Color Pencil Drawing Techniques

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Colored pencils are an affordable medium for artists, who use several techniques to bring detail and style to their compositions. Colored pencils are often used in conjunction with watercolors to create depth. Techniques used include vertical line, impressed line, circulism and photo referencing.

Vertical Line

Vertical line is a technique that artists use to create intricate detail.
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This technique utilizes vertical pencil strokes drawn close together in a continuous motion. Pencil pressure varies from light to heavy to create depth to compositions, and multiple layers are added for a higher degree of intensity. Used in portrait drawing, the vertical line technique creates realistic interpretations in artworks.

Impressed Line

Impressed line involves adding layers of color and then using a blunt knife to create white lines.
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With this pencil technique, blocks of color are created and then a blunt-edge knife is used to create fine, white lines. Several layers of color are drawn, then the knife is used to pierce the paper surface, using care not to rip or tear it. This technique is used by artists to create whiskers on animals and show hair detail, suggesting realism with each strand.


Rather than points, several circles are drawn with the circulism technique to create detail.
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This technique is similar to pointillism, using circles as opposed to fine points. Colored pencils create circles of varying size and colors that overlap and intertwine. Circulism is used by artists to showcase skin texture in realistic artworks, such as portraits. Circulism may be used with or without blending as the final step, and circles in general do not have to be drawn to perfection.

Photo Referencing

Flower stems and buds are often drawn with colored pencils using photo referencing.
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This technique involves creating a light pressure drawing to reference a photo. The composition is gradually filled in with varying layers of color to create depth. Heavier pressure is used to depict shadows and intensity of color. This technique is used in detailed depictions of flowers, flora and trees. Deep pencil strokes may be added to veins and stems of flora. Blending pencils are used to give the composition overall realistic properties.


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A copywriter and publicist, Brooke Ashley has been writing professionally since 1998. Her poetic work has been published in "Maverick Magazine" and her Web content is featured on Ashley earned her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

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