How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step

This week, I’d like to welcome fellow colored pencil artist Peggy Osborne to the blog to show us how to draw a long haired dog using her area-by-area method.

Please welcome her to the blog!

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog

by Peggy Osborne

I’m using Robert Bateman Series 110 lb. paper. It has slight tooth and is a nice paper for learning to draw in colored pencils. I use primarily Prismacolor pencils on all my work.

Step 1: Setting up the line drawing

I thought this little Chihuahua had such an intense look and such a beautiful coat that he would be fun to draw. The original image was from Pixabay.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog, The Reference Photo
Photo by HG-Fotografie on Pixabay

I first transferred the image onto my paper using transfer paper. A sketch is like a road map for me.

Step 1: The Line Drawing on Drawing Paper

Step 2: Start with the Eyes

I always start my portraits with drawing the eyes. I just love looking into the finished eye as I work as it makes me feel more connected to the subject.

Here I started out with Cream and Light Umber using light pressure and tiny circles. I used a number of colors to complete the eye, about 11 different colors all together.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Step 2: Blocking in the Eyes

More color is added to the eye, preserving the white highlight til the end.

I added more colors with light pressure, using Sand, Chocolate, Black Cherry, Dark Brown, and Indigo Blue in the iris with black.

I use some French Grey in the corner of the eye as white is not pure white.

Black is used to outline the eyeball and in the end I used Sienna Brown to lightly wash over the entire eye.

For the highlight in the eye, I used my colorless blender to bring the surrounding colors in toward the circle of the highlight to make it look natural.

I finished the eye rims with tiny circles of color using White in the highlighted areas and 70% French Grey and 50% Warm Grey and a touch of Black Grape to deepen the color.

Now on to the fur.

Step 3: Drawing the Fur Around the Eyes

I study the reference photo to see which way the fur grows and always follow the way it grows.

Using a sharp point and light pressure, I draw a few strands of dark fur with Sepia. Then I use White and Cream to lay in base colors before heading to the darker colors.

I usually work from light to dark with colored pencils. It’s easier to fix something as you go this way.

Next, I use Cream for a base layer and then Light Umber. This is combined with Beige and Chocolate to bring the colors to life. I use Sepia and Dark Brown in the darker areas, and White and Cream on the lightest areas above the eye. I layer a light wash of Rose Peach over the area when complete.

On the top of the head, I use Sepia to add very fine strokes of fur in the darkest areas. This will blend in later with the subsequent layers of color.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Step 3: Drawing the Fur

I add a base layer of Cream and Light Umber, covering completely.

Then with very sharp pencils and direction strokes, I add fur lines around the eyes, using some of the colors already used.

Then I use the colorless blender to gently blend all this together and smooth it out so the tooth of the paper doesn’t show. I can add more color with a sharp pencil even after burnishing.

Remembering to follow my reference photo where the colors are darker or lighter, I use a sharp Black pencil and then Sepia to add fine hairs all around the face. I leave the lighter areas light.

I use Mineral Orange in some of the areas that show this color on the reference to stay true to the reference. Following the reference is important especially when doing commissions.

Step 4: Drawing the Muzzle and Nose

Now comes the fun part: White fur around the nose.

White fur is full of reflecting color and once you realize that white is not just white, it is so much easier. I used a combinations of colors to create the nose, using strokes in the direction of hair growth.

The darker colors were used in the shadow areas. 20% French grey, 50% French Grey and 50% Warm Grey.

I also used Greyed Lavender in the shadows and to add random hairs here and there.

I burnished this with white. Once this was done I finished with my black pencil with a sharp point, creating very light hairs in the areas that show in the reference photo, around the nose, under the nose and lip.

Step 5: Drawing the Longer Hair around the Face

Drawing the cheek area is pretty much just repeating the same process from beginning to end. I first layer Cream as a base over the whole area. Then adding hair like strokes, I add Light Umber avoiding the light areas. Then I wash Rose Peach over all.

Next, I add lots of light layers to get the depth I want. Here I have added Mineral Orange just over the Light Umber areas that I did previously, avoiding the light areas on the cheeks. I do a light wash with Cream over the whole area. With a sharp point and light pressure I add more Light Umber in the same areas, then I wash the whole area with Rose Peach.

Following the reference photo closely, I want to darken the areas around the cheek area. Using a fine hair-like stroke with Dark Brown and Sepia, I go all around the outside of the cheek. I also use a few light strokes of Black in some areas just to darken it.

Step 6: Drawing the Fur on the Chest

Most of the chest hair is white so I start out using 20% French Grey and Greyed Lavender. I lay out some fine hair-like strokes where I will be adding detail later.

On the areas under the cheek area I add strokes of Beige and Rose Peach.

This process is repeated several times with the same colors from the beginning, then I use 50% French Grey and Dark Brown all around the outside of the fur following the details in the photo.

Continue using the same colors on the same areas building up layers and fur texture. I use white to burnish the area, which helps blend the colors together. Then I add more layers of color with a sharp point and a little heavier pressure as the layers are building up.

The final touches of his chest are pretty much just continuing to add the same colors in the same areas building up the layers.

After getting it almost to completion, I take my black pencil and darken some of the dark outside area even further. I stroke up and down so the the stroke cuts into the lighter area making it look more natural.

Then with my white pencil and a sharp point, I draw light hairs down into the dark areas, making sure to wipe the tip each time so that the dark color doesn’t stick in areas I don’t want it.

As a final touch I take the Brush & Pencil’s Titanium White mixture and paint very light hair whiskers around the mouth and light hairs in the chest fur. This is a wonderful product designed to be used with color pencil. I will use it in the ear area for the fine ear hairs.

