Tips for Choosing Reference Photos

If you’ve ever been stumped in choosing reference photos, I know you’d love a few tips from another artist.

John Ursillo has been painting and drawing for many years, so he’s the ideal person to help us all choose better reference photos.

Please welcome John Ursillo back to the blog.

Tips for Choosing Reference Photos

Tips for Choosing Reference Photos

by John Ursillo, CPSA

I am a strong advocate for any artist who decides to take on a realist piece to:

First, become familiar with why the objects and overall “look” of an attracting reference looks as it does; and,

Second, acquire knowledge about the subject, the light it was taken under, and surrounding surfaces that can contribute to reflected light shining into shadows, etc.

True, an adept artist may get by with directly copying a reference without this knowledge, but IMHO it will show.  Snapshot photographs are notorious for deceiving the eye. Shadows are often too dark and light areas overexposed, or the reverse. Calendar photos with blown out supersaturated sunsets  are the worst examples to follow.

That’s also why copies of portraits of people or pets taken with an indoor flash or outdoor, bright frontal sunlit photos often just do not look “right”. Viewers of the finished piece can see when something is “not quite right,” even if they cannot put their finger on just what the cause is.

A Compulsive Realist and Photographer

Enough philosophy! I confess to being a compulsive “Realist”. That was my training and still gives me and my clients satisfaction with my work. Thus, good reference material is essential to my creative process. After all, I was an engineer professionally and thus strongly “left” brained. I seldom use subjects drawn solely from my imagination. IDEAS, yes, of course, but always followed by real world reference materials that give substance to these “bolts of inspiration.”

I am also a compulsive photographer when I travel (even about the yard). That tendency adds body to my store of references which dates back into the 1980’s – the days of something we actually called “film”.

In my art I use only images I capture myself – never the work of anyone else without permission, giving attribution to the giver. And that rarely.

Digital photography has been a boon to me, especially the cameras now built into our cell phones. These have opened documentation of worlds of subjects in numbers (regarding storage, retrieval, quality and internal image manipulation) that were far less practical before.

Keys for Choosing which Reference to Use:

Interesting

A “good” idea – something that grabs my attention and will not let go until fed. I do not access images on the internet as a source of ideas – public domain notwithstanding. Those are someone else’s ideas, not mine.

Realist, detailed, with a strong potential focal point and lines, value forms, etc. that contribute, with some effort, to making a good composition.

Close to the Originating Idea

Must come close to what my mental concept is. An exact match is often not possible but close enough is good. Sometimes this may take several references if specific details are missing or other subject elements are required. The rest is supplied by imagination.

Researchable

If I need a specific atmospheric effect I don’t have a reference for: e.g. a fog bank or cloud effect.

I never use copyright protected material – ever!

I may, rarely, need to use the internet or my non-digital (paper) library to find exact information for a subject to flesh out the subject from an environmental or historical context. For example, when drawing a historical scene, I may need to see exactly the way a particular ship is rigged, constructed, etc.

The reference for my tutorial in Carrie’s magazine is a close-up from a digital photo of the movie ship “SS Venture”.

This is the original photo, taken in New Zealand.

This is the composition I cropped from the original photo.

As with many references captured during a trip, the snapshot collecting is quick but the resulting photographs often throw the balance between light and dark off kilter. Should one follow this image literally the shadows would be too dark, losing most of the detail within, and the highlights too light, ditto.

If you have access to a computer you can push the values so that the shadows become full of detail and the highlights likewise. That’s what I usually do, (either digitally or by careful observation) because it’s necessary

Now You Know John’s Method for Choosing Reference Photos

Are you more confident is choosing the reference for your next piece? I hope so!

My thanks to John for sharing his experiences with using canvas with colored pencils.

John is the featured artist in the May issue of CP Magic. Get your copy here and read more about his unique technique and his artistic journey.

Reasons to Try Canvas with Colored Pencils

Are you looking for a durable support that can stand up to deep solvent blending and erasing without damage? Have you considered trying canvas with colored pencils?

I know you have questions. I sure do, and I can’t think of anyone better able to answer them than today’s guest blogger, John Ursillo. John has been using colored pencils on canvas since 2007. Today, he’ll tell you how he came to canvas as a colored pencil support, and why he likes it.

Please welcome John Ursillo.

Reasons to Try Canvas with Colored Pencils, Guest Post from John Ursillo

Canvas with Colored Pencils

by John Ursillo, CPSA

When discussing technique with fellow colored pencil (CP) artists, I sometimes meet with a doubtful look should the subject of using canvas as a support come up. “Why canvas? What’s wrong with paper? What made you go there and why?”

This has changed over the years as other artists have adopted the canvas…but I still get the soft-voiced comments of gallery viewers of “How the h… does he do that?” I like to explain, and Carrie has given me a wonderful chance here.

Anything wrong with paper?

Absolutely nothing! I have nothing against paper as a support, having done and continue doing many pieces on a wide variety of papers from the time I picked up my first set of colored pencils in 1984. Paper was all I knew to use!

Life is Like a River, 18 x 24 Colored Pencil on Canvas

How I Started Using Canvas with Colored Pencils

I caught on to using canvas in 2007 as the coming together of two seeming separate events:

First, I had my interest focused on doing a nautical piece based on a ship I photographed in New Zealand in 2004. Much of the drawing involved weathered, rusted hull plating with a unique, surface texture–right “down my alley”!

Second, I tried, but could not capture it in test runs on the papers used for my normal colored pencil (CP) techniques no matter how I tried. Not just the texture but also the luminosity of the color was off–it just would not seem real–in fact it seemed very “ho hum” and “why bother?”

As a possible “what if?” solution I remembered a snippet I had recently read in the CPSA publication To The Point. It discussed small scale use of odorless mineral spirits to dissolve CP when working on paper. I had already tried that and liked it–for small areas. Would it work on a larger scale?

Seen Better Days, 24 x 11 Colored Pencil on Canvas

Yes…sort of!

The hardware store variety mineral spirits from my garage did dissolve the CP but when used over more than a small area it soaked into the paper and even left some color blooming out around the wet spot when it dried. Further experiment didn’t resolve these problems and I was about to give up.

A “What If” Moment

But, I’m an engineer and problems are our daily bread. My Left-brain Engineer side determined to get an answer, one way or the other.

Then…another brainstorm. In those days I was painting in oils as well as doing CP pieces. I had a piece of canvas board sitting around waiting for a project. Engineer said “Canvas doesn’t absorb mineral spirits right?. Hmmm…what if?”

My first attempts were messy. But as I got the “hang of” this new support and the new way of using CP, my left brain told my Right Brain everything was “OK, go ahead, what are you waiting for?”

