Lemonade Lianne

Drawing | Making | Being | Doing

How to draw a Photorealistic Eye in Graphite

TutorialsLianne WilliamsComment

Hi everyone! I am so excited today to bring you my updated version of my classic drawing course: how to draw a photorealistic eye in graphite. 

This 23 page tutorial takes you on a draw along with me, Lianne Williams, as I guide you through all the techniques and skills you need to know to create a photorealistic drawing. Doesn't that sound amazing? It is! I swear!

Suitable for complete beginners I provide you with your own reference and I cover everything from layering graphite to plotting, how to figure out negative space and how to apply constructive criticism to your work to help you improve next time. I have poured all my knowledge into making this course and it's bursting with valuable tips, tricks and guidance.

First published in 2013 this is now a classic in my resources and to this day I still refer people back to it as a great starting point for anyone who wants to achieve that highly detailed and realistic effect that photorealism and graphite can offer. If you can draw this, i believe you will be able to draw ANYTHING. And is completely FREE.

drawing a photorealistic eye in graphite art tutorial with Lianne Williams

Today is special because this is the first time I've offered this course in the format of an easy to download PDF eBook! You can now keep a copy to hand forever and even print it if you wish! 

If you're ready to get started head over to my Resource Library to access your free copy of the drawing course today! Then, go tell all your friends about it.

Don't forget to tell me how you get on and share with me your finished artwork either. 

Good luck! 

My Essential Graphite Pencil Techniques

Art Basics, TutorialsLianne WilliamsComment
My essential graphite pencil techniques

How could I write My Essential Colour Pencil Techniques without sharing with you it's sister post, My Essential Graphite Pencil Techniques? Especially when graphite plays such a huge role in my artistic practices.

Graphite remains an unwavering favourite of mine. Profoundly simple. Tactile. The chemistry. The history. Plus the fact I can't get on with charcoal, (at all).

Understanding what you can do with graphite and applying all that knowledge into creating your image can make this humble medium incredibly rewarding and key to success is experimentation and asking questions.

Once you appreciate that graphite is essentially just slivers of graphite being abraded off by the paper surface and it is nothing more then dust, you being to realise it's not too dissimilar to layering pastels or paint- just that its in a refined point and encased in wood. Graphite comes in a whole range of different forms from mechanical pencils to caseless sticks of graphite and even graphite dust. Below are the tools I use the most when working with graphite.

Mechanical pencil, wooden pencil, caseless graphite pencil, graphitone, eraser pencil and blending stumps.

Mechanical pencil, wooden pencil, caseless graphite pencil, graphitone, eraser pencil and blending stumps.

To start, a brief explanation into graphite hardness. Graphite pencils come in grades of hardness. The full range is:

(hardest & lightest) < 9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, HB, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B > (softest & darkest). 

The harder the pencil the lighter the graphite 'shade' but the finer a point you can sharpen to. Softer grades are darker but more crumbly and more difficult to get a clean crisp mark with. They often leave thicker marks. So the real challenge with graphite is understanding the full range of properties within the range of hardness as well as the full potential of what can be achieved with graphite.

Grades of graphite pencil

Grades of graphite pencil

Graphite grades and the marks they make

Graphite grades and the marks they make

All graphite is not equal. There are different mixes and some brands produce better shades of grades then others. I recommend sticking to one brand of grades for one drawing otherwise you may find that one brands 2B is a LOT darker then anothers 4H and then you'll struggle with picking grades for your drawing, and it matters.

Who knew shades of grey could be so important? But enough. Let's talk techniques!

Graphite Technique 1: Layering

layered graphite pencil

layered graphite pencil

The starting point of every drawing will be your layers. Light areas will need light/hard grades. Dark areas will need dark/soft grades. Or you can stick to one HB pencil and us that throughout, layering many layers, over and over, creating quite a diverse range of shades. The best method is to use the FULL range. I will pick a hard, a middle and a soft grade of graphite and create my drawing layering all of those together.

