Getting Started with Colored Pencil

If you’ve been watching my Saturday blog posts of late, you’ll know I’ve been collecting lots of grouped posts/videos together for inspiration…and sometimes as I do that, I find there are topics I just never covered. And the most basic of basics of Colored Pencil have never been covered by me as far as I can tell!

I also had found during some recent livestreams that I was talking about things like gamsol and blending stumps as if everyone should know what they are….and I should know better, eh? So today’s video covers the three brands I use most, a bit on a bunch of different ways to blend, and then a bit of a demo on what those techniques can do when combined together!



Sometimes the supplies are half the fun right? Well below you’ll find a list of all the goodies I showed, with a little more info about each one.

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I’m an old-school Prismacolor girl! I started with them in college when learning from children’s illustrator Gay Holland, and never fell out of love with them. Something in the color selection speaks to me!
Buy Prismacolor pencils at Ellen HutsonBLICKPrismacolor Hex Chart

  • Widest number of colors, 150. I love that there’s not only warm and cool greys but French greys too. And BlueViolet makes my heart go mmmm.
  • Least expensive per pencil, and come in a lot of different set sizes.
  • Wax based pencils – so they have softer leads, break more easily, wear down sooner from sharpening.
  • Manufacturing moved to Mexico in 2010, and quality has been hit or miss since. I still have a lot of pencils from before then so haven’t had much issues – but pencils may sometimes split and leads break; seems to be some inconsistency in centering pencil leads. The move was probably to save money and keep prices down, so that’s the price we pay.
  • Some artists complain of blooming – meaning if doing a lot of heavy, thick coloring, wax pencils can form a whitish film on the surface. It can be buffed off, but….not the greatest. But since I rarely use my pencils with that much pressure, I’ve not had that issue.
  • Easiest to read labeling.
  • Back end of pencil is not covered so you can see if pencil leads are not centered.
  • Paint colors on the pencil don’t always match up with paint color.
  • I had always trusted when they said they’re lightfast rated; but their ratings aren’t too high, actually. BUT – I’ve had some of my pencil drawings from college hung up in my house for many a decade with no ill effects. So there’s that.

Polychromos by Faber Castell

Polychromos are my recommendation if you can afford a little more than the Prismacolor; I think they’re worth the extra money.
Buy Polychromos Pencils at Ellen HutsonBLICKPolychromos Hex Chart

  • Good number of colors,120. A few are really close to each other, but the good thing about pencils is they don’t go bad or dry out! So you’ll eventually use similar ones.
  • Manufactured in Germany.
  • Oil based, which means 1) no blooming, 2) harder lead so they break less, wear down more slowly, and stay sharp longer. Also may mean erasing is harder to accomplish but it depends on how much pressure was applied with the pencils before trying to erase.
  • Some say oil based means harder to blend; but that’s from folks who have a heavy hand. I have a light touch so I’ve never found this to be a problem.
  • Reasonable price for most folks, and come in a lot of different set sizes.
  • Paint covers entire pencil. Colors don’t always match up with paint color. Hard to read lettering.

Luminance by Caran d’Ache

These are by a great art supply company, Caran d’Ache in Switzerland; I love many of the products they make. These are the highest rated in lightfastness – which means they won’t fade.
Buy Luminance pencils at BLICKAMZLuminance Hex Chart

  • Growing number of colors – recent set takes collection to 100.
  • They sell smaller sets, grouped by subject matter, like marine, etc. These don’t always make sense, and buying them all lands you with some duplicates. They finally did start selling a 72 set, now may have a 100 available.
  • Wax based pencils – very softer leads that sometimes crumble as being used, wear down sooner from sharpening.
  • No paint for overall casing – you see the pretty wood, but that makes the silver ink hard to read. Paint is on the end only of each pencil…..which means in a pile of pencils it’s not easy to quickly find the color you want to grab.
  • Expensive! Several times the cost of the other two per pencil. But they color like buttah!

Stonehenge Drawing Paper vs Neenah Cardstock

Neenah is a cardstock I’ve used a lot in crafting for decades. Pencil does work on it – but once trying Stonehenge drawing paper, I don’t want to go back to Neenah! The drawing paper is softer, and seems to scrape off more pigment from the pencil nib – more ends up on the paper to use for blending. Colors end up paler on the Neenah, and require a lot more more pressure to darken it up. (The more pressure, the faster it needs sharpened, thus the faster it gets used up.)

Stonehenge has White, Warm White, “colors” (which are barely toned), and sketchbooks with tan, grey, black.

Buy Stonehenge Drawing Paper at AmazonBLICK
Buy Neenah Cardstock, Solar White 25pk250pk
Buy Stonehenge 6 x 12 sketchbook at BLICK
Buy Black Stonehenge Drawing Paper at BLICK

Other supplies

A few other things mentioned in the video:

  • Kneaded eraser – soft, gummy eraser. Knead and pull it and fold it back into itself to “clean” it. Buy at Ellen HutsonBLICK
  • Gamsol and baby oil – liquids used for blending. Applied with blending stumps or other tools. Buy at Ellen HutsonBLICK
  • Blending stumps are tiightly wound rolls of paper that are used to move pencil pigment, and if you dip it into Gamsol or baby oil you can smoothly blend too. Buy at Ellen HutsonBLICK
  • Blending stump sander/cleaner – referred to by several names, but it’s basically little sheets of sandpaper on a stick. Inexpensive to buy but you can easily make too. Buy at Ellen HutsonBLICK
  • Solvent jars are what I keep my solutions in – with cotton balls inside, so I don’t spill! Buy at Amazon
  • Pencil Storage Most colored pencils come in tins or boxes but I find I’m too much a clutz and drop things! Dropping pencils can break leads. So I’m safer with zipper cases: 150 pencil caseCanvas cases Faux leather cases
  • Quietsharp Pencil Sharpener: I’ve tested out a lot of electrics, the Quietsharp has an actual auto-stop, meaning it won’t KEEP sucking in your pencil once it’s sharp. Others say they have autostop but I found a lot of them didn’t perform an autostop. Buy the Quietsharp at AmazonBLICK
  • Handheld Pencil Sharpener is good to have for travel, but also I sometimes take one last turn on a handheld to get that superfine point that I love. The Quietsharp gets close but sometimes that last little bit makes the difference. I find most are equal in quality. Buy at Ellen HutsonBLICKAmazon
  • Dust brush – to lightly remove excess pigment on the paper surface; this helps to keep smudging down. Buy at BLICK
  • Delacroix Fixatif by Sennelier – a spray to protect the art. Use a good one; cheap ones may yellow the paper. There are permanent and workable fixatives, so it depends on whether you might want to touch something up again sometime. Apply in light layers, letting it sit for an hour between sprayings. Buy at BLICK

Learn more

  • Check out the Colored Pencil Basics page here on my blog – I’ve collected the projects that will help get a good foundation under you before beginning!
  • Prefer to learn in an organized manner? Take the Colored Pencil Jumpstart class to learn all about color theory and great techniques for shading and adding texture with colored pencils. While some lessons are taught using stamps, you can draw your own pictures or use your coloring book images to try the same techniques too!