Creating a Sketchy Style with Colored Pencil

Time to talk about drawing styles! Shirley wants to know ways of creating a sketchy style of drawing with colored pencil.

Dear Carrie,

I have sketched all my life for pleasure and am self taught on almost everything I do. I am trying to learn colored pencil but do not like the burnishing, etc.

Because of how much I like sketching and not a photographic look (I admire anyone who does that kind of artwork though), I would like my colored pencil work to look sketchy, as well. I’ve seen that style in magazines, etc. but not sure how to go about getting that result myself.

What kind of paper produces that style and/or any specific kinds of application. My feeling is that just because an apple is shiny doesn’t mean I have to draw it that way. I like realistic but not necessarily photographic.

Shirley

Creating a Sketchy Style with Colored Pencils

Believe it or not, I have dabbled with less realistic art over the years. I don’t often share it on the blog because most of it is just for fun (as the reader pointed out,) or it’s an experiment. A way to learn a new medium.

I’ll share some of those pieces with you now, and tell you what I did to make each drawing.

Hopefully one of more of them will help you in creating a sketchy style all your own.

Creating a Sketchy Style with Colored Pencil

Coarse or Rough Papers

Most papers will produce most styles of artwork. You can use a coarser, toothier paper to get more “painterly” or “sketchy” results.

My first piece on sanded pastel paper, for example, was very sketchy and painterly. So it’s definitely worth a try.

Creating a Sketchy Style by using Sanded Art Papers
I used Uart Sanded Pastel Paper for this landscape, and limited the number of layers I used. The result was a more painterly look. Not quite sketchy, but nowhere near as realistic as I usually prefer.

You can, of course, do the same thing with smoother papers. Lay down color in broad washes and limit yourself to one or two layers (three at the most.) The paper will show through these layers and create a the kind of sketchy style you’re looking for.

Larger Pencils are Also an Option

You might also try using larger pencils.

Prismacolor Art Stix or Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils are ideal when you want to avoid detail. Color selections are limited with both, and only about half the colors in each set are lightfast, but the colors that remain are perfect for laying down large swatches of color, especially flat color.

You can then go over them with regular pencils to add accents.

Or sharpen your regular pencils and draw with the side of the exposed pencil core.

Use the side of a pencil by holding the pencil horizontally and drawing with all of the exposed pigment core, as shown here. Drawing this way allows a lot of paper to show through and produces a sketchier color layer.

In both cases (larger pencils and the side of the pencils) color lays on top of the paper tooth, leaving lots of paper holes showing through on all but the smoothest papers.

One or Two Colors on Colored Paper

I do a lot of life drawing and sketching on colored paper because it gives me a toned base. I can use one color of pencil for quick sketches, like the one shown here.

Creating a Sketchy Style by using One Color on Colored Pencil
This sketch was drawn with just one pencil—a white pencil—on black paper. It looks detailed, but it isn’t really.

I know. Colored pencils are meant to be colorful! I get that.

But if you want to do “sketchy” work, try limiting the number of colors you use.

It doesn’t matter what color paper you use, if you use colors that compliment that paper, or that contrast with it, you can produce a sketchy style quite easily.

You can also do quite finished work with only a few colors, so restrain yourself from layering too much or adding too much detail. A few contrasting values will produce nice drawings without a lot of detail.

I used three colors on black paper for this sketch. Using colors you don’t ordinarily use is also a great way to keep your drawing more sketch-like. I used silver, gold and copper metallic pencils here.

Make the Most of Those Lines

Have you ever seen pen-and-ink drawings? If the artist used only black ink and only pens, then the entire drawing is made up of lines. Long lines. Short lines. Straight and curving lines. Dots and sometimes splatters.

Use your colored pencils the same way. Develop color and value not by filling in every bit of paper, but by layering different colors and varying the type of lines you make.

Limit Color Layers

Here’s a small colored pencil drawing I did several years ago. It’s totally colored pencil with no blending or special techniques.

The sketchy, almost illustrative look is the result of doing only a few layers of color, and limiting color choices. For example, I used one blue in the sky, one or two greens in the trees and grass, and mostly black in the horse.

I also kept the value range fairly narrow. There are lights and darks, but not much contrast. This keeps each element of the drawing from looking three-dimensional. Ordinarily, that’s not a good thing, but if you want a sketchy style, it’s perfect.

Creating a Sketchy Style with Flat Color and Outlining
Use only a few layers of color and keep contrast low (not much difference between light and dark values.) Outlining also produces a more illustration-style drawing.

Outline Parts of the Composition

I outlined the horse and trees in the sample above.

Many other artists who prefer a more illustrative look have also made use of outlining to make their work unique. Rhonda Dicksion and Jan Fagan are two artists who make use of outlining. Some of their work is more realistic without outlining, and some includes outlining. But they also both do very illustrative type of work. Take a look at both and see what ideas you can glean from them.

Lots of Colors, But Keep Them Flat

It’s also possible to create a different kind of sketchy style by using flat color, almost in an abstract pattern.

Richard Klekociuk does the most amazing landscapes by laying colors next to one another. Rather than shading, he chooses light and dark colors to create values and contrast.

I wouldn’t call his style “sketchy” per se, but his basic compositions and color use are a great place to begin.

Also take a look at Dan Miller’s landscape drawings for a different way to use color and create beautiful landscapes without drawing tons of details.

Give Watercolor Pencils a Try

I did this piece entirely with watercolor and used some watercolor methods.

I let wet color run together in the sky and yellow trees in the background. In the yellow field, I added wet color to wet color for a slightly different effect.

The larger trees were added after the paper was dry, and I stippled them (tapped color on with a small brush.) There are light and dark areas in those trees, but not much detail.

Granted, it’s not a colored pencil look, so it may not be what you’re looking for.

Dry Colored Pencil Over Watercolor Pencil

If you let the paper dry thoroughly, you can draw over watercolor pencil washes to add touches of detail. For this small drawing, I washed blues and purples together wet-into-wet. When the paper dried, I added the dark trees in the foreground.

I didn’t draw them with much detail, but was still able to create the appearance of distance by making the closer trees a little bit larger than those in the background.

Special Effects

I did several small pieces in shades of blue just because I liked the color, and because I wanted to try night scenes. The image above is the simplest of this foursome.

I did the sky in this one by sprinkling table salt into the wet color. The salt soaks up the color with the moisture and leaves “stars”. When the paper was dry, I brushed off the grains of salt and this is the result.