Now on to the ears.

Step 7: Drawing the Ears

First I wash of Rose Peach inside the ears then wash over that with White to smooth it out. Most of this area will be covered with hair but I want it to show through the hair.

On the outside of the ear, I draw fine hair-like strokes of Beige and Light Umber, then I wash the whole area with 10% French Grey.

Following the reference photo, I continue the same method of drawing fine hairs on the outside with Dark Brown then a row of Mineral Orange below the brown. I draw some fine hairs inside the ear so I can go back and darken them when ready.

Continuing with the outside of the ears, I draw hairs with Light Umber and Sepia. Then I add a few black hairs along the outside area.

I use Cream and 10 % French Grey to wash the area lightly. I use a sharp point and fairly heavy pressure to blend everything together with a colorless blender. Even when blending, I always follow the way the hair grows. This covers the white dots of paper making it smooth and brings a nice point to the hairs.

You can see where I used the colorless blender to smooth the ears with a very sharp point.

I added more layers of Sepia, Light Umber and Black to the areas to add more depth to the ears.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step: The Finishing Touches

Step 8: The Finishing Touches

Finishing up this little fellow with some last touches.

A comparison photo shows me where I need to make changes or adjustments. I needed to deepen the inside of the ears so used Clay Rose to get the color closer to the photo reference.

I also added some Sepia and Black in the areas that needed stronger darks.

Then I went back in with Titanium White mixture to add more highlights where needed.

Then last but not least, I used a sharp point to add the whiskers with black.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Color Comparison

Another trick which helps me find my values is turning the comparison photo into a black and white photo.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Value Comparison

And this is the finished portrait.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step: The Finished Portrait

Thank you, Peggy, for showing us how you draw a long haired dog.

If you enjoyed Peggy’s tutorial, please tell her in the comments below.

And if you have questions, please ask them. We artists love talking about our work!

About Peggy Osborne

Peggy is an accomplished self-taught artist living in Canada specializing in creating beautiful realistic portraits of pets and family members. She’s had an on going love affair with colored pencils, loving their simplicity, for as long as she can remember.

She started out using graphite pencil so it was an easy transition to carry on with colored pencils. Love of animals and art go hand in hand. Peggy is in awe of what can be accomplished with colored pencils.

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy.

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

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.

Colored pencil artist Peggy Osborne and I are working on a full-length tutorial on drawing a long-haired dog. Peggy’s doing all the hard work, but she’s doing a fantastic job. That tutorial is coming on Saturday and I know you’ll love it.

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 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.

The condition (long or short, straight or curly) and color is vital to capturing a good likeness of your canine subject.

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.

Keep the setting in mind when drawing dogs and puppies. Sometimes, the dog’s surroundings are as important as the dog.

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!

Look for the light in any portrait. How the light falls on the dog (or any subject) can either bring the portrait to life or keep it flat and uninteresting.

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 basic tips with suggestions for drawing three types of dog hair: Short, medium length, and long.

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

General Tips

  • Start with the best possible reference photo. You can’t draw what you can’t see.
  • Take extra time to map out the basic hair growth patterns and values in your line drawing. 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.

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.

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.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair Sample

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.

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.

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

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Reasons to Watch Videos of New Art Mediums

Today, I want to go off topic just a little bit and share a few reasons why every artist should watch videos of new art mediums once in a while.

As some of you know, I write freelance as well as draw and sometimes paint. I write about colored pencil topics (usually the business side of things) for Ann Kullberg’s COLOR Magazine. I also write about a variety of more general art topics for EmptyEasel and occassionally contribute to Colored Pencil Magazine.

Most often, I come up with my own topics, but I also “write to order” when an editor has a particular topic they want an article about or when a reader asks a question.

That’s how I came to watch painting and drawing videos on different mediums last month.

Reasons to Watch Videos of New Art Mediums

The editor of EmptyEasel suggested some time ago that I write a couple of link articles, one on 50 great painting videos and another on 50 great drawing videos. When I endured a bout of problems with my right wrist and drawing or painting was off limits, it seemed like a good idea to watch videos. (I could not only “work,” I could ice my wrist, too. Win-win!)

I saw a lot of wonderful artists creating wonderful art in a wide range of different mediums; some familiar, some previously unknown. It was such an informative time that I had to share some of what I learned with you!

Why You Should Watch Videos of New Art Mediums

You Discover New Mediums

The best reason to watch videos that are not about colored pencil is that you learn about new art mediums.

You may love your colored pencils and not currently be thinking about trying a different medium, but seeing what else is available is still helpful. If for no other reason, it broadens your horizons. (Did you know there was such a thing as resin painting? Neither did I!)

Those broader horizons may lead you to try something new, or may help you improve your colored pencil work.

Maybe both!

You Learn New Methods

Even if you don’t ever try a new medium, seeing how artists use those mediums can provide keys to using your own medium.

For example, I’ve seen oil painters, gouache painters, and watercolor painters applying paint in what appears to be haphazard strokes. When they zoom in on their brush work, the image doesn’t look like much.

But take a look at the entire painting, and all of a sudden those “random” strokes look very much like trees on a distant hill or variations in color in a wave.

Here’s something else I’ve picked up that applies to colored pencil: Most of those artists make very deliberate strokes. Strokes that are short, purposeful, and often follow long pauses to reload brushes AND consider the next stroke.

How does that affect me (and maybe you, too?) It shows me that my sometimes rushed manner of making marks on paper may actually hinder me in some cases. Yes. There is a time for quick washes of color, but there are also times to slow down and be very deliberate in applying color.

