Do you have to draw under drawings when you draw with colored pencil?

There is no Right Way to draw. I dare say there are as many ways to draw—and draw well—as there are artists.

There is no One Way that I use every time, either. A lot depends on what I’m drawing, why I’m drawing it, and whether or not a due date is attached to the artwork.

But the method I use most involves adding color over an under drawing. I’ve had great results with direct color drawing, but I still prefer working over an under drawing.

Why?

Why I Prefer Under Drawings

Advantages and Disadvantages of Under Drawings

There are a lot of reasons for choosing the method you use to draw. Even if you use an under drawing method—as I do—your reasons for making that decision may not be the same as mine.

So I’ll tell you up front that the advantages and disadvantages I’m about to list are in no way universal. We’re all individuals and even if we use the same tools and the same methods to draw the same subjects, our work and our motivations will be different.

But if you’re considering trying one of the under drawing methods, then I hope I can shed some light on the process so you can make an educated decision.

Or at least an advised decision!

3 Advantages to Working with Under Drawings

Value First

There are a lot of decisions to make with every drawing. Contour. Perspective. Value. Composition. Color. When I start with an under drawing, I don’t have to make color decisions, too. That reduces the number of decisions to be made up front and focuses attention on what’s important—making the best drawing possible.

Finding & Fixing Mistakes

You can find mistakes in your drawing at any stage of the process no matter how you draw. But I find it’s easier to spot problem areas if no color is involved. Since under drawing layers are also generally applied with light pressure and with harder pencils—I recommend Prismacolor Verithin pencils—it’s easier to erase and correct those mistakes.

Slow & Steady

I tend to work slowly no matter how I draw, but drawing an under drawing seems to slow me down even further. In the early stages of a project, that’s a good thing. It allows me to find and fix errors and helps keep me from making errors.

Or making existing errors worse before I realize what I’m doing.

3 Disadvantages to Working with Under Drawings

Are there disadvantages to using an under drawing? There sure are.

Time

Doing an under drawing first—especially a detailed under drawing—takes time. If the artwork is very big, it can take a lot of time. You essentially do the drawing twice: once without color and once with color.

In all honesty, I use the direct color method the same one. One layer of limited value color, than another layer that develops values and colors more completely. I still do two rounds of work, but the perception is that it takes less time to work directly with color.

Color Build Up

The more color you use, the more you fill the tooth of the paper, and the more difficult it gets to add more color. When you start with a detailed under drawing, you’ve already used up some of the paper tooth. That tooth is no longer available for color glazing. That can be a problem toward the end of a complex drawing.

Boredom

I really hate to use this word but I can’t think of a better one.

One of the biggest disadvantages to drawing under drawings first, is getting tired of working large projects or projects that take a long time. I like starting things. That’s fun.

Finishing can be a nuisance.

And if I’ve spent all my enthusiasm working out a great under drawing, it can be a challenge to finish the drawing.

Conclusion

There is no clear-cut, right-all-the-time answer to the which-is-best question. The disadvantages of using an under drawing are equal to the  advantages. I still prefer developing drawings stage by stage through an under drawing, then through subsequent color layers. It pleases my spirit to see a drawing come to life first as a half-tone (no matter the color), then as I add color.

And enjoying what you do is the bottom line.

After all, if you don’t enjoy making art—or the way you’re making art now—you should find something else to do. Right?

Do you use an under drawing? Why or why not?