With this one, I washed colors wet into wet and let them blend, then put salt on parts of it. My goal (as I recall) was to create the look of a cloudy sky with a break in the clouds and stars in that part of the sky.

Was I successful? It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but it may be exactly what you’re looking for.

A Few Ideas for Creating a Sketchy Style

If nothing else, Shirley, I hope I’ve given you a place to begin creating a sketchy style of drawing. Try them for yourself, then experiment and see what else you might be discover.

Whatever you do, have fun and keep drawing. Sooner or later your style will come shining through!

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Are Old Colored Pencils Still Good?

Old colored pencils. Many of us have a few of them lying around. I have a Spectracolor somewhere, as well as an Eagle. Both are previous incarnations of Prismacolor.

Are those old pencils still usable? That’s the subject of today’s reader question:

Hi Carrie,

My question is: Can coloured pencils deteriorate or get “old” so that they’re no longer as good as when they were new? I use pastel pencils, but also have quite a few coloured pencil sets that I don’t use. I want to learn them but just haven’t taken the time. Do they have a “best before” or “expiry” date?? I hope not!

Thanks!

Thank you for the question, kind Reader. I think I can lay your fears to rest.

Are Old Colored Pencils Still Good

Are Old Colored Pencils Still Good?

Colored pencils do get old, just like everything else.

But unlike many mediums, they do not wear out. Twenty-year-old pencils should work just as well now as they did the day they were made. In some cases and depending on the brand, they may actually work better than their modern counterparts!

Wet mediums can dry out with age, especially if the tubes have been opened. Colored pencils are dry, so you don’t have to worry about them drying out.

So far as I know, colored pencils don’t become brittle with age either (at least no more brittle than it might have been when it was new.)

Sometimes a pencil may look like it’s turning gray or fading, but that may just be wax binder rising to the surface of the pigment core. This can be a problem with artwork drawn with wax-based pencils, and it can also be a problem with pencils that don’t get used very often. It’s usually most obvious with dark colors, but it can happen with any color.

Happily, it’s easy to remedy. Just wipe the exposed pigment core with a paper towel and the wax bloom is gone. But the pencil is perfectly usable even if you don’t remove the wax bloom first.

So if you have old pencils, go ahead and use them! They should do fine for you.

And if you don’t have the time to use them right away, don’t worry. They will still be good when you do get to them.

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How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils

CK provides the question for today’s post. Her question is about how to draw textures with colored pencils, but it’s more than that, so here’s CK to speak for herself.

Carrie,

First, I’d like to thank you for creating this website. You have helped me come so far in my colored pencil work, and I’d like to formally thank you.

Now, onto the more interesting topic: my questions on texture.  In my opinion, texture is both one of the easiest and one of the hardest techniques to master. While I have only been working with colored pencil for two years,  I find creating those realistic textures one of the hardest things to do with colored pencil.

I can say, however, that I have had one or two projects where I managed to create decent textures, the first being a pug and the second a pomegranate. The pug, I noticed, required lots of strokes to accomplish, while with the pomegranate, I utilized  the tooth of the paper.

These are probably the few times where the texture of the subjects have really come to life. Other than that, I have tried and tried to recreate it or even create something relatively similar. I’m thinking it has something to do with the pressure or how fast I am trying to create the project.


If you have anything you think can help with creating realistic textures (fruit specifically, if you don’t mind), I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on textures.

Thanks, CK

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil

I have already written posts on drawing some types of texture, including grass, dirt, stone, and even carpet, so what I’ll do today is share basic tips that you can use for drawing any type of texture.

Let’s get started.

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils

There are essentially two parts to drawing texture, no matter what type of texture you want to draw.

Laying down the base color or colors, and adding texture over that.

My first demo is cat hair and the second is a rug, but the same method can also be used for other types of texture.

Step 1: Draw a Base Layer

The base color should usually be a light middle-value or lighter color.

You can begin by laying down smooth color with light pressure with a single, “generic” color if you wish. This is the best way to begin with smoother textures. I sometimes do that when drawing landscapes, then I build texture on top of that. I did that for the eyes and nose on this cat.

In the hair, I drew the base layer with hair-like strokes, mixing colors stroke by stroke in the brown hair. I used three colors for this piece. A very light cream, a medium value earth tone, and a dark earth tone in the hair.

Stroke in the direction of the texture, whether you’re drawing hair, grass, foliage, or any other strongly textured surface.

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil - Drawing Fur.

Step 2: Use Strokes that Mimic the Texture

Use pencil strokes that mimic the texture you’re drawing. Grass or fur are both fairly easy and use similar strokes. Short (or long,) slightly curving strokes in which you start at the bottom of the hair or grass and stroke upward. The primary difference—other than color—is that fur is usually fairly uniform, especially with short haired animals. Grass, on the other hand, can be tall and unruly.

(I know. There is such a thing as unruly hair, too) but that’s almost a topic for another post.

You can create texture by hatching and cross-hatching, stippling (tapping), circular strokes, and random strokes.

Continue layering colors using those strokes. Each layer of color adds depth to the texture, creating patterns of light and dark that mimic the texture of your subject.

It’s important to follow your reference photo closely to make sure you’re stroking in the right direction. It’s also important to get the light and dark values in the right places. They’re more important than the colors you use.

Step 3: Blending Layer

A blending layer is a layer of color meant to smooth out strokes. A lot of artists use a light-value warm gray to smooth out strokes when drawing animal hair, for example.

The blending layer is applied with light or medium-light pressure and a sharp pencil so that the resulting color is smooth. It doesn’t completely hide the texture, but it does subdue it.

Step 4: Repeat

Follow steps 1 through 3 again, and as many times as you need to get the color, values, and saturation you want for your finished piece.

Another Example

Here’s another section from the same project. This is a fluffy white rug the cat was lying on.

First the reference photo.

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil - Drawing a Fluffy Rug

Then the base layer of color (white.) I added a lot of white in the foreground, where sunlight falls across the run. The shadows are the paper color showing through.

In the shadowed area, I used a dark medium gray to add shadows.

Notice how the shape and placement of the strokes creates the look of a fluffy rug. Is it exact? No, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to look like a fluffy rug, and even with just a layer or two of color, it does.

I continued layering white and a variety of grays over the rug until it looked the way I wanted it to look. For each layer, I used the same kinds of strokes to add depth to the pile of the rug.

I didn’t put a lot of detail into this area because I didn’t want it to distract from the cat. But I still matched the type of pencil stroke to the area I was drawing, then let the light and dark values do the rest.

