February 28, 2017

Drawing With Corrina – Session 1 – How To LAYER With Colored Pencil

by Corrina Thurston



As you may know, I have begun creating short tutorial videos for YouTube as part of a series called, Drawing With Corrina. Each session is meant to teach you one technique about drawing with colored pencil or graphite, or go through a quick step-by-step tutorial on how to draw something specific, like an eye or cherries, etc.

If you want to watch the 12-minute video, you can do so here:


I know, however, that many of you prefer reading to watching videos. That’s why I’m pairing each video release with a blog post explaining the video for those who’d prefer to read about it!


Drawing With Corrina – Session One

How Do I Create Vibrant Color In Pencil?

When people are looking at my artwork, one of the questions I get the most is: How do you create such vibrant color in pencil?

The answer: Layers.

That’s why Session One of Drawing With Corrina is all about layering! I find that layering is the number one most important thing to know and learn in order to create vibrant, opaque color with colored pencils.

A selection of my colored pencil drawings, showing the vibrant color you can achieve!


How Does Layering Work?

When I say “layers,” what I mean is how many times you go over the same area of the paper with the colored pencil, whether it’s with one color, or many.

In the video, I start by showing you how I layer reds to get a bright, opaque color. I start with a light red/orange, and then move to a slightly darker red, and then a slightly darker red, until I’ve made layers with all 5 of the pencils I had of reds.

As I began making layers with the reds, from light to dark.

As I’m coloring in each color, one over the next, I’m going over that area multiple times to make sure the color is even and try to make my pencil strokes show up as little as possible.

As I add layer after layer of color, you notice two things: 1.) The color is getting more opaque as each layer fills in more and more of the grain of the paper. 2.) The pencil strokes of the darker colors show up a little more and are more difficult to keep even.

The layers are filling in the paper, but pencil strokes are showing up more.


How Can Layering Create Smooth Color?

After the initial layers of red, I took the second darkest red and did another layer at a SLIGHTLY different angle. YOU DON’T WANT TO GO PERPENDICULAR. If you try to color one direction and then start to color the next layer at the opposite (perpendicular) angle, it will show as a crosshatch and won’t blend as smoothly as you’d like (you’ll learn more about blending in Session Two)!

So instead, choose a slightly different angle with that layer, and then add another on top with the darkest red again.

Then go from a slightly different angle yet again, this time from the bottom in order to fill in the rest of the stubborn white grain of the paper.

Vary your pencil strokes by going in slightly different angles.


How Much Pressure Should I Use?

Everyone has a different amount of pressure they naturally prefer to use while drawing. Some are considered “hard-handed” and some are softer.

I tend to fall in the middle of this scale, but you want to learn to use all sorts of different amounts of pressure to create different effects.

For these layering purposes, I suggest using a medium amount of pressure for most of your layers, and a little bit lighter pressure for your darker layers, as they show up more.

Then, your last few layers can have more pressure as you fill in the grain of the paper completely.


What About Other Colors?

Next I did the exact same thing with blues. I took 5 different shades of blue and layered them from light to dark, just like I did with the reds.

A few layers in to the blues.

Then I took the second darkest color and the darkest and added layers with my pencil strokes at SLIGHTLY different angles again, filling in the white grain of the paper to make a bright, opaque blue.

Filling in the last of the remaining white grain of the paper.


What About A Light Color?

The next part of the video is me showing you how to create a light blue, with only two colors of blue. I use the lightest and second lightest blue in order to layer and create an opaque light blue.

I start with the lightest blue and then add the slightly darker blue on top, and then go back to another layer of the lightest, and back and forth. Again, I use slightly different angled strokes in order to create a smoother color.

Layering just the two lightest colors back and forth creates a lighter blue.


What If I Just Want One Color?

That works too! Even if you want just one color, for example the darkest of the blues that I was using before, it works the same way. Instead of going from light colors to dark, you just use that one pencil and color in the section, remembering to go at slightly different angles, to fill in all the grain of the paper and make that opaque color.

Still use layering even with a single color until the paper is fully saturated.

Remember: This is the same dark blue I used before to make that vibrant, brighter blue, but as you can see, when I used it on top of the lighter colors, it wasn’t nearly as dark. So when you’re drawing, KEEP IN MIND: drawing on top of lighter colors will lighten that color, and drawing on top of darker colors, which isn’t really recommended, will drastically darken the lighter color.

Just remember, if you decide you want to lighten that area up later on (shown in the upper left corner of the last image), light colors DO NOT show up very well over the top of dark colors, so even if you use white, that area is not going to lighten up very much. This is one of the reasons I teach people to go from light to dark when layering.

Final Thoughts

Layering is the best way to make that bright, vibrant color with colored pencil. It can make the process time consuming and you need to have patience. But it’s worth it!

Some of my colored pencil drawings.

So practice using different mixtures of colors and different angles with your pencil strokes until you get comfortable knowing how to fill in the grain of the paper. 


IMPORTANT: Different papers have different tooth, or grain amounts. So  smoother papers will fill in more quickly, and some that are rougher will take more layers to fill it in!




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