Lianne Williams

Portrait Artist & Illustrator

How to Use Metallic Colour Pencils

Art Tutorials, Colour PencilsLianne Williams2 Comments
how to use metallic colour pencils

Metallic colour pencils can add a beautiful special effect to your drawings if you take a little time to get to know them. Most brands carry them now and they often come in shades of copper, gold or silver.

Some tips on metallic colour pencils:

  • They do NOT work well on artwork that is intended for anything other then first hand veiwing. Digital/online/print media don't work with these as they don't capture the metallic glint.
  • They do not take well to being scanned or photographed as the reflective qualities become completely lost and can even look grey/streaky. This can really effect finished artworks photography, even if youve only added a little.
  • Always add metallics as the very last stage. And photograph/scan drawings before you add them just in case everything goes wrong so at least you have a copy of your earlier efforts!
  • If you wish to make prints of a drawing you will need to hand finish your prints to get that metallic look. Its easier to print from a pre-metallic scan and hand embellish, then to hand embellish a scan of a completely finished drawing with metallics.
  • If you're photographing it for websites or promotion, photograph front on with and without a light shining on it to trigger the glints of metallic. Shoot from various angles to capture the effect. Its difficult to capture it's effect in just one image.
  • Another idea is to video your drawing and show the light glinting.
  • They work brilliantly with mixed media such as watercolour.
  • They FEEL different and require different applications to standard colour pencil to get the best from them.
  • They erase.
  • Choose what you use metallics for carefully.

YES: Decorative borders, backgrounds, suggestions of weather, embelishments, highlights, or other 'hints' of metallic look great. Shimmering water, drops of dew on petals, strands of hair, edges of fish scales, glints on jewellery, sunsets, illustrative florals, lettering...

NO: Colouring in a whole metallic objects in a still life, like a spoon. It will just look flat, out of place in your arrangement with strange lighting, and unrealistic. Instead draw a spoon in normal colour pencils and then adding touches of metallic on the edge to give a hint of metallic, but let the drawing itself suggest metallic.

Lets take a look at them.

metallic colour pencil techniques

I've shaded with them in 3 different ways so you can see the different effects and how badly they photograph. Now you dont need proof!

Shading is one light layer and creates a very delicate glittery finish. This looks best in silver but gold is okay too. Copper looks very grey and flat with hardly any metallic element.

metallic colour pencil techniques

Burnishing several layers firmly until the metallic becomes opaque and shiny creates a great effect however unless its finished properly they can look streaky. Also, in person, they can still appear quite thin and grey so make sure youve covered the area your highlighting densely.

metallic color pencil tutorial

Layering involves putting down a similar colour pencil colour as a base and then burnishing with metallic on the top. This doesnt photograph as well but looks fine in reality, with a more opaque result. For me i found the silver looked 'tinny' but copper and gold really worked well with this. You could experiment with layering different colour pencils with different metallics to create different colours perhaps?

metallic colour pencil

The final step is finishing your metallic areas by shading with circulation to burnish out the streaks from shading and create a smooth area which reflects cleanly from all angles without messy streaks. Check out my earlier post on shading and circulation to get more info on that technique.

BEFORE FINISHING- notice the streaky lines? Diagonal on the left and vertical on the right?

BEFORE FINISHING- notice the streaky lines? Diagonal on the left and vertical on the right?

AFTER FINIHSING- The circle on the left remains streaky. The circle on the right now has an even, smooth finish that glints cleanly.

AFTER FINIHSING- The circle on the left remains streaky. The circle on the right now has an even, smooth finish that glints cleanly.

Finally, you should avoid fixing metallic pencil as it will dull the metallic so if you require to fix work, spray it BEFORE adding your metallic.

Heres one of my metallic artworks. Lets see yours? You've got no excuse to try these now!