My soft grades will create areas of dark that I can then neaten with the crispness of the hard grades. The hard grades will allow me to create smooth areas of gentle smooth shading without the tooth of the paper showing through which the soft grade wouldn't be able to manage. The middle grade will help connect the two in gentle but contrasting gradients which create my final artwork.

BONUS TIP. Don't muddy drawings. Keep your contrast clear so your subject reads well. Too many subtle variations of grey ends up creating a very bland haze of grey. Not a drawing that pops.

Shading your layers requires gentle, even layers of built up tone. One on top of each other until you reach the desired shade. Like with coloured pencil you can vary the strokes you make but it does effect the final texture. Crosshatching and circulation are two common shading & layering techniques as demonstrated below:

Top: Crosshatching. Bottom: Circulation. Graphite layering and shading techniques.

Top: Crosshatching. Bottom: Circulation. Graphite layering and shading techniques.

Graphite Technique 2: Erasing & Keeping the White of the Paper

erasing graphite

Erasing, using the white of the paper and protecting your work from smudges are all key skills I recommend researching and practicing.

Erasers come in so many varieties these days that it's impossible to recommend one over another as artists all have their favourites. I'm particularly keen on pencil erasers as I work small and frequently need a tiny point to erase with. I can't stand putty erasers as they seem to retain the graphite (or colour pencil) and then smear it all back over your work. When I erase I want as much to shift off as possible.

Softer grades of graphite are harder to shift but they are 95% removable. My belief is that errors are better off avoided by careful drawing, rather then erasing but that doesn't mean erasing doesn't provide a vital function or creative purpose.

I personally like exploiting the nature of erasers to lighten areas or add in detail and texture. It's almost impossible to ever return to the pure white of fresh paper so if I know I'll need to have areas of white I especially protect those places as best I can to retain the white of the page rather then erase back into an area I've already shaded.

Bonus Tip: Micro white details can be achieved in two ways- white ink over the top. Or, if you're a purist, you can lightly emboss the page with a very fine embossing tool (which looks like a flat pin head) and this will invisibly dent the paper until you shade over the top- the graphite will skim over your mark leaving a white mark for you.

Protecting your artwork as you draw is vital since graphite is so prone to smudging. You can lay a fresh piece of clean paper under your hand to protect your work (I've heard magazine paper is particularly good as it's so shiny and slips around with you) use a mahl stick like painters do, or you can simply work across the page from top left to bottom right (if you're right handed, reverse if you're left handed) and you won't need to touch your drawing at all.

Graphite Technique 3: Blending

Different grades of graphite pencil blended

Different grades of graphite pencil blended

I LOVE blending, as it allows me to have full control over what result I choose to have with my graphite. It can play with the tooth of the paper and have grainy, fluffy marks, or, I can polish it out with my blending stump and create glassy, flat smooth areas of tone which work flawlessly in photorealism artwork.

Blending really depends on the artwork though. Sketches might not need blending, for instance, or you might just prefer to see the marks. I prefer a mix. I generally blend and then add in marks back on top creating artwork that has a photofinish, but you can still see is a drawing. All you need to do is lightly layer, then go over with your blending tool in the same motion, smoothing out your marks. The blending tool should smudge the graphite down into all the white of the paper leaving a lovely flat grey which you can then go back over the top and rework with more graphite.

Continue layering and blending throughout your drawing. Job done.

To blend, you just need a blending stump or cotton bud. You can even use a DIY paper cone to blend with. But never, ever use your finger. I don't make rules about art but I draw the line (excuse the pun) at finger smudging graphite- just because the oils on your hand can destroy your artwork and leave great big grease marks all over it which will not come off... You've been warned.

Paper cone DIY blending stump

Paper cone DIY blending stump

Bonus tip: Don't waste the graphite picked up by your blending stump. It can create soft, light marks too. If you need a fresh stump simply sand the tip down with sandpaper.

Marks made with a dirty blending stump

Marks made with a dirty blending stump

Graphite Technique 4: Fixing Drawings and Photographing your Artwork

Your final technique to master will be fixing your drawing with artists fixing spray and then taking the dreaded photographs.