You May Find a Medium You Want to Try

That’s been my experience.

Of course, you have to remember that part of me wants to try every medium I see when I see someone doing wonderful things with it. The day I watched egg tempera painting videos, I wanted to start cracking eggs and making paint.

The day I watched gouache artists, I wanted to try that medium, and so on down the list through acrylics, watercolor, casein and even resin painting.

That may be your experience too.

But there are a few of those mediums that intrigue me beyond mere whim. Mediums like gouache and egg tempera might work as under paintings for colored pencil work. Who wouldn’t enjoy experimenting with that?

Get Inspired!

Even if none of the other reasons to watch videos in other mediums happens to you, what about the sheer inspiration of seeing artists create?

When you find yourself in the creative doldrums, try watching videos of other mediums. They can give you a fresh look at art and, if you watch long enough, a fresh look at your art.

Those are just a few reasons you should watch videos in other mediums.

There are more. In fact, the reasons are as varied as all of you. Each of you will find other reasons after you take the time to explore new mediums by video.

Would you like to see the best videos I watched? Read Learn to Paint with 50+ Free Painting Videos on YouTube! and Learn to Draw with 50+ Free Drawing Videos on YouTube. Both articles include videos for artists at all levels of expertise.

Yes, even you.

I guarantee it.

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What’s Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class?

Every artist has an ideal colored pencil class or workshop in mind. I’d like to know yours.

What Does Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class Look Like?

Sometimes On-Line Art Classes Aren’t Enough

Learning art is one of those things best learned in person.

Whether you’re in a classroom setting with everyone working on the same project, an independent study group with each artist working on his or her own project, or one-on-one in the studio, you have the best chance of learning new skills and improving existing skills when you and your teacher are in the same room.

I’m Thinking about Starting Local Classes

Over the years, people have asked if I did local classes or private lessons. So far, the answer has always been “no.”

I’m thinking about changing that this Fall.

Plans are still in the very early stages, so this is the perfect time for me to get your thoughts on what an ideal colored pencil class looks like.

Possible Classes

A few general ideas are floating around in my thoughts these days. Nothing concrete to be sure, but enough to share basic details on a few possible classes.

Graphite for Beginners

Four or five weeks beginning with basic introduction to the tools and techniques of using graphite. Students would do a different drawing each week.

Colored Pencils for Beginners

Four to six weeks beginning with basic introduction to the tools and techniques of using colored pencil including layering and blending (without solvents or special supplies.) Students would then either do a different subject each week or work on a beginner’s tutorial kit such as one of these for the length of the class.

Colored Pencils for Intermediate to Advanced Artists

Ongoing, weekly. Each student brings a project to work on and I help them. No end date. Come and go as you’re able, pay as you go.

Got a Better Idea?

I’m open to suggestions. As I said at the beginning, planning is still in the very early stages, so if you have an idea or suggestion or something you’d love to work on but haven’t seen anywhere else, let me know.

And if you don’t live close enough to make the trip to Newton on a regular basis, but would be interested in a two- or three-day workshop, I’d be thrilled to hear your ideas for that, too.

So What Does Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class Look Like?

To make it easy to share your thoughts, ideas, comments, suggestions, or anything else I’ve set up a survey. It’s easy to do and will take only two minutes to describe your ideal colored pencil class.

Ready? Just click this link to take the survey.

Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Prismacolor has been around for decades. For years, they were the only brand available, so a lot of us have old Prismacolor pencils still in our pencil boxes (or tins, tubs, cups, or whatever.)

Are those old pencils still good to use?

That’s what one reader wrote to ask.

Carrie,

I was reading “Are Prismacolors Right for You?” and have a question.

I have an enormous stash of Prismas, all purchased prior to 2017, probably mostly 2005 thru 2010.  Though I do know there are questions of lightfast issues with specific colors (smugly pointed out to me by a somewhat accomplished oil painter,) do the issues you discussed in this article apply to the early pencils also?

I assume they mostly do not.  I had not experienced a problem with them during the time I was using them.

Recently, I bought a large set of Pablos and Derwents on recommendation which I like but the Prismas lay down beautifully and have a much different feel to them which I am used to and like.

I am not sure what to begin to replace them with.  Any suggestions?

I’ll continue to use the Prismas as your article suggest but for resale or commissions I will need something different.  I really hate to give them up. Thanks for your reply.

Cassandra Farris
Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Cassandra,

Thank you for your question!

What a fortunate artist you are! All those vintage Prismacolor pencils! Wow!

Giving Up on Prismacolor

Let me address Cassandra’s last comment first. There’s no reason for any fine artist to give up on Prismacolor Colored Pencils, even when doing work for resale. I, too, have purchased better pencils such as Faber-Castell Polychromos, and Derwent Watercolor Pencils, but still also use Prismacolor. The simple fact is that there is no pencil better at doing what Prismacolor does best.

A lot of artists do tire of issues such as cracking wood casing, breaking pigment cores, and gritty pigment cores and they choose not to use Prismacolor. But that’s a personal choice. I can completely understand giving up on a tool that causes such constant irritation!

Not all artists have experienced those kinds of problems on a regular basis, though. I didn’t think I’d ever had a problem with cracking wood casings until I saw the photo below, but that’s only one instance. It happened so long ago that I don’t remember the circumstances.

Old Prismacolor Pencils - Cracked Wood Casing

I don’t use the fugitive Prismacolor colors, but I don’t use fugitive colors in any brand if I’m planning to sell the art. For sketching, class work, or other “non-permanent work,” I use every color in every set!

