Coloured Pencil Charts – Part 2

In last week’s post, we discussed the benefits of making a colour chart. In this week’s post, we will expand upon that when I show you how to create your own. There are many different ways to approach this, so please note that this is just what I have found works for me. You can add an subtract information as you wish.

How to Make a Colour Chart in 5 Steps:

Materials: Your medium, chosen paper type (about 11×17 works well), colour chart reference, ruler, Exacto knife, pencil, eraser and fine point permanent markers.barbsotiart_blog_ccp1_4

Step 1: Download the official brand’s colour chart (if you haven’t already)
Not All companies have these available but most of the bigger ones will. If you can’t find one online use the one on the packaging if applicable. This information will be used as a guide for creating your chart or adding any lightfastness information. By doing this you are using the information coming directly from the company which will give you the official names, product numbers, and any other pertinent information.

Step 2: Choose Your Paper
When I made my Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencil chart, I made it specifically on paper that I often use with that medium. While you are making the chart for an accurate colour swatch reference, you also want to see how it behaves on the surface you intend to use it on. Printable empty colour charts are great, but if you use standard computer paper, you won’t really get an accurate feel for what that is going to be like on the surface you want to use it on. Also, this doesn’t work well at all for wet mediums like paint that will cause paper curling. Who wants a curled up colour chart?!… I sure don’t.. call me picky but it’s true.

Step 3: Figure out your content
This is a great time to determine what you want to get out of your colour chart. For some, just a basic swatch with the name is sufficient. But if you’re feeling like being an overachiever you can add additional information.
An example would be product colour, number, and lightfast rating. If you want to get even more detailed you could add a price but I wouldn’t recommend that as it can vary depending on where you are buying from.

In the example below, I chose to add all of the fields mentioned previously and also wanted a 3 column swatch showing maximum, mid and light saturation of the colour. Having the lightfastness rating is also important if you plan to sell your work. In some cases, you may want to use a similar colour in a different brand that has a higher lightfast rating to make sure your piece has maximum longevity.

Step 4: Measure twice cut once.
If you hate math like I do, this part might be a little tricky. My best suggestion here is to just use whole measurements as much as possible. When I made my Polychromos chart I tried to make it fit to a certain size of paper I had. The result was that I had to add columns on the side because it wasn’t all going to fit without me making the rows super thin which I didn’t want. Stubbornly I proceeded anyway. When I made my Prismacolor premier chart, however, I got a big enough sheet of paper so I didn’t have to limit myself.

In the below example, I decided first how much of a border I wanted around the chart to write extra information. If you leave 1/4 or 1/2 of an inch this should be plenty. I use this space to write the name and brand and medium the chart is about, along with the of paper it’s on and what the lightfast rating indicates. For the chart itself, I left about an inch to write the colour name and number, half an inch for each swatch and another half-inch for the lightfast rating. Prismacolor Premier has 150 colours so I divided that number by 4 to get how many rows I would need. That worked out to about 42 rows which I made about a 1/4 of an inch tall. Again this portion will depend on what you want to include in your chart. I would suggest figuring it out on a scrap piece of paper before you execute.


Once you have everything measured out using a pencil, you can solidify your lines with permanent ink pens. I would suggest using a brand that is waterproof when doing a chart for wet media.

Step 5: Fill in your chart
Once you have your grid all set up, all you have to do is fill in your chart. How you do this is up to you. You may prefer to write in all this information first or do it one at a time. You can also group the colours how they appear on the company/brand provided chart or however you like. Always pay close attention to the information you are copying over. Sometimes it seems like the product numbers are going in order and then all of a sudden it doesn’t. Accuracy in your copying the information is key here.

It’s important to also note that you may screw up the fist time you make one of these charts so don’t despair. I’ve had to start over on a couple myself. I definitely don’t recommend making them on a whim late at night unless that’s a peek working time for you. Sometimes I get these ideas and then all of a sudden it’s midnight and I’m wondering why my eyes are starting to get upset with me. 😛 It may take a little bit of time and effort but once you’ve made your chart it can be a real time saver in your art practice.


Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

5 Responses

  1. Ah, this sounds like a great task to do on those days when my brain isn’t feeling up to being overly creative. Adding it to my to-do list right now!

    1. It’s a good one that’s for sure! Once you get the grid sorted out I actually find there’s something relaxing about it 😊

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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