The result was a 20 x 16” piece, “The Venture” (see below) that became my second acceptance to the CPSA International (2010), led to an invitation to conduct workshops at the 2012 CPSA Convention, and the work was subsequently accepted by the American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA) for their 16th traveling exhibit.

The Venture. Original artwork using canvas with colored pencils.

The vessel depicted is the actual tramp steamer used as the set for and digital model prototype of the “SS Venture” featured in the 2005 film “King Kong”.

I was visiting my daughter ‘down under’ when she worked with Weta Digital on the film. She got us onto the secured quay where the ship was moored, so it was a unique “up close and personal” experience of a piece of maritime history. I discovered this gallant lady was eventually declared unseaworthy and too expensive to restore or maintain. She was ceremoniously scuttled (sunk on purpose) in the deep, stormy waters of Cook Strait, between the North and South Islands of New Zealand in 2010.

A fitting end.

Why I Like Canvas

I was, and continue to be, sold on canvas as a support for CP and artist’s mineral spirits as a solvent. Perfecting the technique took time, and I continue to surprise myself with each new piece’s opportunity to learn more.

I continue to use various papers as well, but canvas has been adopted as my primary support.

In my opinion there are some salient advantages to using canvas as a support for Colored Pencil work.

Deep Saturated Color

Getting deep saturated color using CP dry on canvas involves much pressure and a very sharp pencil to get color down into the weave of the canvas. Pencil wear is high. Why? The white of the canvas shows through in the pits of the weave. Easily build up lighter passages using the white weave of the canvas just as with a rougher paper. This is valuable for doing work that requires an “airy” feeling, especially skies and atmospheric effects.

Vibrant Color

Vibrant colors can be built up by using an under drawing/painting to fill in the tooth without killing it. Use complementary colors in the under drawing/painting to add interest and vibrance to colors laid over them.

Durability

The weave of good canvas is very tough and difficult to destroy, either by burnishing or erasing thoroughly with a white eraser and water, making both small and major changes possible.

No Framing Necessary

Canvas is available pre-mounted in both large and small sizes. The lack of need for a frame makes large CP pieces possible that would otherwise be prohibitive to glaze, frame and ship. An unglazed (no glass) CP work on canvas is no more fragile that an oil or acrylic on canvas when properly handled.

Excellent for Solvent Blending

The appearance of lightfast CP applied dry is greatly enhanced through use of solvent UV protective coating such as fixative and varnish.

Color Saturation

Color saturation is easier to achieve when solvent is used–even for very thin, single layer passages. The colors in a finished piece on canvas have a vibrance different from works on paper because of the property of light penetrating the color layers and reflecting off the brilliant white surface.

More Painterly Affects

Lastly, and in my opinion, a deciding factor. Because of the nature of the surface, CP work on canvas compels a more “painterly” and immediate technique than dry CP on paper. Don’t get me wrong. Both approaches have their important place in the genre of CP works. But some subjects obviously work better on one versus the other. I work on both.

Christmas Chickadee III, 8 x 10 Colored Pencil on Canvas

Choosing the Right Canvas

Canvas brands, like papers, vary widely in texture from coarse to ultra-fine. I have tested many of the brands commonly available in local art supply houses or from internet vendors with high customer ratings. The only ones I looked at were: archival throughout, had brilliant white gesso coating, Fine, regular weave, lack of foreign matter in the coating, and a finger-touch texture like velvet. But these stood out:

Blick’s Premiere canvas line: a consistently fine product for this use.

Archival Watercolor Canvas made by Fredrix. Its texture is more like a portrait canvas that Blick’s.

Both come in stretched or board-mounted and have well aligned, regular medium-smooth weave and brilliant white gessoed working surface – archival throughout. Each has a feeling like velvet of a very fine

paper. They also come in common rectangular dimensions as well as square, oblong and curved shapes (Blick).The Fredrix Canvas has a very fine weave, much like portrait canvas. I choose this when I want the canvas weave to be almost, but not quite, inconspicuous.

For artists new to CP on canvas I recommend a canvas board. If you get your canvas from a local art supply store, review the criteria I described about and require the clerk to let you open and feel the surface. If he/she won’t, go to a store that will.

For an overall look at my many pieces done on canvas I direct the reader to my website, www.bearcubstudio.com.

So What do You Think about Canvas with Colored Pencils?

My thanks to John for sharing his experiences with using canvas with colored pencils.

I started out using oil paints on canvas, so John’s method intrigues me. What about you?

John is the featured artist in the May issue of CP Magic, where you can read more about his unique technique, as well as his artistic journey.

Simplification in Art (And How to Achieve It)

Dan Miller is the featured artist in the April 2020 issue of CP Magic, and is a great writer as well as artist. So I invited him to write about an art topic close to his art (and heart.) He responded with this article about simplification in art. I know you’ll enjoy hearing his thoughts on this important topic.

Simplification in Art

Simplification in Art

By Dan Miller – www.ImpressionEvergreen.com

Evergreen, Colorado is that magical place situated over the rainbow. Upon arriving 22 years ago, we discovered a land of silvery aspen where bluebirds fly, red foxes hide and each morning begins with a golden sunrise. Away from the confusion of suburbia, I found more time to simplify my work. The true essence of nature became obvious.

To simplify is difficult.

I like to choose a motif and use all of my senses in a thorough examination. Observe the subject intensely and memorize the attractive, essential features. My camera is an indispensable tool in the process. It’s a digital eye that freezes a fleeting moment in time.

I have deep reverence for nature so when I wander alone into a remote wilderness, it’s a spiritual experience transporting me closer to heaven. In order to create an honest representation of the image fixed in my mind, the scenery is simplified while using bold contours and coloring. My drawings are heartfelt expressions depicting the grandeur of the American West.

Spectacular landscapes are much harder to break down because in my enthusiasm to replicate the scene, the inclination is to include every detail. Unfortunately when that happens, the soul of a place becomes lost and the expression becomes complicated and troublesome to grasp.

When drawing a tree, I try not to reproduce every branch and needle. I employ techniques in regards to pencil pressure and color blending while at the same time stylizing the essence of a solitary pine. I break the tree’s complicated shape down into its basic elements, exaggerate the color and capture its personality in an effort to create a more expressive piece of art.

Simplification in Art
Loveland Pass Lakes

Contrast and Color

If I’m lucky, I’ll dream about a work in progress. Then it’s almost as if the simplification becomes interwoven into the subconscious. In technical terms, the art theory is surprisingly simple. More contrast and colors equals complex, while less contrast and colors equals simple.

I’ve learned much from a deep appreciation of art history. The first cave paintings are sophisticated simplifications that exhibit a graceful elegance. Creating beautiful abstractions by eliminating unnecessary details while preserving the spirit of the whole is something artists have been striving to achieve ever since.

