Colored Pencils Tutorial for Beginners – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Coloring pencils are a tool we’re all familiar with. From the early days of our education, we’ve been introduced to this medium and it’s been the first medium of many artists due to its versatility, ease of use, and accessibility.

Some of the most detailed, realistic, and amazing artwork has been made with coloring pencils, and although it might look impossible for a beginner to achieve that level of realism, it’s actually not that hard once you mastered the basic coloring techniques and worked on your observational skills. In this guide, we’ll go over all you need to know about coloring with colored pencils, from the materials you need to the techniques, tips and tricks to make your coloring journey easier. Let’s 

Materials Needed

While a pack of coloring pencils and a piece of paper can be enough for simple coloring projects, to embark on more complex and ambitious projects and kickstart your learning journey, you need to learn about the difference among the coloring supplies available in the market. 

Types of Coloring Pencils

  • Wax Based Pencils: Wax based pencils are made with a wax binder that makes the application much easier, smoother and uniform. They’re super ashy to blend and layer and have very bright and vibrant colors. Some popular wax-based coloring pencils brands are Prismacolor, Caran d’Ache Pablo and Luminance, and Derwent Coloursoft. The downside of these pencils is that in the long run, they might develop a “wax bloom”, which is a white haze that forms on top of your art.
  • Oil Based Pencils: Oil based coloring pencils are made with an oil binder, which makes them harder and less prone to breaking or “blooming”. While they also provide deep colors, they’re more challenging to blend than wax-based pencils, and the ones that are of higher quality are much more expensive. Some popular brands are Faber Castell Polychromos, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor, Koh-I-Noor Polycolor and Staedtler Ergosoft.

Papers for Coloring Pencils

  • Drawing Paper (Vellum): Drawing paper has a smooth yet textured surface, perfect for building layers with coloring pencils as well as working on details. This paper is perfect for achieving smooth blending since the tooth is very light and the white of the paper doesn’t show as much. 
  • Coloring Paper (Medium): This type of paper has a medium texture, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced artists, however as the tooth is more pronounced, it’ll take more work, time and material to create smooth gradients and cover the white of the paper.
  • Pastel Paper (Hard Tooth): Designed with a hard tooth (texture) to hold more pigment, pastel paper is excellent for creating vibrant and rich colors. The colors in pastel paper develop more and it withstands many more layers, allowing you to apply lighter colors on top of dark ones as well, however it is not great for detailed work and this paper is much more expensive and hard to find than the others. 
  • Watercolor Paper (Hot Pressed): This paper is smooth and can handle water applications well, making it ideal for use with watercolors along with coloring pencils. The smooth surface is perfect for detailed work, and while it might be more expensive than regular papers, it’s archival and very durable.

Blending Tools

  • Blending Stumps/Tortillions: Just like with graphite, blending stumps can also be used to blend coloring pencil, these cylindrical tools are often used to blend and soften colors.
  • Blending Pencils: While some artists use the color white to blend, there are special pencils designed to blend and smooth colors without adding pigment called colorless blender that helps smooth gradients and hard color transitions.
  • Solvents: Liquids like odorless mineral spirits can be used to blend colors seamlessly, bringing up the color intensity and creating beautiful gradients in the process.


For coloring pencils you can use different types of erasers, however don’t expect them all to work as well as with graphite. Graphite is easily liftable and doesn’t stain the paper too much, however pigments in coloring pencils are prone to leave a stain that even the strongest eraser can’t get rid of.

  • Kneaded erasers are good for lifting a small amount of pigment, however not all kneaded erasers work the same. You’ll need a high tack eraser to remove the pigment and wax or oil binder from the paper, and still it won’t remove as much. Kneaded erasers are great when you’re working with pastel paper since normal erasers will most likely damage the paper tooth.
  • Vinyl erasers are great, however the low quality white ones are prone to get stained and carry color with them, hence staining other parts of your drawing. Try to go for brand names like Staedtler, Caran d’Ache and Tombow.
  • Electric erasers will come in handy later in your coloring journey, they are the ones that can remove the most layers of colors, hence being amazing for those final highlights and details in realistic drawing. We recommend going for brand names, as they are designed to be used for artistic purposes and won’t “wobble” or “spin” out of control, but are very precise instead

Pencil Sharpener

Another must have, a pencil sharpener that is of relatively good quality won’t break the tips of your coloring pencils. You don’t have to go for the fancy tone, as a simple, portable one will be more than enough, just make sure your pencils of choice fit on it.

Electric sharpeners are very nice to have, although much more expensive. They provide consistent sharpening with minimal effort, especially the ones with the auto-stop feature.

Basic Concepts

Before starting our tutorial, let’s go over some basic concepts and techniques.

How to Hold a Coloring Pencil?

