What? There’s a proper way to sharpen a colored pencil? Who knew! Well, if you watch my latest Art Bag: Time Saving Tips and Tricks video, you too will be in on my secret for how to properly sharpen colored pencils!

How to Properly Sharpen Colored Pencils

In addition to this video, I thought I’d share the finished colored version of the Seven Ladies illustration I started last week.

Nine Ladies freehand drawing ink and watercolor illustration from my Moleskine notebook

Needless to say, this illustration was a lot of work. Unfortunately, I was in a bad mood when I started the coloring process. As a result, the storm clouds in my brain got transferred through my brush to the page.

Here’s an example of what happens when you overwork watercolors:

Muddy watercolor result in my recent Nine Ladies illustration

(Meanwhile, a lighter touch and thoughtful placement of the same watercolor palette can lead to a much better result!)

Whimsical illustration of woman noticing a spider, by Joana Miranda

I think you’ll agree that the lady with the mug looks dark and muddy, while the lady with the spider has light, humor and brightness. The borders for both ladies also display different “techniques.” In the former, I reworked the border over and over until the paper started to disintegrate. And in the second I didn’t.

Why You Should Always Finish Your Artwork:

If I had followed my instinct and torn up this illustration, two things would have happened:

  1. My Moleskine notebook would have an unsightly torn gap in pages
  2. I wouldn’t have learned from my mistakes

In the end, because I stuck with finishing this artwork, I hit upon better ways to fill the page with color. And discovering new solutions and techniques ultimately made my bad mood disappear.


In my next Art Bag: Time-Saving Tips and Tricks video, I plan to share some of the watercolor “do’s” I learned.

Stay tuned!


  1. Helen Reich says:

    Well, I still like your Nine Ladies. Why am I only seeing seven of them? While the lady with the mug does seem to have a more labored frame, and to look a little darker in general, I don’t see it as a major flaw…..

    Filing your pencil tips…..who would have thought?

    • Joana says:

      Oops, I guess the amount of detail made me unable to count the ladies. Duh! I’m going to edit my posts now. Thank you, my dear, for being so observant!
      xox – Joana

  2. Mm says:

    Well, gosh. At last I now know why my pencil lead keeps breaking. You’re a friggin genius👍🏻👏😻

    • Joana says:

      Yes, Ma’am. Don’t let your kitties knock the colored pencils onto the floor. 🙂

      xox – J

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