So no, Cassandra, you don’t have to give up your Prismacolor pencils.

Now to the remaining questions.

Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Lets look at this question on two levels. First, the lightfast issue that Cassandra asked about. Then I’ll follow up with comments on general quality control issues.

Are Old Prismacolor Pencils Lightfast?

I don’t know whether the older colors are more lightfast or not. My gut reaction would be that some of the colors are probably less lightfast because of advances in the pigments used.

However, I don’t know that colored pencils were even being tested for lightfast issues back in those days because colored pencils weren’t then considered fine art materials. That happened more recently, with the “boom” in colored pencil popularity.

I also point to the fact that Caran d’Ache developed the Luminance line of pencils at the urging of the Colored Pencil Society of America. That group was calling for lightfast colored pencils. Luminance was the first response. Since Prismacolor existed at that time, it’s reasonable to conclude that they were not lightfast.

If you happen to have any of the old tins, you might look to see if there are color charts in them. You’re most likely to find the best information on the color charts.

You might also contact the Colored Pencil Society of America directly. I’m sure someone there would be able to either help you or point you in the right direction.

Are Old Prismacolor Pencils Higher Quality?

Prismacolors have declined in quality with every sale from one parent company to another.

They were first introduced as Eagle, then under the Berol name, then Sanford Prismacolor. In their earliest incarnations, I believe they were a high quality pencil. At least I don’t remember ever having unusually high instances of breaking pigment cores or any of the other problems associated with the pencils of today.

It does seem to me (based on personal experience) that every time the brand changed hands, there were sacrifices to quality. That seems to happen with a lot of products.

The issues I mentioned in my previous post don’t even apply across the board with Prismacolor pencils these days. A lot depends on the batch from which your pencils come, and perhaps where they were made. The distance they travel in shipping also may have a bearing on “quality control issues” because the pencils are made in more than one location.

About Replacement Colors

As far as finding replacement colors goes, you might try replacing individual colors with a sample of different brands. If you want to stick with the smooth lay down you get with Prismacolor, try Luminance, Blick studio, or most other wax-based artist grade pencils.

If color is your main concern, look for brands that have more lightfast versions of those colors.

Thanks again for your question, Cassandra! I know you’re not the only colored pencil artist in search of this information.


Do you have a question about colored pencils or anything related to them? Raise your hand and ask a question by clicking the button below. I will answer your question directly (even if I have to tell you I don’t know.)

Have a Question? Send me an email!

Colored Pencil Basics for Beginners

A few weeks ago, I talked about what you needed to buy if you want to get started drawing with colored pencils. This week, let’s take a look at a few colored pencil basics.

Colored Pencil Basics for Beginners

There’s so much to learn with any art medium that it can quickly get confusing. Confusing isn’t what I want to accomplish, so let’s stick with just a few of the essentials. Papers, pencils, pressure, and more.

Let’s begin with paper.

Colored Pencil Basics for Beginners

Colored Papers

If you’re thinking of using a colored paper, choose a color that works well with all parts of your artwork. The color of the paper should ideally provide a base color for the artwork.

For example, for a landscape on a rainy day, light gray or a light gray-green paper is ideal. Gray paper provides an excellent base for a gray sky or misty air with very little work. Gray-green paper provides a good base for the greens in the landscape but might be more problematic for the sky if the sky is light.

For this little landscape, I used light gray paper. All I had to do was add the colors for the sky (white and light gray) and the landscape.

West of Bazaar
West of Bazaar 5×7 on Gray Mat Board

This is not to say no other paper color would work. I drew a more recent “gray day” landscape on very light tan paper for a slightly different look.

White paper is also a good choice for both landscapes, but would have taken longer to draw.

The color of the paper affects the drawing, so choose a color that adds to the atmosphere or tone you want to set for the drawing.

Hard Lead Pencils

Using a pencil with a harder lead can be helpful for beginning a new drawing. Prismacolor Verithin pencils are much harder than Prismacolor Soft Core pencils. The two red pencils are Prismacolor Soft Core. They’re what people usually think of when they think of Prismacolor pencils.

Prismacolor makes a soft, thick lead pencil (top) and a thinner, harder leader pencil (bottom.) Combine hard and soft leads for best results.

The two pencils on the bottom are also Prismacolor pencils, but they’re Prismacolor Verithin. The leads are thinner and harder because they contain less wax binder.

They hold a point longer, and lay down less color even with heavy pressure. They are subsequently easier to lift or erase if you need to lighten an area or remove color altogether.

Oil-based colored pencils are generally harder than wax-based pencils so they’re also a good choice if you want to lay down a lot of layers, but don’t want to fill up the paper’s tooth too quickly.

Use light pressure in the early stages no matter what type of pencil you use.

Applying Pressure

It takes pressure to put color onto paper. Pressure is usually measured on a 10-point scale, with “0” being no pressure at all and “10” being burnishing pressure. Normal hand-writing pressure is generally considered to be “5” on the 10-point scale.

In most cases, it’s best to begin with light pressure and gradually increase pressure as you add more layers. It’s easier to correct or conceal mistakes drawn with light pressure.

It’s also easier to avoid getting too dark too quickly if you add layers and colors little by little.

Sharp Pencils

It’s important to keep your pencils well sharpened. The surface of most papers is made up of tiny hills and valleys. The difference between the tops of the “hills” and the bottoms of the “valleys” is what is called the paper’s tooth. The rougher a paper, the bigger the difference between the hills and valleys.

The deeper the tooth of the paper, the more layers or pressure it takes to fill in the “valleys.”

