Welcome back to this step-by-step demonstration of the layering method using colored pencils. If you missed the first step, you can read it here.
I’m using Strathmore Artagain Art Paper in Flannel Gray for this 12×16 drawing. Unless otherwise noted, the pencils I’m using are Prismacolor Premier Pencils.
Although this dog is black, I’ll use very little black in the drawing. Why? Because black is such a strong color, it can easily overpower other colors and leave the drawing looking flat and lifeless.
If the subject of this portrait is anything, it’s not flat or lifeless. So the best way to draw her is by creating a more natural black through the layering of colors.
The two best colors for drawing realistic and lively blacks are dark blues and dark browns. My two favorite colors are indigo blue and dark brown. In the previous post in this series, I showed you how I began the drawing with indigo blue, so the next step is dark brown.
Step 2: Dark Brown
I applied dark brown over the same general areas in which I applied indigo blue, but the brown layer isn’t an exact duplicate of the blue layer. I wanted some areas to be more brown and some to be more blue so I applied dark brown in a somewhat splotchy pattern.
But I used the same pressure (light pressure). The darker areas are the result of more than one layer. It’s usually best to build dark areas gradually—with more layers instead of heavier pressure.
I also duplicated the variety of strokes. Squiggly and broken strokes with soft edges in the hair and tighter, smaller strokes in the eyes, nose, and tongue.
You can see in both of these details where I layered dark brown over the indigo blue and where I allowed the indigo blue to show through.
The variations in color are quite dramatic at this stage, but as I work with the color and deepen values, the variations will become more subdued and natural. By the time I finish the portrait, I should have deep, dark shadows that show a hint of lighter values. I should also have middle values with lots of variation.
Step 3: Dark Green
Green might seem like an odd choice for a black dog. In developing blacks with colored pencil, however, it’s important to remember that a good, rich black is made up of many colors. Take a look at the mane of a black horse or the hair of a black cat (especially a short-hair). Notice how the sunlight shines on black hair. See the rainbow of colors in the highlights?
The same colors are in the shadows, too. They just aren’t as obvious. So when I build blacks by layering colors, I use as many of the dark colors as possible.
I sharpened my pencil twice during the 40 minutes it took to do this work. I used the sharpened pencil in detail areas or small areas like the eyes and nose.
For the hair, I let the pencil go blunt, then used medium to medium-heavy pressure with jagged, back-and-forth strokes to continue developing the hair masses. These strokes are especially noticeable around the head and under the chin in this illustration.
Notice in each of these detail images how the three colors I’ve used so far (indigo blue, dark brown, and dark green) can be seen in various places. That variation will give the final coat the look of mass and shape I need for hair this thick and long. I’ll continue to develop it through each layer.
Slowly but surely, the dog is taking shape as the dark values get darker and the value range increases. That’s exactly what I’m looking for and what you should look for as well.
Don’t be discouraged if your drawing seems to be developing too slowly. With a medium like colored pencil in which it’s difficult to correct mistakes, this is a good thing!