Modern Colored Pencil: A playful and contemporary exploration of colored pencil drawing - Includes 75+ Projects and Techniques

Modern Colored Pencil: A playful and contemporary exploration of colored pencil drawing - Includes 75+ Projects and Techniques

by Chelsea Ward

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Learn to use colored pencils and watercolor pencils to create vibrant, exciting works of art!

*Named One of the 54 Best Colored Pencil Drawing Books of All Time by BookAuthority*

Modern Colored Pencil delves into all the basic techniques and concepts required to create fresh, colorful works of colored pencil art. Talented artist and author of Your Year in Art and Modern Drawing (both from Walter Foster Publishing) Chelsea Ward takes you on a lively, easy-to-follow exploration of colored pencils in this book. It is packed with creative exercises and projects designed to show you how to work with the versatile, approachable colored pencil medium.

Modern Colored Pencil begins with a brief introduction to various tools, such as pencils (including colored pencils, graphite pencils, and watercolor pencils), papers, and other tools. This handy book also demonstrates often-complicated concepts, such as color mixing, shading, texture, and more, in an easy, approachable manner. Once you have a handle on the basics, explore how to create dynamic color palettes, use basic shapes and techniques to render a range of subjects, and create various marks and textures.

From beautiful florals and nature motifs to animals and everyday items, Modern Colored Pencil provides a fresh, contemporary, and enjoyable approach to learning how to create vivid artwork in colored pencil.

The Modern Series of books offers a fun, contemporary approach to working with traditional art media, demonstrating that with the right type of instruction, encouragement, and tips, drawing and painting success can be achieved by any artist or creative type.

Also in the Modern Series:Modern Acrylic, Modern Drawing, and Modern Watercolor.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633228153
Publisher: Foster, Walter Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/05/2019
Series: Modern Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 713,504
File size: 40 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Chelsea Ward is an art teacher and maker of one-of-a-kind creations. Chelsea, who holds a BFA in studio art from University of Texas at Austin, currently manages her small business, Sketchy Notions, and an Etsy shop of custom treasures; teaches art lessons through Arts Outreach; co-hosts Bellissima Art Retreats with Gypsy Studios in Tuscany; and is the head chalk scribbler with Chalk by Chels. She is also the artist behind Cursive Cursing, a line of swear-word greeting cards. Her work has been featured in Elite Wedding Collection and The Knot, among other publications. Chelsea is the author of Modern Drawing, Your Year in Art, and Modern Colored Pencil (Walter Foster Publishing). Learn more at

Chelsea Ward is an art teacher and maker of one-of-a-kind creations. Chelsea, who holds a BFA in studio art from University of Texas at Austin, currently manages her small business, Sketchy Notions, and an Etsy shop of custom treasures; teaches art lessons through Arts Outreach; co-hosts Bellissima Art Retreats with Gypsy Studios in Tuscany; and is the head chalk scribbler with Chalk by Chels. She is also the artist behind Cursive Cursing, a line of swear-word greeting cards. Her work has been featured in Elite Wedding Collection and The Knot, among other publications. Chelsea is the author of Modern Drawing, Your Year in Art, and Modern Colored Pencil (Walter Foster Publishing). Learn more at

Read an Excerpt



When we first learn to draw, it's likely that those first few scribbles are done with colored pencils. Colored pencils are a unique medium because their use spans so many age demographics and skill levels. From the youngest of artists to the more well-seasoned, colored pencils are a versatile material that yields colorful results, as well as an enjoyable process!

Unlike oil paints, which can take years to master and involve an array of chemical-ridden accessories, colored pencils are very accessible. With just a piece of paper and a few colors, you can create gorgeous drawings in a variety of styles, ranging from loose studies to cartoonish sketches, realistic renderings, and even an artfully designed coloring page.

Colored pencils are also relatively portable. Paints require easels and space for a palette and water jar, whereas colored pencils can be used in the car, on a plane, at a coffee shop, or right at home on your couch! With colored pencils, it's easy to make your studio wherever you are in that moment.