Dreaded? Yes. Graphite is a shiny as glass. Observe:

graphite photographed correctly and incorrectly

Photographed incorrectly graphite will reflect light and as result all that beautiful detail you just captured becomes lost. Therefore graphite drawings need to be photographed out of the direct path of sunlight and presented in a way where there is no glare and this can be infuriatingly tricky in most people's normal working environments. Yes if we all had photography studios it might be fine, but we don't, so my advice is to look out for it, avoid shooting your artwork next to any bright light sources, check for any shadows you might be creating on the art work but ALWAYS take photos at daytime if you can- indoor lighting at night is just as intrusive and reflective but when you shoot in the daytime you get a nice clean white light rather then a hazy orange/yellow that indoor lighting always seems to produce.

Graphitone can produce a more matte finish to graphite meaning your blacks will really pop in your photographs which look great. I will also use a black coloured pencil if I feel my artwork really needs it. Otherwise, as a very last result, you can tweak contrast in photo editing software to try and portray your artwork as accurately as possible. We are artists and not photographers after all...

Everything I use to create my Artwork

Studio, Product Review, Art BasicsLianne Williams4 Comments
Everything i Use to create my artwork, tools and materials

Never ever let me near an art shop. I have a problem.

I covet art materials. I adore and cherish art materials. I cry and dance over colour pencils, paper, paint, brushes, little tubs full of pencil sharpeners. Ah! I love it all. Don't get me started on glitter. Really. But as I have become more settled in the work I create, the stuff I actually use day-to-day has begun to refine and I now have my favourite things that I use regularly and always replace. Skip to the bottom to get a full list of everything I use.

my art tools and materials

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon associates where I receive a small fee for every purchase made through that link.


For dry work such as colour pencil and graphite I use Daler Rowney or Winsor and Newton Bristol Board in sizes a3 and a4. It is a thick, smooth, white paper that takes colour pencil and graphite brilliantly.

For wet work like ink and wash, watercolour or mixed media work I use various brands of watercolour paper in either loose sheets or in watercolour blocks. The blocks from Daler Rowney (The Langton range) are great because they don't cockle as theyre already stretched but only come in a few sizes (and no big sizes here) and are much more expensive. I got a really good pack of practice watercolour paper from Ken Bromley and that's lasted me for ages and the quality is really good. Regarding smoothness and weight, I use a mixture. Sometimes Rough. Sometimes HP. Hardly NP. I like the texture in Rough but details can be lost in it. HP is great for mixing pencil and paint as its so smooth.

I also have my sketchbooks. I've used all kinds and made my own. ATM I'm enjoying Moleskine and a Damien Hirst one. I prefer them hard back.


I use Faber Castell's Polychromos as my core colour pencils but also use Prismacolor Premiere colour pencils and Prismacolor Verithins.

For graphite work i use a standard range of sketching pencils, usually grade 4H to 8B, specifically 4H, HB, 3B, 6B and 8B. I particularly like my woodless graphite pencils. They're solid graphite so you can get some lovely big marks by using them on the side. My Faber-Castell mechanical pencils are also heavily used and I always keep a stash of extra leads just in case. I also use a dark 9B Graphicube and have a few Derwent watersoluable Graphitones in 2B and 8B.

To sharpen I use and electric sharpener and to erase I use a standard eraser (I don't get on well with putty erasers as I find them messy) and eraser pencils. Another essential tool are my blending stumps and of course fixative.


I use Winsor and Newton Artist watercolour tubes, Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour cakes and Caran Dache Gouache paint. For neons I used Turners acrylic gouache.

I use masking fluid every now and then and replace it regularly as it can go off. Other handy tools to have are sponges,, salt/gin for other cool effects, and Pentel water brushes for painting on the go. I also use glitter/rhinestones sometimes. I apply this with standard PVA white glue. Anything suited for paper.

My brushes tend to be large synthetic ones for getting big washes down and then natural smaller brushes for adding detail. I swear by busted up, glued up, dried out, nasty old paint brushes for getting texture down. I have several in various sizes. I also use a dropper for adding splats of paint, water, watercolour iridescent medium etc...