The sharper you keep your pencils, the better they reach all of the parts of the paper and the better they cover the paper.

You can also combine sharp pencils with heavier pressures to get good coverage on papers. Just don’t do this too early in the drawing because it flattens the tooth of the paper. That makes it more difficult to add more layers.

Sharp pencils are also ideal for drawing detail.

Blunt Can be Useful, Too

Blunt pencils are not always a bad thing. More paper shows through when you use blunt pencils, so color will appear more grainy.

Glazing color (applying a very think layer of color to tint color already on the paper) is best done with blunt or dull pencils in my experience. That’s because so much of the previous colors show through.

Top to Bottom: Very Blunt, Blunt, Dull. All three points can be useful in colored pencil art.

Using heavier pressure takes care of those paper holes (if you don’t want them.)

This method works best if you don’t plan to use a lot of color layers, since heavy pressure adds more wax binder as well as more color (assuming you’re using wax-based colored pencils.)

Getting Dark Without Getting Too Dark

Values are the most important tool you have to use. It’s more important to get the values right, than to get the color right.

It’s also important NOT to get too dark too early. Every layer of color darkens the shadows and middle tones.

It’s always better to stop short of what you think is the proper darkness. It’s much easier to darken shadows later than it is to lighten them.

Working On Everything At Once

Working the entire drawing at once (as opposed to finishing each area before moving on to the next) allows you to make adjustments throughout the process and keep the composition unified.

It’s not necessary to work in this fashion, but it can be helpful in establishing the initial layers of color.

One of my problems in my early drawings was avoiding seams. I always worked one section at a time and even when I used the same colors from one section to another, I could often tell where the two sections met—especially if I was working in an area of uniform color, like a grassy field. The best way I found to avoid this was to work over the entire area, one color at a time.

To Turn Your Paper or Not to Turn Your Paper

Turn the drawing if necessary to make it easier to apply color. Orient the drawing in a fashion that is most comfortable for the area you’re working on.  When doing large amounts of grass, for example, turn the drawing upside down so you can stroke toward yourself (which is more natural for most artists than stroking away). This will also reduce hand stress and give you a fresh perspective on the composition.

Reviewing Your Work

It can be productive and helpful to give your artwork a periodic check throughout the process.

Also try viewing it in a way other than normal. Ways to do this are:

  • Viewing it in a mirror
  • Looking at it upside down
  • Viewing it from a distance
  • Setting it aside and looking at it after a couple of days

Imbalances in drawing, values or colors can more easily be seen when you look at your artwork in a way other than the normal.

Photographing or scanning your artwork and viewing it on your computer screen can also reveal problem areas or areas that are not quite complete.

There’s a lot more to creating beautiful colored pencil art, but these colored pencil basics are enough to get you started. Master these and you’re well on your way!

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art

If you create art for income, and especially if you sell your original work, it’s key to know the best colors and brands to use. Not all colored pencils are created equal, and you do not want to produce art that fades with time.

That’s certainly one of my primary concerns. It also happens to be Joan Marie’s concern too.

OH Carrie!

I have used colored pencils for years, but mostly licensing my art, so the originals were not purchased.

NOW I am beginning to sell my originals and you have really helped me to face the facts that most bright colors fade! OH MY!

Could you please help us who sell our art for professional prices to know which brands and colors are the best and OH MY…

I guess there is no hope of art using bright colors to last with any colored pencil brand. SO SAD! Is this true…??

Thank you SO MUCH for all you are doing for us passionate for colored pencils!! (:

Joan Marie

To see what Joan is doing with colored pencils, visit her website.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art

Sadly, Joan’s conclusion that most bright colors fade—some of them very quickly—is true. Even among the better, more lightfast brands of colored pencils, there are some colors that fade.

Because that is such a universal thing, I’m going to answer Joan’s question in two parts. In Part 1, I’ll discuss the root cause for fading colors. The second part will list some of the brands of pencils that have the best selection of bright colors.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art

Basic Information about Pigments

After getting Joan’s email, I researched pigments. I had in my mind the idea that the problem was not with the manufacturing of art supplies, but with the pigments used in making various colors.

Turns out, I was right.

Paints, colored pencils, pastels, fabric dyes, and other “colorants” are all developed from the same basic pigments. These powdered pigments come from a variety of sources, and can be used individually or combined to create the colors that go into colored pencils, oil paints, watercolors, and other media.

Pigments come from two basic sources: Organic and inorganic.

Some pigments are lightfast by nature and some are not.

Inorganic Pigments

Metals are a common source of pigments. Colors with the words cadmium, chromium, cobalt, iron oxide, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, titanium, zinc or aluminum in their names come from metals.

Other inorganic sources of pigment are carbons (carbon black, ivory black, charcoal,) clay earth (yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber,) and ultramarine pigments (ultramarine, ultramarine green shade.)

These colors are usually “earthy” in appearance.

They are also among the most lightfast colors available. Although there is a range of blues, greens, yellows, and reds among these pigments, none of them are very bright.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art - Dry Pigment

Biological and organic pigments

Biological pigments are derived from plant and animal sources. Certain snails, for example, produce rich purples while Indian Yellow was said to be either plant sourced, or animal (there is debate over which is true.)

Other organic pigments produce such colors as Alizarin Crimson, gamboge, rose madder, and indigo.

As a rule, these pigments are brighter, but also less permanent than inorganic pigments.

Synthetic Pigments

With the advance of technology and industry, many naturally occurring pigments have been replaced in part or entirely by synthetic pigments. These pigments are often have very bright, intense shades and were developed by or for industry. They are generally very lightfast.

