How to Draw Grassy Hills

Welcome back to this Tuesday Tutorial on drawing a landscape on sanded art paper. We’re passed the halfway point now. Today, I’ll show you how to draw grassy hills.

Links to the previous posts in this series are below.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil (on EmptyEasel).

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

Now for this week’s tutorial.

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Ordinarily, when I speak of drawing grass, I’m talking about grass that looks tall and is full of detail. Tall grass, waving in the wind.

But for this drawing, the entire composition is far enough removed that there isn’t much detail even in the foreground. You can, of course, add details if you wish, but our focus for this post is on how to draw grassy hills that are not up close. There will be some detail, but perhaps not what you’re used to seeing in my tutorials.

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Step 1: Rough in the darkest shadows.

There are several hills in the middle and foreground of this composition, but the lighting is such that not all of the shapes are very well-defined. Emphasize those shapes in order to break up the foreground, but don’t add a lot of color or get bogged down in detail.

Sharpen your pencil so that there’s a good amount of pigment core showing. Hold your pencil a little further back along the pencil (if the pencil is long enough), and hold it so that it’s nearly level with the paper, as shown below.

Use light pressure and “slide” the pencil across the surface of the paper. Stroke along the contours of each hill. One or two strokes should be sufficient (unless you have an extremely light touch, as I do.) Keep the strokes loose and sketchy. All you need to do right now is establish the shadows and the suggest the shapes of the hills.

How to Draw Grassy Hills - Use the Side of the Pencil

Add shadows throughout the foreground.

Don’t forget the shadow under the small group of trees in front.

TIP: It’s not necessary to get the hills exact. You want the shapes to break up the foreground and provide a visual path that leads to the small group of trees at the center of interest. Feel free to change the shapes or positions of the hills to suit your own vision for the drawing.

How to Draw Grassy Hills with the shadows shaded.

Step 2: Glaze the hills with base color.

I chose Yellow Ochre for the first color on the foreground because I didn’t have a Prismacolor color that was close to the colors in the reference photograph. So I compared each of my greens. Chartreuse was the closest green, but it was way too bright.

So I looked through the earth tones, and realized Yellow Ochre was a good companion color for Chartreuse.

Since green is the dominant color, I layered Yellow Ochre first.

If you have a green that’s a better match than either of these two colors, use it. If you want to try different colors than I’ve suggested, that’s acceptable, too.

Layer color lightly over each hill. Draw the hills individually, and stroke along the contours of the hills. Use light pressure and it’s okay to use a blunted pencil.

A Word about Pencil Strokes

You have two options for strokes.

The first option is to hold the pencil in normal writing position and apply short, directional strokes along the curve of each hill, as shown here.

East of Camp Creek 49

You can also use the side of the pencil (as shown in the previous step.) You’ll still stroke along the contours of the hills, but will cover more of the paper with each stroke, and will also get smoother coverage, as shown below.

East of Camp Creek 50

The first stroke gives you more control and is best for working around the small group of trees in front. It also lays down color a little more heavily.

But the second stroke is faster and produces more even color. The paper shows through it more. If you’re using a single color (instead of mixing colors as I am,) you may benefit by having paper show through. It will add visual interest and help tone down whatever green you use.

It’s also acceptable to combine the strokes, or to use any other stroke that helps you produce the look you want.

Next, smooth out the color by dry blending with a stiff, bristle brush. Use medium pressure and stroke along the curves of the hills. Use short strokes and overlap strokes to smooth out the color.

Step 3: Dry blend pigment dust into the color layer.

Drawing on sanded paper produces pigment dust. You can either brush it off the drawing with a drafting brush or other soft brush, or you can work it into the paper and use the pigment.

East of Camp Creek 51

And this is the foreground with the first color applied and dry blended.

East of Camp Creek 52

If we were drawing a fall scene, all we’d need to do is deepen shadows, add details, and maybe a few highlights. That’s one reason I prefer dry blending to solvent blending for drawings like this. It gives the landscape a more natural feel, especially when working on sanded paper.

Step 4: Layer green over the base color.

Layer Chartreuse over the foreground using light-medium to medium pressure. Keep your strokes close together and short in the background. As you work toward the bottom of the drawing, use longer, more open strokes if you wish, or continue to use small, less open strokes.