I use Faber Castell Pitt Pens in various shades and sizes. I love the drawing pack and the grey tones pack. They're waterproof so you can mix them with watercolour washes and they won't bleed. I use Uni-ball Signo pens for white details

Standard office highlighters are great fun and you can also get some washes out of them if you want a cheap neon paint. They work fine with Pitt pens and pencil too. Or you could try neon highlighter pencils.

Other miscellaneous items include my drawing board, vintage paper ephemera like sheet music and postcards, and paper doilies which can be found on eBay, baking sections and charity shops. I collect them when I find them as they can be quite tricky to get hold of and you might not come across that style again.

Here's a full list of everything I've mentioned with links to where you can purchase your own right now. Enjoy!

Prismacolor VS Polychromos: Lets compare!

Product ReviewLianne Williams13 Comments
Prismacolor Artist Color Pencils versus Polychromos Colour Pencils

Prismacolor Premiere colour pencils versus Faber-Castell's Polychromos. I feel like I'm stepping into dangerous waters here...

It's one of those debates that seem to go round in circles on art forums over and over. Prismacolor or Polychromos? Which is better? Why? Artists declaring they LOVE Polychromos, LOVE Prismacolor, and wouldn't dream of using another brand... so what's the big deal? They're just coloured pencils right?

Let me show you what I found when I conducted a series of comparison tests on the two brands to shed some light on the issue.

This article and its images have been reproduced in part for Colored Pencil Magazine. This post contains affiliate links to Amazon Associates where I receive a small fee for every item purchased via that link. Please see my disclosure policy for further information.

A brief introduction to Prismacolor and Polychromos...

Prismacolor is US based.

Polychromos are Europe based.

Prismacolor are wax based.

Polychromos are oil based.

Each brand comes in various tin sizes with various colours. Pricing wise they're quite similar, a medium tin around £50-£70 but shipping can really add up depending on where you live and which of the brands you're buying. For instance I find Prismacolor difficult to get hold of in the UK and I generally have to import them, which is expensive in terms of shipping costs. However, talking to my American friends, and other people around the world, they find Polychromos harder to find and more expensive to purchase instead. Both brands are easy enough to source online but it's a good idea to test out a small range of shades in each brand before committing to a big set so you can really try them out.

BONUS TIP: I recommend getting a range of greys and a black and a white in each brand if you really want to test and compare the behaviour of each. That way you can create a monochrome artwork without spending too much on supplies you may never use again.

Two colour pencils in Ultramarine with very different casing colours

Two colour pencils in Ultramarine with very different casing colours

The Pencil Lead Casing

Today im using the colour Ultramarine from both ranges. At this stage its interesting to note the casing on each pencil and how different they are. I find the Polychromos appear 'truer' to the colour mark they make, then the Prismacolor, which can be important when working. I like to know that the pencil I use is going to produce the colour I expect it to. If in doubt, of course, TEST IT on a clean sheet of paper. 

Each pencil casing details the brand, colour name and its number. The Polychromos has a round base and the Prismacolour has a flat base. The Polychromos are easier to identify in a mix of pencils because of this design trait as their end is quite unusual. Unfortunately there are many pencils that look similar to Prismacolor and you may struggle to identify them against other brands, quickly.

Performance of the Pencil

They both sharpen well and retain their point fine without breaking easily however Prismacolor feel softer to Polychromos. Some have described drawing with Prismacolor as like drawing with kohl eyeliner, which I can understand. Polychromos feel a lot harder. With this in mind: Soft is good for blending but makes it difficult to get detail. Hard is good for drawing detail but can make streaky shading.

Sharpened points of Prismacolor and Polychromos pencils in their casing.

Sharpened points of Prismacolor and Polychromos pencils in their casing.

The design features of Prismacolor and Polychromos colour pencil casing

The design features of Prismacolor and Polychromos colour pencil casing

Now onto the marks themselves.

I've done a variety of shading 'weights' to show the difference between a light shade and a heavy shade, as well as blending with white and blending with colour.

