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Colored Pencil Basics

Reveal the versatility of colored pencils in this course that takes you through the numerous tools and techniques artists use to bring their work to life.
Colored Pencil Basics is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 29.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from coloured Pencil Basics I was delighted with this course. Never knew so much could be achieved with coloured pencils, The tutor, Susan Rubins, explained and demomstrated the technics clearly and sucscintly. I really enjoyed this course and m taking up this meduim as my new hobby.
Date published: 2024-05-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Colored Pencil Basics Good (Craftsy) class Susan was well organized and an excellent instructor. I learned so much as I have never done much with colored pencils. I enjoy acrylic, oil and even some watercolor paints, but I never found a good instructor for pastels or colored pencils (until now). Cynthia was ok, but not organized and didn’t complete the projects. Both women were exceptional artists, though. I couldn’t believe some of the “colored pencil” paintings they each did. There were 2 from Cynthia that stood out and I will be working on them as “Mixed Media” as they deserve more than just pencil work.
Date published: 2024-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing how you can get water pencils to blend! I like how the instructor takes her time to "show" you each detail, and I really like the blending of colors.
Date published: 2024-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, thorough instructor I'm just in the beginning of the course, and have learned more in these few lessons than I have in some college courses!
Date published: 2023-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Susan in particular, first rate If you've never seen what colored pencils can do in the hands of a real artist - wow are you in for a treat. I now have a better understanding of the How that supports my individual explorations over the past few years. Susan in particular is a good teacher. I really hate floral art, passionately. Yet others must love it because watercolor classes always do still life and flowers. Now I have to suffer through this glorious medium with a boring subject. But even with a boring subject (to me), I learned a lot! Layers and layers, blended and massaged. Wow.
Date published: 2023-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Resource This is an absolutely excellent course for anyone wanting to either develop skill or start using colored pencils. The first two modules contain color theory and a host of information about color development, layering and blending as well as techniques such as embossing, resist, underpainting and grisaille. Susan Rubin goes through each type of pencil stroke and then provides great examples to work on. The development of the split primary color wheels and the color recipes is particularly good. There are also loads of tips and tricks in this course which are invaluable for the colored pencil artist (such as the use of wax paper and sticky tack to remove color). Each project builds on the skills developed in the previous project. Modules 3 and 4 with Cynthia Knox are also excellent, but she assumes a level of familiarity with color theory and basics and just starts right in with the textures. The only complaint I have is that there are no accompanying materials for module 3, contrary to what Cynthia Knox refers to in the classes. This makes the classes less useful, as it requires having to stop the lesson to see what it is that she is working on and then trying to recreate it at home. The Guidebook which accompanies the class only has reference photos for Modules 1, 2 and 4. Other than that, this is an absolutely amazing course and is probably the best money I have spent on art-related items. There is a lot of information and techniques in here I didn't know and which would otherwise require multiple references.
Date published: 2022-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from colored pencils basics Just started it, so far, I am impressed. Like all the chapters, like the presenter.
Date published: 2022-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing class I have been attracted to colours and since I saw this course I engaged myself in experiment the pleasure of using the colourful pencils. I like very much the instructors They teach clearly and their books are really helpful to have them. Thanks to The Great Courses for give me the opportunity to explore and learn new things. Dora M
Date published: 2022-02-05
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Reveal the versatility of colored pencils in this course that takes you through the numerous tools and techniques artists use to bring their work to life.


Susan Rubin

I’m so excited to share my passion for colored pencils with you.



Susan Rubin's lifelong passion for drawing led her to study art and art history at Colorado College and the University of Exeter in England. After graduating, Susan became a product, interior and set designer for her own firms as well as the Discovery Channel and HGTV. In 1990, she discovered colored pencil botanical illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where she’s been teaching for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibits. Susan is represented by Spark Gallery in Denver.

By This Expert

Colored Pencil Basics
Cynthia Knox

Create a beautiful colored pencil still life and learn how to transform a line drawing into your own personal masterpiece!



Cynthia Knox is a professional colored pencil and graphite artist whose work has received numerous awards at national and international juried exhibitions. Along with creating commissioned work and being featured in art magazines and websites, Cynthia teaches art techniques to individuals and large groups. She's also published a number of instructional art books, including The Art of Colored Pencil Drawing, Flowers in Colored Pencil, Pencil Drawing Step by Step and more.

By This Expert

Colored Pencil Basics
Colored Pencil Basics


Class Preview

01: Class Preview

Completely new to colored pencils? Join illustrator Susan Rubin as she helps you navigate the basics from choosing the best beginner-friendly supplies to completing four drawing projects: a pear, leaf, persimmon, and tulip. With Susan’s techniques and step-by-step guidance, you’ll soon be creating your own colored pencil drawings with confidence!

