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Why Drawing Lightly with Colored Pencils Matters

Even though I do a lot of black and white pencil sketches, I just love grabbing my colored pencils. They are so dreamy and fun to work with. But, let me tell you, learning how to use them the right way? Not always the fun part…

Here’s something about colored pencil that I learned the hard way: pressing down too hard with colored pencils is something I need to constantly remind myself to stay away from.

It’s not the way to get vibrant colored pencil drawings that pop. Instead, I need to remind myself about why drawing lightly with colored pencils is the way to get the results I’m looking for. Yes, it takes patience, but that’s always another good skill for me to work on too 🙂

In this article, I’m going to share some tips on why light pressure is an asset with colored pencil art. These are things I’ve picked up through my own art experience and, trust me, they’ve saved me from a lot of colored pencil-related frustration.

So, let’s jump in! What’s the deal with drawing lightly with colored pencils?

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The Benefits of Drawing Lightly

Pressing down hard with colored pencils might seem like a shortcut to vibrant colors. Sure, you’ll get a dark and bold line by digging a canal in your paper with your colored pencil, but you’ll lose out on the opportunity for shading, blending, and nuanced colors. 

Drawing lightly has perks. Here are a few reasons why a gentle touch can make all the difference.

colored pencil rose drawing

I drew this rose while taking an awesome Skillshare class! It was so much fun and taught me a lot about colored pencils.

If you want to take the class, grab this discount on a year of Skillshare!

Smooth Blending

When you draw lightly, you can build up your layers of color, which gives you more options for blending. In the drawing above, I layered multiple colors on top of each other to the different color gradients on the rose.

If, instead, I had pushed down really hard on my colored pencils, I would have thick lines of colored pencil pigment that would be tricky to blend together. Not to mention the dents in my paper I would have to deal with.

The great thing about drawing lightly while you blend your colored pencils together is that you have more freedom to adjust as you go. Do you want to add more layers if you need to bump up the intensity? Is there another color that needs to be added to change the tone of the shading?

Drawing lightly gives you more freedom to create beautiful shading with your colored pencils than you would it you drew with a heavier hand.

Easier Erasing

Erasing colored pencils isn’t easy. It’s always a bit harder than erasing graphite pencils, but it can be a bit easier to erase colored pencils when you’re drawing lightly. There’s less pigment to battle with!

I have a post on the best erasers for colored pencils if you need suggestions!

AFMAT electric eraser with colored pencil

This eraser is an electric eraser! Yeah, an electric eraser. It’s so cool! I find that it’s really fun to use, and it works pretty well for stubborn marks.

Less Wear and Tear on Your Colored Pencils

Colored pencils can get pricey, so it sucks to break one because you pressed too hard. When you draw lightly, you use less pigment and reduce the risk of messing up the tips of your pencils. 

Your paper will thank you, too. Light pressure means fewer dents and tears in your paper, which could save you rom having to start your piece of artwork all over again.

arteza colored pencils set of 72

More Control

When you draw lightly, you actually have more control over your art and the colors you’re laying down. When you draw heavily, each stroke of color you put down is a big deal. 

Instead, when you draw lightly, you can build up color gradually, giving you the freedom to adjust as you go. It’s easier to add new colors, build up new layers, and create different textures by drawing lightly. These are harder things to achieve by pressing firmly.

Techniques for Drawing Lightly

Drawing lightly is a skill, and it takes a bit of practice to get it right, so don’t worry if you feel like it’s challenging to begin with.

If you want to practice drawing more lightly with your colored pencils, here are some techniques to try.

Relax Your Grip

Whenever I realize I’m pushing too hard with my colored pencils, the first thing I do is shake out my hand and loosen up a bit. Usually, my grip is too tight.

Once I’ve loosened up, then I make sure to hold the pencil further back, not close to the tip. This simple adjustment gives me more leverage and makes it easier to control the pressure.

It’s more difficult to push hard on the pencil when I’m holding it further back.

Give it a try. It might feel weird at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll find that it can really help with fostering a lighter touch with your colored pencils.

holding pencil rose colored pencil drawing

Use Broad Strokes

When you need to cover a large area, try making bigger motions and broader strokes instead of small and tight strokes. This technique not only helps you draw more lightly with your colored pencils, but also gives you a smoother texture. 

Build Up Layers

Like I said earlier, I quickly learned that vibrant colored pencil art has a lot to do with building up layers. 

Start with a light base, then gradually add more layers to deepen the color. Use different colors as you build your layers so you’re adding richness and depth to your drawing, and naturally blending your colors together.

All of these layers add up. Even when you’re drawing lightly, each layer of colored pencil you apply has an effect on the overall look of your piece. Be patient. Continue to lightly lay down different layers of color until you achieve the effect you’re looking for.

before and after rose colored pencil drawing

Take Breaks and Shake It Out

Like I said, many times when I’m drawing too hard with my colored pencils, it’s because my grip is too tight. When this happens, I also realize that my patience is running thin too.

Drawing lightly can have some awesome rewards, but there are times when it feels painstaking!

Make it a point to take regular breaks to shake out your hand, relax your fingers, and regroup.

I’ll take a step back, admire the progress I’ve made, and remind myself why drawing lightly is worth it.

Then, I’ll pick up my pencils again and get back to work. Overall, drawing lightly is something that took me a while to learn, but it has made such a huge difference in my colored pencil art.

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