In Modern Colored Pencil, we'll break down the variety of supplies you can use when drawing with colored pencils: different types of pencils and papers, and what to look for when you're shopping for your first box of colored pencils. We'll also cover more in-depth information, like the color wheel, blending, and erasing, as well as how to use this knowledge to create more realistic illustrations.

Once we cover the basics, you'll be ready for some step-by-step lessons and exercises. We'll work through useful exercises to practice these new skills and incorporate them into your drawings. All drawing examples are broken down step by step and cover a variety of drawing subjects — everything from nature studies and everyday life to architecture, people, and animals.

By the end of this book, I hope you'll be inspired to document the world around you with colored pencils. Now, time to sharpen those colored pencils and start drawing!

One of the wonderful things about working with colored pencils is that you can get started with just a handful of supplies. It doesn't take much to create colorful and expressive drawings. As you gain more knowledge and confidence with your tools, you can expand your arsenal to fuel your coloring adventures!



The most important supply is, of course, colored pencils! But where to start? It can be overwhelming going to an art store and seeing all the different brands and options available. Which set is best for your purpose and skill level? Here's a quick breakdown of what to look for when shopping for colored pencils.

Wax vs. Oil

Colored pencils consist of colored pigment with a binder, shaped and contained in a wooden shell. Manufacturers use different materials and mixtures for their binders, but the most common are wax- and oil-based binders. Some manufacturers use both but in different ratios compared to other manufacturers.

Colored pencils with a higher wax content are harder pencils. They can sometimes be more difficult to blend or erase, but they're also the most common type of colored pencils on the market today. You can still create rich layers of color with wax-based pencils, but the richness is different compared to oil-based pencils.

Oil-based pencils are softer and therefore easier to blend, due to their more greasy, richer quality. They are also easier to erase when applied in light layers on the paper. Both types can give you beautiful and colorful results!

Artist-Quality vs. Regular

Artist-quality pencils are more expensive than regular colored pencils, but the quality of your pencils will also influence the quality of your drawings. Artist-quality pencils contain more pigment and less binder, giving your drawings richer, more vibrant color. In the sample swatches here, notice how the artist-quality purple pencil adds richer pigment to the paper than a regular colored pencil.

Regular colored pencils — the kind you used as an elementary-school student — contain more binder and less pigment. This doesn't necessarily mean your drawings won't be colorful! You can still create gorgeous drawings with regular colored pencil sets, but you'll find that it's harder to seamlessly blend these pencils.

Artist-quality sets usually come in larger packs with more color choices, which can be a bigger investment from the start. Fortunately, you can still blend many shades of colors from regular colored pencil sets, so don't feel the need to invest in an expensive set of pencils when you're just getting started!

Colored Pencils vs. Watercolor Pencils

Colored pencils are naturally water-resistant, due to the waxy ingredients in the pigment binders. Watercolor pencils are exactly like they sound: water-soluble! These pencils lay down color on paper like a regular pencil, but with a quick stroke of water from a paintbrush, you can spread the pigment around like watercolor paint! These can be a lot of fun when working on backgrounds, or even for building up layers in your drawings. We'll discuss when and how to use watercolor pencils in more detail later in this book.

Pack Size

Colored pencils are sold in a variety of pack sizes. From basic sets featuring just primary and secondary colors to full arrays with 100 colors, you have multiple options from which to choose! The color scales shown here demonstrate the difference in variation between an 8-color pack and a 20-color pack.

Larger packs are wonderful, but they can come with a hefty price tag! When you're getting started, don't feel pressured to buy the giant packs (unless you really want to), because you can still blend and combine the colors in smaller packs and achieve a wider array of colors.

Color Variation

The same colors in different brands can also vary in appearance. This color spectrum chart shows the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) from four different brands of colored pencils. You can see that each is slightly different in shade, richness, and opacity, as well as blending capability.

This isn't necessarily bad. Some drawings may require lighter layers, which call for using harder pencils to more easily control the amount of color you add. Other drawings require the superrich and opaque layers of color you can achieve with softer pencils. Softer pencils can also be trickier to use in tight spots that require lots of detail, so there may be areas within the same drawing where you need both hard and soft pencils.

Fortunately, colored pencils are relatively affordable, so feel free to test out a variety of brands to see which you like best! Some brands sell individual pencils so that you can test a variety of colors before committing to larger packs.


