I don't usually write much in the way of "how to" regarding art, but recently the question came from a novice artist regarding the use of a medium I like to think I know something about--colored pencils. Speaking as a painter, I feel colored pencils should be thought of as merely painting with dry paint. You can't of course, mix them on a palette, (except to experiment perhaps) so you have to do it on your drawing. Animals make nice subject matter to start with, or still-lifes, or whatever content you're comfortably with. I find colored pencils excellent for doing portraits, cars, homes, etc. They are excellent for rendering minute detail, not so good for large, general, camouflaged areas. Keep in mind in choosing a size, that they must be matted and framed under glass just like watercolors or pastels though they are considerably less fragile that the latter. Use a moderatly heavy paper with a fairly fine tooth. Expect the paper to expand a little where you have pressed down some thus, the resulting work may not lie perfectly flat in some cases, especially on thinner papers.

As in painting, I like to start with a very light sketch done with a No.3 pencil including some light shading. Then I begin working over the entire drawing, first laying in whatever color deemed best to cover up the gray of the graphite pencil, keeping in mind you can generally add MORE color, but it's difficult to erase more than at most 50% of any pigment that ends up on your paper. Keep building up more and more color, mixing much as you would with paint. Use a kneaded eraser to blend and remove a little color if need arises. Use the white of your paper (as a beginner, don't use colored grounds) as your white "paint." Don't expect to add white colored pencil and get any significant lightening effect, but white is excellent to blend and solidify color, removing paper texture, etc.

Depending upon your style, you may want to try to overcome the tooth of the paper by "saturating" it with color near the end. This gives you a slick, kind of photographic effect. Letting the paper texture dominate to some degree gives a "painterly" effect. Keep in mind that once you have saturated your paper, it's difficult if not impossible to add additional color without first erasing some. If you DO try drawing on a saturated area, expect the pencil to "behave" differently, giving a very linear, textured effect much like drawing on a very slick paper. However, the tendency amongst beginners is to not use enough pigment in their work--to be too timid. For a nice, "rich" effect, stick with pretty basic colors and try and create your various hues and shades by blending them. For instance, don't use a yellow-green when yellow with green (or even a little blue) layed in over it will do the trick. I tend to use the lighter colors first when mixing and blending much as one does with paint.

I would also suggest working on a relatively small drawing to start with, no larger than about 9"x12" and feel free to vignette the image, fading the pencil to the white of the paper near the edge. Use a sharp point for delicate detail or light shading, a dull pencil for heavy-duty application of color. Take your time, don't rush, the pencil won't "dry" before you have a chance to blend as with acrylics or watercolor. However, you may have to take a tissue and "polish off" some wax bloom, especially in heavy concentrations of dark colors. This is normal, just don't smear the dark colors into lighter areas.

I know Prismacolor makes a solvent for use with their pencils but I've never tried it and I'd be most reluctant to do so except experimentally. Aesthetically, I would try to avoid large-scale colored pencil works. If you feel the need to work large, PAINT. Colored pencils were never intended to replace oils/acrylics. Beginners do find that working in colored pencil gives them a great deal of confidence because they are basically working in a medium they've known all their lives (wax--as in crayon), and the feel of a pencil in hand is also very comforting. I think also that colored pencils are great for beginning artists who are learning to paint in that they teach much about handling color, generating instincts that will stand that artist in good stead for years to come.