In the front (at the bottom,) I switched to directional strokes that mimic the look of grass, but that’s a personal preference. If you don’t want to use this type of stroke, continue with the even layering.

If you do use “grass-like” strokes, keep your pencil sharp. Leave lots of open space (with paper and the previous colors showing through.)

How to Draw Grassy Hills - Layer green over the base color.

Next, darken the shadow on the hill immediately in front of the trees with Olive Green. Use a blunt pencil and short, horizontal strokes.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Darken the shadows8

You can blend this layer if you wish. That was my intention when I drew it, but I liked the way it looked unblended, so I left it alone.

There are plenty of details on the side of this hill in the reference photo. Stones and rocks. Clumps of grass and other things. Leave those details for later. For now, it’s easier to lay down all the color, and concentrate on values. The details can be added later.

Step 5: Continue darkening shadows and developing color.

Work through the rest of the drawing with Olive Green, darkening shadows and reshaping them as necessary. Again, don’t fuss over details. Work toward getting the color and value the way you want it first.

Feel free to try different types of strokes. I tried drawing directional, grass-like strokes with Olive Green in the lower right corner. While that’s a favorite stroke, it didn’t accomplish very much.

So I used the side of the pencil to lay down more even color along the contours of the foreground slope.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Continue darkening shadows.

Step 6: Add a warm, neutral color to keep the greens from getting too bright.

Next, use Cream to lighten and warm the green in the hill immediately in front of the trees. You can use either a sharp or blunt pencil. Use medium pressure or slightly heavier, and careful stroking to create even color. Don’t burnish just yet.

If the edge of the shadow is too abrupt, blend the edge slightly, but don’t work too much into the shadow with Cream, or the shadow will become too light.

I used a long stroke to draw along the slope of the hill that faced the light source (the sun) most directly. Beginning with medium pressure at the right edge of the paper, I drew along the hill to the crest, and decreased pressure while stroking so that I was using very light pressure at the end of the stroke (the crest of the hill.) Although the hill is not very tall and doesn’t have much of a peak, there is still a point where it starts curving away from the sun. I wanted the color to “fade away” in this area.

Finish all the slopes that face the sun this way, but make sure to keep the emphasis around the center of interest. Keep the brightest brights around the trees in the center, and fade them gradually as they move toward the edges of the drawing.

How to Draw Grassy Hills 11

Step 7: To dry blend or not to dry blend.

The next step depends on whether or not you want to dry blend the hills. If you don’t skip this step.

If you do, use a stiff bristle brush to blend the colors together. Use horizontal strokes that follow the slopes of the hills to smooth out the color. Start with the lightest areas and blend them first, then move to the next darkest areas. Finish with the darkest areas.

This is important! If you work from dark to light, you will add unwanted dark colors to the highlights. While that’s not a disaster if it happens, it is an unnecessary irritation.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Dry blending


The end is drawing near on this tutorial. All that remains is drawing the center of interest (those unfinished trees,) and finishing the drawing.

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils

In this week’s tutorial, I want to show you how to paint a tree with snow in watercolor pencils.

The sample piece is the weekly drawing the third week of the year.

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils

This four-step method is ideal for sketching, drawing from life, and plein air drawing. You can, of course, finish your drawing more completely if you wish.

In other words, I can’t think of a drawing method for which this method cannot be used.

Begin with a Warm Under Painting

I began with a layer of earth tone. The intention had been to use an umber color, but I couldn’t find one, so I settled for  red-tone.

As with the other tutorials in this series, I added color to the paper by dipping a small sable round into water, then stroking the wet brush across the exposed pigment core and brushing the color onto the paper.

I didn’t do a preliminary drawing, instead drawing much as I would had I been drawing from life or outside.

The first layer of color was applied only in the shadows and darker middle values.

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils - Step 1

Add Gray Tones to the Under Painting

Next, I added gray, beginning by painting over the red tones. In the darkest shadows, I painted three or more layers of gray. In the darker middle values, one or two layers and in the lighter middle values, I added gray in short, straight strokes to mimic the look of bark.

I developed the tree by painting around the snow. But it was getting difficult to imagine the snowy edges while the background was also white. So I switched to a larger, flat and washed a light gray tint into the background.

