Layering tips for your coloured pencil art

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When I first started out with coloured pencils, it was layering the colours that I found the most difficult. Over the years I have watched numerous YouTube videos and read lots of blogs on layering techniques and tips and practised a lot. So, for the purpose of this blog post I want to share with you the tips that have worked best for me.

So here they are, in no particular order of importance.

1/ Using too much pressure too soon will flatten the tooth of the paper and it will be hard to add more layers to it.

This was one of my problems at first. I was layering the colour much too hard and I was only getting about three layers of colours down until it got difficult to add more. It was really frustrating and I didn’t realise that it was all about the pressure.

2/ Start from the lightest colours to the darkest. this helps to eliminate the possibility of getting darker pigment onto the lightest parts of the drawing. It can be so annoying when this happens as most of the time it cannot be fixed easily

3/ Start with a light application of layers and build up slowly to more pressure. When you get used to using the lightest of layers you will begin to notice a change in the feel of the pigment on the paper. At first you will be able to feel the tooth of the paper, almost like a scratchy feel. But as you build up more layers it feels smoother and you will know when it is time to blend.

4/ A sharp pencil is a must.

Make sure your pencil is super, super sharp. I have tried so many sharpeners in the past and they have never given me a good enough result. Either the pencil lead would break while sharpening or it wasn’t getting sharp enough. I have now found the perfect sharpeners that do what I expect from them.

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The Derwent Superpoint is the one that I use most often but when my pencils are too short for that I use the Derwent pastel.

You need to have a sharp pencil for every layer of colour that you put down. For most of the layers you ideally should be using the side of the pencil and keeping it sharp as you can gives you the desired effect.

5/ Study your reference image closely.

It may look, at first glance to consist of just three or four colours. But when you look carefully you will see a lot more. BUT DON’T COMPLICATE THINGS BY CHOOSING WAY TOO MANY.

I usually choose 2-3 light tones, 2-3 mid tones and 2-3 dark tones that match the image colours. This helps give your drawing more depth when blending the colours out.

6/ Hold your pencil right.

When adding those important light layers you don’t want to be adding to much pressure. Holding your pencil further up the barrel will help and stop you from being too heavy handed. You can’t get this sort of control if you try and and layer holding your pencil close to the nib.


7/ Using lots of light layers will eventually fill in all the tooth (no white bits showing through), resulting in a more saturated look. Think of it as each layer of colour gently whispering to the paper. That is how light you should be.

8/ Small, light circular strokes is the best technique to use when building up layers so as not to create noticeable edges and stop start lines (unless you want that effect) You can use other strokes too but it depends on the drawing and the effect you want. For example, when drawing fur, hair grass etc.

9/ Always choose the right paper for your drawing methods. Trust me this makes a huge difference in how your art will look.

So think of it like this: The more tooth means more layers = better saturation.


The paper should be heavy enough to take many layers of colour. Smooth enough to get some details in, but have enough tooth to be able to get a good amount of layers in

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