Blending colors together…..

This will be one of many regular posts about different techniques I use in my colored pencil work.  I haven’t decided yet how often they will  be but right now I’m thinking once a month or bi-weekly.  I’m in the midst of preparing a tutorial for a magazine so once I’m done with that I’ll be able to get my plan for the next six months down and prepare my ideas.  I hope you’ll follow my posts and share them with others.


This article is about blending colors and by that I don’t mean the layering of two or more colors to achieve another color.  I’m talking about working with two or more colors that need to meet at some point but their marriage must be almost undetectable.  I prepared a series of images in stages and I’ll explain the process as I go.  For the purpose of this exercise I am using my favorite brand of colors – Faber Castell Polychromos.  In this example I’m using two colors relatively close together on the color wheel – Cadmium Orange and Deep Red.  Choose any two analogous colors you like.  You can do this same exercise with more than two colors and using colors vastly different from one another but the challenge becomes greater to make two opposites blend smoothly with only soft edges.  For my paper, I’m using some scraps of Stonehenge paper, also one of my favorite brands.  Whatever brand you use, you will have slightly different results, but the techniques will be the same so don’t go run out and buy all new materials.  Work with what you have and focus on the technique.


Step One:

Using a 1 1/2  x 4 1/2 inch piece of Stonehenge or whatever type of paper you are using, begin by kind of scribbling in some cad orange at one end and bringing it up to within a half inch let’s say of the middle of the piece.  Then do the same at the other end with the deep red.  Don’t press hard as you will damage the tooth of the paper, just fill it in remembering also that you are not trying to eliminate any white showing through at this point.  You’re piece should look something like this:


Step 1

You’ll notice that I was not concerned about the direction of my strokes.  That is not always the case, because for some pieces, right from the beginning you would want to maintain your sense of direction with your strokes so that in the end your time detailing is not spent trying to correct what you’ve already laid down.  For this example I’m deliberately filling it in at random so you can see how to make it work in the end.


Step Two:

For this step you want to begin to marry the two colors together but if you are too heavy handed, especially with the darker color your meeting place may have to be adjusted and in this case we want them to blend more or less in the middle.  So we begin by using our orange and begin to cover the blank space right across to the red and into it and then turning your piece around do the same with the red but use a lighter touch especially at the edges as it’s easier to fill in dark than to remove it.  Repeat this process until you have a number of orange/red layers drawing them into each other.  In addition you can layer a little more on the two ends bringing the color relatively even with the middle.



Step Three:

Now the fun part really begins – bringing it all together in a soft blend so that it is hard to tell where the colors begin or end.  To do a really good job of blending your colors together you need to keep your pencils needle sharp.  The reason for this is that you will basically be filling in all the valleys between the color strokes.  If you simply color over with more color you will eventually fill in most of the white but you will also have areas of darker color and that is not what we are trying to achieve – SO NO COLORING!  At this point we are painting and bringing harmony to our work of art.  Is it time-consuming?  Yes it is, but the end result is worth it.  If your desire is to create art that you can do in a day then color pencil art is not for you.  Does it require patience – no, not at all – at least not if you love what you’re doing.   So let’s get working on the blending of these colors.

Again, using a sharp pencil you are going to begin filling in the area of orange moving across to where the red and orange were layered.  Work on this area until you feel it is complete.  Do the same with the red area.  These two areas should be within an inch of each other now leaving the layered area to be completed.  Here we begin by dropping in the small dots or strokes of color to both sides to get a diluted mixture of both colors working out toward the solid areas.  From here on it’s a matter of standing back and seeing where you were too heavy (hopefully not) and where you were too light and gradually work the colors together to create a very soft edge that makes the colors appear without a defined transition.  My photography is not that of a pro but I hope you get the idea here.  For some pieces I would fill in even more so there is no white showing or do a watercolor pencil underpainting.


Step 3


When doing a portrait or still life or whatever subject you’re working on and you need to create this effect, the trick is to map out lightly what color(s) you want to bring together and gradually layer them into one another to create the soft effect.  If within this soft area you need to add shadows or highlights it is then much easier to tie it all together.


I hope this little tutorial has been helpful and I look forward to doing more.  Please check back to see the next one.





10 Comments on “Blending colors together…..

  1. Thanks for the tutorial, I’ve signed up to keep informed as you write more, it’s nice to see a tutorial using polychromos and not just prismas.


  2. Thanks Deb for signing on. I really appreciate the support you’ve given me on my journey. I really prefer the polychromos and while they are more expensive I think they work much better, although there are some aspects to prismas that are nice and they have a few colors that aren’t available in the FC’s.


