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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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?

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