Here’s the finished piece. I don’t know about you, but I like the rug better than that cat!

Yes, We Have No Bananas Today

I apologize for the lack of fruit in this post, but the closest I could come was these two textures, and basic tips that can be applied to any texture.

The main thing is to study your subject, look at the colors and the type of surface, then match the type of strokes you use to draw that subject. The smoother the surface texture, the smoother you color layers should be.

For example, if I were to draw this composition, I’d start with a base layer of yellow over all of the pomegranate, then layer red or red-orange in the darkest or brightest areas. Sharp pencil, light pressure, and work around the highlights with each layer.

Always pay attention to the edges of the highlights, since highlights often indicate the nature of the surface texture, no matter what you draw.

Then I’d continue to layer color until the paper tooth was filled in, and add those red spots with a stippling (tapping) stroke. The end result should be a nice smooth texture

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil - Pomegranate
Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

One Way to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils

The method I’ve described in this post is my favorite way to draw texture, but it’s not the only way. If it works for you, wonderful!

If not, then the best thing I suggest is to experiment with different types of strokes to duplicate different types of textures.

No matter what texture you’re drawing, the real secret is to look at your subject in sections, like a mosaic or abstract, and draw exactly what you see (or as close as you want to get.)

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Colored Pencils on Drafting Film: Where to Find Help

Today’s question comes from a reader looking for help using colored pencils on drafting film. Here’s the question:

I need instruction on handling Dura-lar drafting film. Do you know of any books or articles regarding this ground?

Thank you for your question. Drafting film is popular now, so there’s a lot of information available.

Where to Find Help Using Colored Pencils on Drafting Film

While I have yet to try drafting film personally, I am always watching videos and participating in discussions, so I can point you in the right direction! Following are a few of the better sources I’ve discovered.

Where to Find Help Using Colored Pencils on Drafting Film

Since there are so many resources available, let me share a few videos, then a few books and printed material, and finally social media resources. Some of them will deal specifically with Dura-Lar.

Videos about Drafting Film

Lisa Add Watkins (Animal Art by LAW) uses drafting film for some of her colored pencil work. She has three or four videos about drafting film on her YouTube channel. The best place to start is her Introduction to Drafting Film video.

Bonny Snowdon also uses drafting film for many of her pet portraits. She has a very good real-time video on drafting film, Drawing Dog Eyes on Drafting Film.

Both artists also have Patreon channels. For a small monthly fee, you can get access to all of their videos, not just those about drafting film. You can find Bonny’s Patreon channel here, and Lisa’s Patreon channel here.

Many other artists have also published videos about drafting film and colored pencils. Search for “colored pencils on drafting film” and you’ll get dozens of potentially helpful videos.

Drafting Film Books & Tutorials

Ann Kullberg* has two resources that may be of help to you.

One is a drawing tutorial featuring peppers drawn on drafting film. Plenty O’ Peppers* is by Gretchen Evans Parker, and Gretchen walks you step-by-step through her drawing process.

There are also a couple other kits for beginners on drafting film.

All three come in a digital format you can download today, or in print. Plenty O’ Peppers also comes in a bundle that includes the printed tutorial and a few sheets of drafting film.

CP Surfaces: Drafting Film* is a book published by Ann. It contains several projects on drafting film by Gretchen Evans Parker. The book features five full demos ranging from marbles and abstract glass, to a duck on water.

*Affiliate link

Colored Pencil Art Groups

There are several good colored pencil groups on Facebook.

At the time I’m writing this article, I’m a member of Colored Pencil Animal Artists, Colored Pencils for Beginners and Beyond, and Colored Pencil Pushers. All three groups are great places to get questions answered, see how other artists are doing what they do, and get tips on different types of supports.

Participation is free, but you will have to apply to each group and be juried in. Colored Pencil Pushers is a group specifically for experienced and advanced artists, but go ahead and apply. No matter what level you think you may be currently, your work will have to speak for you, and it may be accepted!

Social art groups can be a great place to find help using colored pencils on drafting film

Drafting film is currently a favorite support in all three groups. They’re free to join, though you need to apply, and the beginner’s group is especially helpful if you’re new to colored pencils.

Those are just a few places to find help if you want to use colored pencils on drafting film.

There are a lot more videos, tutorials, and other resources available, but you will find something in this selection to get you started!

I can just about guarantee it!

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Blending Colored Pencils with OMS

Blending colored pencils with OMS (odorless mineral spirits) is one of my three most frequently used blending methods. In today’s reader question, Patsy asks how to use odorless mineral spirits. Here’s the question:

I would like to know more about using OMS. I seem to make mud. I try using less, smaller brush, maybe not enough layers? Help!

Thank you, Patsy. How-to questions are always good questions. If one person asks, there are usually dozens of others who want to know the same thing, but haven’t asked. Well done!

There’s more than one way to blend with odorless mineral spirits (OMS,) and I’ve already written a tutorial on the subject. You can read that here.

Blending Colored Pencils with Odorless Mineral Spirits

I don’t think the problem is with the size of brush you use, although it is usually a good idea to use the largest brush possible for whatever area you want to blend. The reason is that you can cover the area more quickly, and that’s important because solvents can dry so quickly.

Tips for Blending Colored Pencils with OMS

Let me start with a few general suggestions for blending colored pencils with OMS, and then I’ll address the issue of mud.

Tip #1: Use the Right Paper

Any time you use odorless mineral spirits to blend colored pencil, you need to make sure you’re using a paper that can stand up to the moisture.

That doesn’t have to mean you use watercolor paper, but watercolor papers—and especially hot press watercolor papers—are great for blending colored pencils with odorless mineral spirits.

I often use 140lb hot press watercolor paper such as Canson L’Aquarelle or Stonehenge Aqua when I plan to blend with solvents. Watercolor paper stands up to moisture much better, and both of these papers have a tooth similar to drawing paper, so they’re perfect for colored pencils and solvent blending.

So are sanded art papers, although you need to adjust how to you blend when you use any sanded art paper.

Rigid supports (papers mounted to a rigid support) are also usually okay to use with odorless mineral spirits.

Believe it or not, regular Stonehenge papers perform well with limited amounts of wet blending. I’ve even used watercolor pencils on Stonehenge. Tape it securely to a rigid backboard first and it dries perfectly flat.