Pigment and coverage properties of Prismacolor and Polychromos color pencils

Pigment and coverage properties of Prismacolor and Polychromos color pencils

Heavy shading showing the power of coverage in both Prismacolor and Polychromos colour pencil

Heavy shading showing the power of coverage in both Prismacolor and Polychromos colour pencil

With a light shading across standard copy paper you can see the Polychromos aren't as vibrant as the Prismacolor in pigment. The Prismacolor is a much richer, deeper blue. However the Polychromos covers the paper in a much more even and softer way. The Prismacolour is 'clumpy' and leaves more white of the paper showing through.

When the pencils are applied and shaded heavier the Prismacolor's softness helps it become much more opaque, in less layers, and leaves a rich, heavy coverage. The Polychromos can achieve a similar coverage but with much more layering, and the hardness can create streaking, which isn't desirable. However this can be rectified by precise shading and a careful eye.

In a single stroke Prismacolor creates a strong but broken line. Polychromos create a lighter line (in terms of pigment strength) but the coverage is better and smoother.

Demonstration Prismacolor and Polychromos with the circulation method of shading

Demonstration Prismacolor and Polychromos with the circulation method of shading

Both circulation and straight lines techniques demonstrate how much softer Prismacolor is. The lead of Prismacolor needed sharpening more frequently so i also suspect that the pencils would be used up quicker too, adding to expense. Polychromos retained their point for longer.

Erasing Prismacolor and Polychromos colour pencils

Erasing Prismacolor and Polychromos colour pencils

Erasing them was fairly straight forward. Prismacolor left a sticky coloured residue that was dirty and difficult to remove so this could potentially stain work whilst erasing. Polychromos erased very well for a strongly pigmented blue, which are notoriously difficult to erase.

BONUS TIP: Prismacolor suffer from a problem called 'wax bloom' where the pigment shifts and bleeds in the artwork after time, which can be disastrous.. Polychromos don't have this problem and are also very good in mixed media including watercolour and oil painting.

I couldn't help but be impressed with Prismacolor's blending ability, creating almost flawless areas of blending. New colours could also be mixed this way with a limited palette. Polychromos blended well, but with streaking still visible.

Intrigued, I looked into mixing Prismacolor white with Polychromos to see if I could mix the two brands. I loved the precision Polychromos offered, but the blending of Prismacolor was so much easier and quicker! This is what I found:

Mixing Prismacolor Premiere Colour Pencils with Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils

Mixing Prismacolor Premiere Colour Pencils with Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils

Yup. Prismacolor will also blend Polychromos... further tests revealed however that any further layering or working with Polychromos again over the top WOULD NOT WORK WELL. The Polychromos would either carve off the layer of Prismacolor or the Prismacolor wouldn't adhere to the Polychromos and would begin to streak and go patchy. Further experiments have suggested that Prismacolor should only be used on top or in selected areas to avoid clashing too much with Polychromos.


As a fervent Polychromos fan I found what I learnt about Prismacolor very exciting and I will definitely consider mixing the two in my artwork and appreciating BOTH BRANDS both individually and collaboratively for their unique properties.

Finally I get SO many questions about which brand is best and what size set beginners should buy and i always reply the same: get a small set of each, or even just black, white and red in each brand, and try each for yourself. They may be just colour pencils but when you draw for long enough you'll notice they FEEL different and LOOK different and you will naturally gravitate towards one type.

Which do you prefer and why? Have I missed anything that you'd like me to compare?

My Essential Colour Pencil Techniques

Tutorials, Product Review, Art BasicsLianne Williams1 Comment
my essential colour pencil techniques

Today I'll be sharing a quick guide to MY essential colour pencil techniques which I hope will answer some of your questions and help beginners, or anyone really, expand their repertoire of drawing skills.

Obviously this isn't an exhaustive list of every technique on tha-planet, because that would be a ridiculously long blog post (which even I wouldn't be tempted to write), and the wonderful thing about art is that these techniques are meant to be ignored, broken and adapted, so if something here isn't a good fit for you, that's okay- no hard feelings.

Because this is what I do.

This is how I work and I know for sure you have and will develop all sorts of different techniques and quirks to me and YAY, that's what art is about. Don't be nervous. Embrace it. I look for other artists trying new things and applying materials in crazy ways because I learn from those people more then artists who stick to the text book.