Gore Rage Wildflowers

Stay True to Your Personal Style

The temptation to emulate my artistic heroes is irresistible but my artist-father preached from the pulpit of originality. He urged me to stay true to myself and not be influenced by what others are doing. I was challenged to develop interpretations unspoiled by imitation, criticism and greed.

My approach is not formulaic. It’s been a matter of accepting and embracing my natural style while resisting the ever-changing, fashionable trends. An eternal mystery to me is how an emotion conceived in the heart emanates into an eager left hand where it’s delivered by pencil point for all to see.

Spending many years painting commercially to please a fickle audience, caught me up in the competitive affectations of photorealism. A fascinating movement but if executed improperly yields cold and lifeless results. I chose to follow my heart and returned to a little box of wooden crayons.

Evergreen Lake Fall

Learning from Nature as well as Art History

I’ve spent the past couple of decades laboring to uncover a nice middle ground between photo-realism and abstraction. In order to achieve this, I’ve spent countless hours studying nature, art history, science and religion but mostly I’ve worked on drawings. I’ve experimented with different compositions, color schemes and paper, hoping to arrive at a more personal interpretation.

I began listening to the old masters from the past. Albrecht Durer admitted, “As I grew older, I realized that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.”

Hans Hoffman instructed, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Vincent Van Gogh revealed, “How difficult it is to be simple!”

The simplification of my style has been a gradual, uncalculated transformation. An arduous process chocked full of confusion, doubt and failure but in the end it’s worth it. For a humble truthseeker like me, it’s been a revelation to discover that the simplest things in life are often the truest.

Zion Canyon

How Does Simplification in Art Look?

So how does Dan’s work compare with his source material? Here’s the reference photo he used for his CP Magic tutorial.

Animas Forks. This is the reference photo for Dan’s CP Magic tutorial. A beautiful, but complex scene.

And here’s the finished artwork.

Simplification in art demonstrated in Dan Miller's artwork.
Dan’s finished piece, Animas Forks, demonstrates his unique way of simplifying the complex and creating artwork the embodies the character and spirit of place without drawing every detail.

My thanks to Dan for sharing his thoughts on the importance of simplification in art, and staying true to personal style.

Hopefully you’ve found some encouragement from Dan if you’ve been thinking about simplifying your own work.

Dan is the featured artist in the April issue of CP Magic, where you can read about his artistic journey, life experiences, and see how he creates his beautiful work.

How to Draw an Irish Setter

Peggy Osborne joins us again this month to show us how to draw an Irish Setter. Let’s get right to it.

How to Draw an Irish Setter

Hi all, welcome to another tutorial.

This month I’m showing you how I draw an Irish Setter pup. The reference photo is from Wet Canvas. (You must be a registered Wet Canvas user to see the photo.)

The Irish Setter is known for its rich red color, but I didn’t use red in this tutorial. Instead, I used the following Prismacolor colors:

Burnt Ochre
Clay Rose
Nectar
Black
Grape
Henna
Sepia
Dark Brown
Chocolate
Terra Rose
Sienna Brown
Mineral Orange
Seashell Pink
Greyed Lavender
Rosy Beige
Peach
Mahogany Red
Black
White

A Tip for Picking Colors

Sometimes I use a free color picker app called Just Color Picker to help choose colors. I placed the picker tool onto the original photo, and can clearly see the color. When I can’t decide if an area is cool or warm or if I need an orange or brown color, this tool isolates the color. That makes it easier to see.

I chose this photo, because I love drawing “cute” pets. It also shows a wide range of red from the very dark shadow areas to light apricot in the ears.

How to Draw an Irish Setter - The reference photo

I’m using Heavyweight Vellum Drawing paper by Bee Company. Heavyweight Vellum is a white paper and has enough tooth to be able to add several layers of pencil.

I’m also using Prismacolor pencils but you can use whatever paper and pencils you have available. This should be a fun project.

The Line Drawing

My first step was to trace an outline of the dog onto the paper. Add as much detail as you like when you make your tracing.

The line drawing for how to draw an Irish Setter

Start with the Eyes

I always start a portrait with the eyes. I love looking into the dog’s eyes as I work. When I get them right, the rest just falls into place for me.

I studied the reference photo closely when looking for the colors I needed. Then I drew around the eyes with Dark Sepia and used White in the highlights.

For the color of the eyes, I layered first with Cream, then Light Umber. I went around the outside of the eyeball with Dark Brown as shown in the reference photo. To redefine the shape of the eye and pupil I outlined them with Black. Then I added a touch of Mineral Orange to the eye for more depth of color.

Draw the Fur around the Eyes

I usually work with a light touch with every color and carefully follow the reference photo.

Working from light to dark around the eyes, I used Cream, Mineral Orange, Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, Chocolate, Dark Brown , Sepia and Black.

When working on white paper, I use the Slice tool to create fine hairs by removing color back to the white of the paper. You cannot get that effect on dark paper or if you start out by using the darker colors first. The dark colors have to be on the top of the layers.

On the forehead, I layered Cream and Seashell Pink in the highlighted areas.

For the rest of the hair, I used Mineral Orange, Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Chocolate. I’ll be using all the colors I mentioned at the beginning, but at different times and in different areas depending on the affect I want.

I continued adding the colors to fill the tooth of the paper using the colors I mentioned previously in addition to Terra Rose, Mahogany Red and Rosy Beige.

I look at my reference photo continuously while working and follow the direction of the fur. When drawing fur, I draw from the root of the hair out to make it look more realistic.

Once I have the layers of color in place, I use the colorless blender to blend them together seamlessly and fill the tooth of the paper.

Drawing the Far Ear

Knowing ahead of time that I’d be using my Slice tool to scrape out tiny hairs, I worked from light to dark. Once again following the photo, I drew in directional strokes of fur with layers of Seashell Pink and Eggshell along with Dark Brown, Mineral Orange and Burnt Ochre.

To finish the ear, I added the same colors along with other colors like Sienna Brown and Sepia for depth. I also used Black Grape in a few areas.

Throughout this area, I continued looking at the reference photo and drew the colors I saw. Once the tooth of the paper was filled, I used the Slice tool to scrape out some fine hairs all over the ear.

Now on to work on the muzzle.

For the base colors of the muzzle I used Seashell Pink, Cream, Mineral Orange, Terra Rose, Sienna Brown and Light Umber. I layered these with directional strokes showing the direction the hair grows on the muzzle.

The first color I I layered on the nose was Black in the nostril, around the nose, and the crease in the nose. I used light pressure in each area.

Then I added a light wash of Black in the darkest areas and a wash of White in the lightest areas. Next I washed Blue Slate over the entire nose, and washed Sepia on the lower part of the nose. Then I used my colorless blender to blend these colors together.

