How to Choose the Right Coloured Pencils for Your Animal Portraits

Dec 08, 2023
How to Choose the Right Coloured Pencils for Your Animal Portraits

There are so many different types of coloured pencils and it can sometimes seem a bit daunting and choosing which coloured pencils are going to be the right choice can be difficult. This is why I wanted to talk you through some of the differing characteristics and when and how I use them.


I tend to choose my colours based on how they feel on the paper and what I mean by that is each brand of pencil will differ in how hard or soft they are and how they lay down on a particular surface and I will use each type of pencil differently.

Pastelmat is one of my favourite surfaces to work on, but due to its texture people are often left with a drawing that appears a bit grainy. I find that working light layers of a harder pencil first and then coming over the top with softer pencils works brilliantly to help reduce any graininess.

I absolutely love working with Polychromos pencils. They’re hard, oil-based pencils that allow you to get a nice sharp point and are usually my go to choice for those first initial light layers when working on Pastelmat. Derwent Studios are also harder pencils that are a great choice for the first few layers, so you can choose which colours suit your drawing best and use those. You don't need to stick to using just one brand of pencil.

If you're looking for softer pencils to lay over the top, Luminance pencils are an excellent choice and what’s nice about them is that they’re rather opaque, so when you lay them over your base layers, you can still see the beautiful colours below. Pablos are similar to Luminance in that they’re a softer pencil that are again opaque in nature so allow you to glaze colours over your drawing to help brighten, darken or add vibrance to areas of your piece. Lightfast are another great choice of soft pencil to use over the top of your base layer as they allow you to get a really lovely coverage. 

The reason I don’t recommend using these softer pencils for your initial base layers is because once you have that layer of coverage, it can then be hard to work other colours over the top and remove the appearance of the grain in the Pastelmat.

All this being said this isn’t set in stone and sometimes I will choose to add some of the harder pencils on top to get in some of the details, it’s just what will work best for your piece based on the reference photo.


If you would like to learn more about the different pencils and hear me talk you through some colour choices to create highlights, shadows, and vibrance in a bay horse, discuss colour theory and some techniques, watch the video at the top of this blog.

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