Learning to Use Colored Pencils.

color pencil flowers

I bought a box of Prismacolor pencils in 2017, back when I was buying everything in my innocent belief that better materials would make me a better artist. I just had to have them but rarely used them. I would try and the colors would just look too bright, too saturated. My hand would hurt, the paper looked waxy.

I tried to mix colors following the principles I’d learned with watercolor. Surprise, they didn’t work or at least I didn’t know how to mix them or if they even mixed.

Morning Pages Illustration

At one point I just put them away so they stopped making me feel guilty (yes, THEY made me feel guilty, not my impulse buying!)

I didn’t want to take a class because I was absolutely devoted to watercolor but I came across one of Domestika’s classes and as I watched the trailer, I couldn’t believe that such subtle finishes could be achieved with colored pencils.

Color Pencil Plant
As you can see, the top leaf is very dark and the one to the right is brighter. On the top one I shaded with graphite before applying color and in the bottom one I applied color directly.

So I took the class. Now I have a refined color selection and I’m taking my pencils everywhere. But first I had to practice the basics, before I can get on my own lane and take it from there.

Project description as per the class

In this class Carmen follows a commercial illustration brief but I found the project too ambitious for someone who has yet to get acquainted with using colored pencils. So I went ahead and looked for the technique first.

I wanted to practice because knowing myself, if I went ahead and followed the whole class I would have been disappointed by the final result. Plus I don’t like to follow projects (I’m a bit of a rebel). I get the feeling I unintentionally end up imitating the instructor too closely. But if you already are further along your path, you can go ahead and create a project in your style and apply the techniques.

Later I will go back to the class and complete the whole project because she has some excellent creativity and workflow techniques that I didn’t know about.

Process and Workflow

So I started sketching flowers and plants. Some of the flowers were from my own reference photos while the plant was from Unsplash.

Here is the rough overview of the process:

  1. Make your sketch very roughly but lightly so you don’t smudge, use a harder pencil but not too hard.
  2. Shade lightly the dark areas
  3. Outline in your desired color and start filling in, apply and release pressure and blend with a similar color.
  4. Darken the darkest areas


Now I understand why coloring books are soooo popular. It is the most relaxing activity I did all weekend. It took me about two hours to color in the plant and about one hour each flower. Once you get into it you are in total flow. However I don’t like to color other people’s drawings so I have to make my own.

In the end I scanned and tweaked my simple floral and plant drawing and made a composition. These look so beautiful and they were so easy to scan, unlike watercolor that one has to struggle with paper texture.

I made a couple of compositions before tackling an imaginary brief for a larger project. This beautiful font is Melancholy from Creative Market.

Have you tried colored pencils? Do you like filling in precisely or do you like to scribble it on?

Check out other classes I recommend.

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