Frustrated with your attempts at creating rich, lifelike colored pencil drawings that rival paintings? Perhaps I can help you over that hurdle by sharing what I found to be the best resources for learning colored pencil.
Several years ago I became enamored with what several artists were calling “Colored Pencil Paintings”. These were so boldly colored and so beautifully rendered that I couldn’t help but stop and stare. These weren’t the typical illustrative style drawings or the scribblings of children. These were so much more than that and I just had to try it myself!
I went out and bought a small set of Prismacolor pencils, grabbed a sheet of paper and went to work. I knew nothing about the materials or the techniques those other artists were using. I was just guessing. And so, when the colors weren’t as bold as those in the artworks I so admired, I simply increased pressure. The results were not stellar!
And so began my quest for any and all information I could find about colored pencils as an artists’ medium. There is a lot of information out there if you have the time to look for these colored pencil resources. I truly enjoyed the search and still do. I’m sharing my favorite resources here as a starting point for you. Hopefully, these are as useful to you as they were to me.
Books taught me drawing in the first place, so naturally my search for colored pencil information began here. There are many books out there that do little to explain the materials and techniques, but fortunately I did find a few that went into depth. The best by far in my view is The Colored Pencil Painting Bible by Alyona Nichelsen. This book provides a lot of exercises that go a long way to help you get familiar with the pencils you own and teach you multiple techniques to achieve different looks and textures. I promise, reading this book and doing the exercises along the way well arms you for your next piece!
Once you have some knowledge under your belt, it might be helpful to do a tutorial or two. Some really cool tutorial kits are available that can help you get more familiar with colored pencil or explore a new technique. My favorite place to find these is on Ann Kullberg’s website. She offers a lot of tutorial kits by many top notch colored pencil artists with a range of complexity that would suit anyone. You choose how you want to receive the tutorials – whether its a simple PDF download or a beautifully printed booklet including a list of material needed, step by step instructions and a reference photo. Some even include the option to purchase relevant materials along with them (such as a special paper that is featured in the tutorial).
I know of two magazines completely dedicated to Colored Pencil. First – Color Magazine published by Ann Kullberg. Second – Colored Pencil Magazine. Both are loaded with valuable information about colored pencil materials and techniques. Both are highly inspiring and have been key to my growth as a colored pencil artist. It is really difficult for me to choose one over the other as a favorite, but one feature of Colored Pencil Magazine does give it an edge for me. That is, it runs a monthly drawing contest.
Each month this magazine selects a photo and challenges its readers to create their own interpretation of this image in a colored pencil piece. The magazine selects a winner every month in each of two categories: Beginner and Advanced. For a full year, I participated in this competition. Although there is a prize for the winners, that wasn’t really what I was after with this competition. For me, it was an excuse to try new things. During this time I worked on subject matter that I wouldn’t have thought to try on my own (and thoroughly enjoyed them). Each month I also introduced either a new material or a new technique to my work. Nothing does more to help you grow than practice, and this competition really drove me to do it.
Books and magazines are great, but really, wouldn’t it be nice if someone just showed you their techniques rather than just describe them? Of course a live class or workshop would be great, but videos can be pretty powerful as well. I have found so many awesome “How To” vidoes on YouTube, and never had to leave my armchair. One of my favorite YouTube channels for colored pencil is Lachri Fine Art, featuring artist Lisa Clough. She works in other mediums as well, but offers a lot of tips and tricks for colored pencil. She also shares speed paintings with voice overs that explain exactly what she is doing and gives you an idea of how she approaches a project overall.
Well, if that isn’t enough to keep you busy, you may want to check out a few others resources.
- Facebook Groups – new groups pop up all the time dedicated in full or in part to colored pencils. Some are more welcoming and helpful than others, so shop around for the ones that suit your style.
- Professional organizations such as Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA). As you might guess from the name, this is a national organization, but they also have local chapters. Members also receive a magazine two times per year and have access to exclusive resources, such as their independent lightfast testing results of a wide variety of colored pencil brands.
- Live classes and workshops – nothing can beat live interaction with someone who is willing to share their knowledge with you.
I hope you found these colored pencil resources useful here and are inspired to try something new. I’d love to hear what your favorite resources are. Scroll on down and leave a comment below!
Thanks for reading –