It does what it says on the heading. Blending is when you smoosh (a technical term if ever there was one) two or more colours together. Most coloured pencil artists like to layer several colours before blending, as coloured pencils are translucent and will show each layer subtly altering and creating shades. You can use many things to blend: solvent, tortillions, stumps, cotton wool, tissue, stencil brushes, blending pencils…each giving their own effect. Blending well and layering are the keys to taking your paintings from sketches to…well, paintings.

Burnish –

This is very similar to blending except that you get a shinier, more reflective surface to the area you have burnished. Derwent make a Burnisher pencil which is grittier than the Blender and almost makes the affected area a little bit sparkly. The way to think of it is that burnishing is more of an effect than just blending which is a coloured pencil fundamental.

Layering –

Coloured pencils are a transparent, translucent medium. Lay down yellow, put red on the top and you don’t wipe out the yellow, you get orange. This means that we can create endless shades and mixes to get the exact colour that we desire. The layering of pigment is why we call our works paintings and our efforts painting. Layering and blending is not colouring in. Layering allows us to create realism in our works, to take our works beyond colouring in. It allows us to paint with our pencils.


The lightfastness of a pigment, be it in paint or pencil, determines how permanent the colour is or how unaffected by light it is. The higher the lightfast rating the more permanent, resistant to sun-fading it is. In the UK, we use the Blue Wool Scale which rates pigments on a scale of 1 to 8, 7 and 8 being the most lightfast. In the USA, they use the ASTM (American Standard Test Measure), a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 or 2 being the highest rating. Simply put, if you want your work to last especially if you are selling it, go for the highest lightfast ratings.


‘Support’ simply refers to the paper/board/ or any flat surface you are drawing/painting onto. A bit of a cuddly term, yes, but still it’s kind of nice.

Underpainting –

This is the first layering of our painting. Most often it is done to lay down the foundations of our painting, the layer that creates the values. Grisaille underpainting is monochromatic, often in varying greys only, and it provides a value scale upon which we then began to build our colours. When I am painting foliage, I like to begin with a red/purple underpainting before the greens. Reds being the contrast of greens, this adds to the realism of the foliage and allows me to establish the values early on.


Not what your finished piece is worth, no, value refers to the lights and darks within your subject. It refers to the lightness and darkness of a colour, not the pigment/colour/hue. Best seen in monochrome, many artists if using a reference photo, view the photo (and often finished piece) in monochrome to check they have their values correct. A tool in the realism box.

Wax Bloom

Many of the wax-based coloured pencils, when layered thickly, will show wax bloom after a period of time. The wax used in the pencil core to bind pigment releases from where you have laid it and you will see a little white or greyish layer resting on the top of your work. If this happens you can gently heat the affected area with a hairdryer and dab it off with paper towels. To prevent this from happening in the first place, don’t switch to oil-based pencils as you’ll just miss out on some lovely pencils, just spray your work with fixative and you should be good.



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