Layering Coloured Pencils:
Achieve Stunning Results

Layering coloured pencils is truly a transformative technique.

I remember when I first came across the term, admittedly, I didn't quite grasp the full potential back then. I assumed it was just about repeating the same 'colouring in' process, using a different shade each time, across a large section of a drawing.

The concept of coloured pencils being translucent, allowing one colour to affect another, wasn't clear to me. I wondered, why couldn't I simply use a pencil that matched the exact hue of the subject I was trying to recreate?

I know it might seem puzzling at first, but let me share with you how this layering technique can truly improve your coloured pencil art.

When you layer coloured pencils correctly, you can create stunning effects, like a subtle glow of light, a soft shadow, or the intricate patterns and textures of an animal's fur.

It's more than just 'colouring in', it's about creating depth, texture, and a richness of colour that would be nearly impossible to achieve with just a single pencil shade. It's about bringing your artwork to life!

It's a way to blend colours directly on the paper, creating unique hues and gradients that can make your artwork look more realistic.

Remember, art is not just about reproducing what you see. It's about interpreting and expressing it in your unique way. So don't limit yourself to using only the colours that match your subject. Experiment with layering coloured pencils and see the magic happen on paper!

The Role of Pressure in Layering Coloured Pencils

Once you've started to grasp the concept of layering and have begun experimenting with your colored pencils, you'll quickly realize that the intensity and depth of your layers can be greatly influenced by something as simple as the amount of pressure you apply to the pencil. This is another vital aspect of layering.

Having begun to understand the concept of layering and how pressure affects the intensity and depth of your layers, think of it like a beautiful symphony.

Just like each instrument in an orchestra plays at varying volumes to create a harmonious piece, applying different pressures with each pencil layer creates various shades and tones.

A light touch can be compared to the soft, gentle notes of a flute, creating delicate shades that add a touch of subtlety to your artwork. This is perfect for areas of your artwork that require a soft glow or a hint of colour.

On the other hand, pressing harder with your pencil is like the resounding boom of a drum, producing bold and vibrant colours. This technique is great when you need your colours to pop, to create emphasis and draw attention to certain elements of your piece.

Layering these 'light flutes' and 'bold drums' together is where the magic happens. Just as a symphony builds upon each individual instrument to create a rich, complex sound, your artwork will gain depth and dimension as you layer different pressures of colour. The overall effect can be as mesmerizing as a grand crescendo in a classical piece.

Always remember, though, balance is key. 

Experiment with different pressures and layering techniques. With patience and practice, you'll create pieces as beautiful and moving as any symphony!

Learning the techniques of layering

Learning to layer and balance pencil pressure in your artwork is a process, much like learning to play an instrument.

Light pressure lets you build gradual depth with multiple layers as it applies less pigment per stroke. Whereas heavy pressure, or burnishing, deposits more pigment, quickly filling the grain of the paper and limiting layering opportunities.

Knowing when to apply these different strokes is crucial to achieving harmony in your masterpiece. It will take practice, patience, and a bit of experimenting, but trust me, the results will be worth it.

Let's kickstart this drawing adventure of yours! Take a medium toned pencil and a piece of drawing paper.

Try layering coloured pencils yourself

Now, here's a pro tip - don't grab your pencil like you're gripping it for dear life!

Instead, lightly hold it about two-thirds down the barrel. Picture this in your mind: your fingers are acting as a pivot point, delicately balancing the pencil.

This technique, while it may seem unconventional at first, is a game-changer.

It gives you more control and flexibility over your pencil strokes.

I remember when I first tried it out, I noticed a significant improvement in my work immediately. Holding the pencil this way allowed it to become an extension of my hand.

Allow the sharp pencil tip to rest on the paper and move your wrist bank and forth allowing the pigment to “flow” onto the surface. You should not be exerting any pressure at this stage.

When you apply pigment to the surface of your paper, it doesn't just uniformly spread over the surface. Instead, it's attracted to the higher points on the paper, which we'll playfully refer to as the "mountains."

As the pigment gets drawn to these mountains, it leaves the valleys with less pigment, creating a speckled appearance. Because you are using a light touch you won’t destroy these mountains, leaving them intact for your next layer of pencil pigment.

Give your paper a slight twist and repeat the process. Notice anything different?