To finish the nose, I continued adding these colors until the tooth of the paper was filled. Then I used my electric eraser to tap out little spots on the nose, and used the Slice tool to add more texture to the nose.

Then I went back in with Black and lightly circled some of the spots for a more complete look.

I always follow the color pattern I see in the reference photo and constantly look at my reference photo.

Finishing the Face

The darkest shadows are darkened with Sepia, then the next colors are Mahogany Red and Terra Rosa and Chocolate for the next darker values. For the light values, I used Seashell Pink, Beige, Mineral Orange and Light Umber.

How to Draw an Irish Setter

For the cheek, I used the same colors and added layers to fill in the tooth of the paper. This is pretty much my whole technique throughout a drawing; layers and more layers.

Drawing the Mouth

For the mouth, I used my white pencil to draw highlights on the lip and teeth. There is a lot of lavender color in the mouth area since it is in shadow, so I used Greyed Lavender, Rosy Beige, Black Grape, Blue Slate, White and a touch of Eggshell on the teeth.

Below the lips where the hair is, I used Dark Brown , Eggshell, Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, Chocolate, Sepia and Dark Brown. Then I used my Slice tool to pull out some color and added white for the light hairs on the chin.

Next I finished the muzzle and cheek with the same colors, but watched closely where to place the lighter colors and the darker colors according to the reference photo.

When I finished adding color, I used the Slice tool to scrape out tiny hairs under the nose.

How to Draw an Irish Setter

Drawing the Near Ear

The near ear has an overall lighter appearance than the other ear due to the light source. I used the same colors, but focused on the lighter tones.

I started by drawing hairs in a directional stroke with Clay Rose followed by a wash of Cream and Nectar. Then another round of directional strokes with Chocolate and a wash of Seashell Pink with touches of Mineral Orange here and there.

Additional layers followed the same pattern—directional strokes and washes. I used Burnt Ochre on the top and front area of the ear, and Sienna Brown on the back area. Then I washed Greyed Lavender on the back area of the ear and Eggshell on the top and front.

More light falls on the top and front of the ear, so the colors are slightly different.

How to Draw an Irish Setter

In additional layers, I used Beige as a wash overall, then Burnt Ochre on the front and top of the ears. I then used Cream to lightly burnish the whole ear.

I finished the ear by adding more layers of the same colors to fill the tooth of the paper.

In the dark areas, I added dark colors based on the reference photo. I did the same thing in the light areas, adding White to keep them bright.

I put sepia under the ear to define the darkest shadows on the neck, then topped the ear off with a touch of titanium white mixture to show some light feathery hairs.

How to Draw an Irish Setter

Drawing the Neck and Shoulder

I’ll describe this fairly quickly because it’s just following the same method of layering and using all the same colors throughout.

The neck and shoulder also don’t have the same level of detail as the face with the eyes and nose being the focal point of a portrait.

I started by leaving the lightest areas white and drawing all the layers of colors I saw in the reference photo. I continued referring to my reference photo, sometimes zooming in to get a closer look at an area.

To finish, I layered colors to fill the tooth of the paper. It’s a process of looking at the colors and applying with a directional stroke to get the depth and realism you want.

I filled in the lightest areas with a white pencil, and then dragged darker colors over and through the lightest areas to blend them.

How to Draw an Irish Setter - Nearly finished

Finishing the Portrait

I completed this piece by scraping fine whiskers with the Slice tool, and adding more highlights with Brush and Pencil titanium mixture.

As always I used a comparison photo to check colors and likeness. First the color version and then the black-and-white version.

The black-and-white version helped me see if the values were close. I actually do this comparison throughout the process. It helps me catch something early in case I need to make a change.

How to Draw an Irish Setter - Check values by converting the drawing and reference photo to black and white and then comparing them.

So that’s how to draw an Irish Setter. Here’s the finished piece.

How to Draw an Irish Setter - The Finished portrait.

The Tools I Used to Draw an Irish Setter

Just for fun, I wanted to share a picture of the pencils I used. Remember this is a solid color dog and it’s amazing how many colors went into creating it. I think there are about 30 different pencils.

You’ll also see the electric eraser and Slice tool. I used the little paint brush for applying titanium white mixture.

The tools used in the How to Draw an Irish Setter tutorial.

Are You Ready to Draw an Irish Setter?

You can follow the steps in Peggy’s tutorial with any Irish Setter. Remember, you don’t have to use the same pencils or paper Peggy uses to get good results. It’s all about following the reference photo and drawing what you see.

About Peggy Osborne

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

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.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper

It’s the second Saturday of the month. That means a Peggy Osborne tutorial! This month, she’s drawing vibrant color on black paper and her subject is a beautiful and colorful rooster.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper

Hi all!

In this tutorial I am going to show you how I draw vibrant color on black paper. This month’s subject is a rooster, but the method works for furry subjects as well. I’ve drawn dogs, cats and horses on black paper using this method.

The first thing to remember about black paper is that the color of the pencils looks different on black paper. To draw bright colors, it’s important to start with a white under drawing.

I’m using Prismacolor pencils which are wax-based, but you can use any brand. I am not sure how the other brands perform on the paper, but everyone has a favorite and you can use what you have. I doubt there would be enough difference to matter.

Also use the colors you have. They don’t have to be the same as I use. The main thing you need to do is layer the lightest colors first, starting with an opaque white, which the white Prismacolor is. It is quite opaque compared to, say the Polychromos White. I don’t know about other brands of white pencil.

I am using a smooth black mat board. If you us a different surface, it may act differently. Familiarize yourself with your own pencils and paper and see what they can do for you. Then dive in!!

This is my reference photo. I found it on Pixabay.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - Reference Photo
Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

Transferring the Line Drawing to Black Paper

The first thing I do is transfer my line drawing to the paper. I use white transfer paper and trace the image onto the black paper. The white transfer paper can be a bit smudgy, so be careful to not smudge. Use a kneaded eraser to lift any smudged areas.

The first step in drawing vibrant color on black paper is transferring the line drawing.

I work each section to almost completion, then move onto the next section.

To make things easy on myself, I keep the colors I use separate from the rest of my pencils. This way, I know which ones I’ve used and can go back to them as I need them.

Also, I don’t erase much on black paper as the marks can show up more than on white paper. I usually use a kneaded eraser more on black paper than other papers. On other papers, I use my electric eraser more.

Start with the Rooster’s Comb

I started with the comb and began by drawing a few details with a sharp White pencil and medium pressure. Then I hold the pencil a little to the side and with light pressure cover the whole area with a light wash.

As always, I follow my reference photo closely to make sure the drawing is accurate and the feathers are going in the direction they should be going in. But unless I am doing a commission where the image has to be exact, I don’t worry about getting the exact colors or every feather in place.