Tip #2: Put Enough Pigment on the Paper

Odorless mineral spirits work by breaking down the binder in colored pencil. The binder is what holds the pigment together, so when it’s broken down, the pigments can be blended almost just like mixing paint.

But you must have enough pigment on the paper before you blend. There isn’t a certain number of layers because a lot depends on how heavily you apply the color in the first place. If you use light pressure, you’ll probably need five or six layers before odorless mineral spirits will do any good.

If you tend to draw with heavier pressure, you can blend after fewer layers.

Tip #3: Use Less Odorless Mineral Spirits Each Time You Blend

The standard procedure with solvent blending is to do the first blend with a wet brush, then use a slightly drier brush with each successive blend.

Each subsequent time you blend an area, use less odorless mineral spirits. That way you’re not blending down to the paper each time (which can cause mud.) Keep a paper towel handy and after the second or third blending, blot your brush after picking up OMS and before touching it to paper.

In other words, the more often you blend a particular area, the less odorless mineral spirits you should need.

Now, to the matter of mud!

How to Avoid Mud when Blending Colored Pencils with OMS

All artists who have made art for any length of time have experienced mud. Mud is what happens when your beautiful colors suddenly lose all that vibrancy and turn into some colorless, dull, drab thing. It’s called mud for the very simple reason that the resulting color so often is mud-colored!

How to Make Mud

Mud often happens when complementary colors are mixed together. Complementary colors are those colors that appear opposite one another on the color wheel. Yellow and purple are complements. So are red and green, and blue and orange.

Complementary colors tone down each other. They’re a great way to keep a color from getting too vivid. If you want to tone down greens in a landscape, add a touch of red.

But usually, you need only a little bit of the complement to tone down the color. A little bit of red in a landscape green is good. A lot of red in a landscape green and you end up with mud.

Mud also happens when you mix too many colors together. That happened to me a lot when I was oil painting because it’s so frightfully easy to keep adding different colors on a mixing palette.

But you can do it with colored pencils, too.

How to Avoid Mud

Without knowing specifics about what is happening to with your blending, Patsy, my guess is that you’re blending too many different colors together or that you’re blending complementary colors.

Try layering a few layers of one color, then blending with odorless mineral spirits. After that’s dry, layer the next color, then blend that. Remember to use less solvent with each blend, so you don’t also blend the colors underneath. This should give you more of a glazing effect, and should result in cleaner color so long as you avoid complements or near-complements and layering too many colors.

One other thing to watch for is a dirty brush. Rinse your brush between uses by blotting it on a clean paper towel until it no longer leaves color no the paper towel. Any color on the brush when you blend will dirty the color already on the paper.

And finally, don’t use dirty solvent. You can use solvent if there is sediment on the bottom of the container; just don’t stir it up. If there is sediment at the bottom, it’s better to carefully pour off the clean solvent, then dispose of the remainder.

Switching from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils

Today’s question comes from Carol, a Facebook follower, who asked how hard it is to transition from oil painting to colored pencils. Here’s her question:

How hard is it to transition from oil paints to using pencils and where do you start? Guess that’s two questions and you could probably write a book on both.

You know me too well, Carol. I could write a book on just about anything!

People have asked before about my transition from oil painting to colored pencils, but the focus was painting mediums and paper. More about supplies than motives. So thank you for providing the opportunity to address the question from a different point of view.

Switching from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils

I’ll break the question up into two parts and address each part separately.

How Hard is It to Switch from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils?

For me the transition wasn’t difficult at all, but there is a simple reason for that.

It didn’t happen overnight.

I had no intention of making colored pencils my go-to medium when I began using them back in the 1990s. I’ve always oil painted, and thought I always would. I loved everything about oils. The way they blended, went on the canvas, and all those lovely, lovely brushes. I even liked the smell!

Switching from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils

Why I Switched from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils

But I exhibited horse paintings at equine trade shows and discovered that even at busy shows there were lull times. Times when it would have been nice to have art to work on, even if it didn’t draw people into my booth (which it almost always does, by the way.)

Oil paints are not nice to travel with. Yes they box up nicely and you can package them quite compactly if you don’t take every color, brush or tool with you.

But wet paint and lots of people—and lots of little people—are not a good mix. Even if no one (myself included) brushed up against a painting I was working on, there was the problem of getting a wet painting home again. It was just more risk and trouble than I wanted to deal with.

And I didn’t want to sacrifice the ability to do detail work for the ease of doing dry media work. I didn’t care for oil pastels and had never tried dry pastels, but they had their own set of challenges. Graphite was an option, I suppose, but another thing I loved about oils was the color. The solution? Colored pencils!

Colored pencils weren’t yet popular so I bought the only thing on the market in my area. Prismacolor. That was okay, because they were still well-made in those days. I bought a full set, mat board to draw on, and started drawing.

I did a few portraits, too, but colored pencils did not replace oil paints. Oils were still my primary medium. I just added colored pencils to them for the sake of portability.

So the transition was painless.

Where (and How) to Begin Transitioning from Oil Paints to Colored Pencils

If I were to transition from oil paints to colored pencils all at once, here is what I think I would do. (This advice comes from the experience of having used colored pencils and oils together for several years.)

One Thing Not to Do

The first I would do is NOT rush out and buy a full set of any brand of colored pencils. Instead, look at the colors of oil paint you use most frequently, then find an outlet that sells pencils individually and buy similar colors of colored pencils. For example, I relied on earth tones in oil painting, so those are the colors of pencils I’d buy first.

I’d do the same thing with paper. Select a full sheet of one or two types or colors of paper, cut them down to small sizes, and see how I liked them.

I can sum up the reason in one word. Cost.

You probably didn’t buy every color of oil paint when you started, right? I know I didn’t. I bought the colors I thought I’d need, then added to them as necessary.

Do the same thing with pencils.

Image by Emphyrio from Pixabay

Adapt Painting Methods to Drawing

When it comes time to use them, try adaptations of your painting method with the pencils. Oils are wet and colored pencils are dry, so there is not an exact comparison. But it’s surprising how many painting methods can be easily adapted to colored pencil work.

The Flemish (Seven-Step) method is very easily adapted to colored pencil work. I used a variation on it for oil painting then, and now I use a variation of it for colored pencil work.

Stick with Familiar Subjects

The third recommendation is to start by drawing subjects you’re already familiar with. You’re learning a new medium and new support. Why further confuse matters by doing a new subject?

In fact, I’d probably take that one step further and do one of my oil paintings over in colored pencil for a more direct comparison. That’s a great way to see just how close you can get to your oil painting work with colored pencils.

