Using Colored Pencil to Create Fine Art
Colored pencil drawing/painting by Sally Franklin

The use of colored pencil as an art form has been argued many times as to whether the medium should be considered painting or drawing.

According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of paint is to apply color, pigment, or paint to…to produce in lines and colors on a surface by applying pigments.

The way the dictionary defines draw is to produce a likeness or representation of by making lines on a surface .

Whatever the verdict of the decision is in your eyes, I have enjoyed working with this medium for a number of years and the product of my art is truly satisfying.

There are many benefits of working with colored pencil. Colored pencil allows precision, control of detail and depth. You can work lightly for a soft look or with many layers get the effect of oil paint. Colored pencils are very easy to carry and you can work almost anywhere. There’s not a lot of prepping involved. It is an economical medium, and you don’t need many extra supplies. Colored pencil requires little space, no drying time and creates no fumes or chemicals – except for the fixative that’s used when your work is complete.

Here’s all you need to get

The Colored Pencil:
The pencil brand that I find to be the smoothest to work with is Prismacolor.

  • This is a professional-grade pencils that can be blended, burnished and layered more than any other pencil I ve tried.
  • The waxy buttery texture of the lead makes it ideal to blend color and create the perfect mix.

The paper

  • The right paper is very important, especially if you work in as many layers as I do.
  • You can build 20 layers, or even more, which is very hard on your paper and can cause the surface to tear or buckle.
  • I like Stonehenge fine art paper because it is 100% cotton and acid-free.
    • The paper is buffered with calcium carbonate to help protect artwork from contaminated environments.
    • Stonehenge is also sold in pads that come in a variety of sizes, but also comes in full 22 x 30 sheets so you can work large, (which is not easy in a time-consuming medium such as colored pencil) or cut it into any size you d like.
    • I recently found out that they make a few colored pads as well.
    • Depending on your subject, colored paper may be very helpful.
    • It can give you a nice base color to start with, saving you lots of time and work!
  • I have also worked directly on mat board.
    • This is a good strong surface that is capable of taking erasure without going straight through your paper.
    • Mat board comes in a wide array of colors and textures, but I most prefer a smooth surface to work on.


  • I prefer using kneeded erasers. Kneeded erasers are a gummy clay-like substance.
    • Press the eraser on the area to be removed and lift it, which brings the color with it.
    • Moving the eraser around like you would a regular eraser will just leave a smear.
    • To clean this eraser, just pull and knead it like you would with a piece of dough.Colored pencil is not easy to remove completely but it can be done, except under certain circumstances.
  • Colors such as certain shades of reds and blues seem to penetrate the paper and are harder to remove and lift the pencil wax rather than erasing.
  • Electric or battery powered erasers are good; however, you have to be careful not to hold it in one place too long. This will go right through lightweight paper. It s best used on board or a heavier paper.

Pencil Sharpener

  • Electrical or battery-operated are best.
  • Get one that is sharp and gives the pencil a nice clean, smooth shaving. I like a sharp point because it allows me to get into the grain of the paper, but try different point sharpness and see what works best for you.

Colored pencils, a graphite pencil, paper/ board, eraser and sharpener – That’s all you need!

Now, here’s a quick colored pencil demo:
Step One: Begin with a pencil drawing. You can do this freehand or, until you feel comfortable, trace or transfer a picture with a lightbox/ transfer paper is available at your art or craft store.
Next, I put down my darker colors first, as an underpainting.

  • You can use grays, browns or even try a color.
  • An underpainting typically serves as a guide for subsequent layers of color.

Step Two: Blocking out a composition on the surface, the main shapes and tones of the picture are established. It helps to define values before being built up by layers of color. Often done in monochromatic color this process is also known as Grisaille.

Step Three: I start adding color and layering as needed.

  • Work right on top of your underpainting.
  • This creates shadows under your color. You can blend colors as you add them.
  • Prismacolor blends beautifully.

Step Four: Try adding the complimentary color which is the opposite the color that you are using, on the color wheel. You will be surprised at how this can add unexpected life to your artwork. Continue layering the colored pencil until you achieve the desired richness.
Start with something small like an apple and have fun experimenting with color and layering. You will love the versatility of colored pencil to create a wonderful work of art!

Guest Author/Artist: Sally Franklin was born in New York. She studied art at The Traphagen School of Fashion Design and Illustration in New York City, and from there began her professional art career as a fashion illustrator for a major department store. Sally is now focusing on fine art and although she enjoys many different mediums, much of her work is done in Prisma Colored Pencils.

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