Today, I’m taking a break from the regular demonstration to show you how to fix problems with an umber under drawing. You’ll be happy to know it isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

But first, here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

Now on to the problem solving!

How to Fix an Umber Under Layer

It would be nice to say that every step of every drawing goes smoothly; that I never have to go back and correct a problem. That an eraser never touched my drawings.

The fact is, that would be a lie.

About half way through the umber layer for this drawing, I discovered a major problem with the head. A problem big enough to require removing a portion of the drawing and doing it over.

The first thing I did was open the digital reference image and enlarge it enough to see the details that are either not visible in the smaller printed copy or hidden under the lines of the grid drawn over the image. I worked directly from the computer.

I don’t like erasing my work any better than any other artist does, so the first thing I tried to do was correct the problem by adding color and covering up the mistake. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work. I’d have to lift color and start over.

How to Lift Color

To remove color, I used something called Handi-Tak.

Handi-Tak is a low-tack adhesive product created for use as a poster hanging option. It’s also known as Blue Tack, Poster Tack, and by many other names. My personal favorite is Ann Kullberg’s name for it: Sticky stuff. Works for me!

See products at Dick Blick.

Sticky stuff is very pliable. Pieces can be broken off the larger piece and worked between your fingers or in your hand. It’s a self-cleaning product, which means that as you work it, lifted color is absorbed into the substance and disappears.

I prefer sticky stuff for lifting colored pencil because it doesn’t damage the paper surface and it can be pinched or rolled into sharp edges or points for lifting color in small areas.

Other options are transparent tape, a click eraser, a good standard eraser like a White Pearl, or an electric eraser.

Read more about lifting color on EmptyEasel

What I Did

I warmed the sticky stuff by working it in my fingers for a few minutes. Then I pressed it repeatedly against the areas I wanted to lift and rolled it forward while maintaining pressure. Each time, it lifted a little more color.

Another method involves pressing the sticky stuff against the paper and turning it. You can also use a blotting motion in which you simply press the sticky stuff against the paper and lift it again without any secondary motion.

After every two or three applications, I worked the color out of the sticky stuff again. Several cycles of this removed most of the color, allowing me to pinch or press the sticky stuff into smaller shapes and fine-tune the amount of color lifted in specific areas.

TIP: It’s next to impossible to lift every bit of color from paper when you’re using wax-based colored pencils. Using a combination of methods and tools can remove most color, but be careful of damaging the surface of your paper in the process.

When I finished lifting color, the head looked like this.

Umber Under Drawing Step 6

Redrawing the Image

After that, it was a slow, careful process of applying color and lifting color until I got the head close to correct.

I began redrawing the features of the horse’s face with Prismacolor Light Umber and using the enlarged digital image for reference. I redrew the off side eye and that side of the face, which was the original problem area. That led to redrawing the muzzle and mouth and in doing that work, I also saw some mistakes in the jaw and neck. All of those areas were corrected.

I also placed values as I worked.

This work took about forty minutes and it seemed at first like I was going backward faster than I was going forward. But the end result was a much better drawing. It was even a little bit further ahead of where I started in spite of the initial backward steps.

Umber Under Drawing Step 8


TIP: To make corrections easier if they become necessary, use a colored pencil that’s a bit on the hard side. Prismacolor Verithin pencils come in 36 of the same colors as Prismacolor Soft Core (formerly Premier) pencils. There is not a Light Umber Verithin, but there is a Dark Umber and Dark Brown. I’ve used either one to draw under drawings in the past. They lay down nice color, but the harder pigment core means they lay down less color. That also means they’re easier to erase than a softer colored pencil.

With these corrections and a little additional work afterward, the umber under drawing is now complete.

Next week, the regular series will resume with the first color glazes!