The Best Colors for Artists Who Want to Sell Their Work

If you want to create colored pencil work that maintains original appearance for a long time, the best colors to use made from inorganic or synthetic sources.

So how do you know which pigments went into each color?

Most manufacturers list technical information for their products somewhere on their website. That information often includes the pigments used for each color.

Some also print that information right on their product. M. Graham Oils, for example, lists not only the lightfastness and transparency of the color, but the pigments used to create the color.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art - Oil Paint Labels

Don’t you wish colored pencil manufacturers did that?

Of course, pencils are much too small to have all this information printed on each one. For those of you who are more technically minded, you can get the same information by contacting the manufacturer of your favorite pencils.

The rest of us must rely on manufacturer lightfast testing and labeling!

In general, avoid pinks, purples, and most bright reds.

In other words, as Joan put it, most bright colors fade.

Does that mean there’s no hope? Not at all!

The Best Brands for Artists Who Want to Sell Their Work

The cost of pigment is among the biggest factors in the cost of a colored pencil, no matter what the color. The less expensive the original pigment, the less expensive the finished pencil.

More expensive pencils are made with better pigments. Pigments that are more lightfast to begin with. That’s part of the reason they’re more expensive.

The best option for the artist who wants to create artwork to sell is to start with a set of favorite pencils, then buy open stock, and choose the most permanent colors from each brand.

However, some companies take such care in selecting pigments and making their colors, that buying full sets is a safe investment.

(Yes, there are only three brands of pencils on this list. There are a lot of very good colored pencils on the market, but since the purpose of this post is lightfast bright colors, I’m only including those I could find that have more permanent bright colors.)

Faber-Castell Polychromos

I have a full set of Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils and most of them are rated very good or excellent for lightfastness. In fact, of the 120 colors, I wouldn’t use only two.

Polychromos have a beautiful range of pinks, purples, reds, and oranges and they are available open stock, so if you only need lightfast bright colors, you can probably find them on-line.

Caran D’Ache Luminance

Caran d’Ache Luminance colored pencils are also very lightfast. A full set consists of 76 pencils, including some nice yellows and oranges, and a few pinks and purple. Every color is rated 1 or 2.

They are expensive, but they are also a very good investment.

Derwent Lightfast

Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils are a new addition to Derwent’s already excellent line of colored pencil products.

As I write this post, there are only 36 colors available, but every one of them has the highest possible lightfast ratings. The original set is mostly earth tones. Creams. Browns. Earthy greens and blues. They’re perfect for landscape and animal artists.

However, Derwent Lightfast also includes a couple of shades of purples that are very lightfast.

An additional 36 colors are rumored to be released laster this year.

So What are the Best Colored Pencil Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art?

There is no easy answer.

Finding the best colors that are bright AND lightfast is an ongoing challenge for most colored pencil artists. Manufacturers find new ways to create lightfast bright colors on a regular basis.

Every artist will find different companies and colors to suit their work best, so the bottom line is to do your own research, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Portrait of a Black Horse Class

The newest email drawing class to launch is the portrait of a black horse class. This class features a shining black horse wearing a bridle and blue ribbons.

If you enjoy drawing horses, this is the class for you.

Portrait of a Black Horse

The class project is Black Tennessee Walking Horse II, shown below.

It contains all the same great content as the old Black Tennessee Walking Horse class, but in a redesigned format and with a new pricing structure.

Portrait of a Black Horse Class Project

The class is contains nine lessons; every one packed full of full color illustrations, step-by-step instruction, and great tips.

You will learn how to :

  • Layer colors to create rich, lively blacks
  • Draw short and long hair
  • Draw leather, metal, and ribbons
  • Correct small mistakes
  • Use the color of the paper to provide middle value
  • And more!

Skill Level

Beginner and higher.

This class is filled with information that students at any level can benefit from, but it includes a complete line drawing that can be printed and transferred to drawing paper.

It also includes color names at each step of the way for those who are not yet familiar with all the different colors and how they can be used.

I used Prismacolor pencils, but I’ve included color swatches with each lesson so you can color match if you have another brand of pencil.

Two Class Options

As with all current and upcoming email drawing classes, students now have two class options.

The Basic Class is for independent study students who want just the step-by-step lessons.

Basic class students get a new lesson each week, the reference photo, supplies list, and a line drawing they can use for a quick start.

The Premium Class is for students who want more than just lessons.

Premium class students get everything basic class students get, and personal feedback from me, the opportunity to ask questions, and to get personalized reviews of their project throughout the length the class.

Enrollment opens today. Class begins June 1.

Sign up for class now and get the supply list, reference photo, and printable line drawing immediately.

The first lesson delivers on June 1, and a new lesson follows every week until the class is completed.

Click the button below to learn more about the Portrait of a Black Horse class, or to enroll today!

Correcting an Uneven Color Layer

A reader recently asked for suggestions on correcting an uneven color layer. Since I know from personal experience that drawing smooth color is both important and difficult, I wanted to share a few tips with you.

Here’s the reader’s question summarized:

If the color that you layered isn’t even can one correct it and if so how?

Tips for Correcting an Uneven Color Layer

Learning from My Mistakes

I can speak of uneven color layers from personal experience.

I made mistakes with Afternoon Graze early in drawing the meadow in the background, and I know exactly how they happened.

Getting careless in finishing the first layer in the middle distance was my downfall. This detail reveals my careless drawing. You can see “streaks” of slightly darker color to the right and left of the horses.

Here’s a closer look at the area on the left.