Start with Small Pieces

Also start with smaller pieces. The biggest difference between oils and colored pencils isn’t the difference between wet and dry. It’s the difference between fast and slow. To keep the frustration to a minimum, do small pieces.

I like 9 x 12 and smaller, but colored pencils work great for art trading cards (2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches.) You can do several quick sketches in an hour at that size or more detailed work in an afternoon or two.

Switching from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils - Work small to begin your transition.
ACEOs (aka art trading cards) are perfect for discovering whether or not colored pencils are a good fit for you. They’re small enough to finish quickly and you won’t feel guilty if you doodle on them or end up trashing them (though I advise against throwing any of your art away.)

Making the Change from Oil Painting to Colored Pencils Doesn’t Need to be Difficult

Or expensive.

Start with a few pencils and a little paper, then see what you can do. If you decide they’re not for you, you haven’t spent a lot of money on tools you’ll never use again.

And if you do like them, you’ll have a better idea what pencils and papers to get to make the most of your new favorite medium!

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How to Draw the Blackest Black in Colored Pencils

This reader wants to know how to draw the blackest black in colored pencils, but that’s not all. Here’s the question:

Hello there,

I was wondering what formula you use to get the blackest black you can get?

I have tried indigo with magenta with black on top and it comes out more purplish than black. I might be doing something wrong.

I tried spraying it with textured fixative and going on top of it with a different black pencil. I started with Prismacolor and ended up going over it with Faber-Castell Polychromos, and still have a purplish hue.

How many layers can you get once you spray your project with textured fixative?

Thank you for your questions!

How to Draw the Blackest Black in Colored Pencils

Is There a Formula to Draw the Blackest Black Possible with Colored Pencil?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have a formula for drawing the blackest possible blacks with colored pencils. I’ve drawn several black horses over the years, and also tried my hand at drawing black backgrounds, and I don’t think I’ve used the same method twice for any o them!

So if there is a formula, I don’t have it.

In a recent post, I talked about drawing dark and black backgrounds quickly using colored pencils, so I recommend you take a look at that if you’re doing backgrounds.

That method probably won’t work as well if you doing a portrait, or adding black to a part of your drawing that isn’t the background.

Nor does it specifically answer the questions asked here, so I’ll refer you again to that post, then answer your questions below. Deal?

Indigo Blue, Magenta and Black

I’m not familiar with the idea of mixing Indigo Blue and Magenta with Black to get a darker black, so I tried it for myself. But I’m always looking for ways to do things better, and that includes drawing the blackest black I can.

So I did a quick sample combining Prismacolor Indigo Blue, Magenta, and Black, layering each color in that order with medium pressure. I did two layers of each color before adding the next. The result is on the left of the sample below.

How to Draw the Blackest Black in Colored Pencils

Then I repeated the process, adding two more layers of Indigo Blue followed by Magenta and ending with Black. Once again, I used medium pressure. The center part (between the blue and magenta lines) of the illustration shows two rounds of color.

For both rounds, I used the same stroke, a back-and-forth horizontal stroke. The resulting coverage was good, but not perfect. So for the third round, I used circular strokes, heavier pressure (though not yet burnishing) and added two more layers of each color in the same order. I had to burnish the black in order to make it stick, but that did produce a nice, solid black color.

So the best way to draw the blackest black color may be as simple as adding more layers. I know I stopped on drawings way too soon when I was learning colored pencils. Try another round of color and see what happens.

Why Even the Blackest Black Sometimes Looks Purple

The reason you get a purplish-black when you layer Indigo Blue, Magenta, and Black is that red and blue make purple. It doesn’t matter how you layer them—blue first then magenta, or magenta first, then blue—they will create some shade of purple. The Black doesn’t change that; it merely darkens it.

I can see the usefulness of a nice, deep purple black, but since that’s not what you want, let’s look at ways to correct that.

Indigo Blue and Black; Magenta and Black

I did the next two samples differently.

For the first one, I layered Black with heavy pressure, then layered Indigo Blue over that with heavy pressure. I didn’t use Magenta because I wanted to see what sort of Black resulted with just two colors.

The second sample combined Black and Magenta, with Black under the Magenta. It too produced a nice black, but with more of a pink cast.

Finally, for the sake of comparison, here’s a swatch of just black.

The blue-black is much nicer and more satisfying than the pink black. So the easiest way to neutralize the purple in your black is to simply not use Magenta. Layer Indigo Blue and Black until you have fully saturated color.

Another way to neutralize the purple is to add a complementary color to the three colors you use to make black. Orange is the complement of purple, but orange is a pretty strong color, so I think I’d try an earth tone. Burnt Sienna, maybe, or Terra Cotta. A color that’s already fairly low in brightness.

Using a Different Black

You mentioned using Black from different brands of pencils (at least that’s how I understand your comments.)

This is a good idea, since some companies have more than one shade of black. The Derwent Lightfast line, for example, has two blacks with slightly different tints.

Derwent Drawing Pencils also have a nice black and they’re a soft pencil that would layer over other pencils quite well.

Companies don’t always use the same manufacturing formulas, either, so it’s possible one company’s black covers better than another.

I’ve had success mixing brands of pencils and have no problem buying one color from a particular brand if I think it might help me do whatever I need to do. For example, I bought a Luminance White and Derwent Drawing Chinese White because I thought they might be more opaque than either Prismacolor or Polychromos. They weren’t significantly more opaque, but I now have two nice white pencils to add to my full sets of other brands.

So by all means, try black pencils from other sets.

How Many Layers Can You Draw Over Texture Fixative?

Everything I’ve seen and heard about this product indicates that you can alternate between colored pencil and Texture Fixative indefinitely. The Brush & Pencil website says, “virtually unlimited colored pencil layering.”

A lot depends on the paper you’re working on, though. Texture Fixative is made for use on heavy, non-absorbent papers like sanded art papers. You can use it on heavy watercolor paper (140lb or more) but you have to gesso the paper before starting to draw.

Texture Fixative adds texture to a drawing, and it’s made for colored pencil, so it bonds well and remains archival. I don’t know from personal experience how many times you can add Texture Fixative and draw over it, but it’s much more versatile than anything else currently on the market.

Those are My Thoughts on How to Draw the Blackest Black in Colored Pencils

I hope I’ve helped you with new ideas for drawing the blackest blacks possible with colored pencils.

Try these ideas and if they don’t work for you, don’t use them again. Hopefully you’ll find exactly what you need among them.

