Carrie L. Lewis, Artist & Teacher

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Last week, I showed you how to draw the umber under drawing for a horse portrait. When work concluded, the under drawing had been pushed as far as  I cared to push it. The next step is color, so this week I’ll show you how to glaze color over an umber under drawing.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

The first step is always an overall review. Before moving forward, it’s important to make sure the previous work is just the way you want it. I reviewed the drawing in search of areas that needed work. I made a few adjustments and the under drawing was complete.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Finished Under Drawing

Starting With Color

I once read a comment from a prominent artist whose advice for beginning work each day struck note. Always start with something you can’t mess up.

It’s a lot easier done with oils than colored pencils, but I often employ that advice in my work. That’s why I began color glazes by glazing blue on the halter. It seemed like the least likely place to cause trouble if I made a mistake!

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Blue Halter 1
I used two shades of blue—one light and one dark. The light blue was layered over every part of the halter. The dark blue was used to darken the shadows.

Next, I layered the dark blue into the eye, forelock and mane, and all the darker shadows.

By the way, I continued using Prismacolor Verithin pencils to preserve the tooth of the Stonehenge paper.

Glazing Coat Colors

Now the the first color is on the paper, it’s time to get serious. For the rest of this post, we’ll focus on developing the colors in the horse’s hair.

The process begins with establishing two or three main colors. This subject has dark browns, reddish browns, and a few areas that are golden in color, so a single brown is not going to work. In fact, you’ll need at least three groups of browns—one for each of the colors mentioned above. There will be some overlap, of course, but there should also be some very distinct variations.

The Colors I Used

For the base colors, I chose Goldenrod for the golden areas, Sienna Brown for the reddish-brown areas, and Dark Brown for the darker browns.

I added Pumpkin Orange to the Goldenrod in the golden browns, Pumpkin Orange and Terra Cotta in the reddish brown areas, and Indigo Blue and Peacock Green in the dark browns.

The Glazing Method I Used

I layered each color into the appropriate areas, using light pressure and directional strokes. For smaller areas, such as between the straps, I used the tips of well-sharpened pencils. For the broader areas, I used the sides of the pencils.

While there is variation in color, there are no hard edges between those variations, so I applied colors so that there was overlapping. For example, whenever I layered Pumpkin Orange into a golden brown area, I also layered it into the reddish brown or dark brown areas that were adjacent to the area I was working on. That kept the gradations between colors smooth and natural looking.

To make sure they looked like hair, I used short directional strokes to accent some of the changes in value and color. Those few details were all that were necessary to create the illusion of short hair. I didn’t have to draw every single hair!

The Process Step-by Step

Step 1

Basic colors are glazed over the umber under drawing. While I used some directional strokes to begin developing the look of hair, the primary goal was getting even glazes of color in the right places.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 1

Step 2

Once the first color was on the paper, I continued developing color by layering some of the secondary colors as needed in each areas. For the most part, I added them in the form and cast shadow areas.

I did also start drawing the long hair of the forelock and mane as a means of rewarding myself for some of the more detailed work.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 2


Find ways to work on your drawing that allows you to relax eye and hand and still make progress!

Step 3

I began working on the neck. It’s part of the drawing that is still part of the horse, but services as background. Or maybe backdrop would be a better way to put it. It needs to have some detail, but not as much as the face, the halter or the bridle.

The work shown in this illustration represents several layers of the basic and secondary colors—Sienna Brown and Dark Brown with the shadows darkened with Peacock Green and Indigo Blue (both used sparingly.)

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 3
I also used Dark Brown, Indigo Blue and Black to reshape the major hair masses, and add a lot of flying hair to help break up the negative space. I did a similar thing with the mane, changing the top edge of the mane so it was higher and a little more bulky.

Step 4

Still using the same colors, I began developing color and value in the smaller parts of the horse visible between the straps of the halter and bridle.

By the way, it was at this point that I switched from Prismacolor Verithin pencils to Prismacolor Premier pencils. I could still add layers with the harder Verithin pencils, but work was progressing too slowly.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 4

Step 5

As the number of layers increase, so does the amount of pigment on the paper. It become necessary to increase the pressure I put on the pencil, but I do so gradually.

In some of the darker areas, I’ve reached medium pressure, but I’m still also using light pressure wherever possible.


It’s almost always better to draw dark values by layering and blending instead of  using heavy pressure.

No matter what pressure I use, I use directional strokes for he hair, and small circular strokes in the eye and leather.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 5
Work on the bridle began with medium-heavy pressure and a blunt point along the shaded edges of the head stall, then a lighter layer of Dark Brown into the shadows and the darker area of the headstall and throat latch. My goal in these areas was to begin  reducing the emphasis on the leather straps where they either pass behind other design elements or where they exit the composition.

Step 6

Most of the basic colors are now in place, so it as time to begin darkening the darkest shadows. I used Indigo Blue in the darkest parts of the neck, forehead, around the eye, and in and around the ear. I used a very sharp pencil and directional strokes to simulate hair growth.

A layer of Indigo Blue was applied in the darker brown areas of the horse, with fairly open strokes to keep the brown from going too blue. I finished with Indigo Blue by stroking color into some of the darker areas of the forelock.

I then used a sharp pencil and directional strokes to apply Goldenrod to the golden areas around the ear and eye and the lower part of the face near the nose band. With Sienna Brown, I overlapped shadows and middle tones.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 6

Step 7

After a second layer of Goldenrod and Sienna Brown over the golden brown and reddish brown areas, I layered both colors into the leather bridle straps, and the eye.

I balanced those colors by adding black to the forelock, and darkest shadows. This increased the contrast between lights and darks and give the drawing more depth.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 7

The darkest values are inside the ring on the halter and the shape at the bottom of the drawing. These two areas are the benchmark against which I’ll measure other values as work continues.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water

We all welcome tips for drawing reflections on water, don’t we? Water is notoriously difficult to draw well, and it’s certainly the concern of Cindy, who asks today’s question.

Hi. First I’d like to say thank you for your help.
I’m trying to do a sailboat, with reflections on water. If you have some tips that would be great. Cindy

What a great question, Cindy. Thank you for asking! I know there are many others anxious for the answers.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water

Drawing water is a topic capable of taking up several full-length tutorials. Rather than wait until I can do a tutorial, I’ll share a few basic tips that apply to drawing any kind of reflections on any kind of water.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water

To All Perfection There is An End

Water is fluid. It looked different the instant before your reference photo was taken, and it looked different the instant after. It will never look exactly the same again. Not that anyone will notice, at any rate.

So don’t fret over trying to get every single detail correct. Instead, focus on the general shapes and the overall character of your subject and its reflection.

Think “Abstract”

Here’s a very nice picture of a sailboat on water. The colors are beautiful and the reflections are really interesting.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Full Image

But there’s an awful lot of information in the photo, even if you are looking only at the boat and its reflection. It’s nearly overwhelming, isn’t it?

Let’s look at just the reflection. Still a lot going on, but now the focus is on the shapes in the water.

And that’s where you begin to see that all these shapes are really abstract shapes. They fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Draw each piece, make it close to the right size, shape, and color, and when you finish you have a reflection!

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Abstract Shapes

Try a Different Point of View

The human brain has an uncanny ability to observe. After we’ve seen something a certain number of times, our brains begin to learn what details should be there, even when the eye cannot see them.

That’s good…except when you’re drawing something. Why?

Because after a while, your brain begins telling your hand what should be in a picture, instead of letting your eye see what’s really there. An example.

I’ve been drawing horses for over 50 years. When I draw horses now, it’s automatic to draw a hoof in a certain way. My brain has learned what a hoof looks like in general, so it assumes that all hoofs look like that. The problem is that no two hoofs are exactly the same. I MUST let my eyes (rather than my brain) tell my hands what to draw.

The same thing applies to any subject. Even if you’ve never drawn a reflection on water before, you’ve seen enough of them that your brain thinks it knows what a reflection looks like.

You need to find a way to quiet your brain so your eyes can show you what’s really in your photo reference. One excellent way to do that is to turn your photo reference upside-down and work with your drawing turned upside down, too. Your eyes see this image and your brain says, “Ah ha! Something new to look at! Woo-hoo!” You’re immediately able to see the shapes and colors not as a reflection on water, but as a collection of abstract shapes.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Upside Down

You can also do this by looking at your reference in a mirror (or by flipping it horizontally as shown below.) The drawback with this method is that you can’t easily view your drawing in the same way.

I use this method when I really get stuck on something, but it’s almost always a last resort!

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Horizontal Flip

Darker Reflections

Here’s the full image again. Notice that the whites in the sail are lighter than the whites in the reflection of the sail. The pinks in the sail are also darker than the pinks in the reflection of the sail.

As a matter of fact, the reflection of the sky is darker than that the sky.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Full Image

Under most circumstances, any reflection on water will be darker than whatever is being reflected. The difference between the subject and the reflection varies depending on time of day, atmospheric conditions, and the nearness of the object, but there will always be a difference.

What’s more, the further the reflection gets from the object, the darker it gets. Look how much grayer the reflection is at the bottom of the image, than up close to the boat.

Values Not Color

Get the values right and getting the colors right isn’t as important. Get the colors right, but miss the target on values, and your drawing will be dull and lifeless. Flat.

Of course there are times when contrast will be low. Night scenes, foggy scenes, and similar settings will have less contrast than a middle-of-the-day, brightly lighted scene. But it’s still important to draw enough contrast so the drawing makes sense. That’s why I like doing an under drawing so much. An under drawing allows me to work out the values enough that the under drawing could be a standalone drawing. It’s the substance of the drawing. The color is  a wonderful addition.

Read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

Sharp Edges

The thing about drawing water—or anything wet or highly reflective—is the quality of the edges between values and colors. Most of them are pretty sharp. There are abrupt changes between values and colors, as you can see here.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Sharp Edges

Yes, there are some value and color shifts that are more subtle, but they are much less frequent than if you were drawing something soft or dry. So pay attention to those edges and make sure they’re crisp and clearly defined. Even when it doesn’t look right while you’re drawing it.


Those are my tips for drawing reflections on water. They’re the most important basics in drawing water correctly. Once you master these, the rest is, well, clear sailing!

2 Common Colored Pencil Problems (And a Few Solutions)

This week, I’d like to address two common colored pencil problems. Most of us deal with them at some point in our work with colored pencil. My guess is that they are constant struggles for some of us.


But problems need solutions. So I’m going to share some of the things that have helped me overcome these two common problems.

2 Common Colored Pencil Problems

How Can I Finish More Drawings?

This is probably one of the biggest obstacles for colored pencil artists—and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using colored pencils. The nature of the medium means that it takes a long time to do a drawing. Even small ones. It’s next to impossible to “dash off” a drawing in twenty minutes if you love detail (and a lot of us do—that’s what attracts us to colored pencil!).

clocks-timeWhen I first started drawing with colored pencil, I thought I could do the same types of work I’d been doing with oils. Large portraits full of life and detail.

I quickly learned that if it took twenty hours to finish a portrait in oil, it would take at least 40 to finish the same portrait in colored pencil. It was more likely to take 60 hours or more.

So I scaled back my expectations and reduced the size of my colored pencil work. I started doing more 8×10 or smaller works. I did some miniature work and drew a few ACEOs (art cards, editions, and originals).

So that’s my first tip. Do some small work. You don’t have to do miniature art, but it is a lot easier to finish something that’s 8×10 or smaller. The more works you finish, the more confidence you’ll gain in your ability to finish drawings. As you gain confidence, you’ll be better able to do larger work.

Something else that has worked well for me is having more than one drawing going at the same time. If I get tired of working on one, I switch to the other and work on it for a while. I’ve devised a method for keeping all current drawings in view by mounting them to precut mats and back boards and either displaying them on shelves around the house or hanging them on the wall where I see them. Two are hanging above my head as I write these words.

Keep works in progress to no more than three or four. Any more than that and you risk overwhelming yourself!

I recently wrote an article on this topic for EmptyEasel. If you want more tips for finishing every drawing you start (or most of them), read How to Finish What You Start (The Artists’ Edition).

How Can I Get More Patience?

You need patience for most of life. Raising children. Learning new things. Living life.

You definitely need patience with colored pencils!

So how do you develop patience?

In all seriousness, it takes patience.

I tell you that not to be funny but to encourage you to start small. Don’t expect a huge amount of patience overnight.

pencil-knotWhen I’m learning something new or doing something difficult, I limit the time I spend on that activity. For example, most of you know that I write in addition to doing art. You may also know that I went through a long dry spell in 2014-15. Nothing was happening and I got impatient with that creative silence.

When I started writing again, I no longer had the patience—or maybe endurance would be a better word—to write for long periods.

So I started doing 15-minute timed writings. I tried to do at least one 15-minute timed writing every day in 2016. No, I didn’t succeed every day, but I made more progress one timed writing at a time than if I tried to force myself back into the old schedule.

What does that mean for you?

If you lack the patience to work on a drawing for long periods of time, don’t. Start with shorter segments of time. It might be fifteen minutes or twenty. It might be only five minutes.

Why does this work? It’s a lot easier to start something if you know in advance you have permission to stop after a short while.

If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself working past that time limit on some days. That’s great!

Eventually, you’ll discover you’ve developed the patience you need to work on a drawing longer each day. The bonus is that you’re also likely to discover you have the patience to work on drawings long enough to finish more of them!


What all this comes down to is knowing where you are currently in your artistic journey, and knowing where you want to be. Without a known—and achievable—destination, you have nowhere to go and no reason to start out.

But if you don’t know where you are presently, it’s very difficult to map your journey, even if you do know your destination.

Both of the “problems” I’ve talked about in this post can be overcome. It just takes a little bit of time and effort. Begin by assessing the problem, then identify possible solutions, then implement them.

And if you have to implement one little step at a time, that’s all right. The fact is, that’s perfect. None of us learned to run first when we were toddlers. We learned to toddle first.

What’s true for toddlers is also true for artists.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real

If you’re a landscape artist, one of the most important concerns is getting life-like color. Knowing how to draw a landscape green that looks real—no matter where it appears—can be one of the biggest challenges you face. That is certainly the case with this week’s reader question.

I want to draw landscapes, but my greens never look right and I can’t find the right green colored pencil. How do I make a green that looks real?

This is a great question. No matter what medium you use, creating believable landscape greens is a challenge.

No Perfect Green

Before I say anything further on the subject, let me save you a little time. You can stop looking for the perfect green pencil. There isn’t one. Even if there was just one green that worked for everything that grows, it would be difficult to make an ideal green pencil, because the atmosphere, time of day, and time of year all influence the way landscape greens appear.

How to Draw a Landscape Green That Looks Real - No Perfect Green

Having said that, however, I will add that some brands of pencils have better selections for landscape greens than others. One of the first things I noticed about the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils was the collection of greens that are ideal for landscape drawing. They still have some of the brighter greens, but those bright colors are well balanced by what I refer to as “natural greens.”

If you’re a landscape artist, it could be worth your time to look at the greens available from different manufacturers. One quick way to compare is by looking at the color charts for colored pencils at Dick Blick.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real

Does that mean you’re stuck? Not at all. What it does mean is that you’ll have to rely on mixing colors rather than using a single color.

Here are my favorite methods for creating believable, true to life landscape greens.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real

Choose the Best Green

The first step in drawing landscape greens that look real is choosing the green pencils that most closely match your subject.  The best rule of thumb I can offer on this is to use bright colors for spring landscape and duller colors for summer landscapes.

Also select three colors: one light, one dark, and one middle value color. These will be the base colors for the landscape greens.

If your landscape has more than one distinct green, select three colors for each of those greens.

Still not sure which colors are best? Do a test sketch with different combinations. Use the same kind of paper you want to put the drawing on. You don’t need to do a detailed sketch. Just rough in the light, middle, and dark values. That should be enough to show you which colors are best.

You can also use the color picker in your photo editor. The color picker is usually represented by an eye dropper icon. Select that tool, then click on the area you want to draw. A sample of the color will be shown. It’s a great way to isolate individual colors, and it can guide your color selections.

Tone Down Those Vivid Greens With Earth Tones

Even with the best possible greens, you’ll probably still get landscape greens that look artificial. They’re either too flat and lifeless, or they’re way to bright. In fact, you’re almost guaranteed to get an artificial, “painted on” look any time you use just green.

So every few layers of green, add a layer of an earth tone that’s the same value as the greens. For light value greens (or brighter greens), try light umber or beige. For mid-range greens like grass green, burnt sienna or burnt ochre will work better. Dark umber or dark brown are perfect for the shadows or any other place you might have dark greens. Pine trees, for example.

Again, use a little caution and experiment on scrap paper first. Just because a color combination works most of the time doesn’t mean it always works!

You can also add warm tones by mixing yellows in with the green. Adding blues will cool down greens, and if you need to get a really dark green, try layering Indigo Blue and Dark Brown with the greens in the shadows.

Start with an Umber Under Drawing

Try starting with an umber under drawing in earth tones. My favorite colors for umber under drawings are Light Umber and Dark Umber, sometimes alone, and sometimes in combination. Use one or the other or use them in tandem. Develop the drawing as much or as little as you like, then glaze greens over it.

You may still have to add earth tones later in the drawing process, but not as much. It may seem like more work to develop the drawing twice—once in earth tones and once in color—but it’s actually faster because you can work out the shadows and values without also worrying about color.

At least that’s the way it works for me.

Here’s a landscape I began with an umber under drawing. This is the completed under drawing. As you can see, the most “finished” part of the drawing are the trees in the middle. That’s because they’re the subject of the drawing, with the isolated tree on the left as the primary subject.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real - Umber Under Drawing

This is the finished drawing. I glazed color over the under drawing without needing to add a lot of additional detail.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real - Umber Final

More about drawing a landscape with an umber under drawing here, on EmptyEasel

Draw Believable Landscape Greens with a Complementary Under Drawing

Another way to draw believable landscape greens is by using a complementary under drawing.

A complementary under drawing is the same basic process as the umber under drawing, but with one important distinction: Rather than choose an earth tone to do all of the under drawing, use a color that complements the final colors.

For this small landscape, I began with an orange red and added a slightly darker red as the under drawing developed. The only places I didn’t do an under drawing was in the sky. I rarely under draw the sky because the sky is usually the brightest, purest color in the landscape. The only time you might consider under drawing the sky is if you’re drawing a cloudy day. Even then, go lightly.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real - Complementary Under Drawing

Once the under drawing is finished, the process is the same as for any other under drawing. Glaze colors over the under drawing. The complements in the under drawing will affect the way the greens look even after several layers.

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real - Complementary Final

More about drawing a complementary under drawing here, on EmptyEasel.


These aren’t the only methods for drawing realistic greens in your landscape, but they’re the three that work best for me.

They should work equally well for you, too.

Read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods for more information on other methods of drawing you can use for drawing landscapes.

How to Draw a Horse’s Face in Colored Pencil

This series will show you how to draw a horse’s face in colored pencil using the umber under drawing method.

It is a long demonstration, but it covers the process start to finish, includes changes and, problem solving. All, good things to share.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil

About the Subject

Here’s the reference photo.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - Reference

The level of detail is the sort of thing I love drawing. The crop is up-close-and-personal. There’s lots of detail. And, it’s a horse! It even has good lighting.

About the Drawing

I’m using 90 pound Stonehenge drawing paper in Pearl Grey with the colored pencil variation of the Classical painting technique, the Flemish method. I’ll also be using Prismacolor Verithin and Premier pencils, unless otherwise noted. You can use this method for any subject, on any good drawing paper, and using the pencils of your choice. The results may vary.

Read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

How to Draw a Horse’s Face in Colored Pencil

There was a drawing already in existence for an 11×14 oil painting that never got off the ground, so all I had to do was transfer the drawing to paper, clean it up a little bit, then assemble the working mat, and it was ready to go. This is the transferred drawing.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - The Line Drawing

Transfer was accomplished with studio-made transfer paper. Soft graphite layered with heavy pressure over a piece of 8.5×11 typing paper. I’ve been using this type of transfer paper for years because it’s easy to recharge, it’s a lot cleaner than some commercially produced transfer papers, I can make any size sheet I wish. Of course, it’s also inexpensive.

Because the drawing was so complicated, I took my time transferring it. The details need to be as complete as possible from the beginning when I’m working with colored pencils, so I transferred highlights and shadows, as well as all the major shapes. Taking a couple of working sessions to do the transfer was worth the time and reduces the risk of agonizing over missed details late in the process.

The working mat assembly is a combination of two layers of mat board and a layer or two of corrugated cardboard. I cut each piece and the drawing paper to the outside dimension of the mat. Then the layers are placed together and bound to a mat with binder clips. It makes for a solid, stable, and lightweight working surface that protects the paper and serves very well as a ‘laptop’ drawing table.

Blocking in the Dark Values

The color I’ve chosen is Dark Brown and I’m starting with Verithin pencils because of their harder lead. I can impress lines with Verithin pencils, they are great for tiny details and small spaces, and they also erase more easily than Prismacolor Premier pencils. They don’t lay down color as quickly, though, so patience is required.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - Umber Under Drawing 1

For the first couple of layers, I focused on placing the darkest shadows and establishing a sense of three dimensional mass to the line drawing. I began with the eye, which is typical in a project like this, but most of my attention was with the complicated arrangement of buckles and belts on the nylon halter and leather bridle.

For fun, I drew some long hair with several layers of long, flowing strokes applied with medium light pressure.

Adding Middle Values

Detail work continued on the leather straps. Again using the Verithin Dark Brown, I added stitching. Rather than just add the marks, I used heavy pressure and pressed them into the paper. Subsequent layers should gradually create the look of dark stitching in the leather.

I also darkened the eye to bring out the reflected highlight a little and used a Zebra fine point ball point pen (a dried out pen) to impress eyelashes that will be lighted by the sun.

Next, I drew middle tones in the neck, face and ears, and I played with the mane and forelock a little more.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - Umber Under Drawing 2

Darkening Values

Once the main shapes and shadows are established, I darkened all of the shadows and reinforced the stitching on the bridle. I’m still suing Verithin Dark Brown and developing dark values layer by layer using medium light pressure.

For the most part, I work throughout the drawing each day, though I may focus on tack one day and on the horse another.

The purpose at this stage is to bring the umber under drawing as close to looking like a stand-alone drawing as possible. Ideally, the under drawing that could be considered finished artwork in its own right.

I also am working on developing highlights in the under drawing without the use of lighter colors or white. That will allow me to preserve the brightest highlights for addition late in the drawing process, when I can balance highlights and shadows.

The best way to accomplish that is by gradually building dark and mid-tone areas around the highlights. That is part of the reason I begin with the darkest areas first and work toward the light areas.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - Umber Under Drawing 3

More Layers, More Detail

I continued to use Verithin Dark Brown, but began laying in color with the tip of the pencil instead of the side. I also began stroking in the direction of hair growth or muscle structure where appropriate. A lot of this work involved going over specific areas multiple times.

The bridge of the nose is a good example. Short, directional strokes applied with a needle-sharp pencil, and a repeating pattern. I didn’t copy each stroke—there’s no need to draw every hair. Instead, I replicated the groups of hair by emphasizing the shadows in the gaps.

The same goes for the outside surface of the ear, the orbital structures around the eye, and the shadows of the forehead on the eye on the far side of the face.

I used the same technique, but with less detail in the jugular groove, throat and cheek. The further from the center of interest (the combination of the eye and buckles) each area is, the less detailed it should be. That reduction in definition is accomplished either by working with an increasingly blunt pencil or by alternating layers of pencil tip work with a layer of work applied with the side of the pencil.

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - Umber Under Drawing 4

Darkening the Shadows

To create a wide value range, I continued darkening shadows and developing middle values. The shadow under the ear is a good example. This shadow goes through a variety of values, including reflected light.

That area is also a study in color variation. There are dark browns, golden browns, red browns and golds throughout the shadow and adjacent areas. That’s what makes working the under drawing with a single color so efficient and valuable to this type of work.

The Finished Under Drawing

This is how the drawing looked at the end of the week. It’s really coming together and I’m loving that eye!

How to Draw a Horse's Face in Colored Pencil - Umber Under Drawing 5

It took nine days to finish the umber under drawing, working between one and two hours each of those days. It may seem like wasted time, when nine hours of color work would have produced a much more complete drawing. But it’s not wasted time to me. Discovering how to work out the values without also having to make color choices was a game-changer for me.

So was learning how to use Prismacolor Verithin pencils for the under drawing. I’m still a very careful drawer, but knowing I can erase a mistake lets me be a bit more bold.

Next week, color!

How To Draw a Tree with Colored Pencil

When I started writing this post, I fully intended to show you how to draw a tree with colored pencil with a step-by-step tutorial.

Then I decided to begin with a few general tips and by the time I had those outlined, I realized adding a tutorial would make the post way too long. So the tutorial is coming—I’ve already put it on my schedule—and we’ll focus on the general tips.

How To Draw a Tree with Colored Pencil

Avoid Too Many Details

This isn’t something you often hear me say because I love drawing detail, but when it comes to drawing trees and most landscapes, it’s best to avoid trying to draw every detail. Draw the general, overall shape of the tree you’re drawing and the interior shapes (the light and shadow within the tree,) and that’s pretty much all you need.

Use More than One Color

Most of the time, trees are some shade of green. Obviously, Autumn is one time of year when many trees are not green, and there are some trees that are never green, but for the most part, when you draw a tree, you’ll be using a green.

But don’t limit yourself to just one green. Choose a dark green, a middle green, and a light green that work well together. Use each color where appropriate to draw the colors AND values.

For good measure, have an earth tone handy, just in case those greens get a little artificial! Some shade of red or orange also work to tone down greens.

Stay Away from Those Neon Colors

Unless your landscape features something man-made, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find bright, vibrant colors in it. So when you make color selections, stay away from colors that are bright enough to attract the eye, but don’t look at all natural in a landscape.

Don’t Scribble

It may seem faster to use a quick, back-and-forth stroke to lay down color, but that kind of stroke tends to leave pencil marks that later need to be covered up. Sometimes, they can’t be covered up and they haunt you throughout the drawing process. In the long run, you end up spending more time than if you had used careful stroking from the start.

Although you can use strokes that help create the look you want, it’s usually better to make those strokes with deliberation.

Don’t Rush

Colored pencil naturally slow, like cutting the grass with a pair of scissors. Trying to rush through the process by scribbling or any other means is a short cut you’re better off avoiding.

Take Breaks

So take breaks whenever you need to. If you find yourself getting careless or reckless, stop. Take a walk or do something else for a while, then go back to the drawing. I can tell you from experience that that’s a far better—and more productive—option than trying to push through that time of carelessness. That usually just makes matters worse!

Now, lets get down to the business of actually drawing a tree!

How To Draw a Tree with Colored Pencil

I’ve selected a video from The Virtual Instructor at YouTube because the artist uses many of the same stroking methods I use to draw trees.

This video demonstration uses Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, which are oil-based and can be layered light over dark. There are other differences, as well, but you should be able to use the same general method with wax-based pencils with only a few adjustments.

Points of Interest

Because the artist uses Faber-Castell Polychromos, several tips on using these pencils and other oil-based pencils are included. Among them are:

Color choices for creating realistic greens and browns

Layering methods unique to oil-based pencils

Burnishing with oil-based pencils

It would have been nice had the artist explained each of those a little more completely, but his technique is a great way to draw an individual tree or a whole forest. I use a lot of the same stroke patterns and color choices.

My favorite papers—Stonehenge and Bristol—would be great surfaces.

If you just want to practice, a standard drawing pad would also be satisfactory.