I was drawing on Bristol, a very smooth paper that’s made for smooth color. Imagine how uneven this layer of color would have been on Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes!

Even on Bristol, it took a lot of work to cover the unevenness. However, if you look at that piece now, you can’t see those uneven patches. You’d never know they were there, under all that color, if I didn’t tell you.

Afternoon Graze after Correcting an Uneven Color Layer

The moral to that story is that there is hope for correcting uneven color layers, or at least covering them up. If I can do it, you can too.

Tips for Correcting an Uneven Color Layer

Covering up uneven color will take a little time and effort, as my example proves. But you probably already have all the tools you’ll need to smooth out the color. The six tips that follow require no special skills or purchases. You can implement them right now!

Continue layering color over the uneven color.

Make each additional layer as smooth and even as you can. It will take a lot of layers, but you will eventually cover the uneven areas. Careful stroking is the key.

Read Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils for two more tips on layering.

Keep your pencils sharp.

The sharper your pencils are, the more easily the tip goes into the tooth of the paper. The more color you get into the tooth of the paper, the more even the resulting color layer. So sharpen often.

Try holding your pencil in a more vertical position.

Holding the pencil in a more vertical position makes it easier to get the tip of the pencil into the tooth of the paper without damaging the tooth. Especially if your pencil is as sharp as you can make it.

Try a stippling (tapping) stroke with this grip for even better results.

Mix strokes from one layer to the next.

Using different types of strokes helps fill in the uneven color a little more quickly. You might use circular strokes for one layer, then cross hatch for the next, and use directional strokes for the following layer.

If you do mix strokes, keep them all close together and use light pressure so you don’t accidentally make the problem worse. Or create a new one!

Work slowly and carefully.

Perhaps most important of all is to work slowly and carefully. I created my problem by rushing through the work. Had I been more careful in putting color on the paper, I would have avoided the uneven color in the first place.

And I didn’t help myself by trying to hurry through making corrections, either!

So whenever you find yourself hurrying or getting careless in how you draw, take a break! You’ll save time in the long run.

Trust me!

Blending with odorless mineral spirits may help.

Solvents blend color by breaking down the binder and allowing the pigment to flow together. The more fluid the pigments become, the better they sink into the tooth of the paper.

You do need a sufficient amount of pigment on the paper for solvent to work, though. In the case of Afternoon Graze, solvent would not have helped me because there was so little color on the paper.

If your uneven color layer happens after you have a lot of color on the paper, you might try carefully blending that area with solvent before trying any of the previous tips.

However, blending will change the appearance of the color, even if just a little bit. That’s why I mention it last, and why I usually use it as a last resort.

Conclusion

So the next time you discover you’ve drawn an uneven color layer, don’t panic. Take your time. Keep your pencils as sharp as you can, and keep every new layer as smooth as you can.

It will all work out!

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Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils

Today continues a series of articles on colored pencil basics for those who are either new to colored pencils, or want to try them. Today, we’ll talk about the things you need to get started with colored pencils.

Since this is an article on the basics, I want to keep it simple. But I also I want to answer a few common questions asked by people considering colored pencils.

If that’s you, read on!

Why Colored Pencils?

With so many great mediums available, why should you consider colored pencils?

Reasons are a varied as the artists who use them. I dedicated an entire posts to why I like them and you can read it here.

For the sake of this post, I’ll share the most important reasons I prefer colored pencils.

  1. They’re great for creating detail.
  2. They’re clean. No messy cleanup. No migrating paint.
  3. You can take them anywhere!

Those are the three main reasons I started using colored pencils back in the mid 1990s. I needed a medium I portable medium ideal for producing the same, highly detailed portraits I was doing with oils.

Of course there are all the great colors, ease of use, all the ways you can blend with them, and all the great brands available. If you give them a try, I’m sure you’ll find your own reasons to love colored pencils.

What You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils

Okay. So I’ve convinced you that you are on the right track in considering colored pencils. Now for the big question. Just what must you have to get started?

But the artists you read about and whose work you admire talk about so many different pencils, tools, accessories, and methods, you can’t help but wonder:

I confess. I’m guilty of the same kind of talk. There are just so many really cool things available!

What do you really need to get started?

Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils

I was once right where you are now. Wanting to try colored pencils but not sure how to start.

Or what to buy or how much of it.

One of my goals with this blog and with every post is to help artists at all levels avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made. That includes clearing up some of the confusion about basic supplies.

Lets begin with three very simple lists.

I have a basic list, an expanded basic list, and an Everything & The Kitchen Sink List. There are so many useful, fun, and cool things on my to-be-purchased list, that this method is the best way I’ve found to prioritize purchases.

This post covers the first two lists because, quite frankly, I could make two or three posts just on the third list, and still not mention everything.

The Basic List contains the minimum amount of supplies necessary to get started with colored pencils. It is the most simple list, and the least expensive.

In most cases, you can find these items locally. No shipping or handling! If you’ve never tried colored pencils before and you’re not sure how you’ll like them, this is the list for you.

The Expanded Basic List is the Basic List plus a few additional items, as well as different types of some of the same items. Two kinds of paper, for example.

You may still be able to find many of the materials and supplies locally, but you will also probably have to do more searching. Online shopping will generally produce better prices and less footwork. If you’re serious about getting started with colored pencil—and sticking with it—this is your list.

If you want to start with the basic list, then add a few items from the other two lists after you’ve used colored pencils for a while, that’s perfect.