TIP: Test colors on a scrap piece of paper for opacity before using them on the drawing and chose one that works best.

I started with a light wash of Rose Peach over the comb, then added Raspberry in the shadows.

I used Crimson Lake in the shadows, washed Scarlet Lake overall , then layered Cadmium Orange in the shadows and along the comb. Then another light wash of Rose Peach and White. I used sharp pencils and light pressure with every color.

When doing a wash, lightly use the side of your pencil.

To finish the comb, I layered the previous colors again, mixing them with washes of White now and then. I used reds and Raspberry making squiggly lines to add texture to the comb. Then I went in with White to make more texture lines with a sharp point.

Finishing up the comb, I used Brush and Pencil Titanium White mixture to draw in the very brightest whites. If I go too light, I can always color over the product to tone it down. You want to do this after it is completely dry though so it doesn’t lift.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - Continuing Color Layers

Drawing the Rooster’s Face

Usually when working on white paper I focus on getting the darks dark enough. But on black paper, I focus on getting the lights light enough.

Here I’ve already drawn the face and wattles to almost completion by following the same method and techniques as with the comb. I also added a bit of dark purple in the darkest areas.

TIP: Layer lightest colors, wash with White to keep the colors bright, and follow the reference photo closely.

I created the pointy feathers above the eye by drawing black and white stripes then adding Titanium White mixture to brighten it.

To complete the eye, I started with White, then Canary Yellow and Scarlet Lake followed by a bit of Tuscon Red along the outside of the eyeball. I used Black for the pupil.

I find the black pencil is usually darker than the black paper so I use it a lot depending on the look I am trying to achieve. I’ll add more highlights here and there before completing this area.

The ear lobe is started with White and a dark cool grey for the texture areas.

The Black Feathers

Next I added a few highlights to the wattles and finished the ear lobe. On the ear lobe I used more White, and then finished with Titanium White mixture.

To start the feathered chest, I drew in the directional lines with White.

Next I added more White to the feathered chest. This may seem redundant but it is amazing how much White I use to create black feathers. It makes the black pop on the paper and not just fade into the black paper.

Now I started building up the colors with Slate Grey and Greyed Lavender as a wash overall, using the side of the pencils and very light touch.

I did another light wash, then started drawing between the lines with Black. You can see where I’ve added Black in this photo.

I continued adding White and Black until the feathers looked the way I wanted them to look. But I also added Manganese Violet and Indigo Blue in the areas where I saw those colors in the reference photo. The extra colors add more realism and depth to the drawing than just having a flat black.

In this photo you can almost feel the thickness of the feathers on his chest.

Drawing the White Feathers

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the white feathers, and started with White. Then I layered a little Indigo Blue and Greyed Lavender in the shadows. I went over this a few times with a white wash, then added Titanium White. I also used White with a sharp point to add highlights in the black feathers on the neck.

Drawing the Beak

Here I’ve finished the white feathers with Titanium White mixture, and started the beak.

As usual I used White as a base, then added color, going from light to dark. I used Peach on the lower beak, and Slate Grey, Indigo Blue, and Purple on the top of the beak. I then added texture with Titanium White mixture.

Value & Color Comparisons

Once the drawing was finished, I placed my art piece in a split photo with the original to check likeness, colors and values, and saw that I needed to change the eye just a bit and add a few more darks and color. I used Sepia to darken the creases in the face and wattles, then punched up the reds a bit and did an overall tweak.

Here are the two split photos that I use to check things in color and in black and white. I check with the reference photo frequently while I am working checking for color and likeness.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - Color Comparison Between the Reference Photo and the Drawing.
Values are key to drawing vibrant color on black paper. The darks must be dark enough to make the light values pop.

In this case, because it is not a commission and just for fun, it didn’t have to be as exact as if I were doing a commission. The shape of an eye can change the likeness drastically so it is very important to keep checking the reference photo as you work.

And here is the finished piece.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - The Finished Drawing

Are you ready to try drawing vibrant color on black paper?

I’m looking forward to trying Peggy’s method for drawing vibrant color on black paper. Her colors sing!

Do you have an idea for a tutorial from Peggy? Let us know in the comments below.

About Peggy

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

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.

How to Draw a Golden Retriever

Welcome Peggy Osborne back in 2020 for another of her wonderful step-by-step tutorials. This time, she’s showing us how to draw a Golden Retriever.

Here’s Peggy.

How to Draw a Golden Retriever

For this tutorial I decided to draw a golden retriever as I see a lot of people struggle with the coloring of Goldens.

Goldens come in a variety of golden tones from a deep red to a pale, almost white golden color. This Golden Retriever is a mid-range golden color. I chose this reference for his sweet expression, which is common to this breed.

Here is the reference photo from Pixabay. I cropped the original a bit.

How to Draw a Golden Retriever - The Reference Photo
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

I’m drawing this on Strathmore Toned Tan Mixed Media Paper. I thought the color would be a nice background to work on, giving a warm glow to the final drawing.

Start with an Accurate Line Drawing

I start with a sketch showing the details I want to draw and the placement of the important features.

How to draw a Golden Retriever beginning with a detailed line drawing.

Getting the Eyes Right

I usually always start with the eyes. If they are not right then the rest of the drawing won’t be either.

The reference photo shows reflections of the window and shadows in the eye. I want to try to convey this in my drawing, so I start by placing those highlights with White.

Then I start layering Sienna Brown, Chocolate, Light Umber, and Dark Brown into each eye using a sharp point and light pressure to build up the layers slowly. I outline the eye and draw the pupil with Black, and use Blue Slate in the highlights.

How to draw a Golden Retriever. Get the eyes right and the portrait is more likely to succeed.

To finish the eye, I use Greyed Lavender, White, and 70% French Grey around the eye.

Next, Draw the Hair Around the Eyes

Remember to always look closely at the reference photo and observe how the fur is arranged and growing. Start at the root of the hair and draw outward the way the fur grows. This gives you a sharp line at the end of the hairs and makes the hair look more natural.

You don’t need to use the same colors I use, these are just guidelines. I use Prismacolor pencils and if you use different pencils the colors will be slightly different, but you’ll still be able to succssfully draw this portrait.

I use a variety of colors to build up the layers; Cream, Rose Peach, Sienna Brown, Beige, Light Umber, Chocolate, Goldenrod, and Dark Brown.

Drawing the Face & Ears

I continue drawing the hair by marking the lightest areas with White.

Then I begin building up layers with lighter colors such as Light Umber, Beige, Peach, Sand, and Goldenrod, working from light to dark. In the darker areas, I use Light Umber, Chocolate, and Dark brown.

I continue layering those colors, but if I see another color in the reference photo, I add it as I work.

In addition, I keep drawing hair-like strokes in the direction the fur grows.