  3. I have just completed this exercise using Derwent Coloured Pencils because they are the ones that I have. Thank you for sharing Terry. This journey is going to be fun.


  4. Thank you Colin. I hope it was easy enough to follow and that you were able to have success. I have many Derwent pencils and I love them and will often use them interchangeably with my polychromos.


  5. Love your work! It’s interesting to see you’re using a blending technique that doesn’t involve solvents or heavy burnishing. This should leave the paper with enough tooth to make adjustments later on in the drawing process, if required. Thanks for sharing Terry.


  6. Thank you Christianne for commenting and your applause. I’m not a fan of burnishing or using solvents for a number of reasons. Burnishing is a tool, not a means to an end and a lot of artists do not use it correctly. I prefer to let my lights and darks, shadows and highlights create the effect that people try to use the burnishing technique for. Solvents is another issue. I have used them but I think you need to have the technique down pat which like most CP work requires a plan, light hands and a good understanding of the technique itself. I have a tutorial that will be published in the Senior Artist Online Magazine sometime in May I believe, regarding color blending. It takes you through a whole piece that incorporates this technique. If you don’t already subscribe to it, check it out at It’s an excellent resource for all things artistic.


  7. Terry, I appreciate this tutorial ‘blending’ so much, will definetely be back for more! You have one ‘student’ all eyes from South Africa! Will for sure do this exercise, I have a set of Derwent Coloursofts and a few colours from Verithin, got the Verithins from my hubby’s work, they used it to mark ‘plans’, before computers arrived! Looking forward to more tutorials. One thing what is still in my mind, is how ‘soft’ is soft for the first layer of CP. Again THANK YOU!!!


  8. You are so welcome! My computer crashed about two weeks ago and I only just got it back now so I have a lot of emails to respond to and more articles to post but there should be a new one this coming Monday. As to your question about how “soft”, that is hard to describe in words and for each individual it will be different depending on the kind of pencils they use, the paper and what you are trying to achieve. I know that’s not a big help but I will say that when you have a very sharp pencil and you work applying layers, with practice it will come to you and you’ll find yourself saying, “yeah, now that feels right. By the way, the Derwent pencils are wonderful but I would encourage you to try other brands because they all work differently. Pick up a single pencil of a different brand every time you go out for art supplies and spend some time using that pencil. The same goes for papers. If you just buy one or two you’re not spending a lot to find out what works best for you.



  9. Terry… first of all what a great web-site… clean… bright and pleasing to the eye. I love your tutorials, I am now a fan and will be checking back regularly to help me unravel my journey with coloured pencils and graphite. I can’t wait to do the blending exercise… I find that if I tackle new techniques via exercises, it helps with my learning curve (I get trapped by trying to integrate new techniques in a piece of work / sketch etc… As i put pressure on myself to do a good job – in short i focus more on what i want the work to look like, thus get ahead of myself versus learning to managed the techniques needed to achieve the results I want). To that end, are there other such exercises you have posted or published – I saw that you published in Senior Artist Online Magazine; i will definitely check this magazine out. Once again thank you for taking the time to share your journey and amazing skills with us, it shows your passion and love of art and this comes through in your paintings.
    peace – don


  10. Hi Don – thanks for stopping by and for all the great comments. I especially like the one about my site. It took me a lot of blood, sweat and tears to create it as I am not a computer geek and it’s not as easy as it looks to build a website but I preferred to have one like you described, so I guess I achieved that. You make a very valid comment about your focus. It’s really important to get the technique down pat, working on some smaller pieces so you don’t get discouraged as you know CP takes a long time to complete a piece. Having said that, I started out like you trying to get the end result and rushing and it showed. I’ve seen many pieces of CP work where this problem is evident. Folks start with all the gusto and patience and then they get in a hurry and what you wind up seeing is part of the piece looking wonderful and another part looking like it was done by someone else with the “crayon” look. I encourage you to really take your time. The speed (if you can call it that) comes with practice and there are many great tutorial books and videos out there. One artist whose work I truly admire is Janie Gildow. She is a lovely person and she explains things in a very down-to earth manner. My Jamaican was featured in a four-page spread in Colored Pencil Magazine last May and yes I have worked with Senior Artist Mag as well. As to the tutorials, I hope to do more this year as it was my intention when I did the yellow flower one but unfortunately we had a couple of life experiences in our family that set us all back a bit. I am currently considering writing a book for beginners but that of course takes a lot of time. Most of my works in progress do contain some of the details in creating them but I realize there are gaps so if you ever have any questions feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to answer them. By the way, do you have a facebook page or website where I can take a look at your work?
    Take care – Terry


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