Sanded Art Paper & Drawing Paper: 5 Differences

Have you tried sanded art paper with colored pencil yet?

If you haven’t, you may be wondering why you should. After all, isn’t it just like drawing on sand paper from the local hardware store? (And who wants to do that?)

That’s the way I thought before my first experiments with sanded art paper. I almost didn’t try it, because I just couldn’t see how it would work.

But I’m glad I took the plunge! There are a lot of differences between sanded art paper and traditional drawing paper. Some pretty big—and surprising—differences.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

Now that I’ve created several pieces on sanded art papers, it’s time to share with you what I’ve learned. Both good and bad.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Drawing Paper

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper. More recently, Clairefontaine Pastelmat has entered the market.

In another post, I described 6 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil. A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sandpaper.

I’ve used only Uart and Fisher 400. Following are five of the biggest differences I discovered.

Paper Strength

This is a good difference.

Sanded papers are much stronger than most traditional papers. The substrate itself is heavier than most drawing paper. Combined with the coating of grit, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally damage the paper, so you can be as aggressive in applying color as you like.

Many sanded art papers are also available mounted to rigid supports for even better durability.

An additional upside to this is that you do not have to frame sanded art paper under glass if you don’t want to. It’s advisable, but not absolutely necessary, as is the case with traditional art papers.

Detailed Line Drawings

Transferring a detailed line drawing is difficult. You can’t use a light box because the paper is so thick. Transfer papers of any type are also unsatisfactory on some of the coarser surfaces.

I’ve found this difference to be less than ideal. I like detailed line drawings when I do portraits. For a while, that made sanded art papers a no-go for me.

But many artists use the grid method or a projector to transfer their drawings. Both are acceptable alternatives to regular transfer papers, and both give great results.

Another alternative is light sketching right on the paper. I usually start landscapes with just a basic sketch, so most of my drawings on sanded art paper have been landscapes.

August Morning in Kansas
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

August Morning in Kansas (above) is one of the most recent and it’s the best one so far. I’ve started all of them with simple sketches.

Sharp Pencils

You don’t need sharp pencils to work with sanded paper. In fact, sharp pencils can be a detriment. They break easily on the gritty surface, and even if they don’t, you get two or three strokes before they go blunt.

So forget sharpening. Use your pencils more like pastels. It’ll be a lot less frustrating.

Forget preserving your pencils, too. Sanded art paper quite literally “eats them for lunch!”

But that’s not as bad as it sounds, because most of that color is going onto the paper. Yes, pencils wear down more quickly, but you’re building color more quickly, too. The details in the trees in August Morning in Kansas are lighter colors applied over darker colors.

And just in case you’ve heard the rumors about pigment dust when you draw on sanded papers, it’s true. But you probably haven’t heard that you can use a bristle brush to push that dust into the tooth of the paper so it’s not wasted!

Show me another drawing paper you can do that with!

Pigment dust can be dry blended into sanded art paper.
Use brushes like this to dry blend pigment dust into the surface of sanded art paper.

Thick Color Layers

Thick layers of color work better than thin glazes. Even with the smoothest sanded papers, the tooth is such that getting an even color layer is next to impossible without solvent.

And light pressure? Forget it. Medium to medium-heavy pressure is going to be a lot more productive.

The best part? You can absolutely layer light over dark and it will show up. Try that with any traditional drawing paper.

Is this a good difference or a bad one?

I haven’t made up my mind yet. I have a naturally light hand so working on sanded art papers requires a definite adjustment in working methods.

But as I mentioned above, I can add so many layers even with medium pressure or heavier, that working on sanded paper is getting less and less frustrating.

Excellent Tooth

If you’ve ever had trouble getting colored pencil to stick after a certain number of layers, the tooth of sanded art paper is a good difference.

Granted, it will take a lot more layers to get fine detail if that’s what you’re after and you may find the extra layers not to be worth the trouble.

But if you take the time, the tooth will definitely work for you.

This little drawing (3-1/2 by 2-1/2) is the first drawing I did on sanded art paper. I drew it like I always draw and the tooth didn’t help. See all those dots in the sky? Paper holes. I wasn’t able to fill in the tooth at all, and although the result was very painterly, I didn’t like it.

Spring in CP
Spring in Colored Pencil
Colored Pencil on Sanded Paper

It took a long time before I tried colored pencil on sanded paper again, but the results were much more satisfactory. I was already learning how to use sanded art paper.

East of Camp Creek
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

Conclusion

If you give sanded art papers a try, be prepared to do some bad drawings for the first few. It’s a great drawing surface, but there is a very definite learning curve!

Even so, I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different.

Interested in reading more? I wrote a good mini clinic for EmptyEasel based on that first, small drawing. I think you’ll find it useful. Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Today’s post is a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to draw folds of cloth.

