Camilla writes; I’ve just received my very first artist color pencil ever. The Polychromos set of 36. I have been drawing in graphite for a short while, but since your videos are so great, I would like to explore color pencils. I just don’t know how to get started. What to draw, that is not too difficult, since I’ve never painted before… I was wondering if you had any tips for starting up, if it is a good idea to start with only a few colors, or just go all in from the beginning? Thank you very much for sharing all your knowledge, both on Patreon and on youtube.

Congratulations on your new pencils! One of my favorite things to start students new to colored pencil off with are roses. You can get photos from pixabay or other royalty free reference photo sites or take your own photos easily enough. The reason that I suggest roses is that you can focus on your layering/blending/shading and not worry too much or be too discouraged if your drawing isn’t totally accurate. It should still look like a rose even if the petals are off.

Roses have beautiful shapes and shadows that you will learn from. If you can control the shading on a rose, what you learn from that can be applied to portraits later on if that’s your goal. The curve of the petals is perfect for learning to create three-dimensional work in colored pencil. A photo like this is great because you can also work on controlling soft shading for your background. This single photo (this photo is available on Pixabay if you want to draw it yourself) gives you a lot of practice with many different techniques without the stress of needing every shape and shadow exactly perfect to look nice.

Things I generally have new students to the medium avoid are anything with fur or portraits. If you hate drawing flowers, a dolphin or fish would be a great alternative.

I think it’s important for new students to set themselves up for success on their first few pieces. Sure, they won’t likely look exactly how we wanted, but if we choose a project that is too complicated like fur or faces that can be quite discouraging if/when the end result isn’t perfect. A rose with mistakes still looks like a rose, a person’s face with a lot of mistakes can look frightening and distorted. As you can imagine the later can make an artist feel they are just bad at something even though the skill level of the artist at that point on both projects would have been the same.

As for the colors, I personally don’t overthink this. I grab the pencil that is closest to the color I need and use it. If you don’t have the color you need, practice layering different colors on a scratch piece of paper until you get the shade you’re looking for. That scratch piece of paper is a must when working with colored pencil!! Remember when layering that the order you layer things makes a difference too. Blue on top of red will look very different than the same red on top of blue. You want to find that out before you try it on your paper.

My last tip is not to be too critical of yourself as you’re getting used to the medium. Give yourself permission to make an ugly drawing. This is a part of the learning process and if you let yourself get frustrated that your first few projects aren’t as awesome as your work in other mediums (that you’ve likely been using for a long time), it makes it difficult to want to keep going in that new medium. Starting off with the idea that mistakes are ok right now really will make a huge difference in how fast you learn.