This week begins the process of adding color over the finished under drawing. When using this method with colored pencil, the first color layers can be considered the beginning of the end. As much as I enjoy drawing detail, color really is the fun part!

If you’d like to read or review previous posts before we get started, here are the links.

How to Add Color to an Umber Under Drawing – The First Landscape Layers

Generally, I begin glazing color by working throughout the drawing, especially if the drawing is small (11×14 or smaller).

This drawing is 16×20 so it’s large enough that I changed the normal working pattern slightly. Rather than work throughout the drawing with each layer, I worked on the landscape first, then worked on the horse.

In this post, we’ll work our way through the first color layers for the landscape and finish with the next post.

Umber Under Drawing First Color Layers Landscape

NOTE: Unless specified otherwise, all color names are for the Prismacolor line of pencils.

Before Color Work Begins

Whenever I use this method of drawing, I let the drawing sit idle for a few days after the umber layer is finished. That gives me time to review it and make sure everything is exactly the way I want it. Once color work begins, it’s impossible to go back, so this step is just as important as any other. A little time spent here can save you hours later on.

The First Layers of Color

Follow the same general process for color that you follow for the umber under drawing.

  • Start with light colors and work toward darker colors
  • Start with light pressure and work toward heavier pressure
  • Work around highlights until after the first couple of color layers
  • Use pencil strokes that mimic the surface texture of whatever you’re drawing

The colors you begin with will be determined by your subject. The lighter the overall color of the drawing, the lighter the colors you begin with.

This drawing has some strong darks, particularly in the background, so I began with Jade Green.

It’s my routine to work from the background forward, so I began with the trees. I used light pressure and vertical strokes to glaze Jade Green over all of the trees. I also worked over the fence in order to get an even, uniform color layer.

But I carefully added color around the horse to preserve those edges and to keep greens from migrating into that part of the drawing. Pencil control is especially important for this type of work no matter what you’re drawing.

Next, I layered Peacock Green over the trees in a random pattern. This time, I worked carefully around the fence and the horse, but all other areas received a layer of color that was applied in multiple directions, multiple layers, and with varying pressure. I wanted to establish as quickly as possible the pattern of lights and darks that will replicate the look of trees.

When I finished applying color, I blended it with a piece of tissue folded into a small square. The drawing was rubbed with medium pressure to smooth out the color and remove excess color. This not only blends the color on the paper but preserves the natural tooth of the paper a little bit longer.

The last thing I did was to rub the piece of tissue over the grass at the bottom of the paper, staining that area with the color the tissue had picked up.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 1


To draw the areas visible through the fence, I positioned a t-square along the top edge of the top rail, then glazed Grass Green into the area beyond and above the fence. The t-square acted as a ‘bumper’ to keep color from getting into the fence itself and it was a lot easier and faster than masking the rails.

I moved the t-square to the edge of each successive rail as I worked downward in the composition, using it for both the top and bottom edges of each rail.

TIP: When shading around straight edges, use a straight edge placed along the edge (as I did above.) You can also mask the area before adding color or you can work freehand. I have used the freehand method before and with good results, but it is a much slower process.

When I’d worked around the fence, I removed the t-square and filled in the areas around the legs and belly of the horse. I worked over the tail because Grass Green will find its way into the blacks of the horse, including that luscious, long tail.

TIP: Incorporating other colors into the blacks in your drawing will produce a deeper, richer looking black. It will also keep the black from looking “pasted on”.

Almost all of this color was applied with vertical strokes and stroking from the bottom of the drawing upward to duplicate the look and feel of deep grass.

Once those small areas were done, I began layering Grass Green randomly over the trees. I used vertical strokes, horizontal strokes, opposing diagonal strokes, and even some circular strokes through two to five layers. The goal was to have some areas darker and some lighter, with a few receiving no color at all in this session.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 2


In the foreground, I layered Grass Green over the rest of the grassy meadow, then moved back into the background to adjust the color of the trees. I also added Grass Green to the horse’s mane and tail and to the black portions of the legs.

Then I used a cotton ball to blend the landscape greens.

The next color was Limepeel applied more carefully to the grass inside the paddock.

In the cast shadow under the horse and in the foreground, I added Dark Green and used all three colors (Grass Green, Limepeel, and Dark Green) to draw the shadows.

I worked all three colors throughout the lower area of the grass, too, alternating strokes every few minutes to create a pleasing blend of colors and values.

Finally, I layered Limepeel into the middle distance, where grass is visible through the fence. In this area, color was applied in horizontal strokes in order to push that part of the background a little further into the distance.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 3


To keep the greens from getting too bold or bright, I next layered Orange over all the greens from the fence forward. To get a light, stroke-less glaze, I used the side of the pencil and medium length (about three inches long) vertical strokes.

When the orange glaze was finished, I stroked Dark Green into the foreground grass, particularly in the corners, which I always like to have a little darker than the main body of the drawing. I also added a fewer dark accents here and there throughout this part of the drawing.

The resulting greens were a bit too dark in some areas and too light in others, so I glazed Grass Green over the foreground using the side of the pencil. I then blended the new work with a cotton ball, then stroked in a little more grass with Grass Green.

TIP: Use earth tones, reds, or oranges to keep landscape greens from getting too bright.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 4


Keeping balanced greens is key to creating a believable landscape, so I don’t want to develop any part of the landscape too quickly. By this point, the grassy areas were about as well-developed as the trees. so the first round of color for the landscape was complete.

Next week, I’ll show you how to finish the background.