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The Best Way to Transfer a Drawing to Black Paper

Today Rhonda asks how to transfer a drawing to black paper. Here’s her question:

What is the best way to transfer an image onto black or other dark colored paper?

Thank you for your question, Rhonda.

Most of us prefer not to make a line drawing on the paper on which we want to put our final artwork. It’s easier to develop a line drawing on other, less expensive paper until it’s the way we want it. Then the finished line drawing can be transferred to more expensive paper without worry.

The Best Way to Transfer a Drawing to Black Paper

Using black paper with colored pencils is both fun and frustrating from the very start. What works so well with white or light-colored papers works poorly or not at all with black paper.

Transferring a drawing is one of those things that’s more frustration than fun. But there are ways to transfer line drawings.

4 Ways to Transfer a Line Drawing to Black Paper

I’d like to share four ways to transfer line drawings to black paper, but I need to start by saying I’ve only used two of them. The other two are intriguing ideas suggested by artists who work with colored pencils and pastels. I believe they are reliable, but have no first-hand experience with them.

So let me begin with the two methods I have used.

Personally Proven Transfer Methods

#1: Light-Colored Greaseless Transfer Paper

The best transfer method for almost any paper is greaseless transfer paper.

Transfer paper (in the art-sense) is paper made with a coating on one side that can be moved from the transfer paper to another piece of paper with very little pressure. Saral is probably the most recognizable name in transfer papers, but there are others.

Saral makes four different colors. Basic graphite gray is great for white paper and most light colored papers. Cream is ideal for darker papers. They also make yellow and red. I haven’t found much need for red or yellow transfer paper, but that may be exactly what you need.

To use transfer paper, mount your drawing to the drawing paper, then slip a piece of transfer paper in between. The transferring surface must face down, and be against the paper onto which you want to transfer your drawing.

This is my favorite transfer method because it’s the easiest, fastest, and cleanest. Transfer paper doesn’t usually leave smudges even if you rest your hand on it while transferring your drawing.

It also makes a clear, crisp line that doesn’t smudge, and it’s archival.

Transfer paper can be used several times. It’s also less expensive than a projector, although you will eventually have to buy more paper.

#2: Carboning the Back of the Drawing

Carboning a drawing is shading the back of the drawing with graphite. The name comes from the graphite, which is really a form of carbon ground into powder, then bound together to form lead. Carboning works extremely well with white papers, and most light- and medium-dark papers.

When you want to transfer a drawing to black paper, however, carboning with graphite isn’t quite as useful unless you’re able to see the shine of the graphite against the black of the paper. You will have to be extremely careful in handling the paper after the drawing has been transferred, however, or you risk losing the lines.

But you can still carbon the back of your drawing a light-colored colored pencil, white charcoal or a dry pastel in a light color. You have to be careful with the charcoal and pastel because they do not stick as well as graphite or colored pencil, and may smudge your drawing paper. However, a little mounting putty easily removes most of the smudges.

Image by VISLOQ from Pixabay

I recently read the comments of someone who lightly sprayed their carboned drawing with workable fixative to stabilize the graphite somewhat. That may also work with white charcoal or dry pastel.

Carboning the back of the drawing is one of my go-to transfer methods and I use it whenever I work on a drawing paper that’s too opaque to use on a light box. I always use graphite as the transfer method.

But I have no personal experience using white charcoal or dry pastel with this method, so experiment before using it on a good drawing. Do a test transfer or two and see if it works for you before you carbon the back of your drawing.

I do have limited experience using colored pencils as the transfer medium. The results were adequate, but not such that I’ve used the method a lot. The transferred lines weren’t always very clear, and sometimes the colored pencil with which I shaded the back of the paper left crumbs sticking to the good drawing paper. Being colored pencil, they were often difficult to remove and sometimes difficult to draw over, as well.

The transfer lines won’t smudge, but you won’t be able to remove them, either, so use a color that blends into your drawing as you finish it.

If you choose to use a colored pencil, a soft pencil will be the best transfer medium. Prismacolor Soft Core would be a good choice, but any soft pencil will also work. And once again, it’s important to experiment first. If colored pencil as a transfer medium doesn’t work for you, it’s far better to find that out on scrap paper!

Transfer Methods I Haven’t Used

#3: Projector and a Light Colored Pencil

Projectors are one of the more popular methods of transferring line drawings. The projector projects your line drawing onto paper and all you have to do is trace the drawing. You’ll have to use a light colored pencil for tracing on dark or black papers, and you also have to make absolutely certain the paper and projector are parallel. Otherwise, you could end up with a distorted drawing.

Transfer a Drawing to Black Paper with a projector.
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

I’ve never used a project for this particular task, so cannot offer a personal recommendation. However, several artists whose YouTube channels I follow use projectors, and they swear by the process. Some of them have published videos on the process. If you’re interested, a quick search will produce dozens of results.

If you have a projector, or you have the money to buy one, this might be your best long-term option. But don’t buy the first projector you find. Do a little research to find the best projector for your needs. Personally, I would begin with some of the on-line art supplies like Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama. Even if you don’t buy from them, you can get a good idea about the projectors considered to be “art projectors.” Then you can look for those elsewhere.

Perhaps you don’t have the money for a projector though, or you don’t have the time to do the research, wait for delivery, then learn how to use one. You’re looking for quick and not necessarily pretty. Consider this idea.

#4: Impressed Lines

I heard someone somewhere say they transfer their drawings by impressed lines. I wish I could remember where I heard it, but I think the artist was using Clairefontaine Pastelmat.

I’ve never used this method to transfer a drawing, but in a pinch, I think transferring a line drawing by impressing is workable. Here’s how I would do it.

First, put your line drawing on tracing paper, then mount it to the drawing paper and lightly trace it again. Use a sharp pencil or stylus and medium-light pressure or lighter. Lines need to be clear enough to see, but you don’t want them so deep, you can’t fill them in.

Next, I’d go over the drawing again and outline those shapes with a colored pencil. Use a color that fits each part of the drawing whenever possible. That way, you won’t have so much difficulty concealing the impressed lines.

I have a piece of black paper that needs the drawing transferred and I’m giving serious thought to trying this method to see what happens. If it works, I’ll let you know.

Actually, if it doesn’t work, I’ll let you know that too!

There are Four Ways to Transfer a Line Drawing to Black Paper

Two personally proven, two unproven (so far as I’m concerned.)

