Carrie L. Lewis, Artist & Teacher

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

Colored Pencil – Fire N Ice Filly – Direct Drawing

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly
Fire N Ice Filly
8×10 Original Colored Pencil on Rising Stonehenge, 90 lb., Natural
Direct Painting Technique

The subject of this portrait is a yearling filly by the Arab stallion Fire N Ice. She’s a striking color and has that “look”.

I chose a colored paper for this portrait and selected a color that provides a base for both the filly and the background.

The method I’m using for this portrait is the direct method. Read more about colored pencil drawing methods.

The Drawing

The first step for any portrait is preparing the reference photo for drawing.  I put a grid over the part of the photo I want to draw using photo processing software.

I also print or draw a grid on paper that’s the same size as the portrait.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

The drawing passes through several revisions, as shown below, beginning with a rough drawing on the full-size grid.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

The rough drawing is then refined on the gridded paper.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

When the drawing has advanced as much as possible, I transfer it to tracing paper and redraw it.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

The next step is refining the reversed drawing. I turn the tracing over and make corrections and adjustments on the back. I also flip the reference photo on the computer.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

A final round of revisions and corrections on the front and the drawing is ready to be transferred to the art paper.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 1
This is a limited palette work, so I sorted out the appropriate pencils at the beginning. Colors ranged from Cream and White for light colors to Sienna Brown for the darkest color.

I’m using a direct method of color application, so when I began color work, I matched the pencils as closely as possible to the shades on the reference photo. Shadows were outlined, then shaded with Sienna Brown, followed by Burnt Ochre in the middle tones.

In some areas, I applied color fairly heavily and used the pencil held upright, with a blunt tip, and tight, circular strokes to get an even color layer.

In other areas, I used a sharp point and applied color in the direction of hair growth with short, crisp strokes.

The highlights appear as darker colors are applied around them, so I outlined and worked around the highlights. I used White on the blaze.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 2
I glazed all parts of the filly except the blaze, brightest highlights, and the areas inside the ears and around the muzzle with Sand. I started with a sharp pencil, but continued to use it as the tip blunted, working with directional and circular strokes holding the pencil upright and with directional strokes applied with the side of the pencil.

When I finished the body, I used the same color to begin adding darker values to the mane and forelock.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 3
I began work on the eyes and muzzle, outlining each area with the base color (French Grey 50%) in order to establish the lights and darks and the shapes of otherwise vague areas. Colors I used were Black, Peacock Blue, Dark Umber, Burnt Ochre, French Grey 50%.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I then darkened the eye to bring out the highlight and reflected blues, then worked on the lids and the surrounding face. I ended up working throughout the head, adding middle range value with Burnt Ochre.

All of the work was done with sharp pencils and short strokes, usually in the direction of either hair growth or body contours. In the jowl and a couple other areas, I cross hatched.

I also impressed some flyaway hairs around the head and face using my favorite impressing tool, an old Zebra ball point pen with no ink and a fine point.

Step 4
I layered Yellow Ochre over all of the horse, including the muzzle and parts of the mane. The only areas I worked around were the blaze and the brightest highlights on the face, neck and shoulder.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 5
Beginning with the offside ear, I began defining shadows and middle tones with Sienna Brown. I outlined the bolder shadows, such as the one inside the offside ear, then filled them in. For the shadows with softer lines, I either outlined them very lightly (the left side of the upper blaze) or shaded very lightly to an undefined edge (the right side of the upper blaze.

I used pressure of 2 to 3 and sharpened my pencil frequently Ideally, pencils should be kept needle sharp and should be sharpened every few minutes.

For the shadow inside the offside ear, I layered Yellow Chartreuse to see what affect a yellow-green had on the tone of the color. There was some change, but not as much as is called for. I’ll have to use a darker green for the areas I want to tone down.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

 Step 6

I began work on the background with a layer of Limepeel hatched and cross-hatched in short, parallel, diagonal strokes. I also used horizontal, vertical and circular strokes.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

The next color was Prismacolor True Blue, which I applied with a variety of strokes throughout the background. Prismacolor Non Photo Blue was next layered over most of the background.

The addition of darker colors made the mane pop, but I couldn’t get a decent blend. So I worked over it with Faber-Castell Art Grip Light Blue. That color was a shade or two darker than Prismacolor Non Photo and it was much dryer. . The resulting color was a bit darker and a bit smoother. I worked in several directions with this color, even doing some shading along the edges in an attempt to even out the color.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Because greens can get very bold very fast, I next layered Prismacolor Light Umber over the background. I used light pressure to apply two layers of opposing diagonal strokes in a random pattern.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I also used a blunt tip, as you can see below. The tip of this pencil has two surfaces. The ‘long’ side, which you can see on the pencil itself, and a short side, which is visible in the pencil’s shadow. Between these two edges, I was able to apply broader, less sharply defined strokes and to create the ‘soft focus’ look I want for the background.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Next, a few layers of Prismacolor Grass Green.

