • Chameleon Color Tones have 50 shades in 25 pencils. That is to say that each pencil has two colors that enable you to shade without too much thought. Considered artist quality pencils, I could see only one drawback to these. You may run out of your favorite colors fast, and they are not replaceable as singles. Still a good idea for those who don't color very much. They are reasonably priced

Colored Pencil Brands

Name Of BrandNumber Of Pencils Per PackProsConsPrice Point

Steadtler Ergosoft

24 in standup easel

Non slip grip , Uses .3mm lead

Wears down quickly. Not the smoothest for coloring


Colorit Premium Colored Pencils For Adults

48 colors in the pack in a travel case

Vivid color pigments

Some of the cores are not centered making them difficult to sharpen

Not available. Will update

Cra-Z-art Colored Pencils


Nice amount of colors. Good for school use

Not great for blending, Not the most vibrant colors


Crayola Colored Pencils


Good for artists at any level

Some pigment colors are difficult to get in the tooth of the paper. More prone to breaking,


Creative Art Materials Caran d'arch Luminescent Colored Pencils


Easy to blend and layer. Pigment is intense. Very smooth and fade resistant

Colors may feel more like pastels


Derwent Colored Pencils

24 per pack. Different color packs available, Total of 72 different colors in the collection

Break resistant. Packaged in a tin. Colors are vibrant and bright.

Little more expensive to blend

$34.19 per pack

Faber- Castell Polychromos Artists Colored Pencils

120 colors in the pack. There are other packs with less colors available,

Resistant to breakage, Very fade resistant. Easy to blend

Pencils are not as soft or smooth as others

$205.50- There are other combinations available

Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils

24 colors in a pack with an easel stand

Designed for beginners, Highly pigmented smooth and soft colors

Not highly break resistant


Sargant 12 Pack Colored Pencils

12 per pack- up to 52 colors available

Designed more for children's use. Has 3.3mm lead that will cover larger areas quickly.

Not really designed for any type of serious coloring


It comes down to personal preferance

It comes down to personal preferance

Making The Decision-Wax Based Vs Oil Based Colored Pencils

Before making a decision on which colored pencils to buy there are a few things to consider. Things that will make your crafting easier and a more pleasant experience. Here are a few things to consider before you make your colored pencil purchase.

Wax Based Pencils-The Pros

  1. Wax based pencils are generally easier to erase.than oil based pencils
  2. They are a softer pencil than the oil based version.
  3. They layer nicely and burnish quickly
  4. They are easy to blend, layer, and mix
  5. They are more reasonably priced than the oil based pencils

Wax Based Pencils- The Cons

  1. The waxy binder can evaporate over a period of time This creates a waxy film that can be removed with a damp cloth,
  2. Since they are softer the core tends to break easier

Oil Based Pencil- Pros

  1. Are harder than wax pencils so they tend to break less often
  2. They keep a sharper point for a longer period of time
  3. Do not have the waxy bloom that the other pencils produce.

Oil Based Pencil- Cons

  1. Are pricier than the wax based pencils

In the end, it all depends on how much you want to spend and how far you want to take your art. It is a personal choice.

Watercolor pencils are popular in paper crafts. You get the advantage of water coloring with less mess

Watercolor pencils are popular in paper crafts. You get the advantage of water coloring with less mess

Shopping For Colored Pencils

Be a smart shopper ! Since you are going to make an investment, do it the smart way. Once you have decided the brands you are interested in, ask google. Type best prices on......(whatever brand you are researching) . Compare prices in different locations. Factor in shipping costs too !

When starting out or changing brands of colored pencils, start small if you can. Buy a couple of compatable colors to the ones that you own, Use the pencils to see which ones that you like as you use them.

Buy in sets whenever possible. You will generally get a better price in sets rather than buying individual. Some colors will get used more than others, so those should be bought as individual replacement pencils.

Often your craft box stores will have sales on the best pencils. If they will accept those lovely 40% coupons, then go for it !

Watch around the going back to school sales. They will often have sales on colored pencils then too

How To Hold Your Colored Pencil

There are different pressures that you can use to create different color tones of the same color. Generally speaking, there are three types of pressure that you can use. There is a light pressure, a medium pressure and a heavy pressure. If you tend to put a "death grip" like I do on your pencils, then you can learn to control your pencil easily. For a light touch or tone, color with your pencil, holding it at the farthest edge of the pencil away from the point. For a medium tone or color, hold the pencil at the midpoint of it. For a darker tone, hold the pencil closer to the point.

Tip For Coloring Stamped Images

Colored pencils are one of the slower mediums to color with, but the results can be fantastic ! You want to start off with slow small circles in the area that you are coloring. Small circles give you the best blending with no visable lines.