Look for paper that has tooth, or texture, to grab the pigment. Textured paper allows you to add multiple layers of color to your drawings. Regular printer paper doesn't have much tooth, but you can use it for simple drawings without many layers. Many brands make their own papers specifically for colored pencil art; these are sold in single sheets and drawing pads.

Starting with white paper is a good idea, especially when you have a new pack of colored pencils. A blank slate allows you to see the full range of colors you can create, without the paper color infl uencing the hues. You can also practice blending and learn which color combinations you like best.

Once you get the hang of your pencils, it's fun to explore drawing on toned or colored paper! Toned paper gives you a colorful base upon which to build layers and can make a drawing feel more dynamic. Don't be afraid to go dark either!

Toned paper often comes in pads or sketchbooks, but you can also buy large individual sheets that can be trimmed into other sizes. You can even trim them down and glue the pieces into your regular sketchbooks for drawing on the go!


Most colored pencil brands make their own sharpeners — and not just to tempt you to buy more of their products! Colored pencils are often made to lock in the cores, meaning that the color inside the wooden shell has ridges to keep it from sliding out if it breaks. These ridges also keep the core in place while it's being sharpened. Regular pencil sharpeners might not sharpen well and can break the pencil cores. While it may seem silly to buy the branded sharpener, they're created to sharpen those particular colored pencils to the perfect tip without wasting your precious materials. Electric sharpeners also work well, but it can be hard to see how sharp your pencil is getting, and you may over-sharpen and waste more of the pencil than you realize!


A good soft eraser is a must! Regular pink erasers are great — even the kind on the top of a regular #2 pencil. As long as they're soft and not dried out, they can eliminate some of your stray marks. But it's also good to have other types of erasers on hand. Kneaded erasers are great because you can lift up layers of colors from the page more gently. Click erasers, which are similar to mechanical pencils, can be shaped to fine points so you can erase light lines or tiny, hard-to-reach areas. Pencil erasers, which are pencils with eraser cores, can also be sharpened to fine tips.


Like any other medium, you also need a regular old pencil! While it can be exciting to get started on a colored pencil drawing, it's always best to do your first sketches with a drawing pencil because it's easier to erase. Colored pencils are fairly permanent and can stain the paper with pigment. You can also use a regular pencil to map out where the highlights and shadows will be in your drawing. I like to use mechanical pencils with soft lead so I always have a fine point with which to draw.


Blenders are used to blend layers of colors and eliminate pencil strokes. Many manufacturers carry their own blending pencils made with just binder and no pigment. These are great, since you can sharpen them to blend in the narrow areas of your drawings.

You can also use blending stumps or tortillons! These are tightly rolled pieces of paper that gently blend colors in small or large areas. They come in a variety of sizes. In a pinch, you can also use a tissue wrapped around your finger to blend.

Using solvents and a brush is another option. (See page 28 for more details.) This is better for blending larger areas, and these supplies are available at most art stores.


Once you have your brand new set of colored pencils, you'll want to take care of them to ensure they're useful down to the last inches! One of the best ways to care for your pencils is taking care not to drop them. Dropping a single pencil or a whole box can break the cores. If the core breaks, it may slide out during usage and become wasted lead. Some brands have anti-breakage cores, which are designed to resist breaking or sliding out. Just to be safe, always carry and transport your pencils with care. I like to keep mine upright in clear jars on my desk so I can easily find the color I want.

When sharpening your pencils, use the recommended sharpeners for that brand, or at least a sharp sharpener. To get smooth, sharpened points, twist your pencils in full circles instead of back-and-forth jerking motions. Always store your pencils with the points upward to keep them sharp while they're waiting to be used!


Colored pencils come in a variety of types, some of which are better suited to certain drawings than others. When getting started, it's good to have an understanding of each pencil type's capabilities.


Wax-based pencils contain more wax, which can have some benefits. Having more wax in the core means these pencils are harder, like regular drawing pencils, which can be more difficult to erase. They can still be blended, but not as easily as oil-based pencils. Each brand has its own special mixture of pigment and wax, so even if you find one brand of wax-based pencils that you don't like, you may like another!