Well, holding a coloring pencil is not a novelty, you simply hold it like you would hold a pen. It’s quite simple, however everything changes depending on where you hold the pencil form, for example, if you hold it closer to the tip, you get much more intense lines and it’s easier to control, making it great for working on details and for the burnishing technique. However, if you hold it closer to the end, you’ll get lighter, looser strokes, perfect for the layering technique and to fill broader areas quickly.

Basic Coloring Techniques

  • Gradients: Practice creating smooth transitions from light to dark by varying the pressure applied. Experiment with blending different colors to create gradients, and create gradients of the same color by working from dark to light.
  • Layering: Start with light pressure to build up layers of color gradually, you don’t have to apply a lot of pressure since it will only fill up the tooth of the paper quickly and wear your pencil tips faster, instead, trust the process and apply several light layers to build depth.
  • Texture: Play with the tooth of the paper and try different strokes to achieve different textures, try hatching, cross hatching, and using circular strokes for a more uniform texture. 

How to Draw with Colored Pencils – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

In this tutorial we are going to be using colored pencils to draw a slice of watermelon.

Reference Picture for Drawing a Slice of Watermelon
Reference Picture for Drawing a Slice of Watermelon

For this tutorial we’re going to use a reference picture, but since this is a beginner’s project, you don’t have to copy it exactly as it is. Just use it as a reference for the colors, placement of the seeds and shape of the slice.

Step 1.- Sketching the Outline

Lightly sketch the outline of the watermelon slice on your paper using a pencil. Focus on the overall shape, including light guidelines for the rind, flesh, and seeds.

Step 2.- Work On the Border

Since the rind is the smallest part, we’re going to work on it first. Use a light green pencil to lightly color the rind’s base. Ensure an even layer without pressing too hard, then add a darker green considering the different colors in the watermelon’s lines.

Step 3.- Work On the Rind’s Flesh

Use a light green pencil and build a soft gradient from the base to the top, going lighter towards the white part of the flesh.

Step 4.- Work On the Watermelon’s Flesh

Use a light red or pink pencil to fill in the watermelon flesh. Leave some areas lighter for highlights.

Step 5.- Adding Layers 

Add layers of red and pink to the flesh. Gradually build up the color intensity, focusing on areas where the color is more saturated. Take notice of the details and try to represent them the most accurately.

Step 6.- Adding the Seeds

Use a dark brown or black pencil to carefully outline the seeds, as you work on adding more layers to the flesh of the watermelon, fill in the seeds too. Use a light yellow pencil to fill in the areas where the value is too light.

Step 7.- Blending Colors

Use light circular strokes with a blending pencil or a lighter pink to smooth the transitions between the different shades of red and pink. Use a blending stump or a white pencil to gently blend the green layers of the flesh  together, creating a smooth transition between light and dark areas.

Step 8.- Adding Shadows

Add a touch of dark brown, black, or gray to the underside of the rind to create a shadow and enhance the three-dimensional effect. Step back and look at your drawing as a whole. Make any final adjustments to color, shading, or details to ensure a balanced and realistic appearance.

And you are done! Thanks for joining us on this tutorial for colored pencils, we hope it gave you a great foundation with which to begin your artistic and creative journey. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencils

Below are some frequently asked questions about coloring pencils that you might find helpful.

How are colored pencils different from graphite pencils?

Colored pencils have a core made of pigment mixed with a wax or oil binder, which gives them their colorful nature, while graphite pencils’ core is made from a mix of graphite and clay, which gives them their dark, metallic nature.

Colored pencils come in many different colors and shades, while graphite pencils come in different shades of gray.

If you are interested in learning to draw with graphite pencils, see our Graphite Pencil Tutorial.

What are the best brand of coloring pencil?

The best brand of colored pencils is Faber Castell Polychromos, which is higly regarded for the intensity of their colors, the wide color range they offer, their high quality and lightfastness, and their ability to blend amazingly with each other and wiht other brands.

Why some colored pencils are more intense than others?

The reason why some colored pencils are much more intense and vibrant than others is due to the amount of pigment they contain and the quality of the binder that is used. Highly-pigmented colored pencils will have intense hues and lay color beautifully, while low quality pencils will have more binder and fillers than pigment, leading to poor color application despite applying firm pressure or multiple layers.

Can colored pencils be fully erased?

Yes and No. If you’ve only laid down a very VERY thin layer, then yes, you’ll be able to erase it, but if you’ve laid down several layers and want to see the white of the paper again, then you better rethink your strategy. The pigment on colored pencil stains the fibers of the paper, especially the wax and oil based ones. Erasing them by applying pressure will only set the pencil stain even more. You can use a kneaded eraser to remove some of the pigment and work your way down very patiently, or use an electric eraser for better results, yet don’t expect much and try to use other methods to preserve your whites.

Does Artchive have other Art Tutorials?

Yes! Artchive has many art tutorials across many different art mediums, to find them check out our main Art Tutorials page.

What other pencil tutorials does Artchive have?

Artchive has many other tutorials across many different art mediums, for pencils we also have an a Graphite Pencil Drawing Tutorial.



Scroll to Top