The Colored Pencil Course: Using Color Theory in Drawings

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This course features:
5 Hours of Instruction
22 Videos
21 eBooks
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Lesson Discussion

  1. I’m going to attempt Colored Pen and Ink with Cretacolor watercolor pencils, and just for grins and giggles, I will add some soft pastels as well! Now the Ink will be for fine details, Cretacolors will be for washes and background values…The Soft Pastels will be for bright areas where the other two will not be able to make bright values for emphasis. Am I on the right track, or do you have a better suggestion for my multimedia approach to painting. I am in contact with Lois Griffel, former head of the Cape Cod School of Art, and is an Impressionist Master. She has taken a liking to my enthusiasm, and even gave me her $100.00 DVD set as a gift. I have the drive to try the under painting and build up of colors as Monet has done in his paintings…Wish me luck!

  2. Do you have watercolor pencil and Pen and Ink videos? I am particularly interested in Forest and Water scenes as found in Alaska and along the Pacific Coast. If you look up Holland Lake, Montana in the Fall, you will see the Tamrac and Evergreens along the lake and this will probably be my first attempt to do the Ink and Cretacolors…Soft pastels for the lake, and sky…Any pen and ink evergreens and deciduous tree videos will help! THANKS! Will send you my first attempts!

  3. why is there so much instruction on mixing colors when the cp manufacturers make so many different colors in their pencils available? Personally I find the pencils from the companies much richer and “true” vs the results of mixing on the picture which are muddy to me.

    • Hi Marilyn,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is true that many of the manufactured colors are rich and bold and if that is the color that is required for your application then it should be used. It is my opinion, however, that the artist still needs to know how colors are mixed and what relationships they have on the color wheel. Knowing this information helps to make informed decisions about color selection and manipulating colors. While manufacturers do make an enormous selection of colors, it is impossible for them to make all colors in existence. Some color mixing will occur in virtually every drawing whether that is a result of layering or deliberate mixing to produce a specific color.

    • Hi Jacqueline,

      It depends on the approach you are to take. If you are creating an “underpainting”, then you may start with a Dark Umber or Indigo Blue. If you are creating the local color, then you may first apply the color that is observed and then manipulate the values. I hope this helps.

      • Thank you for answering. This website is very helpful. My question was more geared towards creating the local color. For example, if you want to make a violet using blue and red, which color do you put down first?

  4. Contrary to Marilyn, I was absolutely absorbed by this lesson, much to my surprise as I’ve seen lots of colour mixing excercises before – how glad I am that I didn’t skip it! Firstly, the others always involved making colour charts of square boxes, wheras the circular form of a home produced colour wheel clearly demonstrates the progression of change, for instance decreasing the blue and increasing the yellow as you progress clockwise. The other big plus here was the medium – being a dry medium applied in layers, the process of mixing can be clearly observed, unlike the vague ‘less blue, more yellow’ necessary with fluid media. Brilliant! I now feel I have made a leap forward and as I have always favoured a limited palette in my work, i don’t feel I need to invest a lot of money on huge range of coloured pencils in order to start producing acceptable artwork.
    Thanks again Matt for clear, detailed instruction – your reasons for each process are particularly appreciated. The more I explore your site, the more I appreciate the amount of work you must put in and your dedication to teaching this vast subject.

  5. There are a few typos in the PDF ebook, notably “Cool Triad” and “Cool Tetrads.” In both cases, I’m 99.9% sure that “Cool” should be “Color” (I’ll leave out my Canadian desire to throw the letter ‘u’ in the mix) and figured I would mention it. No big deal, but if you get a chance to correct, probably worth doing. 🙂

  6. Yo Mr.Matt, this will be exciting….am blocking my studio time for this one. I will be watching your every stroke.Thx for the challenge.Gerry

  7. hi matt,
    these tetrads are simple: B-O-YG-RP
    I get that/understand,but iam confused with these: BP-YO-YG-RP RO-BG-BP-YO
    are these (6) tetrads?? B-O-Y-RP R-G-B-YO-O
    iam really trying to understand!,raquel P-Y-G-R

    • Hi Raquel,

      An easier way to think about color tetrads is by recognizing the complements of the colors used. Take B-O-YG-RP for example. Blue is the complement of orange and yellow-green is the complement of red-purple. So, the same is true of blue-purple and yellow-orange and yellow-green and red-purple. Not only that, but each complementary paring is positioned equidistant from each other on the color wheel. In fact, you can draw a perfect cross between them. So, a tetrad is made up of two complementary pairings equidistant from each other on the color wheel. B-O-Y-RP would not be considered a tetrad because yellow is not the complement of red-purple, nor is it equidistant from the blue and orange pairing. I hope this helps.