I hope this video helps you get a grip on drawing trees with colored pencil. The real secret, no matter which method you use, is balancing a small amount of detail in the right places—usually around the edges of the tree and the edges of light and shadow—with broader areas of varied color and value.

In other words, you don’t have to draw every leaf or branch!

Additional Reading

1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

How to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Where to Find Advanced Adult Coloring Books

As many of you know, May was Q&A month. I received so many questions on so many topics, that I’ve decided to continue answering reader questions once a week. Today is the first day in what I hope becomes a regular, weekly feature. We’ll get started with a few suggestions on where to find advanced adult coloring books.

Where to Find Advanced Adult Coloring Books

Carol Asks:

I have a lot of coloring books, I recently found a coloring book for ‘experienced colorists’. And it is great, very challenging. Where can I find more?

Where to Find Advanced Adult Coloring Books

I don’t have much time to do coloring books of any type, though I have dabbled with making my own coloring pages now and again.

But I do happen to know coloring books are available in every category from extremely simple to extremely complex. I even saw some “draw by number” coloring books based on the Old Masters in a local store! I was astounded!

Here are few places that offer more advanced adult coloring books.

A Few Suggestions

Amazon is probably the first place most of us look for just about anything. The same is true for advanced adult coloring books. Just search “advanced adult coloring books” and you’ll end up with a collection numbering in the hundreds. Topics are widely varied, but this collection of hyper-realistic wolf drawings* is enough to intrigue me!

Bonus: Search for “color by number” on Amazon and be amazed.

Dover Publications is also a good source for advanced adult coloring books, as well as coloring books in nearly every other category. Make sure to check out their “Build a Poster and Window Collection.”

And of course, there’s always online auction sites such as eBay. Just type in your search terms and browse the results.

For the color theory drawing exercise I posted in April, I went to They have a wide selection of free coloring pages of all levels and in a number of themes from elephants to botanical subjects to landscapes and random patterns.

Pinterest is also a great place to find free coloring pages to download.

Finally, do an internet search for coloring pages and you’ll come up with thousands of results.

Want to Make Your Own Coloring Pages?

Want to make your own coloring pages of some of your own photography? Print the photo you want to use, make a basic line drawing on tracing paper, then transfer the drawing to drawing paper, and color away.

I’ve recommended using adult coloring books as a tool to develop shading and blending skills. Making your own pages is the final step in drawing your own pages and making your own art!

One Caveat

Be careful! Not all of the adult coloring books are nice (or child safe.) Some are downright nasty, so wherever you decide to shop, shop with caution.

An Invitation

As already mentioned, I’m hoping to begin a regular weekly feature of answers to reader questions. My hope is to answer questions that are relevant to whatever the topic may be each month, but as you can see from this post, that’s not a rule I’ll strictly enforce.

If you have a question you’d like answered on the blog, either drop me a line through the contact box at the bottom of this page, or send me an email.

*Affiliate Link

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies

A reader recently asked about tips for drawing dogs and puppies. An excellent topic, and one I could spend an entire month on without doing more than just scratching the surface. Here’s the question.

I would love more instruction on drawing dogs, any and all kinds of dogs and puppies. Thank you so very much for all you do! Deb

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies

First of all, thank you for the question, Deb. I don’t get the opportunity to talk much about drawing dogs because most of my drawings have been of horses, or landscapes, or horses in the landscape. This is a wonderful change of pace and something I hope becomes a habit.

There is so much to cover on this topic, that I’m planning at least one full-length tutorial on the subject. I’m looking for subjects, so if you have a high-quality image you’d like to have used as an example, let me know.

To get us ready for the tutorial, I’m going to share a few basic tips for drawing dogs and puppies of all sizes, types, and breeds—things that will apply no matter the type of dog—and follow up with a few specific tips for drawing different types of dog hair.

A Few Basic Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies

Draw What You See; Not What You Think You Know

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Large and small. Long haired and short. Straight hair, curling hair, sweeping hair. Hundreds of color combinations. It’s important to look at the particular dog you’re drawing and draw what you see; not necessarily what you know about dogs in general.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Big and Small

It’s doubly important if you’re subject is a breed of dog in which all the members look pretty much alike. Weimaraners, for example.

This applies to anything you might draw, so it’s a good rule of thumb for all subjects. But it’s especially applicable to drawing dogs.

Get to Know Your Subject

Things to take special note of are:

Proportions: How long are the legs compared to the length of the body? How big is the head? How long is the neck?

General Appearance: Do the ears stand up or fold over? How long is the tail? What type of hair does the dog have? What colors and how many different colors are in the dog’s coat?

Character & Attitude: If you get a chance to meet the dog, take time to just watch it. Is it an active dog? Bold or timid? Playful or sedate? You can use all of this information to capture more than just how the dog looks. Getting the character right is especially important with portrait work, so if you can’t visit the dog, ask the owner what their pet is like.

Make Sure Your Line Drawing is Accurate

There’s no way to fix a bad drawing once you’ve started adding color. Believe me. I’ve tried it! You can layer, glaze, and blend like Michelangelo, but you won’t be able to hide a poor drawing.

It’s well worth your time to make the very best line drawing you can even if you have to work through several revisions or use aids like projectors, light boxes or tracing paper.

Take Your Time

Colored pencil is a naturally slow medium, so don’t rush yourself. Take time to study the subject before you put pencil to paper, and take time with the line drawing.

Then expect to take at least that much time and probably more to do the layering, blending and rendering. If you find yourself rushing through something or getting careless in how you put color on the paper, stop! Step away from the drawing and take a break!

A Few Tips For Drawing Dog Hair

Other than the overall shape of a dog’s body, color and hair are the most noticeable traits. Get those right and you’re more than halfway to drawing a good likeness of your subject.

