Creating bokeh effect using colored pencils

Bokeh is a special effect in photography. It is an out of focus blur. For the March coloring card that I designed for the Creative Scrapbooker magazine, I created this bokeh effect using colored pencils in the background and I would like to show you how I did it.

Bokeh as background

I remembered being fascinated when I saw this bokeh effect done in finished works of other colorists and wonder how it was done. This effect creates a mystical, dream-like background. Here I try to break it down into systematic steps that hopefully takes the complexity away.  It takes practice to perfect the skill but totally worth it. Blending technique and patience are keys to success. You start off using very light hand and gradually build up the intensity layer by layer. For practice, just take a 3 inch x 3 inch piece of paper and try the steps.

The blur effect is a composition of circles of light of various colors. Depending on the effect you want, these circles can be of the same color family or a rainbow of colors. In the example below I am using a  blue/green color tone.

Layer 1

Step 1: use the lightest color in your color scheme to draw a few circles in the area where you want the bokeh effect. You can have different size circles.  Leave room for more circles in the next layer. Do not use black pencil because you don’t want to see the outline of the circles.

Bokeh demo - Layer 1 step 1

Step 2: color the area using the same color you use in step 1, leaving the circles blank. Start from the outline of the circle and blend out – the goal is to make the line of the circle disappear.

Bokeh demo - Layer 1 step 2


Layer 2 – repeat Step 1 & 2 as in layer 1 but use a medium dark color

Bokeh demo - layer 2

Layer 3 – Repeat Layer 2 but use a darker color

Bokeh demo - layer 3

In the same manner, you can keep adding layers with additional circles until you are happy with the result.

Finish off

Run all the colors you used in the layers through the background. Blend them as seamlessly as you can. Have some really dark areas and some lighter areas. Add some other colors to make your bokeh interesting e.g. I added dark green and lime green.  Add some shading inside the circles.

Bokeh effect - all layers

Final result after a lot of blending and layering:

Bokeh demo - completed sample

Free Coloring Card for March

The inspiration for this month’s free coloring card design is women and shamrock. March is Women’s History month and March 8 is International Women’s Day, I want to honor all women with something feminine. Hence the high heel. I am not saying all women wears these killer high heels. I, for one, will fall flat on my face if I attempt to walk in these. However, the composition looks good with it. I also want to wish everyone some Irish luck on St. Patrick’s Day. Hence the shamrock. It’s a bit of a weird combination but I guess you can get away with odd ideas in art. I colored this card using Tombow Irojiten colored pencils vivid collection as well as Tombow dual brush pen. You can download this card from the Creative Scrapbooker Magazine blog.

Happy Coloring!

One comment on “Creating bokeh effect using colored pencils

  1. I did a Google search on Bokeh effect with colored pencils. Wouldn’t you know it out of all the images I saw I chose yours without even knowing it was yours. Thank you for making this simple yet with such beautiful results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *