I'm new to drawing with colored pencils. I've drawn a bear that has a nose and mouth in black, but I can't quite figure out how or when to draw these black parts without accidentally grabbing some of the black color when filling in adjacent colors. I've tried doing the black at the end after the rest of the colors, but it doesn't seem to be as crisp compared to when I put the black down first.

It might be hard to tell in the attached drawing, but the black from the nose and the line down to the mouth, as well as the dots on the chest, sort of got blended into the light tan/brown color, even though I tried to be super careful to avoid the black. My pencils are very sharp so I don't think that's the issue. I'm wondering if this is something that just comes with practice? Or can someone recommend a method or technique to applying crisp black lines to colored pencil drawings that prevents them from accidentally blending into the colors next to it. Btw, in case it makes a difference, I'm just using cheap Crayola pencils.

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    It is a great drawing... even with the little bit of softness in the details. Looks fine. – rebusB Aug 20 '19 at 20:36

Lots of good advice here, but you may also want to consider using a fixative to preserve the drawing as you work it. Fixative, found in convenient to use spray cans although you can get it in liquid form, chemically bonds and protects the pigments applied to the paper. It is nearly a requirement when working in pastels and I regularly use it to protect my graphite pencil drawings. Look for workable spray fix in this case.

So you would draw the dark details, spray fix them, then work the light areas and there will be no smudges. The reverse is possible as well but sometimes the fix will darken light colors.

Fix is toxic so spray outside or have good ventilation.


I think the problem you're facing has more to do with the type of paper you use - especially its texture, or the 'tooth' of its surface. If you want crisper lines, and hence less smudging, try drawing on smoother paper.
You can check the smoothness of paper simply by looking at it, and feeling it.
Try out some different smoothnesses, but don't go for very smooth paper at first (like the ones that say they're "extra smooth" or "ultra smooth"), as it can have an unpleasant effect (it does for me, at least).

Make sure the paper is of good quality, or you might scratch the surface and get similar problems all the same.
For the quality you can look both at the price (which is a very decent indicator), and the weight (usually in g/m2).

  • That looks like drawing paper in the photo... should be fine. – rebusB Aug 20 '19 at 20:35
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    Yes, but it is quite coarse. For thinner, more defined lines, finer paper could help. – Joachim Aug 20 '19 at 20:48
  • I would not consider that paper very coarse at all. Looks like standard quality drawing paper. A paper that is more plate (smoother) will actually smudge more, not less, since there will be less friction between the pigment and the paper. I hear what you a saying about thin lines, like on drafting paper, but it is the smudging that is an issue, not line weight. – rebusB Aug 20 '19 at 20:53
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    Sure, it seems like a standard quality sketching paper. And I follow that smoother paper might increase smudging, but that depends on technique. And, yes, the question focuses on smudging, but the underlying reason seems to be that the finer lines "blend" into adjacent colours. My answer is merely an addition to the other answers, as it focuses on a different aspect, and is obviously not exhaustive. – Joachim Aug 21 '19 at 9:23

I’d suggest you buy one black Faber-Castell pencil. They are beautiful to draw with. And they have more pigment than the Crayolas so the blacks will be blacker when you need them to be. Judging by the look of your work, I’d say you’re quite accomplished in drawing, so buying a quality pencil is an essential next step. You will be surprised by the difference.

If you want to cheat, you could use a black fine liner, but you would need to experiment with this approach first on a separate drawing.
Alternatively you could use a black watercolour pencil, also by Faber-Castell (my favourites).

Good luck and keep going.


The layering could be causing the blending issue. Instead of coloring in between the black dots with the brown on the chest, you can try coloring the lighter brown as the first layer, and then going over it with black. Almost like an outline.
Also consider that when the tips of the lighter colors aren't clean (having black on the tip from previous blending) they can give darker smudges on former layers, which might be causing the blending issue.

Short source with imagery: https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-techniques/burnishing-with-colored-pencil-gary-greene/

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