How To: Blend & Layer Colored Pencils

How To: Blend & Layer Colored Pencils

While I use a variety of different media in most of my pieces, colored pencils do play a large part in my process, and knowing how to blend so layer them effectively has been important. A number of you have asked about this over the years, so today here it is – the techniques I use for blending and layering colored pencils.

**Use a Base Layer** Use watercolor pencil (or watercolor) as your base layer – this adds depth, and makes it easier to create a smoother, finished look, with less white paper showing through.
– Wait for the base layer to dry before adding anything else on top
– Be careful not to get too dark or too saturated with the base layer
**Fat Over Lean** Applies to weight, mark style and color. Use a light touch, gradually building to heavier applications. (sometimes called FAT OVER LEAN). This allows you to blend as you go, without creating muddiness, or flattening out the tooth of your paper.
– Work from light mid-tones to dark mid-tones, then add darkest shadows and lightest highlights on top.
– Pay attention to the shape/style of your markings. Generally, try to make smaller, less visible markings initially, and heavier, textured markings (if you like those) as you get closer to the end
**Blend with Odorless Mineral Spirits** Use Gamsol to blend out the layers – this will dissolve the wax binder allowing you to move the pigment around, and create a smooth effect, similar to glazing with oil paint. Once it’s dry, you can layer more color on top (and blend again)
– Wait until the piece is dry to add additional layers
– For me, this technique takes several layers to look the way I want it
– Be sure to keep in a sealed, glass or metal container and always use in a well-ventilated space
**Burnish** As you get closer to finishing your piece, press harder with your pencil, holding it a more vertical position, working in uniform strokes. This allows you to push more pigment into the tooth of the paper, while blending the pigment that’s already there from previous layers.
Use closer to the end of a piece. If you start burnishing too early, you’ll flatten out the paper, and won’t be able to add any more pigment

140 lb cold pressed paper watercolor paper
Water-soluble pencils (Prismacolor)
Soft-sore pencils (Prismacolor)
Odorless mineral spirits (Gamsol)
Colorless blender pencil (Prismacolor)
#2 round brush (acrylic/oil)
#4 filbert (watercolor)

“Carefree” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Instagram @kendylln
Tumblr @kendyllhillegas
Twitter @kendyllhillegas
Facebook @kendyllmadeit


  1. My mom accidentally got my watercolor pencils instead of colored pencils. >.< Watercolor pencils are S***. Crayola, stickin' with you! ^_^

  2. currently binge watching while working on some sketches as well <3
    much love!
    P.S: Please show us your portfolios!!

  3. I would like to give a big thank to you its amazing how you blend four different way i been trying to find ways to blend and i finally found someone on the same page yaasssy ty 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.