But hair is a difficult thing to draw. For some artists, it’s their least favorite part of drawing portraits or animal art. I happen to love hair. The longer the better! That’s one of the reasons I have so much fun drawing horses.

So I’m going to followup the basic tips with suggestions for drawing three types of dog hair: Short, medium length, and long.

Keep in mind as you read these types that there are different types of hair for each of these much broader categories.

General Tips

  • Start with the best possible reference photo. You can’t draw what you can’t see.
  • Draw the best line drawing you can create. Take extra time to map out the basic hair growth patterns and values. It’s a lot easier to correct errors at this stage than after the drawing is half done.
  • Begin with initial layers that are evenly applied.
  • Use directional strokes that follow the pattern of hair growth, but don’t try to draw every hair. That will leave you disgusted and discouraged, and will also not look all that great.
  • Use more obvious hair-like strokes where color or value changes. Between a highlight and middle value, or between a marking and the regular coat color.
  • Other places that define the length and type of hair are over body contours, around the head, neck and ears.

Short Hair

NOTE: This sample actually from a horse drawing, but the coat type is the same as many short haired dogs.

Use sharp pencils and careful stroking to lay down even color. Keep your strokes short and overlapping. Pay special attention to the direction of the hair where it’s most obvious, such as along the edges between colors and values, or over the contours of the body.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Short Hair Sample

Medium Length Hair

With medium length and longer hair, make more use of pencil strokes. Don’t draw every hair, but draw more texture in the middle values than you would with a short-haired dog.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair

Also be aware of the direction of hair growth. It’s important all over the dog’s head and body, but is especially vital along the outside edges of the dog, and where the skin curves over muscular and skeletal structures.

This detail shows the area across the dog’s chest, and shows how the hair is also slightly curly. It’s not straight hair. Pay attention to the type of hair as well as the length and growth patterns.Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair Sample

Long Hair

Long hair is the delight of some artists—myself included—and the bane of others. It looks so complicated when you first begin.

The key is to break down all that wonderful hair into smaller sections, such as the “moustache” on each side of the muzzle, the curving hair over the eyes, and the “bib” under the head.

Then break down each of those areas into groups of hair.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair

Whatever you do, don’t draw every single hair.

Also make use of the color of your paper whenever possible to serve as a middle value, as I did in this sample. This “almost-a-sketch” portrait was drawn on a light earth tone paper that allowed me to draw only the darker values. In hindsight, it would be better with a darker paper on which I could have also drawn a few highlights.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair Sample

And there you have it: A few short tips for drawing dogs and puppies of all ages, breeds, and types.

I am planning a full-length tutorial sometime this summer. If you’d like me to consider your dog as the subject, let me know and we’ll discuss it.

If you have specific questions about drawing dogs or puppies, let me know that, too.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

This month, I’m going to share tips on how to draw landscapes with colored pencil. If you have a particular question or topic you’d like to learn about, send me an email.

We’ll begin with several general tips that will help you draw any type of landscape.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

First, let’s dispel a couple of myths about landscape drawing and landscapes in general.

Landscapes Are T0o Complex

Landscapes can be complex and many are. All we have to do is look at some of the breathtaking landscapes painted by the Masters and others.

But they don’t have to be. The plain truth is that you can draw a stunning landscape focusing on a single tree, rock, or path.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Simple Landscape

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Simple Rocks

Use your imagination, drawing skills, and accurate values to make any subject a vista!

Only Certain Styles Work With Landscapes

Blatantly not true! Just look at these two landscapes, drawn with my own hand. One painterly, and one more detailed.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Spring II

Spring II, Colored Pencil on Sanded Pastel Paper

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - The Sentinel

The Sentinel, Colored Pencil on Paper

If you need further evidence, take a look at works by landscape artists such as Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and JMW Turner, to name just three.

Only Certain Mediums are Suitable for Landscapes

I’m not going to argue that some mediums are better suited for landscapes than others. Wet media such as oils, acrylics, and watercolors are excellent for quick studies, and finished paintings of landscapes.

But colored pencils are also great for capturing the landscape. Yes, it takes more time, but don’t let that stop you if you really want to try your hand at drawing a landscape. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated!

Not Everyone Can Draw a Landscape

Again, not true. Anyone can draw a landscape! If all you do is sketch the view from your front porch or out your living room window, that’s a landscape in some form.

Don’t sell yourself short, like I used to do. Give landscape drawing a try. You might just be surprised at the results.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

Start Small

The best advice I can give anyone who wants to start drawing landscapes is to start with a small drawing. That’s what I did. My first dedicated landscape drawing was only 5 x 7.  It was large enough to draw a decent amount of detail, but small enough that I was able to finish it over the course of two weeks or less. That was a major encouragement!

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Start Small

Read How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Under Drawing on EmptyEasel.

Start with Familiar Techniques

Landscapes can be complicated enough without also trying to learn a new drawing method.

Use your favorite drawing methods with your first landscape. When you’ve drawn enough landscapes to be comfortable with them (three or four, maybe), then you can start trying different methods.

Look for a Subject with Character

The ideal subject is one that catches your eye and holds your attention. The character of the subject has a lot to do with that.

For example, if you want to draw drift wood, don’t choose a piece of driftwood that’s ordinary. Look for something unique.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Character

Focus on Composition

No matter what your subject, your medium or style, or the size of your artwork, composition is a key ingredient. It doesn’t matter whether you compose by intuition, use the Rule of Thirds, or some other tool. If the composition is off or unbalanced, the finished art work will also look off or unbalanced.

This image has been cropped so that the tree is at an ideal location for the rule of thirds. The tracks lead your eye into the composition and to the tree. So do the trees on the horizon, and the clouds.