What's happening is that as you change the angle of the pencil, it starts meeting the 'mountains' at a different point. This causes the pigment to be scraped off and deposited in slightly different areas, so you're now filling in the 'valleys' between the peaks and evening out the application of colour.

This way you can eventually achieve a smooth layer without damaging the “tooth” or grip of the paper’s surface.

As you progress, increase the pressure on the pencil by sliding your hand closer to the tip. Don’t completely cover your base layer, only deposit pigment where there is a difference in value.

Once you've mastered the technique of controlling your pencil pressure and understanding how the pigment interacts with the paper, you're ready to explore another exciting aspect of drawing - creating new colours.

Layering coloured pencils to create new colours

Unlike wet pigments, coloured pencils don’t allow us to mix colours directly. However, by layering colored pencils, we can create stunning effects and unique hues in our artwork.

When layering colored pencils, it's important to choose the right type of pencil. Some brands, like Faber Castell Polychromos, are more translucent and allow the colors beneath to show through, creating depth and complexity. On the other hand, softer pencils like Prismacolor are more opaque and great for creating bold and vibrant drawings.

It's also essential to embrace the irregularities and variations that occur. These can add texture and depth to your work, making it more interesting and authentic.

Don't be afraid to experiment with your colors and let go of precision. Apply them unevenly, mix them up, and see what happens.

You might be surprised at the beautiful hues you can create by embracing spontaneity.

While layering colored pencils, it's important to find a careful balance. Layering too much can result in a muddy mess of colors, while layering too little can leave your artwork looking faint and washed out. It's a fine line to walk, but with practice and patience, you'll find the right balance for your artwork.

Remember, layering colored pencils is a journey, and making mistakes is a part of the process. Embrace the challenge and enjoy the process of layering to create stunning and vibrant artwork. 

blue and yellow make greenMany layers of blue and yellow have created a varied green not a flat colour

Additional techniques and considerations

To further enhance your understanding of layering colored pencils and achieve stunning results in your artwork, it's important to explore additional techniques and considerations.

 Choosing the Right Paper and Pencils

When it comes to layering colored pencils, selecting the right paper and pencils can make a significant difference in the outcome of your artwork.

Consider using a paper with a smooth surface and a moderate tooth, as this allows for better layering and blending.

Additionally, opt for pencils that are known for their translucency, such as Faber Castell Polychromos or Caran d'Ache Pablo.

Building Layers Gradually

Layering coloured pencils is a gradual process that involves building up colors and values slowly.

Start with light pressure and gradually increase it as you add subsequent layers. This approach allows you to control the intensity of the colours and create smooth transitions between shades.

Remember to use multiple light layers rather than pressing too hard straight away.

Blending and Burnishing

To achieve a seamless and polished look, consider incorporating blending and burnishing techniques into your layering process.

Blending involves using a blending stump, tortillon, or even a cotton swab to softly blend the colors together, creating a smooth transition.

Burnishing, on the other hand, involves applying heavy pressure with a colorless blender pencil or a white pencil to blend the layers and create a shiny, polished effect. Don't include this step until you have finished your layering as it will be difficult to add further layers. 

Experimenting with Color Combinations

Layering coloured pencils offers endless opportunities for creating unique and vibrant color combinations.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different hues and shades to achieve the desired effect.

Try layering complementary colours to create depth and contrast, or explore analogous colour schemes for a harmonious and cohesive look.

Remember, the more you experiment, the more you'll discover your own personal style and preferences.

Embracing Texture and Highlights

One of the advantages of layering coloured pencils is the ability to create texture and highlights in your artwork.

Embrace the irregularities and variations that occur during the layering process, as they can add visual interest and depth to your piece. Use lighter pressure and leave some areas with less pigment to create highlights and bring attention to specific elements of your artwork.

Practice and Patience

Like any skill, mastering the art of layering coloured pencils takes practice and patience.

Don't get discouraged if your initial attempts don't turn out as expected.

Embrace the learning process and keep experimenting. Over time, you'll develop a better understanding of colour layering, pressure control, and blending techniques, resulting in more refined and captivating drawings.

To sum up

By following these tips and techniques, you'll be well on your way to creating stunning and vibrant artwork through layering coloured pencils.

So, grab your pencils, embrace the challenge, and let your creativity flow.

Happy layering!

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