Learn to Create Art with Colored Pencils

by BrendaReeves

Compared to other art mediums colored pencils require little money with the added advantage of no mess and no health hazards.

Self-taught colored pencil artists are quite common. Anyone searching their community for a class or workshop in this art medium will most likely be disappointed. Teachers of colored pencils are a rarity, because it just isn't that popular. Although not as popular as oil, acrylic, or watercolor painting, there are those who want to follow a different path and learn this fun, relaxing medium. The appeal to the artist is the convenience of grabbing the box of colored pencils, a drawing pad and going to the beach or mountains to paint without the need to lug along water, paint thinner, old rags and an easel. Colored pencil painting is also clean and environmentally friendly.

I find the medium to be relaxing and therapeutic. All you need to get started is a little drawing knowledge and a lot of desire.

Jack Russell Terrier Painted in Colored Pencils

Purchasing Colored Pencils

The first piece of information to learn in self-taught colored pencils: It's not called drawing. Colored pencil painting is the correct term.

Buy a good set of colored pencils. They are sold at any fine art store. Prismacolor is a very popular brand, and the choice of many University art instructors as well as artists. They come in 120 colors. However, there are other fine quality colored pencil brands like Faber-Castell, Prang, Staedtler, etc. All the colors are sold separately as well. Stay away from student grade art pencils if you are serious about learning this pencil art. Ask for help at the local art store if unsure. Maybe buy a few of each brand to get a feel for a preference.

Demonstration Using Different Brands of Colored Pencils

Purchasing an Electric Pencil Sharpener

In every book on colored pencil art the author tells you to buy a good electric pencil sharpener that sharpens to a fine point. I love using an electric pencil sharpener, but my experience is that we have a tendency to over sharpen, and it eats pencils up quickly. I suggest that you purchase a small hand held sharpener like you kept with your school supplies as a kid. Buy it at an art store, because it will have a better blade in it. You will need to replace the sharpener as the blade becomes dull, but they are cheap to replace. The blade on an electric sharpener also becomes dull, and replacement is much costlier. If you want an electric sharpener X-ACTO and Boston are good brands and can be found at Staples, Office Max, Amazon and fine art stores. You'll get the best price on Amazon. If you plan to take work to the coffee shop, bookstore, or library, buy a battery operated pencil sharpener.

I had to throw my last Boston electric sharpener in the trash after a lead broke off in it. Believe me, I tried and tried to get that broken lead out, but it wouldn't budge. If this happens to you, and it will, take a number two pencil and sharpen it. The harder lead of the number two will break up the soft, colored-pencil lead and your sharpener will work again. This works 99.999% of the time. I'll still buy Boston electric. I don't blame the brand for this mishap. It was just one of those quirky things that happened.

As an after thought, I read several reviews on Amazon about pencil sharpeners. Over and over customers said things such as this: "I purchased my pencil sharpener two years ago. It worked great at first, but now it doesn't sharpen very well." "My battery operated pencil sharpener worked fine at first, but now it has slowed down and the pencil isn't very sharp" These statements were all accompanied with low ratings.

I reiterate: You must periodically replace your pencil sharpener, and change the batteries on the battery operated sharpeners.

This goes for all three styles. The electric sharpener will last the longest, and the battery operated sharpener lasts longer than the manual sharpener.

Pencils and Pencil Sharpeners

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils, 72 Colored Pencils

These colored pencils are artists' quality for every level of expertise. Pencils contain high quality pigments for a rich color saturation and feature soft, thick cores which cr...

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Staedtler Tub Pencil Sharpeners double-hole sharpener

Manual, handheld sharpener with one small hole to produce precision tip pencils and one large hole to accommodate oversize pencils and crayons. Hinged cover on sharpener helps k...

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X-ACTO 19221 Engine Electric Model 2000

X-ACTO is the most recognized brand in cutting. Trusted by craftsmen, moms, students and professionals alike, X-ACTO blades have provided precision cutting excellence for over 9...

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X-ACTO 4AA BUZZ Battery-Powered Pencil Sharpener, Color May Vary (16758)

X-ACTO is the most recognized brand in cutting. Trusted by craftsmen, moms, students and professionals alike, X-ACTO blades have provided precision cutting excellence for over 9...

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Purchase Instructional Books or Videos

When teaching yourself colored pencil painting, it's necessary to buy a good instructional book. Your local library is a good place to start if cash is an issue. Check online at Barnes and Noble or Amazon for an extensive list. There are also instructional DVDs online or at fine art stores. The following are some excellent choices:

  • Colored Pencil Portraits by Ann Kullberg
  • Colored Pencil Secrets for Success by Ann Kullberg
  • Painting Light with Colored Pencil by Cecile Baird
  • Drawing Birds with Colored Pencils by Kaaren Poole
  • Colored Pencil Painting Bible, by Alyona Nickelsen

I highly recommend these books. I own all of them and got the best price on Amazon.


Colored Pencil Portraits

Portraits not only capture a likeness, but offer for generations to come a glimpse into the subject's life. Sounds like quite a challenge. But with Ann Kullberg's help, it's not...

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Colored Pencil Secrets for Success: How to Critique and Improve Your Paintings

Even with a keen eye, it can be difficult to troubleshoot and fix your own artwork. That's where this guide comes in. Featuring a range of styles and subjects, Colored Pencil Se...

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Painting Light With Colored Pencil

Give your colored pencil paintings that extra glow! Capture the qualities and textures of light! Create the light-filled quality of oil painting with the ease of colored pencils...

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Colored Pencil Painting Bible: Techniques for Achieving Luminous Color and Ultrarealistic Effects

Groundbreaking new techniques for a favorite medium• Dazzling colors, incredible realism—with simple you-can-do-it processes!• Author is a top colored-pencil artistRadiant color...

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Getting Started

Now is the time to become a self-taught colored pencil artist. Get in on the bottom floor of a possible new art movement. Remember it's called colored pencil painting, buy a good set of colored pencils, a good electric, battery operated or manual pencil sharpener, and a good instructional colored pencil painting art book. You can now find many tutorials on the subject of colored pencil painting on YouTube. That's all it takes.

Updated: 03/15/2013, BrendaReeves
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


BrendaReeves on 11/18/2012

I find working with colored pencils to be very relaxing and therapeutic.

CindyAdkins on 11/18/2012

I'm going to try this, Brenda. I haven't used colored pencils since I was a kid. Sometimes I feel like creating art when I'm sitting and watching TV, etc....or don't feel like dealing with the mess of painting. Thanks for the info!

BrendaReeves on 11/12/2012

Thank you for the comment. I also use Prismacolor.

ohcaroline on 11/12/2012

I use Prismacolor pencils almost exclusively and have the Prismacolor hand sharpener as well. This is my trusted brand of pencils. I haven't had the time to pursue this medium in my Zazzle business yet. You have motivated me to see what I can do. Thanks.

BrendaReeves on 11/11/2012

Yes, I have. The book Colored Pencil Portraits is just amazing. When I first saw some of her drawings, I thought they were photos.

katiem2 on 11/11/2012

Oh an my daughter creates amazing drawings of people using the flesh toned colored pencils. Have you used those?

BrendaReeves on 11/11/2012

Thanks for the comment, Katie. I love working with colored pencils.

katiem2 on 11/11/2012

My daughter, the artist would be without a wide selection of colored pencils. This may well be one of the best buys for any art project. Not to mention how important they are to complete the multitude of projects assigned at school. I'm so glad you had the good instincts to include one of the basic but most vital of art supplies. Plus a good reminder for me to add these to my gift list.

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