The horizon is about one third of the way up the composition, so the composition is not cut in half horizontally.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Rule of Thirds

Here’s the image without the grid.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Simple Composition

This is not the only way to design a composition, but it is an easy way.

Don’t Fuss Over Exact Detail

You don’t have to get every branch on every tree exactly the way it appears in real life to draw a believable landscape. Unless your goal is hyper-realism (in which viewers can’t tell the difference between your reference photo and your drawing), all you really need to get right is the “character” of the tree.

For example, pine trees look different from hardwood trees. Even at a distance you can tell them apart.

What’s more, Blue Spruce trees look different from White Pines and they’re both different from Jack Pines and Lodge Pole Pines. That doesn’t even begin to consider all the different hardwoods.

Water is similar. You don’t have to get every detail correct in order to draw water.

But you do need to accurately draw the character of the things in your landscape. Look for overall shapes. If it helps. think of the parts of the landscape as abstract shapes (especially helpful with water.)

Work Upside Down

Turn your drawing and reference photo upside down. This change in view will help you more accurately see what’s in the reference photo. Believe it or not, it also will help you draw better.

Work on Small Sections

There’s a lot to draw even with simple landscapes. Try working one small area at a time, moving from one to the next as you get close to completion. Even if all you do is finish an area the size of a postage stamp each day, you’ll see clear progress and that will keep you motivated and moving forward.

When the drawing is complete, go over it one more time to make any adjustments that might be necessary.

Follow the Reference Photo

Don’t try to wing it and draw a landscape from memory. If you want to learn how to draw landscapes, draw from life when you can, or from reference photos like those I’ve shared here.

Still Not Convinced You can Do Draw a Landscape?

Try this. Take your pencils and a pad of paper and go outside (or sit in front of a window.) Sketch whatever part of a landscape you can see. Don’t try to make a finished drawing. Just sketch and have fun.

Even if all you draw is a branch on a tree, the horizon line, or a nearby group of stones, you’ve still made a start.

And that’s sometimes the hardest part about any artistic endeavor!

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m focusing on landscape drawing this month, so if there’s a topic you’d like me to address, leave a comment below or send me an email.

Additional Reading

Reference photos from Pixabay.

Transitioning from Oil Painting to Colored Pencil Drawing

People come to colored pencil from many different situations. Some artists begin with colored pencils at the beginning. Others add colored pencils to their repertoire after learning other mediums. And sometimes, artists leave a medium they’ve been working with for years and switch to colored pencil. I struggled with transitioning from oil painting to colored pencil drawing, so I could sympathize with the reader who asked the following question.

Transitioning from Oil Painting to Colored Pencil Drawing

Hi Carrie,

[I] have always been a painter using oils and acrylic on canvas for murals; however, I’m bored with it and have been wanting to expand my artistic talent into working with colored pencils. I had no idea pictures could look so real and blend so nicely! I just signed up for your emails and tutorials.

To get started, what mediums work well with colored pencils? What is the best paper to use?

I’m looking forward to this new venture and especially to gaining a contact/friend to assist me along the way. 🙂

Thank you.

Transitioning from Oil Painting to Colored Pencil Drawing

Thank you for joining us, and welcome to colored pencils.

Thank you also for your question. I’ll address it in two parts.

What Mediums Work Well with Colored Pencils

Oil Painting Mediums

If you mean painting mediums (and that’s what I think you mean,) then you can do colored pencils without any painting mediums at all. Most colored pencils are naturally translucent on paper, so they blend beautifully simply by layering one color over another. It takes a lot of layers and time, especially if you’re blending several colors, but the results can be stunning.

Read The Only Blending Methods You’ll Ever Need for Colored Pencil.

When I use solvents, I have a variety of choices. I use rubbing alcohol for a mild blend, turpentine for a more thorough blend, and rubber cement thinner for a deep blend.

Odorless mineral spirits—or any other odorless paint thinner—also work, and performs much like turpentine. Many people recommend either Gamsol (by Gamblin) or Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner, though I’ve used neither.

Try one of these unless you already have a favorite paint thinner. When my current supply of turpentine runs out, I will be getting some Mona Lisa to try.

Read Blend Colored Pencil with Turpentine in 3 Easy Steps.

Other Art Mediums

Maybe you want to know what other art mediums work with colored pencil. If that’s the case, then the answer is pretty much any water-based medium. I’ve used watercolor, water soluble colored pencils, and India ink to create an under drawing.

I’ve even tried using colored pencil over oil painting in order to add fine details. About the only thing I can tell you about that is that it didn’t work the way I tried it! Maybe over thin glazes of oil paint—something I may have to try this summer.

I believe (but have never tried it myself) that acrylics would also work. They have a more plastic surface texture, though, so colored pencil might not stick to acrylics as well as to watercolor.

If you do combine different mediums, make sure to follow the fat over lean rule. Colored pencils will stick to water-based media, but trying to put water-based media over colored pencils will not work.

The Best Papers for Colored Pencil Art

Any high quality, archival drawing paper works with colored pencil. Try several different types and see which ones work the best for you and your drawing style, and which produce the results you want.

If you chose to try wet media, use a heavy paper like watercolor paper.

The papers I use most often are Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Tientes pastel paper (the back of the sheet.) Upon occasion, I also use Strathmore Artagain art paper. I’ve also used UArt Sanded Pastel paper and enjoyed that quite a bit.

But there are literally hundreds of good drawing papers available for use with colored pencil. Your best bet is to try different papers until you find two or three that fit your drawing methods.

Read Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils.

I’ve written quite a bit about some of these topics and have assembled the most helpful articles here.

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