2 min
What You Need: Colored Pencils

02: What You Need: Colored Pencils

Get started with a colored pencil primer as Susan explains the history behind colored pencils as well as the various types available, including which brands and palettes are best suited for beginners.

11 min
What You Need: Paper

03: What You Need: Paper

Follow along as Susan goes over the different types of paper and their various qualities, including the best ones for colored pencil beginners.

4 min
What You Need: Other Tools

04: What You Need: Other Tools

Review everything else you need to get started from pencil sharpeners and erasers to blending pens, waxed paper, and more.

9 min
Method: Mark-Making Basics

05: Method: Mark-Making Basics

Now it's time to put pencil to paper! In this lesson, Susan covers basic mark-making techniques to help you create different visual effects. Learn how to make effective strokes as you practice applying pressure to your marks.

13 min
Method: Layering and Edges

06: Method: Layering and Edges

Continue exploring mark-making techniques as you learn to use a limited palette to mix, layer, and create any color! After that, Susan shows you how to create clean edges for clear, convincing shapes.

12 min
Method: Reference Tips

07: Method: Reference Tips

Find out how to edit and adjust your photos so you can get the best reference possible. Plus, learn how to achieve great reference material using your smartphone!

10 min
Method: Color Basics

08: Method: Color Basics

Ready to dive into color? Explore the basics of color terminology as you learn to create a color wheel.

25 min
Method: Next Steps with Color

09: Method: Next Steps with Color

Continue your color exploration by learning to adjust value and saturation. Susan shows you how to shift color to light, dark, bright, and dull.

12 min
Make It: Pear, Part One

10: Make It: Pear, Part One

Start your first project, a green pear, using just three colors, none of which are green! Susan helps you create a value study (which will act as a roadmap for your finished project), transfer the image, select the palette, and put down the initial layers of local color.

17 min
Make It: Pear, Part Two

11: Make It: Pear, Part Two

In this lesson, finish up your pear by building colors and depth. Find out how to fix mistakes, shade convincingly, and create texture with blending. And see how to replicate tiny dots and break up large areas of color for a more realistic look.

21 min
Make It: Leafy Greens

12: Make It: Leafy Greens

Practice mixing rich green hues as you start your second project, a green leaf. Susan guides you through drawing, value study, and effective color selection. Then she helps you emboss vein lines on your leaf; layer for blended color; create shaded areas; and depict 3-D forms and realistic, shiny texture.

22 min
Make It: Persimmon

13: Make It: Persimmon

Following the same process as above, start your third project, a persimmon. But this time, add underpainting. Susan shows you how to cover large areas and create the fruit's unique textures, such as the white bloom.

58 min
Make It: Tulip

14: Make It: Tulip

Wrap things up with your final and most challenging project, a tulip. Start by underpainting the color, then build layers slowly, creating effective shadows and color harmonies along the way.

42 min
Class Preview

15: Class Preview

Improve all of your colored pencil drawings! Learn easy, empowering techniques for color mixing, application, and more.

1 min
First Steps

16: First Steps

Meet your instructor, Susan Rubin, and see how to set up a successful workspace for drawing comfortably. Then learn the difference between student-grade and artist-grade colored pencils and why you might use one or the other. Finally, practice controlling your pencils to create color gradients, tones, and textures.

25 min
Color Basics

17: Color Basics

Learn all about color! Begin with creating the color wheel as Susan helps you understand complementary and analogous color relationships. Then start to layer colors for your own color palette. Susan also helps you to avoid color-mixing mistakes.

15 min
Luminous Color Layering

18: Luminous Color Layering

Create a color recipe book with Susan's technique for layering colors and labeling your pencils for future reference. Then, learn Susan's mixing and topping trick for brightening or subduing color combinations. Finally, learn how to use a white pencil to create tints and expand your color palette even more!

20 min
Surface Textures in Colored Pencils

19: Surface Textures in Colored Pencils

Learn Susan's tricks behind using unique tools, such as wax paper and baby oil, to create more kinds of texture on paper. Achieve a smooth, finished look with a blending pen. Use a colored pencil resist for drawing leaves on a tree and the stumble stroke for branches. You'll also see how to capture light and dimension in water droplets!

27 min
Color and Texture Come Together

20: Color and Texture Come Together

Combine your color and texture techniques to draw cherries! Learn to mix colors to match and plan a palette of colors. You'll see how to underpaint to allow the base coat to shine through, then use burnishing pencils to create a smooth, shiny cherry.

20 min
Background and Atmosphere

21: Background and Atmosphere

Complete your cherry study with a textured background of complementary colors! Then, add realistic shadows to provide depth to the cherries and learn why shadows aren't made with just black colored pencil. Finally, learn techniques for laying down the background before starting the subject.

