Colored Pencil Tips for older students

By June 13, 2015Art Ideas

Hello Artist Friends!

Today I want to share some colored pencil tips and techniques for you to share with your older students and children. Colored pencil is a great medium for older art students. This age group of artists tend to draw more tightly and controlled than the free, paint-throwing skills of younger artists. I have found that older students LOVE drawing with details and working in a little smaller area. Colored pencils offer the older student a wonderful art experience in a detailed and controlled project they can do successfully and learn from.

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Choose something easy to draw and saturated with color for your first few colored pencil drawing exercises. I have collected a bunch of postcards and pictures over the years of simple still life subjects. These are great to start with because your students can easily draw these subjects and then put their energy into learning how to color and blend using colored pencils.

Your first step will be drawing your subject very lightly with pencil. You don’t want to press too hard or you will dent your paper.

Next trace your subjects in the main color you will be using. Also trace your highlights and shadows to guide where you will add color.

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Now, choose your lightest and warmest colors. Shade using light pressure in one direction and then the other. You are making cross-hatches. As you add colors, change direction so that all the white texture of your paper gets a chance to be covered in color.

I have students add yellow under any warm color. If your end result is orange, red, brown, or even green… you need a layer of yellow underneath.

When your end color is cool like blue and purple,use a variety of cool colors to build up your color.

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Don’t add black or grey to shadows! Just keep layering colors. If you need to “grey” it up or down, add the complimentary color in small doses until you reach your desired color. Yellow and purple, red and green, and orange and blue are complimentary colors.

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This younger student has his initial colors, and will now go back and add yellow for warmth and depth.

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When you have built up your colors, warm to cool and light to dark, it’s time to “burnish”. This technique blends your colors and adds a softness to your artwork. Take a lighter color you have been using or white and color over your painting pressing with a firm to hard touch. Notice how all your colors blend together and your paper gets shiny. For small areas use a small circular motion for this step.


My favorite pencils to work with are Prismacolor colored pencils. Prismacolor pencils last forever! I still have a few from my high school set. For a cheaper option, you can start out with Crayola colored pencils, they work too! For your paper, you want to have at least 60# or higher to have enough tooth to hold onto the color.

Last of all, have fun! Creating art should also be creating joy in the student. I hope these tips have helped you for your older students. Remember everyone’s an artist!

-Laurie White

Author Laurie White

A Few Things To Know About Me:, I am the mother of 7 kids (with my awesome husband, Aaron), I am a former elementary school teacher, I am a volunteer art teacher at the elementary school and a private art teacher in my home, I am crazy about Matisse, I love children’s books…. One day I may illustrate one of my own, but for now, I will appreciate all the lovely illustrations out there, I need a little chocolate everyday, I need to create something everyday, I am a breast cancer survivor!, I LOVE kids, I LOVE teaching, I LOVE art!

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