Colored Pencil Techniques: Scumbling

Colored pencil is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use mediums around and North Light Books author Ann Kullberg is one of the best. She regularly critiques student work at her website. Here is an excerpt from her most recent North Light Book, Colored Pencil Secrets for Success, which features personal critique sessions.

The scumbling technique offers a ton of control and very smooth, even application where you don’t see any strokes at all. Use a very sharp pencil, turning it often to keep the point sharp, and apply the smallest circular motion you can muster very, very lightly. Slightly overlap here and there. If you use too much pressure, you’ll burnish (flatten the paper tooth, making the paper smooth). If your circular motion is too large, you’ll get anything but a smooth look. Think circular motion, not circles, when using this technique. Scumbling is slow, slow, slow, and is definitely a technique only for the very patient artist. For some, it will seem tedious, but others will find it soothing and meditative!

Scumbling in Action

A perfectly smooth, perfectly controlled application leads to subtle value and color blends. Gorgeous!


by Holly Mahla

6″ x 9″ (15cm x 23cm)

colored pencil on paper

How to Employ the Scumbling Technique
Apply pencil with a very small, very light circular motion.


too much pressure

too large





Free Download: Colored Pencil Techniques

For more on colored pencil techniques:
Browse other books in the North Light Shop.
Check out the video Colored Pencil Workshop with Gary Greene.