How to ArticlesWhen starting out in coloured pencils it can be a bit daunting deciding when to use which technique with layering, burnishing and solvent.

This article is the first in a 4 part series which covers the Why, How and When of layering, burnishing and solvent as well as a few of my own Tips to pass on as we go along.

If you are just starting out in coloured pencils, let me start by assuring you that the more you create and experiment – the easier it will get to  instinctively know when to use which technique and more importantly which one you prefer to use.
I encourage you to experiment with what YOU like to do. If something doesn’t work for you or you dont feel it works, then don’t do it. I feel it is important to give it a go try it out and be open to new ways of doing things but its also ok to push aside the “typical” way of doing things and come up with your own process.

So, enough of the pep talk, onto the information..

Starting with the basics – What is layering?

Layering is the process of gradually adding a “layer” of coloured pencil over another.  Some artists (including myself) use many layers (up to 20-30 layers ) over their whole artwork, others will only use 4-5 layers.

Video demonstrating applying layers.

Why do it?

Coloured pencils will always mix with the previous layer / colour underneath,  so layering is a way of building vibrant, rich colours as well as mixing colours to achieve the colour you want.

How to do it?

Using a sharp pencil cover an area of your paper (or support) with pencil then cover that same area again either with the same or different colour. Depending on your preference you can either do this in a fast way where you pencil is not lifted off the paper, or for a more even coverage slow your strokes down and lift you pencil (or change colours) and go over the area again.

When to do it?

Always 🙂 You will get much richer colours by using a lighter touch and adding more layers than you will if you press hard with less layers.

Video demonstrating turning your pencil and using circular strokes for your layers.


  • The number of layers will depend on what support you are using. for example if you are working on a sanded paper you will get less layers than you might on paper.
  • If you are using your layers to mix colours but are not sure which colours to use, do small squares or circles of colour to test out your colours.
  • Using a sharp pencil and a light touch will allow you to put more layers down. – Pressure of 2-3 with (5 being the hardest you can press).

Thats it for our first part which is layering.


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