I lay in the darkest areas in the ear with Sepia and Light Umber. I wash the whole ear with Sand using a light touch.

Next I use White in the highlighted areas of the ear to create depth. Then I use a wash of Beige before going over the ear again with layers of Sepia and Light Umber to create more shadows.

With each layer, I draw more details in the ear, repeating the same process with the colors mentioned until I am finished.

I also added Peach, Sienna Brown, Chocolate, Dark Brown, and Burnt Ochre.

When the ear is finished, I move to the other side of the face and ear using the same method and colors.

Continue checking the reference photo as you work, and look for the color placement and apply colors accordingly.

The Muzzle and Nose

Here I’ve added more details to the far ear, and then started the muzzle. I drew the light and dark areas lightly with White and Light Umber to show the contours of the face.

I finish the muzzle using the same colors as the rest of the fur.

To make things easy on myself, I keep all the colors I use as I work in a separate container so I don’t have to look for them among all my pencils. I can just reach for the one I want and it’s right there.

To start the nose, I mark the highlights with White and the darkest areas with Black. The nose has a fleshy look so I use Rosy Beige, Clay Rose, and Peach as base colors. For the darker areas, I use Sepia and 90% Cool Grey.

Drawing the Neck and Chest

The next area is the fluffy hair beneath the chin and ear. I draw in the area with Light Umber. This area will go fairly quickly as it doesn’t have the details that the face has, and I will use solvent to blend it later.

Using various colors as previously stated, I add several layers of color so I can use the solvent to blend them smoothly. You need 4 to 5 layers to get a smooth blend when using solvent.

I use a light touch and draw lines to show definition in the fur and shadows. Sometimes, I also use the pencil on its side, softly creating a wash over the whole area. I repeated this step until I got the drawing where I wanted it.

Once the main colors are in place, I continue adding more layers and details, still using pretty much the same colors throughout the piece.

For the solvent blend, I apply the solvent with a little brush and make sure to follow the direction of the hair with the brush. This softens the colors without completely blending them and makes them look more natural. The solvent also makes the colors look brighter.

The next step is adding fine hairs and highlights with Brush & Pencil Titanium White Mixture. I apply this with a small brush over the areas I blended with solvent. You can see this in this photo.

The Final Steps

Just before finishing the drawing, I place it in a comparison split photo to see how the colors compare side-by-side.

How to draw a Golden Retriever - comparing the reference photo and portrait in color to check color accuracy.

I needed to add more Goldenrod and Greyed Lavender. I also added Dark Umber in the dark areas and then went in again with the Titanium White mixture to add more depth.

To add whiskers, I first used White, then went over them with Titanium White mixture to punch them up.

Then I converted the reference photo to black-and-white for a comparison of values without color.

How to draw a Golden Retriever - comparing the reference photo and portrait in black-and-white to check values.

This is the finished piece.

How to Draw a Golden Retriever - The finished portrait.

So Now You’ve Seen How to Draw a Golden Retriever the Way Peggy Does.

My thanks to Peggy for another great tutorial.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and are now ready to try your hand with a Golden Retriever portrait.

Or maybe you’d like to see other tutorials by Peggy, including How to Draw a Long Haired Dog. They’re all packed with good information and beautiful illustrations.

About Peggy Osborne

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

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.

Ready for a more in-depth tutorial from Peggy? Purchase her Blue Eyed Aussie tutorial today for more great teaching.

How to Draw White Fur with Colored Pencils

Today, Peggy Osborne is back with another tutorial. This time she’s showing us how to draw white fur.

This is the reference photo Peggy used for her tutorial. It comes from Pixabay.

How to Draw White Fur Reference Photo
Image by RitaE from Pixabay

Drawing such a happy fellow is certain to make any artist smile!

Now here’s Peggy!

How to Draw White Fur

by Peggy Osborne

White fur was always the hardest thing for me to draw. Then I discovered two things: It’s a whole lot easier to draw on tone colored paper and white is not just white.

I used French greys, cool greys, lavenders, blues, beiges, and of course white. I followed the reference picture very closely and picked the colors I saw in the reference before starting.

Of course as I work, I may see a color that I can add to the collection.

Here I used a grey Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper (smooth side) and Prismacolor pencils. Towards the end of the drawing I also used Brush and Pencil Titanium White mixture for the flyway hairs and brightest highlights.

How to Draw White Fur

Now on to the tutorial!

Step 1

I start with a detailed sketch which is basically my road map. It shows me where to apply the right colors.

How to Draw White Fur - Begin with a detailed line drawing

Step 2

I always like to do the eyes first, and begin with White in the highlight, and Black and Dark Brown for the eye. The hair around the eye was drawn with 70% French Grey and Light Umber.

Then I move on to the white fur. The shadowed fur below the eyes is done with layers of Beige Sienna and 50% French Grey blended with White.

The hair above the eyes is drawn with hair-like strokes following the direction of the hair growth with 20% Cool Grey, Cloud Blue, and touches of Greyed Lavender and Beige Sienna. I then add White to blend these all together.

I repeat this a few more times to fill the tooth of the paper.

Step 3

Onto the ears. I’ll show a bit more detail of how I do the white fur.

If you zoom in and look close you can see that I laid in the darker colors first to arrange the direction of the fur and draw the shadows. I used 20% Cool Grey, Greyed Lavender, Putty Beige, and 50% Cool Grey.

I blend those colors with White, then add more layers of shadow colors where needed to give it depth.

Once again I keep adding layers of color until the tooth of the paper is filled.

The other ear is done the same way. Just remember layer, layer, layer.

Step 4

Moving on to the muzzle, I once again use the same colors and method as with the ears. I add hair-like strokes of 50% Cool Grey, Greyed Lavender, and Beige Sienna.

As always, I use a sharp pencil with a light touch and follow the reference photo closely.

In the chin area, I layer Beige Sienna, 50% French Grey, Putty Beige, and White.

I continue layering and burnishing with White to fill the tooth of the paper. You’ll notice that the colors are warmer in this area than the rest of the dog.

I will do a tutorial on drawing a nose, mouth and teeth one day. For now I have completed the mouth and teeth using shades of Black Grape, Peach, Pink, Greyed Lavender, White, and Black.

The fur on the shoulder is drawn as shown before on the ears.

Step 5

I finished the shoulder by layering the same colors and burnishing with White to fill the tooth of the paper.

I used Titanium White mixture to add hairs over the pencil to create a 3D effect and added depth to the fur.

Titanium White was designed for colored pencil and is archival.

Step 6

I completed the little jacket with much the same technique; layering the colors to get the effect I want. I will do a tutorial eventually on drawing fabric or something similar to show the method.

Here I used Mulberry and Violet with White to lighten the areas in light, then deepened the color with Violet in the shadow areas.