      • matt,
        may i pdf you a handout on tetrads i received in a color theory class some time ago.
        that is where my confusion is coming from….i couldn’t draw a perfect cross between them….

        • Hi Raquel,

          Absolutely, send it my way. It sounds as though you may be referring to a “rectangular” scheme which is technically a tetrad because it has four colors. “Rectangular” schemes are so closely related to split-complementary schemes that I typically do not include them when teaching color theory but they do exist.

    • Hi Raquel,

      Yes, I did get it! Thanks for sending it my way. Yes, these are considered tetrads – the rectangular ones. These are so closely related to split-complementary schemes that they can cause confusion.

  8. Have finished first three modules- All just great. Knew color theory before I started but was excellent, to the point. What to use with colored pencils for darks has been a concern- Now I get it- the indigo and Burnt umber – Thanks !! Barbara

  9. Hey Matt,
    I’m enjoying the course so much. Thank you! Question about layering colors – I’ve been practicing this quite a bit and it seems like eventually there is a limit as to how much more layering/blending one can do on the paper. At some point it seems like the paper is too waxy and just won’t accept any more color. Would a matte fixative solve this problem that I could continue to layer on color? I’m using PC Premiers.

    Also – I love using the colorless blender and have watched you use the turpenoid as well. What do you think of the PC blender marker as an alternative to the turpenoid?

    Thanks again and best wishes!

  10. Hello Matt — I have difficulty seeing the different colors I need to blend to reach a specific color. But I have just found a possible method and wondered what your opinion is? I enlarge my image in Photoshop at least 200% so all I see is color pixels and which color predominates. I match those colors to my Prismacolor pencil chart and blend with white Does this make any sense to you? Thanks. and love your courses!!

  11. Matt…. I worked the Copenhagen Blue and the Crimson Red together (module #5, color wheel). I can’t seem to get a clean Purple. In fact, I get mud or a very drab purple. Could there be too much green in the Copenhagen an/or too much orange in the Crimson Red? Did the color come out clean for you in the demo?

  12. Tony… It could be fun to have Matt do a Photoshop chapter on this method of color choices in setting up for work from a reference photo, which I think is a more difficult task with colored pencils.

  13. I’m enjoying this , Matt! I’m using Staedtler pencils (on sale at Michael’s) and the colors don’t seem very bold to me. Any ideas of something better? Thanks.

  14. I used Bristol Smooth for the green balls (green w/ analogous & with complementary). Could not get the texture I saw in the video. I am thinking perhaps Bristol Vellum might be the more workable surface?

  15. Hi Matt, I’m too critical of myself when draw. When I do the examples I get frustrated when it does not come out the I want. Is there any thing I can do too not get so frustrated and not to be so hard on myself.
    P.S. love the videos.

    • Hi Victoria,

      It’s ok, you can pause the video and take your time. The videos are, of course, edited to get the information to you as efficiently as possible. As you go through the lessons, take your time and work at your own pace.

  16. Hi Matt, how do you know if a certain red/blue/yellow is the primary ones? For example, in the Prismacolor pencil set, which red is the primary red?
    I’ve tried mixing Prismacolour’s Poppy red with True blue. The mixture is a brown. I’d assume the Poppy red is actually an orange. Am I correct?

  17. whenI signed up for the course i thought they with oils painting mind you have enjoyed the lesson so far but i would rather paint with oils thank you for any help you can give me and maybe switch me to the oil paints program thank you ECD

  18. I have at least 8 different sets of colored pencils and 6 sets of watercolor pencils (I am now retired and need not a blessed thing, so it’s either perennials or art supplies for every holiday!). Without a doubt, color theory is challenging to wrap my head and heart around. Do you have a course or class on color magic or thoughts in that area that challenges an “old dog” to learn a “new trick”? Watercolor begins with light colors built around the future, darker colors. I really would appreciate a class that emphasizes and encourages us to see the difference in color application and other applications I face every day drawing. I more or less have the graphite work acceptable…color, not so much! THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK, TEACHING, and gift of your being available!

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