Oil-based pencils have a softer core and contain an oilier binder with less wax. Soft pencils can help with layering and blending colors. Since they're much softer, you can sometimes erase lighter layers more fully. Oil-based pencils tend to be more expensive, but they're usually worth the investment. Most artist-grade colored pencils are oil-based.


Watercolor pencils are a great option to keep on hand, even to use in conjunction with wax- or oil-based pencils! Since they're water-soluble, you can blend multiple layers with just a brush and a few strokes of water. When working on larger pieces, this comes in handy for covering big, empty areas with color. In addition to being able to blend colors using only water, you can also layer more shades, texture, and fine details on top of your pencil washes when they're dry.


Mistakes happen! A stray mark or an incorrectly placed shadow is not uncommon when you're just getting started. Erasing these marks can be incredibly tricky, since colored pencils stain the paper with pigment. Luckily, there are ways to lessen their visibility so you can layer over them.

Erasing too vigorously can shift your paper, wrinkle it, or even tear it if you're not careful. Always erase gently and slowly.

Different erasers are better suited for different erasing jobs. Depending on how big the mark is or where it's located in your drawing, you may want to pick one of the following erasers.

Kneaded Eraser

Kneaded erasers can lift color off your page, but they can also be molded into shapes that are more conducive for different erasing situations. You can rub them across your drawing like any other eraser, but they're best suited for lifting patches of color and lightening a general area. You can also use kneaded erasers to add textured highlights.

Unwrap your kneaded eraser and squish a corner so it's slightly fl at. Using your fingers, press this squished area over the part of your drawing you want to lighten again and again until you reach the desired lightness. You can also use these marks to create interesting textures. Once it's lightened enough, you can add color back into your drawing as layers.

Need to clean your kneaded eraser? Grab a piece of scrap paper and press the dirty spots of the eraser onto the paper to transfer the leftover pigment to the paper!

Pen & Pencil Erasers

Sometimes you need to erase a tiny portion of your drawing or want to pull out narrow or tiny highlights. In these instances, a pencil eraser or eraser pen is perfect! Pencil erasers have a core made of eraser, so you can sharpen the end to a perfect point. Eraser pens (shown) click more eraser out with every press at the top. You can buy more eraser cores to replace them when you run out. These can also be shaped into points for fine, detailed highlights.

These erasers can also get dirty, which may be problematic when you're erasing in a light area. Grab a piece of scratch paper and rub away any dirty layers to avoid transferring dark colors to your light layers.

Polymer Eraser

While I love good old-fashioned pink erasers, they can dry and harden over time. My go-to erasers for stray marks or wider areas of color that need to be lightened are Hi-Polymer® erasers because they are soft and gentle. You can even take off the protective plastic and cardboard sleeve, lay the eraser on its widest side, and rub across a large area of your drawing to lighten up big areas all at once.

These can also get dirty over time. Just grab a piece of scrap paper and rub away the dirty layers to reveal a clean, white surface.


To avoid erasing, start with a regular, soft-leaded pencil and plan your drawing out. Make sure your drawing is exactly how you want before you add color. This includes checking the scale and proportions, and even planning where the highlights and shadows will be.


When drawing with colored pencil, mark-making has many different purposes. Your marks can build texture, shadows, and layers; convey direction; and help a two-dimensional drawing look more lifelike and three-dimensional. In these two examples, you can see the difference that just one more layer of mark-making has in making a piece look complete and realistic.


Excerpted from "Modern Colored Pencil"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Supplies, 5,
Erasing Tools & Techniques, 12,
Mark-Making Techniques, 14,
Exploring Color, 19,
Blending & Burnishing, 25,
Layering to Build Dimension, 29,
Working on Toned Paper, 33,
Looking for Patterns, 37,
Fruits & Veggies, 49,
Glass Objects, 59,
Desk Supplies, 63,
Plants, 66,
Interior Scene, 70,
Windows, 75,
Doors, 83,
Landscapes, 96,
Gesture Drawing, 106,
Cats & Dogs, 107,
Birds, 113,
Giraffe, 115,
Skin Tones & Hair Color, 120,
Figure Proportions, 121,
Gesture Drawing, 123,

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