The only way these layers differed from what I did with Light Umber in the previous layers was that I worked more carefully around the filly. I also used circular strokes in some areas and I sharpened the pencil once or twice.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I next layered Prismacolor Yellow Chartreuse over the top half of the background and Prismacolor Copenhagen Blue over the bottom half. The purpose of using two colors was to begin creating a cooler, darker lower background with a warmer, lighter upper background, thus creating a little bit of depth without adding a lot of detail.

I applied each color with a variety of strokes ranging from hatching and crosshatching to tight circular strokes. I used medium pressure for both colors and kept the pencils as sharp as possible.

When both colors were in place, I glazed Copenhagen Blue over all of the background, followed by Yellow Chartreuse. I finished with a final layer of Yellow Chartreuse applied with a blunt point and medium heavy pressure over the top half.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

The greens were still a little too bold, so I layered Prismacolor Tuscan Red over most of the background. To create brighter color and focus attention on the subject, which is this filly’s face, I didn’t tone down the greens above her poll, around her ears or near the off side eye. I used medium light pressure (handwriting pressure) and a sharp pencil. I also worked primarily in diagonal crosshatching strokes.

See the top half of the background in the image below.

Finishing work on the background began with Prismacolor Peacock Green and Yellow Ochre and a colorless blender (also by Prismacolor). Using heavy pressure, I applied Peacock Green or Yellow Ochre in each area. In some areas, I layered colors; glazing Peacock Green first and burnishing with Yellow Ochre or glazing with Yellow Ochre and burnishing with Peacock Green. Since the burnishing color affects the overall color, I was able to create subtle gradations in color using this method.

I burnished every area with the colorless blender, then added a final glaze of Peacock Green to finish it.

The portion of the background that is finished is the lower half in this illustration.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I continued layering and burnishing Peacock Green and Yellow Ochre throughout the background. I burnished each area with the colorless blender, then I used rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to further blend and smooth the background.

Once the paper was dry again, I touched up a couple remaining areas with Peacock Green using the side of a sharpened pencil and light pressure to blur some of the transitions that were too bold.

That was helpful but didn’t completely resolve the issue, so I layered Prismacolor Dark Green over much of the background. In the areas I wanted to smooth out, I used the side of the pencil and light pressure. In other areas, particularly in the corners and the background around the mane, I used the tip of the pencil and heavier pressure.

To finish, I polished most of the background with a piece of paper towel folded two or three times.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 7

Beginning with the ears, I layered Terra Cotta into the shadows and darker mid tones. The reference (which I enlarged and viewed on the computer) showed a lot of red tones in the shadows of the mane, so I layered Terra Cotta into those areas, as well.

Well defined shadows inside the ears, under the mane, under the jowl were outlined first with a sharp pencil and light pressure. I also adjusted contours where necessary.

Those shapes were then filled in with a sharp pencil and short, closely spaced strokes. In most areas, I used a combination of strokes to get even coverage.

With the less defined shadows and in the places where shadow blended into mid-tone, I used directional strokes, light pressure, and a sharp pencil, but didn’t outline the shapes.

In the areas where hair growth is visible, I used short, directional strokes to create the look of hair growth patterns.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 8

I next used Dark Green to darken the darkest shadows in the ears, under the head and mane. I also worked around the muzzle, which had heretofore been ignored. Again, I outlined well defined shapes and filled them in. In the remaining shapes, I added color without outlining.

I used green at this stage to add darkness to the reds and golds without making them too brassy. Any cool color would have worked. My colors of preference are either Indigo Blue or Black Grape.

For this drawing, I chose Dark Green because the background is green. The color will not be obvious in the horse, but having it in the mix will create color harmony.

Finally, I layered Dark Umber over the same areas and along the bottom of the lower neck to warm up those cool greens.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 9

The final phase now begins; deepening color and saturation, broadening values, and building details on previous work. If I’ve done things right, this is the fun part!

To begin, I layered Prismacolor Yellow Ochre over most of the horse. The only areas I worked around were the bright highlights on the head and shoulder, the white blaze, and the strands of hair overlapping the forehead and neck.

I used the side of a very sharp pencil and light to medium pressure for most of this work, matching pressure to value. Light pressure in lighter value areas; heavier pressure in the darker areas.

In no area did I use heavy pressure. Right now, the goal is to layer color to build saturation, color, and value. I don’t know how many layers that will take, so I keep pressure light. This preserves the tooth of the paper as long as possible.

When working around the highlights, I used the point of the pencil and directional strokes to create softer edges.

Detail of Fire N Ice Filly Highlight Work

I also worked on the mane and forelock, adding warm middle tones to some areas and glazing Yellow Ochre over the darker shadows.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Step 10

Using very light strokes and working in the direction of hair growth, I layered Mediterranean Blue over the Neon Orange. I also stroked it into the mane in the shadowed areas using long strokes, and added a very light glaze to the muzzle and inside the ears using a blunt tip and tight, circular strokes.

