Top Tips For Colour Pencils From UKCPS Artists

The UK Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS) 20th Anniversary Gala Exhibition at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London, is in full swing. We asked two of the exhibiting artists for their top tips when using colour pencils.

David Sandell

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  • Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers.
  • International Member of the Portrait Society of America
  • Signature Member of UK Coloured Pencil Society
  • Associate Member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art

There has never been a better choice of coloured pencils for artists!

Coloured pencil is convenient, versatile and safe. I have always used coloured pencils to try out design concepts for oil painting. However, some drawings become large finished pieces in their own right.

Tips for people starting out with colour pencil

If just starting out, the first step is to experiment with as many samples as you can to get a feel for softness, hardness, colour intensity and other characteristics. Pencils can be watersoluble, wax based, oil based or ink-based pigments. The next step would be to try different types of paper or ground; these could vary from smooth papers, watercolour papers, hot pressed, cold pressed, pastel papers and even wood or stone. The pastel papers come in a range of colours with mid toned papers being very popular. There is something for everyone and every style.

  1. Just because you are drawing, don’t feel the need to work too small. Whenever you’re feeling ready, try a large drawing, e.g. life size portrait – this will help towards developing your confidence with the medium.
  2.  It isn’t necessary to use every colour in the box. A limited palette can deliver mood, drama and interest.
  3. We all love colour but without control of values (light/shade), a drawing will be compromised and simply be a study in colour. I’d recommend comparing the darks and lights across the whole drawing regularly.
  4.  If sitting down, remember to stand back and assess your drawing.
  5. Always finish each session on a high, so you can’t wait to continue the next day.

I hope you found my tips useful. If you’re curious to see more coloured pencil work, you can visit the The UK Coloured Pencil Society 20th Anniversary Gala Exhibition from Thursday 14 to Sunday 24 October at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf in London.

Emma Tildesley

Here are Emma’s top 3 tips for working with colour pencils. Her delicately rendered illustrations of flowers and wildlife fascinate thousands of people online and inspire the coloured pencil community of artists every day.

Emma’s work can be seen from 14th to 24th October at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf in London, as part of the UK Coloured Pencil Society 20th Anniversary Gala.

  1. Use a good sharpener

The cores of coloured pencils are softer than graphite. Keep them sharp and reduce breakages by using a quality sharpener such as the Derwent Super Point. This helical sharpener will give a nice long point to the pencil and stops sharpening when the pencil is sharp enough, reducing your pencils being eaten away.

2. Work in light layers

Coloured pencils are a slow medium that require patience. It can be tempting to achieve depth of colour by applying lots of pressure to the pencil, but this will result in inconsistent coverage across the paper. Instead, build up slowly with lots of light layers to get an even colour and a nice smooth finish.

3. Pencil quality matters

There are many brands of coloured pencils and not all of them are of equal quality. Generally, the more expensive brands are of higher quality and will give higher quality results. Big sets can be a costly purchase and you may not want or need all the colours in a set. Test out a couple of brands first by buying a few single pencils in various colours to see which you prefer.  

Derwent offer a Build Your Own Tin option, where you can personalise your own tin of pencils to choose the colours and ranges you want.

TOP TIP: If you are planning on selling or exhibiting your work make sure to choose pencils with the highest lightfast ratings. This will ensure that your work can be enjoyed for many years without fading.

TOP TOOL TO HAVE: A putty rubber, such as the Derwent Kneadable Eraser, is a great tool for removing pigment from the paper and for cleaning up any pencil dust that may accidentally be smeared across the page. It is a pliable eraser that you can manipulate into any size or shape. It can also be used for lifting bits of pigment to create highlights or textures.

For more information about the UK Coloured Pencil Society’s 20th Anniversary Gala Exhibition, please visit the UKCPS website. The exhibition will be open from Thursday 14th to Sunday 24th October at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London, every day from 11am to 6pm and will be free to visit.