Do you want to learn how to draw with coloured pencils? Give books a try.
On my way to getting back my art and craft groove after many years, I tried a few mediums. As you’ve probably guessed, based on many of my blog posts – I gave coloured pencil drawing a try.
You can read about my journey into my love of coloured pencils.
This post shows how I learnt to draw with coloured pencils by working through books about coloured pencils, and how you can too.
‘Colored Pencil Solution Book’
The first coloured pencil book I bought was Janie Gildow and Barbara Benedetti Newton’s Coloured pencil solution book.
This book covers a range of issues suitable for anyone wanting to start at the beginning with coloured pencils. This book was just what I needed. It is a good book for beginners. This was my level at that time, as I hadn’t drawn with coloured pencils for many, many years.
I promised myself that I would follow each step in the book as the authors advised, and do the exercises. This wasn’t going to be a book that would sit on the shelf, but one that I would use to teach myself how to handle coloured pencils, use the tools associated with coloured pencils, etc. I would do as Janie and Barbara instructed in the book.
So I did.
Using the coloured pencil book
The book provides exercises to complete. It includes trace drawings, and then instructions on what coloured pencils to use – and where to place the colour.
The ‘Colored Pencil Solution’ book shows users how to start with a good set up; then to design your composition. Application and technique, colour and light; reflection and transparency, texture, and problem subjects and fixing mistakes follows.
I bought the pencils; read the book; traced the drawing examples onto paper; and drew the pictures just as described in the book.
The results surprised me. I couldn’t have imagined that I could have produced the pictures that I did by following the instructions to a tee.
It is my favourite coloured pencil book. I refer back to it regularly.
Exercise examples from ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book’
Here you’ll see some examples of pictures I drew from exercises in the book.
The ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book’ taught me that you don’t have to have many, many layers of pencil colour to get a great look. Prior to using this book, I had been thinking that a good image needed 10 or more layers.
This book is a definite keeper.
‘Colored Pencil Explorations’
The second book I used is a follow up to the Coloured Pencil Solution book. The book is Janie Gildow’s ‘Colored Pencil Explorations’ book which shows how coloured pencils can be used in mixed media artwork.
See an example of an exercise I drew from in the book below.
The third book I tried was Arlene Steinberg’s ‘Masterful Color’. This book also provides a full instruction on how to use coloured pencils.
The book starts with the basics; then composition; colour and value; underpainting; whites; greys and blacks; textures and patterns; reflections and finally, putting it all together.
While providing information that a beginner could use to learn coloured pencil drawing, the exercises are quite intricate. While the exercises in the ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book’ created images with less than 10 pencils and about 5 layers of colour, this book’s exercises seemed quite advanced. Most of the exercises in the book used about 20 or so pencils in each exercise.
I learnt the art of coloured pencil drawing by reading books. By reading books, I learnt many techniques in a short period of time by following exactly what is advised by the authors.
Patience is a virtue
But beware – it gets boring – quickly…. after a while, I found that it was dull to follow someone else’s instructions. As your drawing improves, there are only so many exercises that you can do using someone else’s instructions. After a while, I just needed to implement my own creative input into my artwork.
Yet, it’s necessary. That’s the purpose of learning and using books. If you want to find out how to do something, you need to just do it. Do as the teacher says, and then you can apply this to your own individual artwork later on.
Using other teaching methods
It’s some while since I taught myself to draw with coloured pencils by using books. Now, I find that when I need to learn a new art technique, I tend to look to online courses.
However, using online courses can be limiting as you need to stop and start the video as you work through the exercises. Really, you can’t go past a book or magazine as an easy way to follow art exercises.
If you’d like to try Janie Gildow’s techniques, she has courses available on Artist’s network.
I refer back to books often, just to refresh my memory on particular techniques. The books referred to above were published some time ago. You can buy these books from second hand book stores. Also, there are other books about coloured pencils that have been published by a range of coloured pencil artists such as Alyona Nickelsen. You can search for them online, or in your favourite bookstore.
Learn to do coloured pencil drawings with the help of a book. You’ll learn lots that you can then apply quite quickly.
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This post was originally published on 15 April, 2020. It was last updated on 26 January 2022.