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Colouring in. Some tips to vary your work.

by Rogue
in Blog
on May 24, 2016
Hits: 917

Our ancestors worked in small home based businesses. Bakers, spinners, weavers, dressmakers, cabinetmakers, potters and knitters… much of which was lost in the Industrial Revolution. Sound familiar? We are going through a similar thing today with the internet putting people out of business. But in a strangely ironic twist, people are also now handcrafting items and selling them online. A good example of turnabout comes about!

We have inherited a need to use our hands to create. The fact that many of us don’t, I think, contributes to society mental illness such as depression and anxiety. My mother taught me to knit at the age of four. I used it while raising my children and it probably was the only means of therapy for me. The gentle and rhythmic clicking of the needles produced a feeling similar to meditation.

It’s a long time since I’ve knitted. These days I pick up a pencil instead. I can get lost in a blank piece of paper and the smooth swish of a pencil and often shake my head, scarcely believing I’ve actually produced that piece of work. It’s not about excellence. It’s about expressing feeling.

When the adult colouring books began to appear, I was amazed that anyone could be so insightful as to think of adults colouring in. Of course. What-a- wonderful- idea! I think it’s a great thing to see all the different books about. Why should kids have all the fun?

I have heard some people put themselves down. This is silly. You may not have drawn the outline but by setting down the colours, choosing and applying them, you are putting a piece of your personality on the paper. It absolutely is a craft.

You can scribble like a kid and just enjoy the play or you can give it a bit more time and thought. So for those people I’ve put forward a few tips to give you something to work with.

Few things in nature appear as a solid block of colour.

Cumba Meillandina, Wiki Commons

Drawing is all about observation. You need to put aside your usual way of perception and actually look. You might know this rose is red. But it is not uniformly the same red colour. Look closer. Even the red bits are made up of odd shading.

Let’s say you had an outline of this rose. You would start by gently shading the lightest areas. Then put in the darkest areas. Then graduating through. You would then repeat the process, slowly intensifying the colour until you get a balance.

All drawing is about relativity. The lightest pieces are near the centre. The darkest pieces are also near the centre. So this piece is about getting the relationships right between the colours. But there is no right or wrong here, remember it is your piece. You can colour it how you want.

Pencil direction

When shading, if lines cross each other in this way it is called cross hatching. Some very good works of art have been created just by cross hatching.

Portrait by Teresa Wentzler (Pinterest)

The artist has darkened certain areas by simply increasing the amount of cross hatching and given the illusion of curves by using short, graduated lines. But you can use curves in single multiple strokes.


Pencils from the $2.00 shop will give you colour and enjoyment. But the colour will not last as long as a high end pencil. If you’ve done something you really like, scan it and put it into a portfolio. That way you get to keep it a long time.

Pencil Pressure

I’ve seen videos of artists using very expensive pencils at a very heavy pressure. They are constantly sharpening them. It’s ok for them. They are established artists and often get their pencils for nothing or at a reduce rate.

That is pencil art at a photo realistic level which is hung in galleries.

For us, we need to look after our pencils. There is no need to be using a ridiculously heavy pressure all the time… maybe sometimes. The best thing is repeated application and gradual build up. And it is better for the paper.


Most of us instinctively colour in using small circles and that’s probably the way to go. In larger areas you might like to try one of the cross hatching techniques above. But if you have an original reference photo, pay attention to see if there is a grain (direction). If you use a hatching technique, lift the pencil up between strokes.


We all know erasers are great for grey pencils. But they don’t work too well with colour. Try using some blue tack…. Yeah I said blue tack. Don’t rub it, dab it. In most cases the blue tack will take off colour if you’ve applied too much or want to change the shade. Well… it’s meant to stick isn’t it?

Black and White

Not everything is about colour. This sort of stuff is becoming it’s own art form.


This sort of creative whimsy is very suited to filling in floral themes.

(Floramania, Pinterest)


Working with colour is therapeutic. Sometimes though we will look at something and think… they don’t seem to go well together. I recommend a spare sheet of paper where you can check the colours against each other.

This is a colour wheel.

The idea is that colours opposite each other on the colour wheel make each other stand out. They are called complimentary colours. It can create excitement to the eye. Have a look at a photo of shops in Hong Kong or New York. It’s all about life and bustle and encouraging people to get out and spend. But you wouldn’t want it in your house when you are trying to relax!

Colours which are next to each other, three in a row are called analogous colours. They blend into each other. It can create harmony and restfulness. But too much of it will cause sleepiness. Ever wondered why you feel at ease near forests, ferns and water. That’s why.

Offices these days tend towards neutral grey or pastel colours. They don’t want people fighting or falling asleep!

There are cool and warm versions of colours as you can see on the wheel. Sometimes they don’t look right if they are next to each other. For example, look at the blue green. It would not look great next to a yellow green. It would need another colour to break it up. But sometimes light and shade will do that for you.

Using black or white, for contrast makes colours stand out.

By درفش کاویانی (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Blending and burnishing

Art shops sell burnishing and blending pencils. They are often ridiculously expensive. Usually all you require is a white pencil. Just get a white pencil and apply it over some colour.

This will usually intensify the colour and sometimes makes the surface shiny. With some types of pencils it actually moves the colours around and blends them in. (eg. Wax pencils).

Try holding your pencil on the side, using the full side of the nib of the pencil for a fuller coverage. This takes a bit of practice but it is worth the effort.


It’s the right time of year to go out and find some autumn leaves. Look how the colours change on the leaf, some gradual some sudden, where a leaf has browned off. Studying these sorts of things will help get your “eye” in, and help you distinguish colours and light and shade.

If you want some practice, try tracing or drawing this leaf and colouring it. Don’t be too worried about the outline. It’s all about colour!

The veins running through the leaf are easier to produce than you think. Art shops sell embossing tools, again at ridiculous prices. An empty biro will do, or something similar. Just draw in the lines using an empty pen, taking care that you leave a slight indent in the paper. It doesn’t need much.

Did you ever put a piece of paper over a 20 cent coin and colour it? This is the same process (only in reverse). Try experimenting on a blank piece of paper.
If you have any pieces with which you are particularly pleased, why not send them to us. We’ll be happy to put them up on the site for awhile. Let’s get the colour community going!

Take it easy and relax.

Happy colouring smile