While there are times where you want to see lines like when you are coloring fur, the circle ,method is still the best blending technique.

Start with the lightest shade of the color that you are working with. Then add the next color shade or one deeper to add shadows and definition.

Always color with a very sharp point to get the best blending

More Tips On Coloring With Colored Pencils

Simple Colored Pencil Strokes

With just a few simple strokes, you can create a special piece of art

With just a few simple strokes, you can create a special piece of art

Colored Pencil Strokes

There are many ways to use strokes in colored pencils.

One theory is to use simple tiny overlapping circles when you color.This is called srumbling

The side to side stroke is a simple back and forth line. More than likely this is the kind of coloring you learned as a child. Layers are built up with strokes that all go in the same direction.

Hatching is similar as all the lines are parallel in the same direction but these lines are created by lifting the pencil after each stroke and then placing down again to begin each new line. Hatching lines can be close or far apart and anything in between.

Cross-hatching is a variation of hatching that combines two or more overlapping layers of hatching lines. Each layer is simply drawn in a different direction. This technique is used to create shading, as well as interesting textures.

Colored Pencil Techniques


Sharpening Your Pencils

There are many things to consider when sharpening your colored pencils, After all, you have made an investment in this tools, and will want to get the most out of them. You need a very sharp point to color fine areas on stamped images and coloring pages. Not sharpening your pencils correctly will only result in frustration. Not to mention the cost of replacing pencils.

Hand Sharpening

Some pencils are very hard, while others have a softer core. Some have a harder wax core, while others have a softer oil core. Some cores are thicker, while others are thinner.

If you have a pencil that is difficult to sharpen or is brittle, sharpen them with a coarse sandpaper instead

Always rotate or twist the pencil rather than rocking it back and forth.If you are sharpening correctly and if your sharpener is sharp, you will produce a long round shaving.

After sharpening your pencils, run them through the bristles a fine paintbrush or makeup brush. That will assure that there will be no stray crumbs to get on your work

Electric Sharpening

If you like to use an electric pencil sharpener, don’t forget to clean it out regularly. The colored pencil residue can stick to the internal blades which can affect performance and potentially cause more broken cracked points. If you have a hard time accessing the blade, try using duster and giving the internals a good spray. This will help to knock off any lead that is sticking to the blade or other moving parts.

Best Colored Pencil Sharpener

Does Paper Matter With Colored Pencils?

In a way, it really does. For starters, you want to use some acid free paper, even for cards. You also want some paper that will hold the pigment. So if you use copy paper, the paper will not hold the pigment well and you will not get the results that you are looking for. It is too smooth and the pencil will crumble on it

Select a paper specifically for colored pencils. You need a paper that has peaks and valleys in it to hold the pigment. You want a paper that has some texture to hold your pigment. You also need a good weight paper. The heavier weight papers will hold the pigment better. If you are using solvents, you will also need a heavier weight paper so that the paper doesn't warp.

Watercolor papers can be also used for wax and oil based colored pencils. Based on the tooth difference, there are three kinds of watercolor paper: hot-press, cold- press and rough papers.

Use rough watercolor paper to create textures with colored pencils. It is also the most resilient paper for erasing, both wet and dry. One drawback is that it can easily wear down colored pencil points.

Hot-press papers are very smooth and thus less forgiving to work with. Their tooth is fine and shallow, yet harder and more water resistant than other watercolor papers. These papers don't tolerate repeated layering of colors or much correction, whether dry or wet. They are not ideal as colored pencil paper.

Making Color Swatches

It is important to have color swatches to refer to, especially if you have more than one type of colored pencils as I do.

Why would you want to have color swatches?

  • You may want to mix colors from two different sets of pencils and you will have a reference to turn to
  • You may not have all the colors in a particular set, so this way you will know what you have
  • You may have to replace a pencil from a set and need to know the name or number
  • Makes blending easier

Everyone Needs Pencil Grips

Paper Stumps


Tips For Using Paper Stumps (Tortillions)

Paper stumps are an essential tool when you are doing any kind of coloring with colored pencils.

  • An easy method to mix colors without making a huge mess is to buy some paper stumps and dip them in turpentine. Next, scribble some colors you want to experiment with on to a piece of paper and then use the paper stump as sort of a brush to mix the colors. It will give you a better idea of the color dynamics you have to work with without potentially sabotaging your actual work.

Easy Colored Techniques For Crafters

How To Blend Colored Pencils

There are solvents that help you blend colored into a very smooth image, so that you do not see any of the lines.