Ignore your teacher who told you 'Never use black!'

Ignore your friend who said 'Never erase'

Screw those guys. Do what works for you. And here's what works for me. Pep talk over and out.

I'm using Faber-Castell Polychromos colour pencils for these techniques today and Winsor & Newton Bristol Board to draw on. Other tools I'm using include my drawing board, a pencil sharpener and an eraser pencil. Even though these techniques are pretty straight forward you will find that the brand of colour pencils you use may produce different results with these techniques. For instance, erasing Prismacolor is very different to erasing Polychromos.

Some thoughts on Artist Grade vs Student Grade vs Children's Colour Pencils... Long-story-short, don't worry about it

As a general rule Artist grade pencils will have a combination of consistent high pigment strength and good bendability. This makes them comfortable and easy to use, you get nice result, quicker and easier. They are a great investment for people who use them a LOT, and they're going to work hard for you. Be prepared to be a pencil snob forever once you try them. They are rather nice to use.

Student pencils, or lower grade pencils (which you will still find in art shops and are just a little more affordable) will usually be a little paler in pigment strength and a bit more 'sticky' to layer. They generally don't blend as well and you might get streaking. But that being said a) that can all be rectified with SKILL and b) you can still get some brilliant student grade pencils which work perfectly well and you would be hard pushed to tell the difference between them and Artist grade. Be warned there are some dreadful student grade pencils out there which I wouldn't even let me children use. Test them first, if in doubt, before you invest. 

Children's pencils, and I'm talking about the ones you get for free in restaurants, magazines, and also children's art and craft sections, are usually significantly paler in pigment strength and often difficult to blend. However, 'The tool does not an artist make' and with a little bit of practice ANY colour pencil can become a versatile drawing instrument. Don't believe me. I'm not surprised. Check out my post on colouring with Crayola.

Now lets get on with those techniques...

Colour Pencil Technique 1: Layering

Colour Pencil Technique Layering

My number one technique has to be layering. Its essential.

Understanding the different properties each layer adds, and why, will give you so many more creative options then just filling in areas with block colour.

Layers add:

  • depth,
  • character,
  • texture,
  • colour nuances
  • and a whole host of detail you cant get with block colouring.

How to Layer your Colour Pencil

When it comes to layering, shade lightly and gently, building up many layers, maybe more then six, until you get a heavy coverage of colour. By this I mean that no white of the paper shows through. It is only with layering that you will get a glassy, smooth finish. The pigment needs to be heavy enough on the page to fill the gaps in the tooth of the paper. When the tooth has all gone the colour pencil becomes the drawing surface and this is very smooth and blendable. When you've achieved this, your pencil marks will start to blend smoothly and softly together, just like paint on a canvas. 

Bonus Tip: You can change colours in your layers, direction of the shading, the marks you make... it all adds to the effect. Explore.

Bonus Tip: If you want a delicate random texture, like you might find on delicate skin around the eye, one unblended layer can quickly replicate that effect of lacy thin, papery skin, without having to draw every little crease.

Colour Pencil Technique 2: Erasing

Colour Pencil Technique Erasing

I gotta-tell-ya. When I first discovered I could erase colour pencil I could have cried for joy. For years I was told it was impossible or you had to use one of those erasers with the blue end that tore holes in your paper and was allegedly able to remove ink. Do you remember those? Anyway.

Polychromos can be erased quite easily with a standard eraser, but obviously the harder you press the more likely you are to stain or dent the page which is not good. Plus, you might damage the paper which is Game Over. Blues can be particularly difficult to shift, so plan ahead. If you want to keep something in your drawing 'paper white' DO NOT, REPEAT, DO NOT, rely on erasing to gain that area back later... There are better ways to do that- considering masking or using white ink if it really needs it.

Be Warned. Not all colour pencils are equal. Prismacolor for instance doesn't erase well, at all.

Erasing Prismacolor compared to Erasing Polychromos colour pencil

Bonus Tip: Consider erasing colour pencil for special effects like delicate textures or stippling

Bonus Tip: Don't forget to use a clean eraser every time so you don't accidentally add in any odd colours. This is why I use an eraser pencil as not only can it be kept meticulously clean, it retains a sharp point for fine detail.