The cloth in my demonstration is white and somewhat silky, but the basic principles I’m about to describe apply to any type of fabric that folds or drapes.

It also works with any color or method of draping or folding. Just break down the drawing process into these steps and you can’t go far wrong.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Tips for Drawing Cloth

Before we get into the tutorial, lets talk a little bit about basic tips on how to draw folds of cloth (or pretty much any subject.)

First of all, take time to look at the cloth you’re drawing. Really study it. What’s the surface texture? Is the cloth lightweight or heavy? Is it soft or silky, smooth or woolly?

If it’s a soft cloth like this t-shirt, the values are likely to fade softly one into another. The only exceptions to this rule are the cast shadows, where one fold of cloth casts a shadow on another part, and where something else casts a shadow on the cloth. Those shadows almost always have hard edges.

Knowing how to draw folds of cloth starts with taking a good look at your subject. What type of cloth is it? How does it reflect light?
Soft cloth, soft shadows and soft edges between values except for the cast shadows.
Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Shiny cloth like catches and reflects light differently than soft cloth. The transitions between values can be much more dramatic and often have sharper edges.

It’s also more likely to show reflected light and color from the objects around it. This sample shows traces of blue since I photographed it outside on a clear, sunny day.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth: Shiny cloth reflects light differently than soft cloth.
Shiny cloth has sharper transitions between light and dark values, often with more dramatic shifts.
Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Environmental light has more of an influence on shiny cloth than on soft cloth. Both of the garments shown above are white, but I photographed the silky cloth in the early evening so the white has more of a yellow tint.

Also notice that the middle values look bluer on the silky material than on the t-shirt because they’re reflecting more sky color than the t-shirt would in the same lighting conditions.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Project Details

My demo drawing is drawn on Stonehenge 98lb white paper. I used Prismacolor pencils, but you can successfully complete this tutorial with any brand of colored pencils and on any drawing paper.

I also drew it in grayscale, using one gray pencil and black. You can do the same tutorial with other colors if you wish, though drawing in grayscale is a great way to practice drawing values.

This is the reference photo. Feel free to use it for your own practice.

Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Step 1: Sketch the Folds of Cloth

I started by lightly sketching the cloth with Cold Grey 70%. I didn’t outline many of the shadows, but you’ll notice I did lightly outline the main highlight on the most prominent fold on the left side of the drawing.

This sketch is drawn a little darker than I usually sketch so it shows up in a scan. You’ll want to keep your line drawing quite light so the lines disappear into the drawing as you layer. Sketching or transferring your line drawing with light pressure also avoids indenting the lines into the paper.

Step 2: Begin Shading

I used a combination of strokes and two or three layers of Cold Grey 70% to draw a light value in each of the more clearly defined cast shadows.

First, I blocked in each shadow with light pressure so they were all the same value. Then I went over some parts again to darken the values.

Cast shadows are shadows caused when one object throws (or casts) a shadow on another object. In this case, the cast shadows happen where one part of the cloth throws a shadow on another part.

Form shadows happen where each fold curves away from the light source.

Unlike cast shadows, they usually have softer edges and transition smoothly from light values into dark values. The shapes of form shadows can be indistinct, especially on cloth, but they give shape to the cloth.

I used a couple of different shading methods for the middle values. I started out on the left by shading the darker values first, then the lighter values.

That didn’t produce the softness of value I wanted, so I started shading a light value over each shape, working around the lighter values and highlights. Then I added more layers to draw the darker values.

Also, instead of using a sharp pencil, I worked with a slightly dull one and sharpened it only when it developed a flat wedge angle. A dull pencil covers more paper with each stroke and the marks have softer edges.

About half of the cloth shaded with light values. It’s already beginning to take shape. The contrast I draw, then more three-dimensional it will look.

Step 3: Blend with Paper Towel (optional)

At this point you can lightly blend with paper towel or bath tissue to smooth out the values a little more. A paper towel blend is ideal for softening color or value, but it works best with a little more pigment on the paper.

If you prefer not to blend with paper towel, skip to the next step.

I blended the right fold with paper towel, but left the other side unblended for comparison.

Step 4: Darken the Values

You can continue to darken values with Cold Grey 70% or switch to a darker pencil. It will take more layers with Cold Grey 70% than Cold Grey 90% or even black, and the resulting values will not be quite as dark.

But it is good practice to push values as much as you can with a single pencil.

Because time was of the essence for me, I switched to Prismacolor Black, and repeated the same process already described.

I used a sharp pencil and small, controlled strokes with medium pressure to draw the cast shadows along the hem of the fabric.

The goal was to begin defining the subtle variations in values in these shadows, so I worked slowly and carefully from one section of shadow to the next.

