Over the last few weeks, I’ve featured the drawing of Keyanna Rose on this blog. The two most recent posts detailed the use of masking film and masking fluid to preserve parts of a drawing while drawing the background or adjacent areas.

I mentioned in the introduction for this drawing that I was planning to build a very dark background layer by layer. The process began with Prismacolor Peacock Green and I spent several hours working on it.

How to Draw a Dark Background with Colored Pencil - Peacock Green Layer

A Change in Course

Before I got any further on the project, it was time to work on the next article for EmptyEasel. I chose to write about the use of masking fluid with colored pencil. That article needed a demonstration piece.

The drawing of Keyanna Rose was sitting on the easel. Waiting. I looked at all that mane. I considered the subject of the article.

I decided Keyanna Rose–more specifically her mane–was the perfect subject for the article.

And so it was. I used both masking fluid and masking film on the mane, working on both at the same time to compare them. The part of the mane that is orange is masking fluid. The rest is masking film.

How to Draw a Dark Background with Colored Pencil - Peacock Green Layer with Masking Fluid

Dark Brown

With the mane masked, I applied Dark Brown over all of the background using medium pressure (normal handwriting pressure). I added between two and five layers over the entire background, but wasn’t satisfied with the result. So I decided to try an alcohol blend on the left side (in front of the horse).

The alcohol blend removed most of the brown and reduced the background to a shade of green that was too bright. I set the drawing aside to dry overnight and thought about ways to overcome the setback.

How to Draw a Dark Background with Colored Pencil - Dark Brown Layer

Another Change in Course

The solution proved to be easier than I anticipated.

The article was due within a couple days. There wasn’t time for multiple layering. There were also other problems to correct.

  • The alcohol blend needed to be covered
  • There were scratches embedded in the paper (probably by a gritty pencil early in the process). You can see them in the first two images, particularly under the head.

The best way to deal with those issues was heavy applications of color.

So instead of layering one color at a time with light to medium pressure, I chose three colors–Indigo Blue, Dark Brown, and Black–and applied them with medium-heavy to heavy pressure.

Working from one area to the next beginning at the upper right, I layered Indigo Blue and Dark Brown in random patterns. I then added Black. I used medium-heavy pressure for all three colors.

When I’d covered all of the background this way, I burnished it with each color. For most of the background, I burnished with all three colors, usually finishing with black. But I also burnished some areas with only Indigo Blue or Dark Brown, depending on whether I wanted cool tones or warm tones.

Burnt Ochre

Finally, I burnished with Burnt Ochre to accent the head and to introduce the primary color of the horse into the background.

How to Draw a Dark Background with Colored Pencil - Detail

How to Draw a Dark Background with Colored Pencil - Burnt Umber Layer

It took two days to finish the background with heavier layers of color. Although I don’t usually prefer this more direct method of drawing, it is a satisfactory look and will be excellent for highlighting Keyanna Rose.


If you have a drawing that needs to be finished quickly and you want deep colors and saturation, this method may very well be your solution.

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