I finished the dots and trim with Black.

Step 7

Once again I show the comparison photos as this is something I do with every portrait I draw to compare values, contrast and likeness. This helps me see the differences and what I need to adjust. First in color then black and white.

How to Draw White Fur - Color comparison of reference photo and drawing.
How to Draw White Fur - Gray scale comparison of reference photo and drawing.

Finally, I used the Titanium White mixture to pull some hairs over the clothing and a few strings of fur here and there to complete the portrait.

Here is the finished piece.

How to Draw White Fur - The finished portrait

That’s how Peggy draws white fur.

I hope this tutorial has helped you draw white fur more realistically.

If you’d like more details on how she draws fur, read How to Draw Black Fur and How to Draw a Long Haired Dog.

If you have questions about this tutorial, leave a comment below. Peggy will stop by and answer your questions.

And if you have a suggestion for a future tutorial from Peggy, leave that in the comments as well.

About Peggy

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

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.

How to Draw Cat Eyes with Colored Pencil

Peggy Osborne is back again with a guest tutorial. In today’s post, she’s sharing how to draw cat eyes with colored pencil.

This is Peggy’s reference photo. It comes from Pixabay, but she cropped it to focus on the eyes.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - Reference Photo
Image by natura_photos from Pixabay

She’s working on Robert Bateman Series 110 pound paper with Prismacolor pencils. As I’ve mentioned in other tutorials, you can successfully complete most projects with any good drawing paper and artist quality pencils.

Now, here’s Peggy.

How to Draw Cat Eyes

I think the eyes are one of the most important features in a pet portrait. Once I get the eyes right the rest follows easily. So I’d like to share with you how I draw cat eyes.

While working on the eye, I always look back and forth following my reference photo very carefully.

Step 1: Start by drawing the light and dark areas.

The first thing I do when drawing eyes is draw the highlight with a sharp white pencil so it remains white while I fill in the color. I also add white to the whitest areas of the eye to keep those areas light, as I layer other colors over them.

I lightly draw in the pupil of the eye, being careful not to drag the black into the light colors. (You could draw in the pupil later if it is easier.)

The first color is Cream drawn with a light touch. I use a sharp pencil and draw in tiny circular motions covering the whole eye but the highlights and pupil of course. Then I add a wash of Jade Green to the mid tone areas and the little squiggle lines in the eye.

Step 2: Define the outside of the eye.

The next step is adding an outline with Sepia to define the eye. I go back and redefine this outline as I work the eye. I continue to build up layers with White, Cream, and Jade Green.

Step 3: Darken the areas around the outside of the eye.

Add Marine Green to the darkest shadows under the eyelids and around the outside of the eyes. This helps to give the eye a spherical shape.

I continue to build up the layers using Sand on my mid tones. Then I wash Sap Green over the whole eye avoiding the highlights, followed by a wash of Celadon Green. For both colors, I keep my touch light.

I want to keep the middle of the eye light so that I keep that three dimensional look. So I touch up the very lightest areas of the eye using White with medium pressure. Over this I once again do a light wash with Grey Green. These light washes help to keep everything blended together so the eye looks realistic.

Step 4: Deepen shadows with additional layers of color.

I deepen shadows with 70% French Grey, then continue adding washes of Celadon Green and Jade Green over the whole eye except the highlights.

In the mid tone areas I add Sand with medium pressure.

Then I go back in with black to outline the eye and the pupil again.

Step 5: Draw saturated color with more layers, increased pressure, and circular strokes.

As I get closer to finishing the eye, I add a little bit more pressure but still use tiny circular motions. The eye should have a smooth glossy appearance, so I burnish these areas to fill in the tooth of the paper.

I deepen the shadows under the eyelid a bit more by adding Sepia and Marine Green. I use Marine Green to add more depth around outside of the eye and the area near the pupil.

Again I use Sand in the mid tone areas. I then burnish the whole eye with Jade Green to blend all the colors together. I use either Jade Green or Sepia to place tiny details on the eye to add to the realistic look.

Eyelash reflections on the eye are added with Sepia, then I burnish the lightest areas of the eye with White.

Finally I add slate blue to the white highlight in each eye.

Throughout this process, I follow the reference photo.

I am going to move onto creating the fur around the eyes but will go back to add the final touches and details to the eyes after the fur is completed. Drawing the fur around the eyes helps me judge the values in the eye better.

Step 6: Start drawing the fur by blocking in color.

Since this is an eye tutorial I am not going into a lot of detail on the fur. However I will share some of the steps to create the fur, then I will go back and complete the final details in the eyes.

The fur is built up using layer after layer of colored pencil. I first lay in hair-like strokes following the direction of the fur with 70% French Grey. I do a wash of Cream over this then add more hair-like strokes of 20% French Grey.

That is followed by another wash of Cream, and then more hair-like strokes of 70% French Grey.

These steps build depth to the fur and I continue repeating them until the paper tooth is full and I have the effect I want.

Step 7: Finish drawing the fur with repeated layering.

Building layers and blending is what gives you realistic looking fur. The area between the eyes is a little different than the other areas so to create this, I used a 70% Warm Grey with a sharp point and short hair-like strokes. Then I added a light wash of Peach Beige and more short strokes of 70% Warm Grey.

I burnished this with the blending pencil. The white of the paper shows through as the lightest hairs. The rest of the area I finished using the same colors as mentioned before, following the reference photo closely and building layer after layer, with some burnishing between layers.

I have created a three-dimensional look to the fur. The very darkest points of the fur was completed with Black and Sepia in layers to fill the tooth of the paper.

With my blending pencil I drag the dark color into the light color for a smooth blending look.

The white of the paper shows through as the lightest hairs.

I used Sepia in the darkest points of the fur as a base layer. Here I have completed the fur on the forehead.

Step 8: Draw the nose using the same methods as the rest of the fur.

The nose of a cat has an unusual hair pattern and as always I follow the direction of the fur growth as shown in the reference photo.

I use the same method of layering to draw the nose, but added a bit of Burnt Ochre and Light Umber to the French Greys and Peach Beige.

Step 9: Burnish the layers of color to blend them together.

On the completed drawing, I burnished a lot of the areas to blend the fur throughout the whole picture.

I used Brush & Pencil’s Titanium White mixture to create a few more hairs and highlights throughout the drawing.

Then to finish off the eyes, I added Marine Green in the shadows, a touch of Light Umber in the eye along with Sand, and then burnished the whole eye with Celadon Green, except the lightest highlight.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - The Finished Drawing

Step 10: Compare the drawing to the reference photo

As usual I did a photo comparison with the reference photo and final drawing to check color, likeness, etc.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - Color Side-by-Side Comparison

I also did a side-by-side comparison in black-and-white to check values.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - Black and white Side-by-Side Comparison

That’s how Peggy draws cat eyes.