Then I continued layering Black with light pressure and a sharp pencil to add more definition and volume to the folds of cloth.

Darken the values in the cast shadow layer by layer. You may have to increase the pressure somewhat, but always use the lightest pressure possible.

Next, I continued using Black and light pressure to darken the values in the form shadows, especially around the darkest cast shadow near the center of the drawing. I followed the same process here: Starting with a single lightly applied layer to darken each form shadow, then adding more layers as needed to create more variations.

Form shadows generally have smoother transitions from one value to another. The more the object–in this case cloth–is curved, the sharper the edges are more likely to be. Notice the difference between the large fold on the right and the smaller folds on the left.

Finishing the Drawing

From this point on, finishing the drawing is mostly a matter of adjusting values, refining details, and bringing the drawing as close to the reference as you want.

At this stage, I continue to refer to my reference photo, but less and less. Instead, my focus is on balancing the values in the cast shadows and form shadows so they relate correctly to one another.

I’m also paying closer attention to the edges and transitions between values, especially around the highlights.

As mentioned above, I chose to do this using only two colors: Cold Grey 70% and Black. But it could easily have been turned into a color piece by glazing blues over the drawing. The fabric in the reference photo shows a lot of blue because it reflected that color from the sky.

Here’s the finished demo piece.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth - The Finished Drawing

That’s How to Draw Folds of Cloth

That’s how I drew this piece of smooth, silky cloth. As I mentioned above you can take the same steps to draw any type of cloth.

In fact, if you really want to learn how to draw folds of cloth, the best thing you can do is draw lots of it. Draw different types of cloth and different cloths of cloth either from life (if you can set up a still life in strong light) or from reference photos. Pixabay is a great place to find all sorts of fabrics and you can download images for free.

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Colors for Under Drawing Waves

What are the best colors for under drawing waves?

Should you use the umber under drawing method that’s so good for landscapes or would some other color work better?

I get a lot of questions about drawing water, and it’s no surprise. Water is beautiful to look at but difficult to draw.

But the following question is unique in that the reader wanted to know, well…. Let her tell you.

Really got a lot out of your articles on under drawings for landscapes and understand why you would go with an earth color such as light umber for all that green

I love seascapes so I’ve been thinking that if it’s going to be a “cold” ocean then perhaps a 50% cool gray would be appropriate, but if it’s going to be a warmly lit ocean then maybe a 50% French or warm gray would be better for the under drawing. I’ll remember to leave the lightest areas blank on the under drawing.

What do you think? I’m a relative newcomer to colored pencil, just a few months of working on small pieces. I have lots of Prismacolor Premier and Verithins as well as the three trays of Polychromos.

Thank you so much!

Thank you to my reader for her question, which I answered personally and directly.

However, after sending her answer, I thought the question was well worth answering publicly, as well. After all, this reader isn’t the only artist interested in drawing waves!

Colors for Under Drawing Waves

A public response also gives me an opportunity to expand on my personal answer and to provide a few examples for everyone.

Colors for Under Drawing Waves

Colors Not to Use

I almost always start with an umber under drawing. That’s my favorite drawing method because it works so well with animals and landscapes.

But there some instances in which an umber under drawing probably isn’t the best choice. For example, I never under draw a clear sky with an earth tone. The reason is that the colors in the sky should be pure and don’t need to be toned down.

So my first inclination would be not to go with an earth tone to under draw water. Especially translucent water like a wave. Earth tones (and complements) tend to tone down the final color. That’s why they work so well with a landscape, where you don’t want brilliant color.

You wouldn’t want to use a complementary under drawing either, and for the same reasons. Complementary colors naturally neutralize each other. Perfect for a landscapes.

Not great for waves.

Waves need to look like light is coming through them and an earth tone or complementary color could make it more difficult to achieve that look.

The Color of Waves

Something else to keep in mind is that water is highly reflective. It “assumes” the color of the light around it.

Water looks blue under a blue sky because it reflects the color of the sky. The same water at sunset takes on the colors of the evening sky.

Waves emphasize that because the light shines through them. The time of day and the location of the light source determine what colors you’ll see in a wave.

A wave on a clear day.

This wave is lighted from the upper right (notice where the wave is shadowed) on a sunny day. The sand or rocks in the lower left give it a yellow look, but the main colors are blues. The dark blue is reflected by the light from the sky. The light blue is the result of light shining through the water.

The first colors I’d use to draw the wave above are shades of blue. Probably very light blue with a slight greenish tint, such as the color you see in the crest of the wave. Prismacolor Light Aqua or Faber-Castell Polychromos Light Phthalo Green would be good choices.

For the flatter water in back, I’d choose a darker blue. Maybe Prismacolor True Blue or Polychromos Cobalt Blue.

A wave lighted from behind on a cloudy day.

