How To Shade With Coloured Pencils Like A Pro

Coloured pencils are gaining popularity recently as an artist's medium rather than just a beginner's medium. In this post, I would like to guide you on how to shade with coloured pencils and show you the versatility of this medium.

Chances are you dabbled in coloured pencils as a kid and gave them up because they were tough to work with, and the pigment was poor. But there is a huge difference between the ones you used as a kid and professional artist-grade coloured pencils. So I suggest heading to your nearest art store and getting a good set of coloured pencils.

I will be using the Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils. The Polychromos pencils are oil-based rather than wax-based. These pencils are soft and don't crumble under pressure. They can be used with solvents and has a brilliance of colour when applied in layers. If you enjoy painting over your coloured pencil line work, the lines stay in place even when you go over them with water.

I love these pencils for their smooth, buttery texture while colouring. They are a great all-around coloured pencil and is mostly lightfast. If you want to follow along with these exercises, any other professional coloured pencils will do just fine too.

If you are a beginner, I suggest not worrying about the paper quality. There are so many different types, and it's easy to get overwhelmed with choice. Just make sure that your paper is acid-free, and keep in mind the texture and thickness of the paper as they can affect the 'feel' of your artwork.

You can try these exercises in your sketchbook. Just make sure the paper is higher than 100 GSM. Add a few sheets underneath your drawing to 'cushion' it if you are using single sheets of paper.

Once you have these basics in place, you are ready to begin.

Below are a few shading exercises to try with your colour pencils.

In these practices, we imagine a light source from each circle's top right corner.

Each technique produces a different texture to your artwork. Give each one a go and see which ones are your favourites.


In this technique, you draw lines in the same direction parallel to each other. The closer the lines, the darker it appears. Layer your pigments from light to dark to build the depth of values. You might need a few layers to get the darkness that you desire. Lighter pressure on your pencils will create lighter values. Light hues can also be created by leaving more space between the lines or choosing a light-coloured pencil.

Colour pencil technique - hatching

You are only working with a pencil tip to colour a large surface, so building your colours and values can take some time. So make sure to be patient as it can take a while to get done.


Building on the last technique, we start the cross-hatching technique. For this method, we use straight lines that cross over each other. The density of lines determines the darkness of the values created. Your strokes can go in any direction, but you are generally trying to follow the object's contour.

Cross-hatching colouring method

I chose the complementary colours of blues and yellows for a bit of contrast. However, you can pair your colours however you desire.


This technique is a fun and free-flow method of creating little squiggly lines to create texture. Build your values from light to dark. Start with the lightest shades and add more colours and pigments to get the right texture and colour. Loose applications of lines create a light texture. To produce darker shades, draw over the lines with more pressure, strokes, and darker pigments.

Scribbles colouring pencil technique

I am building up the values using yellow as the base colour and building it up with deeper reds for a richer tonal variation.

Layer and Blend

For this method, you can use the side of your pencil for a softer blended feel while colouring. Layer your pigments with light pressure, going over them several times to build up the colour. Smooth gradations can be created by adjusting the pressure applied to your colour pencils. But you can also use blending tools such as a blending stump or a piece of paper.

Layering and blending shading

For this exercise, I chose red and dark blue. I build the values using light pressure and then layer the pigment in several coatings. I layer a bit of red and then some blue, overlapping the pigments in the middle. You can create interesting colours and textures by overlapping pigments and creating unique blends.


In this shading method, you follow the shape of the object you are trying to represent. The directional marks are used to suggest the path of the markings on the surface of your subject. Here too, you can use the spacing of the lines to depict lighter values. This technique is excellent for shading subjects where lines run along the surface. For example, onions have lines running down them.

Contour shading


Again, we have the cross-contouring method to build on the technique discussed above. You can overlay different directional strokes to add more texture to this process.

Cross-contour shading technique

Here, I have used a vertical and horizontal blend of strokes to create the texture. You can add any number of directional strokes to get the texture you like.

Short dashes

One of my favourite ways to build texture is using short dashes. In this process, we create little strokes following the object's contour. The closer the lines, the darker it appears. Looser strokes create the illusion of light.

Short dashes shading method

Mix the different techniques we have discussed here to create unique colours and textures by layering your pigments.

Excited to try colouring pencils but are you dreading coming up with an entire picture by yourself? Try 20 free colouring-in sheets. Download them here.

Further reading...

How To Shade With A Pencil

How to shade with a pencil

1 comment

  • this is so helpful !!!!!!!!! i can’t afford painting classes right now, some youtube videos are confusing (and i don’t wanna watch tutorial videos anyway) and this saved me !!!!! now i’m learning how to shade :DD !!! thank you for this !!


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