Colored Pencil Art: Shade Like a Pro

Shading techniques are important to know if you're drawing with colored pencils. Let's look at some quick tips for better colored pencil work, and then explore a few different shading techniques to take add to your drawing arsenal.

Use the Right Tools For the best work and reproduction, use quality materials. Drawing paper designed for pencil work, and colored pencils made from the best pigments will elevate the look of your work—and make it easier to do your best work.

Holding Your Pencil
There are basically two ways you can hold your pencil: at an angle, or straight up and down. Holding your pencil at an angle means using the side of the pencil, and straight up and down means drawing directly on the tip. There is no right or wrong way: choose how you hold your pencil based on the look you want. Shading with the side of the pencil covers more area faster, but makes the paper grain appear coarser, and the tonal range is more limited. Shading with the tip of the pencil lays down a denser layer of color, and the paper grain appears finer, but it takes longer because the strokes are narrower.

Applying Pressure
This is simple: The more pressure you apply with pencil to paper, the darker your stroke will be.

Hatching is shading with regular, evenly spaced parallel lines all in one direction; this helps you quickly add color while defining the direction of the shading pattern. This usually works best with the tip of the pencil.

Cross-hatching is hatching in two different directions in the same area. Commonly, the directions are at right angles, so the result look like a checkerboard, but you can vary the angle of the two hatching directions to create some very interested shading effects.

Scumbling is a shading technique achieved by overlapping lots of little circles. The texture created with this technique is determined by the size of the circles, and the pressure used on the pencil. Scumbling can also be created with more scribbly, spidery type lines, rather than neat little circles. The more circles in one place, the darker the pigment build up.

Stippling is placing lots of tiny dots in order to shade or color an area. The closer together the dots, the darker the area will appear, and the further away the dots, the lighter the area will appear. Note that there can be a big difference in dot size between a sharpened and an unsharp pencil.

Blend and Smudge

Blending stumps, or tortillons, are used to smudge and blend colored pencil with beautiful results. When worn down, just use a bit of sandpaper to re-sharpen!

Wax Bloom

Wax bloom is a white haze of wax that rises to the surface on heavily worked colored pencil drawings. To remove, wipe gently with a wad of cotton wool.