Here’s a wave lighted from behind. The yellow light of the sun gives the wave a green tint. Notice that even the white foam is really a yellow color. Perhaps even yellow-green.

The first colors you put on this drawing should reflect those local colors. Prismacolor Olive Green or Polychromos Permanent Olive Green in the darkest areas of the wave and Prismacolor Chartreuse or Yellow Chartreuse or Polychromos Light Green in the brightest areas.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

A wave lighted from behind at sunset.

The lighting and color on this wave is totally different than any of the others in this post. This is the only one I would even think about using an earth tone for and that’s because it’s such a golden-brown color to begin with.

I’d start a drawing of this wave with Prismacolor Yellow Ochre, Spanish Orange, or Golden rod or Polychromos Dark Naples Ochre where the light shines through the water. In the darker areas, Prismacolor Burnt Ochre or Sienna Brown or Polychromos Brown Ochre or Raw Sienna would be good choices.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How to Choose Colors for Under Drawing a Wave

Choosing colors for under drawing waves doesn’t have to be complicated. The key to success is studying your reference photo to see what colors you see. Remember that no two artists see color the exact same way, so trust yourself.

Then start with the lightest shade of the local (final) colors you see and gradually build the values through layering different colors and values together.

Work around the highlights in each area, especially if you’re working on white paper.

If you’re still not sure about color selection, the best option is to do some swatches first. Select the colors you think you’ll use for the final colors, then try layering them over different colors (earth tones, grays, lighter shades of the same colors,) and see which combinations give you the best results.

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1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Is there a sure-fire way to draw realistic landscape greens most of the time?

Short answer, yes.

The question is, what’s the best solution for you?

I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself, but I can share with you the method that helps me draw landscapes that look like landscapes, no matter what shades of green, what time of year, or what the lighting conditions.

1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Landscape greens can be the most difficult colors to get right in any medium. Most of us have drawn landscapes in which the greens are too soft and muted or are way too bold and artificial.

My Favorite Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Over the years, I’ve used several methods to draw landscapes. My favorite method to draw realistic landscape greens is beginning with an umber under drawing, then glazing color.

The first few layers of color you put on the paper are called the under drawing. An under drawing can be a single color, two or three colors, a limited palette, or lighter shades of the final colors.

When the under drawing is in earth tones, it’s called an umber under drawing. You can use any earth tone, but the best choices are generally medium-value, neutral colors like Prismacolor Light Umber or Polychromos Nougat or Raw Umber. Once I discovered umber under drawing, my landscapes began to look like they were supposed to look.

Learn how the umber under drawing method compares to other colored pencil drawing methods.

Step 1: How to Begin an Umber Under Drawing

The process is simple. Develop your landscape first in all earth tones. Choose one or two browns—three at most—and draw the entire landscape with those colors.

I prefer Prismacolor Light or Dark Umber, usually use just Light Umber. It’s possible to get a nice value range with Light Umber simply by adding layers. The more layers, the darker the value.

You don’t want to get too dark too quickly, and you also want to avoid developing details too quickly, so draw the under drawing with several layers applied with light pressure.

You can also use a tinted paper, as I did with the drawing below. The paper is Rising Stonehenge in a very light tan color. The color of the paper provided the lightest values for the drawing.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 1
Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to begin shading values. Start with the shadows, then gradually darken values and add middle values layer by layer.

Step 2: Develop Detail & Values

Use a variety of strokes to mimic each element of the landscape. Short vertical strokes with a sharp pencil for grass, stippling (dotted) or circular strokes with a sharp to slightly blunt pencil for trees (use a sharper pencil in trees close to the foreground and a blunter pencil for more distant trees), and the sides of the pencil to lay down even color in the distance.

Define the center of interest early by drawing the darkest shapes near the center of interest or in the foreground and keeping other parts of the drawing more subdued.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 2
Keep the darkest values and sharpest details in and around the center of interest (the tree on the left.)

Step 3: Finishing the Umber Under Drawing

You can make the under drawing as detailed as you like. When I draw horses, I generally draw a more detailed under drawing, because I want the under drawing to look like a finished drawing on its own.

But with landscapes, I develop just enough light and shadow to define the landscape elements and to begin depicting the sense of space (pictorial depth or aerial perspective).

Glaze color over the finished under drawing layer by layer with light pressure. Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so the umber under drawing tones down the greens you glaze over it. Even if you appear to totally cover all of the under drawing, its influence is still present.

draw realistic landscape greens
Spring 2012, 4×6 Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

Want to See How I Drew Realistic Landscape Greens Step-by-Step?

I drew this landscape as a demonstration piece for EmptyEasel.com. To see the full, step-by-step demonstration on EmptyEasel.

How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Underpainting

Color Glazing a Landscape Painting with Colored Pencils

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!