How to Color with colored pencils

Colored pencils are the preferred media by many aspiring designers when they create fashion sketches and draw their designs.  Contrary to popular belief colored pencils are not easy media to color with. Actually they are one of the hardest if you are aiming for professional-looking fashion illustrations and portfolios. In this tutorial, you will learn a few tips to color with colored pencils that will bring your illustrations to the next level.  Enjoy and have fun!

How to color using colored pencils

Step 1: The lineart

This is the most important and unfortunately the most neglected step when drawing fashion sketches and art in general. If you want a great looking illustrations you need to start with a great looking sketch. Take your time to clean up the lines – make everything clear in the drawing. Use a hard pencil (H, HB, B, never anything softer than 2B). This will help you avoid smudging the graphite later when you start coloring.

Tracing your drawing to a clean sheet of paper using a mechanical pencil is a technique that really helps for polished looking end results.

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Step 2: Lines direction

You want to start with a solid base color and build up from there. In order to avoid overlaying color and messy look pick a direction and don’t change it. Notice how much cleaner the example to the right looks when the whole illustration is colored in the vertical direction.

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Step 3: Just fill it in!

What makes the fashion sketches look unprofessional is these white gaps that happen when using colored pencils. It doesn’t have to be like this. Keeping the vertical direction of your lines, build up the color and fill as many gaps as you can. Make sure you go over each part of the sketch at least 3 times. It should start looking almost glossy!

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Step 4: Color variation

Having a set of 12 colored pencils doesn’t mean you have only 12 colors to work with. By blending them you can create many new tones and rich colors. Add some brown to the red, add some purple to the blue, add orange to the brown and pink to the skin. Don’t overdo this step, but make sure you are not using just the boring out of the box colors – invent your own!

Usually when two objects of different colors are next to each other they will exchange color variations. For instance: the ponytails is bluer next to the shirt and the shirt has s brownish tint at the shoulder.

Some blush makes wonders to the skin – it looks fresh and alive. Add it gently to the cheeks, the collarbone, chests, elbows and fingertips. Also the knees and the toes will be slightly pinker.

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Step 5: Draw the shadows

Add the shadows to your illustration. Use a darker shade of the colors you have already used or mix your own color by laying down a light layer of black and mixing it with the base color. You no longer need to make all the lines vertical – follow the shapes of the body instead. Notice that the shadow underneath the sleeve is horizontal and the skirt folds – vertical. If you are unsure where to place the shadows the “How to draw skin shadows” tutorial will help you.

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Step 6: Back to black

Now using a black color pencil make the darkest parts of the shadows even deeper. Less is more here – so think where it would be the hardest for the light to reach.

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Step 7: Outlines

In the “Outlines part I” tutorial the importance of the outlines was examined. A sketch colored with colored pencils is a great example of how much outlines can improve the looks of a drawing and make it seem finished. Outline with color pens (not just black!) or with very well-sharpened pencils. Make sure the outlines are slightly darker than the base tone.

How to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial

Coloring with colored pencils is a lot of fun, but it takes time and dedication to make the illustration look professional.  If you enjoy using this media hopefully this tutorial helped you improve your art and make even more fabulous fashion sketches!

how to color with colored pencils step by step tutorial for fashion design sketches

Lastly – if you want to avoid the time-consuming process of filling as many gaps as possible (step 2-3) you can make a foundation of watercolor or markers.
If you still find the process too hard – maybe the “How to draw using markers” tutorial is the one for you?


  1. Hi Teya ,
    I am wondering when you are working with markers or color pencils how to you transfer your work to computer – do you scan or photograph it. I am experiencing some difficulty in replicating for online. ( the drawings become very grainy) I would appreciate your comments. Fabulous site, you are most knowledgeable and talented.

  2. Teya your tutorials are great. This tutorials are useful for beginners in fashion desiging. Thank you so much

  3. i really enjoy your blog, it helps me so much in my goal of becoming a fashion designer, thank you so much.

  4. I’m not a professional fashion illustrator (yet) but I use colored pencils a lot. May I add to your tutorial by advising there’s an important difference between various name brand colored pencils? Prismacolor brand is used by most pros, but their primary line is waxed based and doesn’t allow allow for blending.

    I use their Colerase for pre-drawings on up to the finished illustration, along with watercolor, gouache and even pastels to enhance a finished piece. Colerase is “student grade” because they blend well, erase clean and are water soluble. However, their colors are less vibrant and intense than the waxed based, and other more professional level brands.

    I like to experiment with other brands also, just to see how they work for me.

  5. First off I absolutely love your sketches, secondly even though I’m not a fashion designer your tutorials have made a huge difference in the clothing I now draw almost like a rough sketch compared to a final draft kind of thing. I wish nothing but the best for you and your talent for drawing

  6. This is amazing Teya, i always use coloredpencil to coloring my sketch and the result was good enough, but when i scanned it (i want to post it to social media), its was look terrible :( that’ s why i always use my phone to captured it.

  7. Not really. Any pencils brand will work. If you invest in more expensive colored pencils the results will be slightly better but once you get the technique you can use any pencils brand.


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