Techniques and Tips

Colored Pencil Demo: Alyona Nickelson

Colored Pencil Demo: Alyona Nickelson

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Discover the range of artistic options
colored pencils can provide.

Melody of Fallen Leaves (colored pencil, 12½ x 9½) by Alyona Nickelsen


  • white Stonehenge paper (inexpensive, archival and with enough tooth to accommodate many layers of colored pencil application)
  • Prismacolor wax-based pencils (excellent range of colors and softness)
  • Prismacolor’s Verithin pencils (hard points for the lightest shadings and most intricate lines )
  • clear Magic Tape (to remove unwanted color and marks or to fix mistakes or lighten values in small areas)
  • mounting putty
  • kneaded eraser
  • X-Acto knife (for fine details
  • odorless mineral spirits (to enhance painterly effects and to increase pencil stroke blending

Following is a five-step demonstration for rendering
Indian corn in colored pencil:

1. The initial sketch provides a general composition layout and basic contour of the objects. It also represents the approach you’ll take for highlighting, light sources and shadows.

2. Color mapping establishes the color themes. To begin, create the shadow (I did this with celadon green and beige for the lighter areas) and add contrast in the darker areas (I used blue-gray and marine green). Next, form the leaves using a combination of beige, cloud blue and jade green. Painting the kernels is more complicated. You can begin with lemon yellow or canary yellow on the lighted yellow areas and yellow ochre on the shadowed yellows. I used indigo blue Verithin for the blue kernels and Tuscan red Verithin for the red. The white kernels evolved from a combination of light peach, cloud blue and jade green.

3. Wash the colors with mineral spirits to unify colors and blend the pencil strokes. Then begin developing values and colors area by area. In the shadows I used pink-rose and cloud blue to accent the lighter regions, and green ochre, indigo blue and Tuscan red for the darker ones. The leaves are a startling blend of peach, beige, blue-gray, cloud blue, jasmine, green ochre and yellow ochre to expose the delicate and contrasting nature of the piece.

The kernels are more challenging due to the diversity of color. I used grayed lavender and cloud blue on the lighted yellow kernels. I established the shadowed yellows with mineral orange. The blue kernels stand out with indigo blue and Tuscan red. The red kernels combine Tuscan red, kelp green and indigo blue. Light peach, grayed lavender, cream and pale sage make up the white kernels.

4. Finish the development of colors you started. Do a second mineral spirit wash, again to unify the colors and remove pencil strokes. Next, burnish the leaves, shiny portions of the kernels and shadow area with white. Finally, adjust the values and colors and develop shapes, repeating all colors you’ve used so far.

5. To protect your colored pencil paintings, use a final fixative spray (I use Prismacolor’s). Three to five thin coats generally work fine if the artwork is presented under glass or Plexiglas. If I plan to display the artwork without protective glass, I use a few coats of Golden Archival Varnish on the top of a fixative spray, but keep in mind this doesn’t protect the artwork from scratches.

A native of Kiev, Ukraine, Alyona Nickelsen moved to the United States in 1999 and resides in California. She’s exhibited work and won awards in national and international juried shows. Her website is

Check out Ann Kullberg’s book Colored Pencil Secrets for Success here.

To find getting-started information, click here.

Get Linda Lucas Hardy’s 16 tips for colored pencil here.


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Watch the video: How does the Powder Blender work with colored pencil from Brush and Pencil??? (June 2022).


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