Colour Pencil Technique 3: Know Your Colour Wheel

Check out how dark that green becomes when added to pink. So much darker then more pink or blue... that's colour theory and complementary colours at work

Check out how dark that green becomes when added to pink. So much darker then more pink or blue... that's colour theory and complementary colours at work

Before you panic and fall on the floor in a faint- i KNOW. Colour theory  is a whole lifetime of knowledge in itself and i'm not expecting you to learn everything right this second, but, spend a little time researching basic colour theory, specifically mixing colours for art and how your colour choices can effect the richness and depth of your artwork and you'll be amazed. Let me go over some basics.

You know Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colours. Great.

You know about tone and contrast. Fab.

You've seen a colour wheel...

But have you heard about complementary colours? What about warm and cool colours? What if I told you that mixing red with a warm shade of blue would create a very different result to mixing the same red with a cool shade of blue? What if I told you that to make a dark black, you might be better off adding in a complementary colour rather then just more black? Yup. Its basically art alchemy. Or possibly voodoo.

Let's take it up a level.

Did you know that experienced artists structure their landscape compositions with warm colours in the foreground and cool colours in the background? It helps draw the eye in through the composition.

Bonus Tip: Have a look at layering colours like a bright yellow under a red to make it appear more vibrant and glowy. How diverse can you make a limited colour palette by just layering colours in a different order? 

layering colours with colour pencil

Colour Pencil Technique Four: Working with White

Using the white colour pencil

Using the white colour pencil

Nobody likes the white crayon do they? Except artists. White is one of Faber-Castells most sold colours, mainly because artists use it as a neutral blender to create pale tones and to smooth out existing layers without putting down anymore pigment colour. It can also be used to add texture on the top of dark colours.

Bonus Tip: Test new colour combinations out on a similar type of paper before applying to your drawing so you can be sure you like the results.

Never underestimate the power of the white of the paper but if you know you'll be layering colours over the top anyway, starting with a layer of white and giving the paper a smooth surface to begin with can help blend colours nicely over the top, especially areas where a pale colour is required and you want to control how much pigment goes down.

There are colourless blenders available too and these work just as well but have a go with using similar pale tones such as ivory, grey, and the pale pinks can also be used for blending too.

White is also useful for working over the top of darker areas of colour and adding texture and detail. Some brands are better then others but I'm yet to find one I like. I personally don't find it very predictable or precise and if I want VERY accurate white areas such as delicate highlight I either retain the white of the paper (you can mask or emboss the page for extra precision) or use white ink and go back over my drawing.

Bonus tip: Have a go with white pencil on toned paper, like black or purple.

using white colour pencil on top of dark colours

Colour Pencil Technique Five: Shading

colour pencil technique shading and cross hatching

Line drawings, please leave the building. Today we're all about shading.

Shading is about creating that 3D look we want to some drawings, when we want to express highlights, shadows and even texture. Its the physical way we apply our pencil to the paper as we layer it.

There are three popular shading styles that I can think of, which I'll discuss in a moment, but if you really want to develop your own unique style as an artist and find what suits your individual creativity, explore different shading techniques. Invent your own. Mix them. Make a sketchbook full of pages of these scribbles exploring light, dark, texture, rhythm.

Cross Hatching

Most of us are taught this at school at some point. Its a layering technique where you draw an area of lines all going in the same direction. Then to make it darker you go over the area again with another series of lines in another direction. And so on. Try this with pen too. It can leave gaps between the lines but this can create a sketchy effect some people like. Keep your lines close together if you want a smoother finish.


Circulation is something I use rarely as I find it stressful to my wrists so I reserve it for areas where I really need flawless smooth colour such as on smooth skin or backgrounds. It involves shading in tiny circular movements building layers, similar to cross hatching.


Build up areas of tone with layers of dots. This is certainly more popular with ink based medium but you can definitely apply the technique to drawings as well.

Bonus Tip: Remember, remember, remember: The mark you leave is just as important as the image you conjure.