They aren’t the only ways to transfer a line drawing to black paper, but they will get you started. I hope you find one of them helpful.

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How to Draw Whiskers over Watercolor Pencil

Today’s question comes from Hendrik, who wants to know how to draw whiskers over watercolor pencil.

Anyone who draws animals has to draw whiskers sooner or later. They’re such a small part of most animal art, but believe it or not, they can make or break a piece. It’s important to get them correct.

Here’s Hendrik’s question.

Hi Carrie,

I work with Carand’ache Supracolor soft pencils ( water-soluble ) mostly on Canson mi-teintes paper.

I like  to draw animals. But animals have whiskers, and there is my problem.

What is the best material to use on top of those Supracolor soft -pencils to get a nice, clear and very white whisker.

I’ve tried so many different methods (white metal paint, very sharp pencils, Aquarelle paint, gel pen …) but none of them seem to work really well. 

Thanks for your help. Best regards.

Before I go any further, thank you for the question and for the details you included. Those extra details help me provide a specific answer instead of something more generic. Given the number of methods you’ve already tried, generic is the last thing you want, right?

How to Draw Whiskers over Watercolor Pencil

I also need to let you know that although I’m familiar with Caran d’Ache’s watercolor pencils, I’ve never used them. Derwent Watercolor pencils are the only artist quality watercolor pencils I’ve used. As good as they are, they’re probably not quite in the same league with Supracolor.

But I think I can share a couple of ideas that might help you draw whiskers more realistically.

Having said all that, let me now answer the questions as you’ve presented them.

The Best Way to Draw Whiskers over Watercolor Pencil

In my opinion, the absolute best way to create any light colors over colored pencil is with Brush & Pencil’s texture fixative and Titanium White. Most of the demos I’ve seen have been over traditional colored pencils, but I see no reason it wouldn’t also work over watercolor pencils. Especially if you used traditional pencils over the watercolor pencils.

However, the Brush & Pencil produces require a non-absorbent surface that’s also fairly thick and sturdy. 140 pound watercolor paper would be acceptable if you gessoed it first. Canson Mi-Teintes paper mounted on a rigid backing would also work if you gessoed it first.

(If you want to work on a toned surface—which is why you’re probably using the Mi-Teintes in the first place—tint the gesso with acrylic paint before gessoing the paper.)

That probably sounds like a lot of work to you. It does to me. So you might also consider working on a sanded art paper on a rigid backing. The texture of sanded art papers is perfect for the Brush & Pencil products.

Texture Fixative and Titanium White are good for what you want to do because they’re brushable. Apply them with a small brush to “paint” whiskers, fine hairs, and other details over your drawing. If that looks too white, shade or tint them with colored pencil.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know if you can work directly on watercolor pencil with these products, but Alyona Nickelsen, the artist who developed these products, will be able to answer your questions.

Drawing Whiskers by Preserving Whites

The next best way to draw whiskers is by preserving the white of the paper. Outline larger shapes and work around them when you layer color.

That’s going to be difficult with whiskers, though, so you might try standard watercolorist methods of applying frisket.

Frisket is a fluid substance you can brush onto paper, then let dry. Once it’s dry, it’s impervious to water. You can do several layers of watercolor pencil washes over it and it keeps the paper clean and dry.

It ruins brushes, but inexpensive craft brushes allow you to paint potentially fine lines before you do any color work.

Masking film is another alternative, but it’s going to be very difficult to cut into whisker shapes and put on the paper unless you have a very steady hand and a good eye for that sort of thing.

Neither frisket fluid nor masking film should remain on your paper for more than a day or two. If left too long, they may damage the paper when you remove them.

Drawing Whiskers by Etching

I offer you this suggestion because I don’t know how you’re using your watercolor pencils. Logic suggests you use them wet (which is why most of us use watercolor pencils.) If you are painting with watercolor pencils, then etching will probably not yield the results you’re looking for.

Etching probably also will be limited in usefulness if you don’t put a lot of color on the paper.

The fact of the matter is that etching works best if you have contrasting colors in layers. Dark colors over light or light colors over dark. But it’s very easy to do.

Use a sharp tool like an X-Acto knife or Slice ceramic knife to scratch color off the paper. The thicker the color, the more effective this method is. But even with a moderate number of layers, you may be able to etch out enough whiskers for them to show.

Retouch Varnish, Then Draw Whiskers

The final suggestion has probably the least chance of working, but it has been useful to me in the past, so I offer it now to you.

When the drawing is ready for whiskers, spray it lightly with a retouch varnish made for colored pencils (if you can find one.) Retouch varnish made for dry media would probably also be acceptable.

Spray the drawing once with a light coat of fixative, let it dry, and spray it again. When it’s dry this time, you may be able to draw whiskers with a sharp pencil.

How to Draw Whiskers over Watercolor Pencils - Retouch Varnish

Retouch varnish has made it possible for me to add a couple more layers of color or details to some drawings. It’s usefulness is limited, but it may be worth a try.

If you do decide to use it, test it on a sample first. You want to make sure it doesn’t discolor your work before you use it on a finished or nearly finished drawing.

Sometime ago, I described how to varnish a finished drawing. The demo for that article involved final finish, but you can use the same method for retouch varnish.

Those are my best suggestions on how to draw whiskers over watercolor pencil.

I wish I had better council for you, but I don’t use watercolor pencils very often, and mostly only for landscapes and backgrounds. Consequently, I just haven’t had much opportunity to draw whiskers over watercolor pencil!

I hope you got some good ideas, though. Let us know how things work out, whether they go well or not.

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How to Draw a Wave Line Drawing

Welcome to Q&A December! We begin the month with a question I’ve been asked more than once: how to draw a wave. Here is Gail’s question:

Hi Carrie,

How do you do a line drawing of waves and then how do you draw the mist and foam from the water?


Overall… water is what bugs me. I never know how much to put into a line drawing when it comes to ripples and highlights, or foam or spray. 


Gail

Thank you for the question, Gail.

I know beyond all shadow of doubt that you’re not alone in wanting to know how to draw waves and water in other forms. In fact, questions about drawing water are among the questions most often asked most artists.

How to draw a wave line drawing

How to Draw a Wave

Since Gail’s question specifically deals with making a line drawing, I’ll show how I make a line drawing of a wave. I’ll also say up front that this is how I make a freehand line drawing of anything I might want to draw, but especially landscape subjects.

Before you start drawing.