One Additional Word of Advice

It’s advisable to buy the best tools you can afford. A few artist quality pencils give you a better feel for the medium than a large set of student grade pencils. The higher quality pencils usually have less filler and a higher ratio of pigment to binder than less expensive pencils. That makes them easier to use and learn with.

You can buy less expensive pencils, if you wish. That’s how I started. But I wasn’t aware of the differences and soon found that cheap wasn’t always less expensive.

NOTE: I realize that not all of my readers are in the United States. If you are not and cannot get some of these supplies, substitute whatever is available where you live.

Now on to the lists!

The Basic List

Paper

I warned you the list was basic!

But paper can be confusing enough on its own, so here are some ideas to get you started.

One 9×12 pad of Rising Stonehenge paper, either white or toned. I recommend white. It’s easier to see what your pencils can do on white paper.

If you can’t get Rising Stonehenge, get a good, basic drawing paper like Strathmore 400 series paper.

Pencils

One 24-pencil set of Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils. This set has the basic colors (reds, blues, greens, yellows, black, and white) with enough variety to let you experiment, without burdening you with colors you may not use or unnecessary expense.

And not all of those.

NOTE: Roughly half the colors in the Prismacolor line are not lightfast, meaning they will fade over time or if exposed to direct sunlight. I’ve put together a list of the colors that are top-rated for lightfastness. If you can buy pencils individually and if you’re interested in making fine art, take this list with you when you shop.

Other Tools

Sharpener

A pencil sharpener is a must. A simple, hand-held sharpener is all you need to sharpen pencils. Prismacolor makes a very nice one for a few dollars, but you can also get them anywhere school supplies are sold.

A mechanical pencil sharpener gives you better sharpening with Prismacolor pencils, but I have also used hand-held sharpeners with good results.

The Kum sharpeners are a good value. The Kum wedge sharpener is made with two openings, one for standard size pencils, and one for larger pencils. It’s high quality and inexpensive, though you will probably have to buy it on-line.

Eraser

There are a number of good erasers available for colored pencil work, but I recommend getting a good click eraser, such as shown below. They are a pencil-like tool into which you can insert the eraser. They’re great for fine detail erasing as well as general erasing. The Pentel Clic Eraser is the one I use.

Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils - Click Erasers

Note: All of these items can be purchased locally most of the time. I can buy them all with a single trip to Hobby Lobby. If there’s an art store, office supply store, or university near where you live, you can probably find them all there.

The Expanded Basic List

These are tools you can add to the previous list or, in some cases, replace similar items on the previous list.

Paper

A pad of Bristol. Bristol paper is heavier than Rising Stonehenge. It’s available in two finishes: Vellum and Regular (or smooth). Regular surface is very smooth. The vellum finish is a little softer, but still not as soft as Stonehenge.

I’ve used both Bienfang and Strathmore. Both are good papers, but they’re so smooth, they don’t work well for my drawing methods. They are ideal for learning, though, and are the go-to papers for a lot of colored pencil artists.

You can also add larger pads of paper. Or smaller, whatever is your preference.

For a paper with more tooth, try a pad of Canson Mi-Tientes. They come in pads of assorted colors, earth tone colors, and grays. I’d suggest a pad of assorted colors, which includes white.

Pencils

Replace the 24-pencil set of Prismacolor Premier pencils with a 36-pencil or 48-pencil set of Prismacolor Premier pencils OR a small set of some other brand, such as Faber-Castell Polychromos, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor or Caran d’Ache Luminance. Be prepared to pay more for these, but better performance and more lightfast colors are worth the expense.

A colorless blender is also a handy tool to have. A colorless blender is essentially a colored pencil without pigment. It’s made with the same wax binder the colored pencils are and it’s used to blend colors. Use it just like a regular colored pencil to blend without adding additional color.

Get Started with Colored Pencils - Colorless Blender

Other Tools

Sharpener

Get a good, low cost electric sharpener instead of a hand-held sharpener. They’re usually available starting at around $30.

Erasers

One package of mounting putty. Look for Hand-Tak, Poster-Tack, Blu-Tack or similar. Handi-Tak or similar brands. Mounting putty is a soft, moldable substance most commonly used to hang posters. Tear off a piece, shape it however you want, stick it to the back of a poster and press the poster against the wall.

But it’s also very useful in lifting color from a drawing. You can make it whatever shape you need to lift color. It’s also self-cleaning. Work it in your fingers and the color disappears!

Brush

A large brush is handy for sweeping away eraser crumbs. You can use your hand, but doing so runs the risk of accidentally marking your drawing. You can also blow the crumbs away, but a brush is easier to use. Look for  a large brush with soft bristles. Drafting brushes are ideal.

Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils - Drafting Brush & Erasing Shield

Erasing Shield

This is a handy template—usually very thin metal—with a variety of standard shapes cut into it. To use it, lay it over your drawing and erase through one of the openings. The result will be that shape on your drawing.

You can also add color using an erasing shield.

A Note on Solvents

You’ll notice I didn’t mention solvents. That’s because there’s enough to be said about them that they require their own post. You can, of course, use solvents with colored pencils. Many of us do. I do, in limited form.

Solvents are liquid tools that allow you to blend colored pencil. Standard solvents are odorless paint thinner, turpentine, rubber cement thinner, and rubbing alcohol. They can speed the drawing process, but you also need to use them with care.

That’s why I don’t include them on the Basic List or the Expanded Basic List. Better to find out first if you like drawing with colored pencils enough to invest in additional tools.

Are you ready to get started with colored pencils?

I’ve put together a PDF download shopping list that includes all three of my shopping categories.

Click Here to Download Your Own Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils Shopping Lists

Click here to get my Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils shopping lists.