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Colouring tips from Millie Marotta

Posted by MM on 13th May 2020

Colouring tips from Millie Marotta

The hedgehog colouring sheet - which is from Millie's upcoming book Woodland Wild - can be downloaded from the publisher's website here.

Millie Marotta is a freelance illustrator working in her studio by the sea in a little corner of West Wales. A pioneer in the global colouring movement, Millie’s intricate illustrations are inspired by a love of wildlife and fascination with the natural world. She is the author and illustrator of a number of bestselling colouring books, which include  Millie Marotta's Animal KingdomTropical Wonderland and Brilliant Beasts.

Millie’s top tips for colouring her images are:

  • I prefer pencils myself rather than pens as I find them so much more versatile.
  • Try to avoid 'scrubbing' or scribbling too hard as this can spoil the smooth surface of the paper. Instead you can achieve vibrant colours by gently building up layers gradually. Varying the pressure will also help you to achieve a really wide range of shades from your set of pencils and will help with blending colours too.
  • Place a few sheets of plain paper behind the page you’re colouring. This will make sure you don’t leave any indentations on the next page from where you have been pressing with your pencils or pens.
  • Keep a nice sharp point on your pencil as this will allow you more accuracy when colouring all those little details. If you’re colouring a large area, you might find it helpful to use the side of your pencil tip rather that the point, this will allow you to lay down a larger area of colour more smoothly.
  • Some of my illustrations have areas which are very detailed and not everyone will want to colour in every tiny shape individually, instead you may choose to simply colour over the top of these details allowing the textures and patterns underneath to show though.
  • If you want to take your technical skills a little further there are many different tools, techniques and materials to explore. For example, a bit of baby oil on a cotton bud can be used to blend or smear pigment on the page. Or you could try using a blender pencil or blender stump to blend colours, soften edges or flatten colours.
  • Sometimes standard pencil sharpeners can twist the lead in your pencil causing it to keep breaking. If this is a problem for you try using a scalpel or craft-knife to carefully sharpen your pencils instead. **Take great care when using blades, always cutting away from your body, hands and fingers **.
  • If you prefer pens, try to choose ones which have a fine nib - coloured fine liners are particularly good for colouring those finer details.
  • Avoid permanent markers or pens which have a particularly heavy ink flow as these have more of a tendency to bleed.
  • Use the tester pages at the back of the book to try out your materials or colour palettes, before committing to the artwork.
  • Don’t rush, you don't have to complete an entire image in one sitting. These illustrations take me a long time to draw – it’s natural that they should take a long time to colour!
  • Don’t worry about ‘mistakes’, we are humans, not robots! If you can rub it out, great, if not simply try covering over it, or better still, try and make it a part of your masterpiece!
  • If you want to find inspiration for colour combinations, materials or techniques visit the colouring gallery on my website:, explore images on social media tagged #MillieMarotta and #colouring and take advantage of free online tutorials (there are thousands out there!). The colouring community are the most wonderful people who are always happy to share, inspire and connect!