Whether you consider your colored pencil obsession a hobby or a job, these 5 terms will be sure to take your colored pencil talk from okay to seriously sounding like you know what you’re talking about.

Bonus: there’s some pretty cool techniques in here that’ll burnish you drawing game. (you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

1958 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible Drawing by © Art By Safanah 2018


1. Layering

You’ve probably heard this one before, but chances are it hasn’t exactly been used in the right context. Layering colored pencils refers to using a very light hand, using several shades of the same hue to gradually darker/lighten the color you are using. Each color is layered slightly on top of the other in order to get a seamless transition. Because of how simple this technique is, it’s great for beginners.

2. Burnishing

Meaning to polish or finish off something to make it shiny and smooth. Although different artist use different methods to burnish, it is essentially another blending technique, with layering at its core. You could call it layering on steroids. In order to achieve a polished, glossy look with your colored pencils, you’ll need to use tons of layers along with a medium to heavy hand in order to make sure no paper is showing through. This is the technique I love using as it creates a very impressionistic effect. You can use the layering technique of gradual darkening to slowly build the burnished effect.

3. Shading

We’ve all heard this word a thousand times, but in relation to realistic drawing, let’s give it a more proper definition, shall we? Shading refers to “the arrangement of light and shadow to create the illusion of form” I don’t know about you but ‘the illusion of form’ is oddly satisfying as to me it finally gives me a break from overusing the word ‘realistic’!

4. Scumbling

This is one of my favorites, but it’s not for the weak. Something that can dramatically take away from the realism of your piece is those gosh-darn streaks. Applying too heavy of a hand on one streak or generally having them uneven (which is most likely to happen) takes away from the quality of the piece and is just plain frustrating. To avoid such disasters, scumbling saves the day. It refers to applying the colored pencil with a very sharp tip and drawing tiny, seamless and infinitely looped circles to slowly build up the color and shade range. This requires a lot of patience (hence it’s not for the weak) but it can completely change the appearance or your drawing from streaky-not-so-realistic to polished and seamless.

Warning: Careful not to make the circles too large, as you’ll end up with the same streak problem, just in a different shape. AND make sure to keep sharpening you pencil!

5. Incising

One of the most savvy techniques of all, this one doesn’t even involve colored pencils…at first. As you might find, creating a very thin line you’d like to keep white can be very difficult with such waxy, soft pencils. This quick tip can make those fine lines impossibly thin:

  1. Place a piece of transfer paper on top of your drawing paper (it’s best to use a slightly spongy paper for this, but paper’s a whole other post)
  2. With a mechanical pencil or pen, draw the lines on the transfer paper.
  3. Remove the transfer paper and begin shading with your colored pencils on top. You’ll notice because the lines are indented, as long as you aren’t heavy-handed, the incision lines should remain blank.

Did any of these colored pencil terms surprised you? Is this your first time hearing some of these words? Leave a comment letting me know!

Related: Colored Pencil Drawing | 5 Common Realistic Drawing Mistakes

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4 thoughts on “Terms and Techniques Every Colored Pencil Artist Should Know | Colored Pencil Drawing Techniques

  1. I was familiar with all of these terms except ‘scumbling’, although I have been using that technique for a while anyway.
    Thank you for taking the time to write all of these down and make them understandable. I appreciate you and all that you do.

  2. I am very familiar with most terms as I have been coloring for three years now and love it and I just; love the work you do. Realism is so much fun.

  3. I am a beginner at color pencil art would like to get some basic tips on how to start and where to start.
    You r so good at it and i have seen a lot of peice and i am interested in learning how do

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