Put Some Pressure on Your Colored Pencils

When you draw or “color” with colored pencils, are you paying attention to how much pressure you put on the pencil?

If not, then you should.

Many people may not think the amount of pressure you place on your colored pencil makes a difference. This certainly did not occur to me before I learned otherwise.

However, the pressure you place on your pencil does have a noticeable effect on the marks made on your paper. Believe it or not, the medium will also “behave” a certain way on the surface depending on the pressure you use.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of pressure you should use and when you should use them.

Pressure Categories for Using Colored Pencils

Of course if you think about it, the range of pressure you can apply to a colored pencil is endless. You can do anything from barely touch the surface to press so hard that the “lead” breaks.

Since it is unlikely that you will do either of these two extremes purposefully, let’s make this real simple. Here are the three very broad categories of pressure you should be aware of when using your colored pencils:

Light pressure means you are lightly and gently touching the paper as you move the pencil across it. It is helpful to use light pressure on the beginning layers of a piece of work. As you layer colors over the light application, this light layer will show through and result in a nice color mix.

01 light pressure

Medium pressure means you are pressing down on the the paper harder, but not too hard. The color on the paper will have a slightly darker value. As you layer different colors over one another with medium pressure, it will cause the pigment from the pencils to mix together.

02 medium pressure

Heavy pressure means you are pressing down very firmly with your pencil. The result on your paper will be a heavier, more intense value of the color. This too will cause the pigment from the pencils to mix together even more. You should consider using heavy pressure on the final layers of your drawing.

03 heavy pressure

Varying the Pressure

Not only should you use a mix of light, medium, and heavy pressure layers as you are progressing through a drawing, but you can also vary the pressure of the pencil before you lift it from the paper. In the example below, this single pencil stroke begins with heavy pressure and tapers off with light pressure.


04 light to heavy stroke

By varying the pressure placed on the pencil, you will get a range of color values and intensity with each stroke.

In this example, you can see an instance of hatching where the pressure is varied from heavy at the bottom to light at the top…

05 heavy to light hatching

…and here, you can see crosshatching where the pressure is again varied from heavy to light with each pencil stroke.

06 heavy to light crosshatching

Pressure Rule of Thumb

A nice, rich mix of colors will make your drawings appear more natural. In general, remember to begin your initial layers with light pressure. Then layer over colors progressively with medium pressure, and work you way up to heavy pressure. You should have heavy applications of color in the final stages.

So from now on, always consciously be aware of the pressure you are using. Plan for the right amount of pressure for the task at hand whenever you make colored pencil marks on your paper.

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