Prismacolor Colored Pencils – A Great Way to Learn to Shade in Color



Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are a great way to learn to shade in color, but BEWARE: only the Premier or the Professional colored pencils will work, and I do not recommend any other brand of colored pencils either.

You can buy sets that include up to 150 pencils, but I believe that a set of 48 is enough to get you started, and I have noticed that several people are selling that set at a very reasonable price now. If you buy Prismacolor pencils individually, they cost about $2.00 each, and the set of 48 usually costs about $96.00, but you can buy that set at Amazon or Dick Blick for under $40 now.

Colors included in this set: Yellowed Orange, Spanish Orange, Limepeel, Parma Violet, Peacock Blue, Goldenrod, Powder Blue, Indigo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, True Blue, Cerulean Blue, Aquamarine, Dark Green, Grass Green, True Green, Olive Green, Apple Green, Spring Green, Cream, Canary Yellow, Orange, Pale Vermillion, Poppy Red, Crimson Red, Carmine Red, Light Peach, Blush Pink, Pink, Magenta, Violet, Violet Blue, Black, Tuscan Red, White, Peach, Light Umber, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, Dark Brown, Dark Umber, Metallic Silver, Metallic Gold, Lilac, Chartreuse, Light Aqua, Process Red, Mulberry.

Colors Included in the Set of 48 Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

  1. canary-yellow
  2. spanish-orange
  3. yellowed-orange
  4. yellow-ochre Yellow ochre has brown in it.
  5. goldenrod Goldenrod has brown in it.
  6. orange
  7. pale-vermillion
  8. poppy
  9. perm-red
  10. process-red
  11. magenta
  12. mullberry
  13. lilac
  14. parma-violet
  15. crimson Crimson red has brown in it.
  16. chartreuse
  17. lime-peel Lime peel has brown in it
  18. spring-green
  19. apple Apple green has brown in it
  20. grass
  21. olive-green Olive green has brown in it.
  22. true-green
  23. dark-green
  24. peacock-blue
  25. indigo
  26. powder-blue
  27. light-cerulean-blue
  28. true-blue
  29. ultramarine
  30. violet-blue
  31. violet
  32. aquamarine
  33. cream
  34. blush-pink
  35. pink
  36. light-peach
  37. peach
  38. carmine
  39. burnt-ochre Burnt ochre is a  reddish brown.
  40. tuscan-red Tuscan red is a dark reddish brown.
  41. sienna-brown
  42. light-umber
  43. dark-brown
  44. dark-umber
  45. metallic-silver
  46. metallic-gold
  47. white
  48. black

When I teach color shading with colored pencils, I approach it in much the same way that I would approach watercolor. I tell the students to shade from the lightest colors to the darkest colors–in their color families. White is lighter than any light color, and I allow the white of the paper to lighten the lightest colors even more. A white Prismacolor pencil is not a color, and I rarely use white pencil. I hardly ever use black pencil. It is not a color either. Instead, I shade with the darkest pure spectrum color. In some cases, violet is the darkest pure spectrum color that I use.

In the red family, Canary Yellow is the lightest color [white is not a color, and I do not apply white in the initial coloring].

  1. Canary Yellow
  2. Spanish Orange or Sunburst Yellow
  3. Yellowed Orange
  4. Orange
  5. Pale Vermillion
  6. Poppy Red

There are other colors that may seem yellow to you, i.e. cream or goldenrod, but these are not pure spectrum colors. Cream has a great deal of white in it and perhaps also a bit of brown, and goldenrod has a great deal of brown in it.


Janis Joplin – Watercolor by Jacki Kellum

My fondness is for color, and in my work, the objective is to juxtapose and mix as many colors as possible and to still avoid a brownishness. Therefore, I avoid the browns, grays, and blacks as much as possible, and when I want a tinge of brown, I strive to get it through mixing pure spectrum colors [colors with no brown, gray, or black].

The colors in the green family are different, and except for the canary yellow, the green colors should not be used for something red and the red colors should not be used to shade something green.

Lesson 1: Draw and shade the following pinnate leaf with colored pencils:


This entire tutorial is copyrighted by Jacki Kellum

©Jacki Kellum July 2, 2016

Image  Very lightly sketch the outline of the leaf with pencil

Draw the center vein or the mid-rib.  Notice that it curls a bit.  This curling is important for the leaf to feel alive.

Lightly sketch the left veins.  Notice that some of the veins seem to dip–especially near the mid-rib.  The leaf is dented along the mid-rib and because of this sinking, there is more shadow in this area.  The curling beyond the dipping shows that the leaf is pulling upward out of that dented area.  The veins curl at the outer edge because the leaf curls downward there.  The veins are parallel.

Add the veins on the right side.


Look closely at the left side of the leaf for the lightest sections and stroke those in with diagonal marks going in the direction of the arrow at the top. If you have it, you will use prismacolor premier colored pencil lemon yellow for those marks.


If you do not have lemon yellow, canary yellow is also fine.

I try to always make diagonal marks, and as I add darker colors, I try to allow the darker color to be placed between the diagonal marks of the lighter color. That is how I begin to feather the color for shading.

.pinnateleaf5rightyellowb  Add yellow to the midrib and on the lightest areas, which are the spots that are lifted highest toward the sun or the light source.

NOTE:  My sketch does not show this; but yellow should be added to each of the veins, too.

If using colored pencils, add the light areas on the right with diagonal lines marked down and right, i.e. the arrow on the right. Mark down and left on the left side.

In colored pencil, begin to gradually darken on either side of the yellow, by adding diagonal left marks of Yellow Chartreuse 1004 [if you have it] and then 989 chartreuse.  If you do not have yellow chartreuse, you can skip to chartreuse, but add the color gradually. You add each degree of darkness by overlapping the lighter area a bit and marking beyond.

To darken even further, add the following colors in order: 913 Spring Green, 909 Grass Green, 908 Dark Green, 1027 Peacock Blue, 933 Violet Blue, 901 Indigo Blue

The light is coming from straight above.  As the leaf curves away from that upper light, the darkness gradually appears, following the curvature of the leaf.

On the outer edges, the shading marks should curve around the edges, like the curving arrows

The veins are raised edges and they are light.  You have to shade each vein separately.  Each raised vein casts its own shadows.

When the shadow begins to curve around the leaf, curve your marks as shown by the arrows.  Curve the bottom shadows upward from the outer edge–to meet the other marks curving at the rounded edge.

Image   pinnateleaf8curvedarrowsup









Look carefully at the leaf.  There is a small, light area around the bottom of the leaf.  Since that area is the farthest away from the top light, that would not seem to make sense.  Yet, this is not an area of direct light — like the yellows that we have already drawn on the leaf surface and on the tops of each vein,  The light around the bottom is reflected light, from wherethe top light has struck the white background and reflected upon the lower edges of the leaf.


In watercolor, use the following colors:

DaVinci Watercolor Swatches in order from lightest value to dark:

cadlemon Cadmium Yellow Lemon or Cadmium Yellow Light

leafgreen Leaf Green

viridian Viridian

phthaloblue Phthalo Blue

©Jacki Kellum July 2, 2016



You may also like another of my free tutorials that is about painting the same type of leaves with acrylic paint Here





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