Hi there!

I'm Eni Oken, artist and author of hundreds of articles, tutorials and books in print and online. For over 30 years I've explored art, color theory, fantasy and ornamental design.

Certified Zentangle® Teacher

Certified Zentangle® Teacher

Freeform Tri-roda Color studies

Shading in color is, to me, the holy grail of all meditative art work, no matter if it's Zentangle®, doodling or just working a coloring book. I haven't done much colored work in quite a while since 2012, except for the occasional sketch here and there, so I thought I would try my hand again and see if my big box of colored pencils was still "friendly" to me. My objective was to produce super smooth shading that would use the same shading techniques I love so much. Would it look smooth enough? Wouldn't the paper get in the way and show its grainy little nodules? Would it work on some of my favorite patterns?

After many tries -- my sketchbook is full of disasters, here are the first two studies that I REALLY LIKED:


I mixed markers with Prismacolor colored pencils (regular, not watercolor pencils) to reach deep intense coloring. Narwal is looking good!

Now, would it work on a full composition? How small can I go?

Colored shading studies by Eni Oken

I'm SO HAPPY with the results! Pretty vibrant colors, and good quality shading on a very small card, a little larger than a trading card.

Colorful shading by Eni Oken

I think the shading is a little rough and not as smooth as I would like it to be, but this is a FABULOUS START.

What I concluded from this exercise is:

  • Some principles of good Shading are still entirely valid in color, except they work in a different order
  • Colored shading has its own set of rules, which are different than pencil shading
  • Colored work requires slightly larger paper, since it's difficult to get a very sharp point on the colored pencils
  • Colored pencils work better on Bristol VELLUM (not Bristol Smooth) which has a bit more tooth
  • There is no way to erase, so you have to be extra careful with those outlines
  • And most importantly: if you CAN'T SHADE IN BLACK AND WHITE, then you won't be able to shade in color either!!! :-)



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Another ZIA tile

Pufcookie Shading Progression