15 min
Bright and Bold Colors

22: Bright and Bold Colors

Learn how to make the perfect bold and bright shade with Susan's layering technique. You'll color a gorgeous yellow flower using all the techniques and tools Susan has shared with you and master shadows and shading throughout the flower. Finally, make your colored pencil drawing last with fixative.

21 min
Class Preview

23: Class Preview

Draw textures so lifelike, you can feel them! Recreate the appearance of fruit skins, metallic surfaces, woodgrain, fur, fabric, and more.

1 min
Organic Textures

24: Organic Textures

Start things off by learning the essential colored pencil techniques you'll use to create all of the textures in class. Cynthia will cover techniques for varying pencil pressure, burnishing, and layering values. Then, render the surfaces of fruits to practice achieving shiny and dull textures and a range of values and tones.

19 min
Uneven Surfaces and Markings

25: Uneven Surfaces and Markings

Fruit serves as the perfect subject for studying uneven surfaces and markings such as dimples, dents, and more. Learn how to apply small highlights and soft blending to achieve these looks, and practice creating random dots and jagged linear markings to indicate freckles and distress lines.

18 min
Metallic Textures

26: Metallic Textures

Love the look of shining silver? Find out how to recreate it by layering from the darkest dark values to the brightest highlights. Then, employ a warmer palette to capture the look of brass objects. Cynthia will even help you heighten the realism of your metallic textures by incorporating fine details.

25 min
Wood Grain and Branches

27: Wood Grain and Branches

Mimic the complex look of wood grain and the intricate knots found in trees with Cynthia's guidance and professional tips. Along the way, you'll discover how to carve lines into paper to separate grain lines from background blending and define form and shadows as you render knots and tree hollows.

11 min
Fur and Feathers

28: Fur and Feathers

Use firmer pencil pressures as you see how to create the look of sleek, long fur, and experiment with lighter pencil pressures to achieve short, wispy, fuzzy-looking fur. Then, Cynthia will share tips for drawing all types of feathers accurately by developing shadows and dimension.

18 min
Fabric and Leather

29: Fabric and Leather

Cynthia shares techniques for capturing the look of different fabrics and more. You'll find out how to draw both shiny and distressed leather. Plus, build confidence capturing the characteristic stitching and feel of denim, and practice drawing negative space to recreate delicate lace patterns.

15 min
Class Preview

30: Class Preview

Draw radiant, true-to-life flowers that pop off the paper. Learn techniques for matching colors, shifting values, layering, blending, burnishing, and more.

1 min
Layering, Blending, and Burnishing

31: Layering, Blending, and Burnishing

Meet artist Cynthia Knox as she introduces you to the amazing colored pencil techniques you'll learn throughout this class! Gain helpful insights into color theory, blending techniques, and the burnishing method, which creates a gorgeous painterly effect.

19 min
Working with Reference Photos

32: Working with Reference Photos

Learn how to select and edit a reference photo that you'll draw from and how to transfer it to drawing paper using Cynthia's helpful tips. Next, discover an easy and nearly foolproof way to create and catalog color swatches that perfectly match corresponding areas of your reference photo.

16 min
Value and Fixing Mistakes

33: Value and Fixing Mistakes

Turn your focus to value in this lesson, which covers ways to identify and recreate shifts between shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. Cynthia helps you refine your burnishing technique as she covers a variety of ways to build up layers of color or remove colors that you don't like.

20 min
Adding Dimension

34: Adding Dimension

Add more depth and dimension to your drawings using carefully developed color and value shifts. Cynthia shows you how to make your flowers look like they're popping off the page and demonstrates ways to create deep shadows and intriguing details like water droplets. She also shares easy but ingenious tips for identifying value more easily.

15 min
Blurring and Blending

35: Blurring and Blending

Expand upon the skills you've developed in prior lessons as you use brandishing to push elements into the background and blend midground details to create a lovely, natural-looking blurred effect. Next, explore the versatile medium of watercolor pencils, which can blend seamlessly with the color you've applied in pencil and infuse a lovely, looser quality to your work.

30 min
Natural Shadows and Leaves

36: Natural Shadows and Leaves

Turn your focus to the flower's leaves as you learn how to add dimension and realistic effects to a variety of leaf shapes. Add details like ridges, stems, and new layers of color to make your leaves spring to life on the page, and apply Cynthia's pro tips for adding shadow and movement.

11 min
Dramatic Backgrounds and Petal Veins

37: Dramatic Backgrounds and Petal Veins

Focus on the direction and pressure of your pencil strokes as you learn how to create a dark, even tone for your background. Cynthia also illustrates ways to create realistic full petals with nuanced vein lines that suggest movement and rich texture. You'll finish the lesson with a bevy of new techniques that will help add drama, nuanced detail, and gorgeous form to your works.

22 min