Using colour as a coloured pencil artist

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I have been a coloured pencil artist for a number of years and I am still learning everyday.

In the past, if I wanted a specific colour (like spring green or apple green) and I didn’t have that shade, I would just order it online. But lately I have been immersing myself in everything “Colour Theory”.

It is such a complex subject and I have still have so much to learn.

Carrie Lewis sums it up perfectly in an article titled: “Understanding the basics of colour theory” She says:

” In short, colour theory is a fancy phrase that describes how colours relate to and influence one another. All an artist really needs to know is which colours to mix to get the desired result, and how colours react to each other when placed side by side

Carrie L Lewis

So here is what I have learnt about colour theory as it relates to coloured pencil art.

1/ Instead of mixing colours like you would with watercolours or acrylics you would create those blends by layering colours on top of each other.

2/ Colour the colours that you see, not what you think from memory. If you want to create realistic drawings, don’t just rely on your programmed memory that, for example, a leaf is green. Look closely at that leaf. Is it really just one shade of green and no other colours?

3/ The terminology that stands out for me and that I want to remember are:

  • value – how light or dark the colour is
  • Hue – a fancy word for colour
  • Tint = colour + white
  • Shade = colour + black

4/ When shading to make a colour darker, don’t just grab a black pencil. Use the opposite colour on the colour wheel.

For example, to darken a red naturally, you would darken it with a green

Notice that red and green are opposite each other on the colour wheel


  • Not getting the right value – either too black or too white
  • Relying on colour memory, eg. thinking a leaf is just green, the sky is just blue, sand is yellow etc
  • Making colours too saturated – this is very rare in real life ( if you want to create realistic art ). Most vibrant, saturated colours are man made.
  • Muddying colours – using too many different colours.

I hope this simple explanation of using colour as a coloured pencil artist has helped you. I am still in the learning process of this, but as my knowledge grows I will write a more in depth blog post on the subject.

In the meantime come and join my FREE Facebook group: Coloured pencils help and community

If you are new to coloured pencils then my coloured pencil artists beginner kit checklist is ideal for you.

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