Shading with Pencils

by Dina Kowal

Learn how to shade with pencils


  • Colored pencils - a light, medium and dark (Prismacolor Premier (Softcore) used here)

  • Rubber stamp (Goldfish from Impression Obsession used here)

  • Black Ink (Versafine Onyx Black used here)


  1. Step 1

    Before coloring, choose 3 colors for each area of the image - a light, a medium and a dark.

    These colors can be monochromatic - 3 shades of yellow - or gradient - colors next to each other on the color wheel like yellow, yellow-orange, and orange).

    Lay down an even base of your lightest color first.

    For even more dimension, leave the highlighted areas white, and blend lightest color into the white areas in the final blending step.

  2. Step 2

    Next, look for areas to shade, such as:

    Areas that are hidden behind something
    Areas that are lower
    Areas that are farther away or curving away

  3. Step 3

    Determine where the highlights will be so that they remain light. These are:

    Areas that appear to be closer to you
    Areas that are higher
    Areas that appear to be curving toward you

  4. Step 4

    For the next step, use the medium color. (Prismacolor #PC1002 Yellowed Orange used here.)

    Starting with areas you’ve chosen to shade, work the medium color toward the highlights, leaving highlighted areas in the base color. Use a very sharp pencil and light pressure, and decrease pressure as you move toward the highlighted areas. Once these areas are shaded, blend the edge between the colors by using the base color and working back from light to dark, or blend with OMS or your preferred solvent.

  5. Step 5

    Using the darkest color, color over the areas shaded in the previous step, just not pulling the color out quite so far. (Prismacolor #PC1032 Pumpkin Orange used here.)

    Blend the medium and dark colors together using your medium tone again, working from light to dark.

  6. Step 6

    If you want to deepen your shading even more, choose a grey or brown tone that matches your colored area best. (Prismacolor #PC945 Sienna Brown used here)

    As a final step, use either your lightest color, a burnishing pencil, or white colored pencil to blend all your layers of color together.

  7. Step 7

    The sample above is gradient, moving from a yellow to a dark orange. Here is the same image colored in a monochromatic color scheme: Prismacolor #PC916 Canary Yellow, #PC1034 Goldenrod, #PC941 Light Umber, and #PC948 Sepia.

  8. Step 8

    Finish your card.



    Different Pencil Types

Questions and Comments

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

Amazing! Determining which areas are to be shaded and which are the highlights is what daunts me. I appreciate how you explained it. Thank you.
Sandra  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 2:48 AM
That is a wonderful tutorial; I thank you for sharing it!!! smile
Melanie  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 3:36 AM
Wow, that was a great video. I really learned a lot!
Claudia  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 4:08 AM
Oh I loved this tutorial! I am coloring-challenged!! Need all the help I can get. I've not purchased a really good set of pencils yet because I want to make sure I'll use them. At this point coloring is a frustration for me...I just need lots of practice:)
Kathy Humphrey  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 4:08 AM
This is a great tutorial, esoecially for those of us who have absolutely no idea how to even go about shading. My mind is just a blank in front of an image, but you have started to give me some hope that something can be learned! Thanks so much, Sue from Oz.
Susan  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 4:36 AM
Thank you for sharing this coloring idea. I am not very good with coloring but I am going to try this.
Pat Presley  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 4:53 AM
WOW, all that shading just made that flower pop. I am also color challenged when it comes to where to shade. That was a great video. Thank you.
Nancy Adams  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 4:55 AM
Never real confident about what areas to colour first etc.This will be a great lesson for me! Thank you.
Helen Dunn  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 5:34 AM
Great tutorial made so simple and easy to follow. Many thanks
Ann from Sheffield UK
Ann  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 5:44 AM
Brilliant tut - very informative, and useful, thank you so much! x
Wendy (Rosie) Foden  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 5:56 AM
Thanks so much. It was fun watching you work, and your explanation was simple and informative. Great tutorial. I look forward to trying it...and looking for oil-based pencils!
Lynn  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 6:17 AM
Very nice! I liked it even better before the final step.
Gin  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 6:24 AM
Great tutorial, sounds like I am not alone in my hesitation to work with colored pencils-I too, think the key is dive in and practice, practice, practice!! Thanks!
kingmontmom  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 6:25 AM
Dina, this is a gorgeous technique, one that I will definately want to try today! Thanks for the great tutorial!
Kris  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 6:39 AM
I hope you do more tutorial s on shading as there are so many of us who are coloring challenged. You have given me so much to try. I really appreciate your tutorial.
Barbara from Michigan  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 6:50 AM
What a great tutorial! I thank you so much for sharing your talent with us. I look forward to trying your technique. I am so new at this it is intimidating to see all the beautiful work you all do. I hope to be at least half as good in time.
Thank you again.

Marie House  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 6:58 AM
Thank you so much for this great tutorial! I've got to pull out all my supplies and try this. It really helps to see instructions in action!
Sharon H  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 7:15 AM
Wonderful tutorial! I am always challenged when it comes to knowing where to shade and where to highlight...this helps tremendously. One question? When you show your finished image it looks like you went back and outlined your image in black pen, was that what you did or did the color process not block the black outline on the image? Thanks!
Susan  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 7:16 AM
Wonderful tutorial! You take the fear out of something that can be so fun and relaxing as coloring an image! Your final creation is gorgeous! Thanks for the great tips!
Edith Demshar  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 7:33 AM
Nice tutorial! For those like me who can't use chemicals, I do all my pencil work using the 3 to 4 values of the color and then blend them with the Lyra blending pencil. Works great. Even though some solutions are orderless they are still chemicals and bother me.
Nancy  |  Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 7:44 AM

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