Next, I layered Sienna Brown into the same areas using the same pressure and strokes.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Finally, I darkened the darkest shadows under the mane, along the throat and inside the ears with Dark Umber, which I applied with heavy pressure (not quite burnishing).

Step 11

I began the final phase with Prismacolor Burnt Ochre, which I used as a middle tone. Using light to medium pressure, I layered Burnt Ochre over the dark middle tones throughout the filly, beginning with her body and working my way forward and upward.

I sharpened the pencil frequently and used a sharp tip to create the texture of hair and to work around some of the highlights.

But I also used a more blunt tip to lay down even layers of color with little or no visible pencil strokes.

In the mane and forelock, I kept the pencil sharp and used the tip to darken the middle tones and shadows and begin defining hair masses.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

Next, I layered Goldenrod over all of the same areas and into the highlights over the shoulder and along the neck, where they are not quite as bright. I used light to medium light pressure and a variety of strokes ranging from short, directional strokes with a sharp pencil to broad strokes using the side of the pencil and following the contours of muscle and body.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

As I look at it here, it’s starting to look complete. There are a few details yet to work out and I’d like a little more saturation in some areas.

But overall, it’s looking very good.

Step 12

I began finishing the portrait one area at a time, starting with the muzzle.

I used French Grey 20%, 50% and 70%; Blush and Light Blush; Dark Brown, Indigo Blue, Light Umber, Black, Cloud Blue, and White. I worked out the details of shadows and highlights, the shapes of nostrils and mouth, and the markings. Once the shapes were established, I alternated layers of color with burnishing. Most of the burnishing was done with White. The shadows were burnished with Light Umber or French Grey 70%, then glazed with black.

I also worked the background around the muzzle, softening and manipulating edges.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I used the same basic method – layer, burnish, layer, burnish – to work up into the face. For this part of the work, my fistful of pencils included White, Cream, Sand, Yellow Ochre, Pumpkin Orange, Mineral Orange, Light Umber, the French Greys, Cloud Blue, and Black. Since I’d already put a lot of work into this part of the portrait, my attention was given to smoothing out color, punching up highlights and fine-tuning details.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I used the same colors to do the ears, which proved to be the most difficult part of the portrait.

The forelock was detailed with touches of Sienna Brown, Yellow Ochre, Indigo Blue and Dark Brown Layered and White in the highlights.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I used the same colors I used in the face to finish the neck and shoulders. I concentrated on getting the highlights, middle tones, and shadows right, then burnished with Cloud Blue in the reflected light areas, Sand in the middle tones, and White and/or Cream in the highlights. In some areas, I used a colorless blender, but I much prefer the look of color burnished with color.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

I used the same combination of colors and the same layer-burnish process to finish the neck, the shoulder, and the body.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

At this point, it’s all a matter of examining the painting from edge to edge, cleaning up edges, smoothing out color, and making whatever other adjustments need to be made.

This is the finished portrait.

Original Colored Pencil Drawing, Fire N Ice Filly

The painting is 8×10 and is priced at $450 unframed ($565 with standard framing).


Prints, Greeting Cards, cell phone covers available here.

Learn more about the direct method of drawing with colored pencils.


  1. Nick

    Hi, I recently got the Colored Pencil Direct Method ebook. I currently have pastel pencils, but I’m thinking about trying Prismacolor colored pencils. Could you recommend which set might be best to get? I mean, what size set to cover basic needed colors and should I get regular and/or Verithin? Thanks!

    • Nick,

      Welcome to colored pencils!

      I recommend both Verithin pencils and the Premier line of Prismacolors. The Verithins come in a 36-set and even though the color selection is limited, they are invaluable for the early stages of drawing (in my opinion).

      I am quite happy with a 72-pencil of the Premiers. That set has all the basic colors necessary for drawing horses. It also has enough of the “gourmet” colors to make drawing interesting.

      Have fun drawing and let me know if you have any questions.


  2. Joletta M. Brooks

    This is wonderful! I am looking forward to what you can teach me with your very detailed demonstration. I LOVE horses and in my younger years owned several but didn’t know how to even begin to work their photos up in color. I do work in graphite so know about shading and such. Now I have information on how to begin. THANK YOU!!!

    • Joletta,

      The way you begin a colored pencil drawing depends on what method you use. There are several methods of drawing, but they break down into three basic categories:

      • The Direct Method in which you begin with color and end with color
      • The Complementary Method in which you begin by using colors on the opposite side of the color wheel from the final colors
      • The Under Drawing Method, in which you do an under drawing of a single color—either umber or some other color—then layer the final colors over that

      This page briefly explains the basic methods.

      I recommend trying each one to see which works best. I also recommend not limiting yourself to one method because some methods work better for some subjects than other methods. For example, I usually use the Umber Under Drawing Method for horses and landscapes, but have also had success with the direct method and the complementary method for horses and landscapes.


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