Gamsol is the most popular. It is an odorless mineral spirits. It gives you a very smooth blend. You can apply it with a very small synthetic brush or with a paper blender stick. Use it very sparingly. If you use too much, it will remove a lot of the pigment. Keep a paper towel handy

Dry Blending -This is the most basic blending. You simply use a small piece of paper toweling to blend the color on the paper. Use the smooth side for lighter blends and the rougher side for heavier blends.

Colorless Pencil Blenders are made by both Prismacolor and Caran d Ache.They are white pencils made to help blend colored pencils

Paper Stumps are made from rolled up papers . They are inexpensive, but do not blend as well as the gamsol

Baby Oil-You can use cotton swabs for applying baby oil as a blending solution. Make sure that you do not have too much baby oil on your applicator.

You can also use paper towels to blend your pencil projects

As an alternative to solvent, try rubbing alcohol. It's not as effective as regular solvent, but can work in a pinch

Types Of Erasers


What You Need To Know About Erasers

There comes a time in everyone's coloring that they will need an eraser. None of us are perfect for sure. Here are some erasers that you should have on hand, not just for colored pencils , but for all your crafting.

  1. Rubber Eraser-You probably know these erasers more than any other. They are at the end of most pencils. They are also the pink erasers that most kids carry to school. They are used to remove graphite pencil marks from your projects. The Pink Pearl is the most well known rubber eraser.
  2. Gum Eraser-These are also made of rubber, but are softer than the more common rubber eraser. They crumble as you use them. That is what they are made to do. Those crumbs help absorb graphite pencil. They do not tend to rip your paper as other erasers might. They won;t last as long as the Pink Pearl, but they sure are easier on your paper. Most often they are brown in color.
  3. Kneaded Rubber Eraser-It's soft, flexible and manufactured in different shapes. They work by lifting pigment off the surface-especially graphite and charcoal. This eraser , unlike others, does not leave any smears.You can actually form this eraser into a fine point to get it exactly where you want it. To clean it, you simply stretch it over itself and knead it together.
  4. Pencil Erasers (erasils)-These tools are made out of vinyl and come in the form of a pencil. They can be sharpened with a pencil sharpener to a fine point. You need to remember to wipe the point clean often. They can do damage to paper, so they must be used carefully.
  5. Electric Eraser-This is a popular alternative to other erasers, but you will need to take time to learn how to use it. You can apply some solvent and erase that way or use as is. Follow the manufacturers recommendations.


Storing Colored Pencils

For some of us who need to see our supplies, storing our colored pencils means that we like to see them in a cup or container.

But if your manufacturer or supplier has sent your pencils in a flat tin, it is best to store them in that tin. That will help to prevent breakage.

You can also store your colored pencils in a soft padded carrier made for pencils. It you drop them, the padding will mean there will be less chance of cores or pencil breakage.

No matter how you decide to store your colored pencils, make sure that they are not dropped. Dropping your colored pencils may cause problems with breakage when you sharpen them.

More Colored Pencil Technique Guides

My Favorite Colored Pencil Tips

  • For sensitive areas such as whiskers or eyelashes, try impressing into the paper before adding the color. These grooves capture color much easier and can help to make the whiskers or lashes stand out when surrounded by other colors. The tip of a closed pen or mechanical pencil without lead is good for pushing down on paper to make these impressions.
  • If you are trying to draw fur that runs right to left and is right-handed, try flipping the paper upside down. This can make it much easier to accomplish and result in a much more realistic fur. Similarly, if you are trying to draw fur that runs left to right and are left-handed do the same thing.

Fun Crafts With Colored Pencils

Our favorite fun crafts with colored pencils

Our favorite fun crafts with colored pencils

Fun Crafts You Can Make With Colored Pencils

So Here's The Bottom Line On Colored Pencils

Who needs colored pencils:

  1. Stampers
  2. Card makers
  3. Coloring book lovers
  4. Bullet Journal makers
  5. Scrapbook artists
  6. Mini scrapbook makers

What can you expect to pay for decent colored pencils?

Anywhere from $23 on up depending on the quality of the pencil that you want. There are very cheap sets, but you won't get the results that you want from them

Can You Learn Colored Pencil Techniques?

There are many opportunities to learn how to use them on line or you can take a class

What Are Your Thoughts About Colored Pencils?

We would like to hear your thoughts and experiences on colored pencils. What brand do you favor? How often do you use them? What have been your experiences?

© 2017 Linda F Correa


Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on July 19, 2017:

I love using my colored pencils for all kinds of craft projects. Thanks for your kind comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 18, 2017:

Thank you very much for sharing this information. Drawing is one of my hobbies. I've used the Prismacolor and Derwent pencils as well as the paper stump and the colorless pencil blender, but the other materials that you describe are new to me. I'm looking forward to exploring them!

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