Pencil Monochrome

by Dina Kowal

Learn how to get a variety of shades from a single pencil.


  • Colored pencils (Faber Castell Polychromos pencils used here)
  • Pencil sharpener (Kutsuwa Stad T'Gaal Pencil Sharpener used here)
  • Cardstock or drawing paper (Canson XL Recycled Bristol (toothy side) used here)
  • Stamped image (Joyride clear set by The Cat’s Pajamas used here)
  • Blending or burnishing pencil, or white colored pencil (optional – Prismacolor Colorless Blender used here)
  • Other supplies as needed to complete the project (adhesive pearls, patterned paper, Quickutz oval dies, trimmer, Scor-Pal, MISTI)


  1. Step 1

    When working with colored pencils in a limited color range, control the intensity of a single color by varying your pressure. For a light shade, hold the pencil about 5 inches from the point. Keep the pencil sharpened and rotate the tip as one area flattens.

  2. Step 2

    For a medium shade, hold the pencil about 3 inches from the point. Again, keep the pencil sharpened for best results.

  3. Step 3

    For a dark shade and for adding lines and details, hold the pencil as you would for writing.

  4. Step 4

    When coloring an image, work within one section of color at a time. Begin with light pressure, coloring in all areas except those that should remain white. Cover the area with an even layer of color.

  5. Step 5

    Add in some shading with a medium pressure, again keeping the pencil sharp and in an even layer.

    In general, shade areas that are hidden behind something, areas that are lower, and areas that are farther away or appear to be curving away. See the Shading with Pencils tutorial for more information.

  6. Step 6

    Continue deepening the shading of the section by using a heavier pressure.

  7. Step 7

    Having worked from light to dark, work back from dark to light, blending the edges of each color transition as you go. Blend the edges of the darkest areas with medium pressure.

  8. Blend the edges of the medium shaded areas with the lightest pressure.

  9. Step 8

    If deeper shading is desired, use a darker pencil to add depth. For darker/cooler colors use black or brown. A black pencil is used here.

  10. For warm or lighter colors, try using a complementary color (purple for yellow, blue for orange, green for red - consult a color wheel for specific tones directly across from the color you are using).


    Use a light pressure to add these darker colors. You can always add more if it doesn’t seem dark enough, but it’s difficult to remove it if you start off too heavy.

  11. Step 9

    Add lines, texture, or details as needed.

  12. Step 10 (Optional)

    Burnish with a burnishing or blending pencil if desired. This smooths down the color but removes the texture of the paper’s tooth and may change your shading somewhat. Experiment to find what works best for your style. Examples are given in the video tutorial. In this sample, a white pencil was used to blend the wheel cover, and a colorless blender was used for the main body.

  13. Step 11

    Use the colored image to complete a card or other project.


Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Pencil Monochrome. Try this technique, then upload your artwork to the gallery. Show us your creations!

***Please note - Internet Explorer/Edge is not a supported browser, and will not allow you to see the videos. Please use Chrome, Firefox or Safari to view our tutorial videos.

Questions and Comments

We'd love to get your feedback or questions. Leave your comment below.

This is brilliant! Love this technique!
Petra Tailor  |  Wed Mar 1, 2017 at 4:46 AM
Thanks so much for all the tips! Beautiful cards!
angela bode  |  Wed Mar 1, 2017 at 7:50 AM
These instructions are wonderful gift. I have a mental block to shading. I have had several art major acquaintances show me how they shade. When alone, I am lost again. No one had told me about the finger position on the pencil. This is an aha moment for me. Thanks for the joy you have added to my crafting. Someday hope you will do a bouquet of flowers.
BRENDA MITCHELL  |  Wed Mar 1, 2017 at 8:34 AM
Thanks for the lesson. I'll post my first attempt once the uploaded is working again.
muscrat  |  Wed Mar 1, 2017 at 9:32 AM
I like what you have done with one pencil. smile
Sheila Hatfield  |  Wed Mar 1, 2017 at 11:35 AM
Dina - I love your tutorials! Brilliant!!!
Marilyn  |  Wed Mar 1, 2017 at 1:32 PM
Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to try this today.
Mary Konopka  |  Thu Mar 2, 2017 at 6:54 AM
What a fantastic tutorial! I've always had problems with shading and the fact that usually they use different colours rather than the monochrome. Thank you so much!
Maria Bekker  |  Thu Mar 2, 2017 at 6:43 PM
Thank you for your tutorial and encouraging us to try something new beyond the traditional use of markers with our stamps!
KT Hom  |  Fri Mar 3, 2017 at 11:47 AM
Another fantastic tutorial Dina. You always provide so much information that I haven't heard elsewhere. Thank you!
Kathy Harrison  |  Fri Mar 3, 2017 at 12:08 PM
Thank you so very much for this tutorial. I have been wanting to begin this technique and do not have time to take classes now. Much appreciation to you!!
jeannemlehrman  |  Fri Mar 3, 2017 at 3:21 PM
Great tutorial. Love the image. Where was it from please?
Diane Allen  |  Sat Mar 4, 2017 at 3:02 AM
Thank you, Diane! The image is from the Joyride clear set by The Catís Pajamas.
dina  |  Sat Mar 4, 2017 at 5:59 AM
Thanks. Don't know if I'll be able to access it from the UK.
Diane Allen  |  Sat Mar 4, 2017 at 9:09 AM
I loved seeing this tutorial Dina! Thank you.
Kittie  |  Wed Mar 8, 2017 at 11:28 AM
This tutorial is so awesome! I only have a 24 set of Prismacolor pencils and have been feeling limited (but I don't want to buy more cause I'm cheap.. lol!) This tut will help me make the most of the colors I already have. Thank you Dina! smile
December Davis  |  Fri Mar 10, 2017 at 12:11 AM
Thanks for sharing these tips. I can't wait to try the complementary color one with all of my coloring tools!
Adriana Benitez  |  Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 6:59 PM
Thank you for this tutorial. I learned a lot from this.
Janet Ashley  |  Mon Nov 13, 2017 at 10:37 PM

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