I hope Peggy has helped you draw cat eyes more realistically.

If you’d like more details on how she draws fur, read How to Draw Black Fur and How to Draw a Long Haired Dog.

If you have questions about this tutorial, leave a comment below. Peggy will stop by and answer your questions.

And if you have a suggestion for a future tutorial from Peggy, leave that in the comments as well.

About Peggy Osborne

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

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.

How to Draw Black Fur with Colored Pencils

Welcome Peggy Osborne back for a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to draw black fur.

Peggy’s tutorial comes in response to discussions about the difficulty of accurately and realistically drawing black fur that she’s seen (and participated in) on social media. As an artist specializing in horses for so many years, I know from personal experience how difficult black can be.

So here’s Peggy to explain how she dos it!

How to Draw Black Fur Step-by-Step

by Peggy Osborne

I hear it all the time.

Drawing black fur is hard. How do I keep from just having 2 eyes floating in a black blob?

Black fur does have variations in shading and can also have a number of other colors in it depending on the lighting. The fur in shadow is very dark while the highlighted fur is lighter. Those highlights are where you see different colors.

If the lighting is warm, you will see tones of peach, golden colors, browns. If the lighting is cool, you will see tones of blue, violet, greens.

In this reference photo, I see a lot of cool colors in the highlights.

The reference photo for How to Draw Black Fur
Image by brandog from Pixabay

I will be drawing this with Prismacolors and a few Polychromos colored pencils on light grey Pastelmat paper. The nice thing about Pastelmat is that you can layer light colors on top of dark colors. Although I usually always work from light to dark, this will help to add more details in the end.

Getting started with the eyes and face

My first step is to draw a detailed map/sketch of the reference.

The line drawing for How to Draw Black Fur

Then I start with the eyes using various brown, orange, and cream tones.

How to Draw Black Fur - Drawing the Eyes

For the black fur, I started out layering White, Light Blue, Greyed Lavender. I gradually add layers of fur-like strokes with darker colors like Cool Grey 20%, Slate Grey, and 50% Cool Grey.

I keep adding darker strokes of Violet and Indigo Blue. In the very darkest areas I use strokes of Black in random areas to give the fur a more realistic texture.

Blocking in and drawing the rest of the head

I start blocking in the rest of the head with initial light layers to show where the darks and lights go. I use a light touch and draw in the direction that the fur grows.

Here I have used White, Light Blue, Greyed Lavender, and Slate Grey.

As you can see these drawings require lots of layers to achieve the realistic look I’m aiming for and the Pastelmat paper is perfect for that as it holds lots and lots of layers.

How to Draw Black Fur

This ear was completed with many, many layers of Light Blue, Indigo Blue, Greyed Lavender, Violet, Cool Greys, and Black. I repeated the layers, adding the lighter colors in the highlights and darker colors in the deep shadows.

The first layers are applied with a light touch, and I increase pressure as I build up layers, always looking at the reference photo, and following the way the fur grows.

Trying new tools

With this portrait, I tried a new product, to me, to pull out little hair like textures…. The Slice tool. I’d heard many good things about it and decided to try it for myself.

It works very well. You can see where I used it along the top edge of the ear where I was able to create some little hairs for more texture.

Finishing the head and ears

For the next steps I basically follow the same process as before. Layering the colors following the direction of the fur growth. I use the same colors throughout the dog since he is the same color overall.

I’ve completed the left side of the face and started on the other side and ear. This photo shows about 4 or 5 layers.

How to Draw Black Fur - Drawing the face and head.

This photo shows 4 or 5 more layers.

I will probably add another 4 or 5 layers to complete this section, maybe more. The Pastelmat paper has a different finish than regular paper and it takes many, many layers to fill the tooth of the paper. I like to fill the tooth of my paper when I work, not leaving any little dots of the paper showing through.

Drawing the muzzle

Always make sure to follow the reference photo very closely. I’m layering the same colors I have been using throughout, blues, Greyed Lavender, cool greys, Violet, etc. I use White in the lightest areas.

I’m using a sharp point and a light touch going with the direction of the hair growth.

The next steps on the muzzle are just adding more and more layers, alternating colors and adding the lightest colors to the lighter areas and the darker colors to the darker areas. I continued this process up along the right side of the face and ear finishing off that area.

Once I have as many layers as I need, I use the Slice tool to scrape out some teeny tiny hairs along the muzzle to add more texture.

I also scraped out a few more highlights along the ears and where the light hits the face and bone structure. I use Black along with my darkest cool grey and Indigo Blue to really punch up the darkest shadows.

The nose is basically an extension of the muzzle using all the same colors. I use a circular motion with a light touch when drawing the nose, building up the layers as I work.

The nostril is super dark as it is in shadow and the top of the nose is in highlight. In the end, I take my electric eraser and tap the nose erasing tiny dots from the nose to add texture.

Drawing the Black Fur on the Chest

The next two photos show the chest area. There should be less detail here so the focus on this lovely dog’s face is not lost. I use the same colors but use a looser stroke. I laid out the darkest areas with black and the lightest areas with white. The mid layers are created using violets and blues.

Then I continue adding layers with all the other colors I have used throughout this painting. I still follow the direction of the fur but with a looser stroke.

Here is more done on the chest area, once again just building up those layers.

Making Adjustments and Adding Final Details

At this point I use the reference photo to compare values and color to each other. I can see I need to add more violet to the painting and darken the overall picture.

How to Draw Black Fur - Side by side comparison of the reference photo and portrait help you see where you need to make color and detail adjustments.

So I add a wash of Black Grape throughout the dog, and Black in the darker areas. Then I use solvent to smoothly blend all this together. This gives the more realistic look to the painting and looks more like the reference photo.

TIP: When doing commissions you want to continue to look at the reference photo to get as close a likeness as possible. You aren’t just drawing a dog, you are drawing the client’s dog.

Finishing off the muzzle and chin area with all my blues and cool greys. I used the Slice tool to add the whiskers .

One last step I do to check values is to turn the original and art into black and white.

How to Draw Black Fur - Convert your reference and portrait to black-and-white for a side-by-side comparison of values.

I finished tweaking the portrait by zooming in to areas on the original photo and putting in as many details as I can see on the drawing. Little stray hairs along the ears, (scraped out with the Slice tool) , adjusting the nose just a bit and overall highlights and darkening in areas that need it. And a few more whiskers.

And here is the finished piece.

How to Draw Black Fur - The finished portrait.

Hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed working on it.

Now you’re seen how to draw black fur using Peggy’s method.

Use the same process to create your own drawings of animals with black fur.

If you missed it, check out Peggy’s previous tutorial, How to Draw a Long Haired Dog.

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.

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.