Take a few minutes to look at your subject. I don’t mean a quick glance, either. Look for the big shapes. The colors and details are no doubt what first drew your attention, but ignore those for now. Instead ask yourself the following questions.

What shape best describes this wave? Is it triangular or more oval?

Which of the shapes is the largest, and how much larger is it than the shapes around it?

How do the shapes relate to one another in location?

If you have difficulty seeing the shapes, turn your reference photo upside down or flip it side to side. That gives you a different look at the image. Turning it upside down is especially effective in tricking your brain into seeing abstract shapes instead of a wave (or whatever else you’re drawing.)

And if you can’t get past those beautiful colors, make the reference photo gray scale!

Step 1: Mark the Borders of the Drawing

I’ve found over the years that the best way to get a more accurate line drawing is to first take a minute or two to define the picture plain (the drawing area.) You don’t need fancy tools to do this.

Two Ways to Mark Borders

A precut mat of the right size is an ideal tool for marking borders.

This is one of my precut mats. I have various sizes so I marked each one with the size of the opening so I could tell at a glance what size I’m looking at. Beats measuring them every time!

I lay the mat over the drawing paper and lightly draw along the inside edges. The result looks like this. Not very fancy, I admit, but this is just a line drawing after all!

How to Draw a Wave Line Drawing - Mark the Borders of teh Picture
Unless you’re drawing directly on the same paper you will be making the artwork on, you don’t need a fancy border. Just enough to mark the margins, as shown here.

If you prefer to draw directly on your drawing paper—which I do for landscapes—measure the picture plane on your drawing paper, then draw the borders more carefully. Or tape the paper to a back board so the tape marks the border, then proceed with the next steps.

How to Draw a Wave Line Drawing - Tape the margins when drawing directly on good drawing paper.
If you choose to start sketching your wave directly on the paper you plan to use for the finished artwork, mark the borders of the drawing with tape when you mount the paper to your drawing board. Measure it first, so the corners are square.

Step 2: Rough in the Basic Shape

Start with the biggest shapes. Use light pressure to outline them. I’ve drawn this wave a little darker than I usually would so you could see it. I have such a naturally light hand, that my scanner cannot see my first marks!

Pay close attention to the relationships between the big shapes. Draw them as close to the reference photo as you can, but let’s be honest. No one is going to know if your shapes are not 100% accurate.

In the beginning, concentrate on the big shapes, their size compared to one another, and their placement to one another.

Vary the type of strokes to draw different parts of the wave.

Use different types of strokes to draw different parts of the wave, so you can tell the difference between rolling water, foam, and mist. Since mist rarely has clear edges, use dotted lines or simple dots to mark out where it will be in the drawing. You might even want to do this first, since mist will hide or obscure whatever is behind it.

This detail shows the types of marks I used to sketch this wave. The wave itself is a series of short, straight or slightly curving marks. The foam is sketched with wiggly or curving strokes that are also short.

Vary the way you make marks for the different elements of the composition.

The mist is barely suggested with a series of dots.

If it helps, draw these shapes with short lines as this detail shows. For some of us, it’s easier to draw short, straight lines rather than working out longer lines. Especially with very difficult subjects like this one.

Step 3: Add Smaller Details

When you’re satisfied you have the large, basic shapes correct (or as correct as you want them to be,) begin adding smaller details. Continue looking for shapes, but now look for the smaller shapes within the large shapes.

Also begin refining all the shapes. If you used short straight lines for the big shapes, start smoothing them out and making them look more like the curved shapes of the wave.

Continue using light pressure so you can draw over these lines if needed. Drawing with light pressure also means you can erase mistakes more completely.

This is also a good time to start creating the illusion of space or distance to your drawing by making the foreground shapes a little darker and more detailed than the background shapes.

I added a line in the left background to suggest another wave coming in and made the similar line on the right a little crisper.

Continue using light pressure and varying marks to add smaller shapes within the larger shapes.

Step 4: Refine Shapes and Continue Adding Details

Refine all of the shapes and continue adding details until you have as complete a drawing of the wave as you want. That will differ from artist to artist. Some prefer to keep the line drawing loose and to fill in the details at the rendering stage. Others want completely detailed line drawings before starting with color. The choice is yours.

However you draw a wave, it’s important to aim for capturing the character or personality of the wave rather than making an exact drawing.

Develop details as you refine shapes. Continue until the drawing is satisfactory.

One Note About Mist

When you start doing color work on your wave, it’s very important to mark out the mist first. Mist can be pretty opaque or fairly translucent, so you may be able to see some things through it. The best way I’ve found to draw believable mist is to work around it with the first few layers. Then lightly layer color over it and then lift color with mounting putty.

In Answer to Gail’s Question About How Much Detail to Include in a Line Drawing When You Draw a Wave

I have two answers to this part of Gail’s question.

Personal Preference and Line Drawing Detail

The first answer is that this is a personal preference matter. Some artists draw every visible detail, and with good reason. It’s so difficult to preserve some of those details if they’re not in the line drawing. It’s also very difficult to add them later if you accidentally cover them!

Some artists find highly detailed line drawings an absolute must. Other artists find them confusing and unhelpful. This won’t help you at all, but I have had occasion to experience both!

Style of Drawing and Line Drawing Detail

The second answer is that the level of detail you draw depends on your style of drawing. If you want to render highly detailed artwork, then it’s probably going to help you to draw as much detail as possible from the start.

But if you prefer a more painterly and less detailed end result, then you don’t need to draw quite as much detail in the line drawing.

Subject and Line Drawing Detail

I tend to draw detail based on my subject. For animals, and especially for portraits, my line drawings are much more detailed.

Most of my animal line drawings are quite detailed. That’s because everything needs to be in the right place in order to draw the proper likeness of my subject. From Palomino Horse Tutorial.

Landscapes, on the other hand, are usually just quick sketches and are drawn directly on the drawing paper!

This is the type of line drawing I typically do for landscapes. The details in landscapes tend to take on a life of their own and I prefer following to see where the details lead rather trying to force them into place.

That’s One Way to Draw a Wave

It’s not the only way, by any means, but when it comes to freehand drawing most types of landscapes, this is my go-to method.

When you’ve finished your drawing, it’s a good idea to set it aside for at least a day. Letting a fresh drawing sit overnight allows you to review it with a fresh eye the next day. That’s the perfect time for spotting errors in the drawing or finding things you might want to change.

And when it comes to colored pencil work, finding and fixing those mistakes before you start work with a colored pencil is far better than trying to fix the mistake after a few layers of color.