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Afraid of Colour? An Intro to Coloured Pencil and Pastel

August 4, 2010

coloured pencils and pastelsFor a graphite or charcoal artist, making the leap to colour can be a little scary. I was terrified of colour at first and it was really tough to get out of my comfort zone and start playing again. Paint is totally different from dry drawing materials, but luckily there are a lot of other choices to make the transition from grayscale to colour.

Here you’ll find a quick intro to the two most basic coloured drawing media with links to more information.

Coloured Pencils

A fancy term for pencil crayons, these can be a good introduction to colour. If you’re interested in experimenting with coloured pencils, it’s definitely worth it to invest in a better quality. Regular pencil crayons have less pigment (colour) and more binder. Student grade coloured pencils have more pigment and artist grade ones have even more pigment. Of course, you pay more for that. To play around with, the student grade pencils are perfect.

Coloured pencils are meant to be used by building up layers of colour, letting you create many more hues than what is available in the box. This also makes them good for experimenting with colour theory. Coloured pencil drawings can be time intensive, but they also produce very beautiful, luminous works of art.

Read more about coloured pencils.


Pastels are another good choice for drawing in colour, although pastel artworks that cover the entire support are often referred to as paintings. Pastels are sticks of pigment and binder. You have a choice of chalk pastels, which are more dry and powdery, and oil pastels, which are softer and buttery. Chalk pastels can produce a lot of dust, which you don’t want to breathe in, and may need to be sprayed with a fixative. They also blend fairly easily, while oil pastels don’t blend as well.

When working with pastels, layering is also important. You will need to be careful that your colours don’t get muddy. Working from dark to light can help with this.

Read more about pastels.



Art supplies can be expensive and most of us can’t afford to go out and buy everything we want. My recommendation is to start out with a less expensive student grade set. Play around with the material, experiment and see how you like it. If you find you really love it, then invest in a higher quality product.

I have a set of student grade pastels I’ve had for years which I use every now and then to do some sketching. If I ever decided to pursue pastel art more seriously (to sell or to show) I would look into buying some better ones, but until then, the pastels I have are perfect!

  1. joanna permalink

    sorry for disturbing you 😉 but i really liked your tutorials and i find them helpful.
    recently I saw a beatiful photo of the girl and I wanted to make a drawing of her with pastels .
    But I realised i dont know how to start ,
    could you make some tutorial portrait with pastels?;)
    thanks in advance!

    • Hey Joanna. No disturbance, don’t worry! Pastels isn’t one of my strongest media, but I’ll see what info and resources I can dig up for you! Maybe this is the perfect opportunity for me to try a new tool!

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