I used very wet color for this, but also added water to the color once it was on the paper and before it dried. The result was an unplanned, somewhat mottled tone that gives the illusion of a cloudy day and weather of some kind.

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils - Step 2

Adding Warm Reflected Light and Darkening the Shadows

For this step, I painted the underside of the largest branch with a wash of golden color. The reference photo showed warm reflected light despite snow on the ground, so after putting this color on the paper, I stroked over it a couple of times with a wet brush to dilute the color. I also pulled some of it up around the curve of the branch.

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils - Step 3

Then I added a dark blue to the darkest shadows on all of the larger branches.

For each of these layers, I continued working around the areas that were covered by snow on the tree. Notice how the edge is especially sharp and clear in the place where the snow-covered tree meets the dark shadow on the smaller branch on the other side of the tree.

Adding Details with a Dry Pencil

To finish the drawing, I darkened the shadows by brushing black into them, especially on the larger branches.

Then I drew smaller branches and emphasized some of the bark details by drawing with a dry pencil. I used the same watercolor pencil for this because the pigment core is harder and drier than a regular wax-based pencil and is ideal for adding very small details.

How to Paint a Tree With Snow in Watercolor Pencils - Step 4

And that’s all there is to it!


Painting a tree with snow in watercolor pencil was a lot easier than I anticipated (mostly because I’ve never had much success with water media.) It was also more fun and the random effects in the background were a special delight.

I did this drawing in about two hours, not including drying time between each layer. It’s a great way to do quick sketches, practice techniques, or try your hand at a new subject.

It would also be great for doing half tone or color studies for larger works.

Besides all that, it was just plain fun!

Other Tutorials on This Method

I mentioned earlier that there are other tutorials involving watercolor pencils. Here are the two previous posts talking about how I did weekly drawings.

Drawing with Black and Gray Colored Pencils

Painting with Watercolor Pencils

For a more in-depth tutorial describing how I use watercolor pencils, check out my-part series on EmptyEasel.

How to Draw a Sunrise Landscape with Water Soluble Colored Pencils – Part 1

Drawing a Sunrise with Water Soluble Colored Pencils – Part 2

Tips for Drawing Realistic Wood Grain

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know my favorite subjects are horses and landscapes. But I do draw other things, upon occasion, usually when I’m doing a plein air challenge.

One non-natural thing I draw often is processed wood. Fences. Fence posts, wood steps. Part of drawing those types of subjects is knowing how to draw realistic wood grain and details.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Wood Grain

In principle, drawing realistic wood grain is no different than drawing any other subject.

Study your subject.

Create an accurate drawing.

Develop accurate values.

Add color.

It sounds pretty simple and it is—in theory.

But doing each of those steps can also be confusing and frustrating.

I’ve written two tutorials on this subject (the links are at the end of this post.) Each one deals with a different, specific aspect of drawing realistic wood grain, and they will be helpful if that’s your goal.

But what if you just want to know basics like finding something to draw, knowing what to include, and what to leave out? If that’s you, this post is for you!

The purpose of this article is sharing a few basic tips that will help you with every drawing you do that includes wood grain in some form.

NOTE: The focus of this article is colored pencil work, but most of the tips to follow apply to other mediums, as well.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Wood Grain

Choosing a Good Subject is Key to Making a Drawing You’re Proud Of

Selecting your subject is the first step in every process, and usually doesn’t merit much attention when artists talk about making art. But it’s important to find a subject that means something to you or attracts you for some reason. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose interest in the drawing before the drawing is finished.

Wood grain can be a subject all its own, or it can be a detail in a larger composition.

This section of fence might make a good subject. Variations in color and value, interesting details like knots and knot holes, glimpses through the slats, and the shadows cast on the fence provide visual variety.

How to Draw Realistic Wood Grain Subject

The same section of fence might also be just part of a larger composition. In this case, the fence provides counterpoint to the yellow and green leaves, and the bright sunlight falling upon them.

How to Draw Realistic Wood Grain Detail

Look For Strong Lighting that Enhances the Subject

Lighting sets the mood for your art. The flat light of a gray day says something different than the bold light of a sunny day.

Light can be a supporting feature or the subject of your drawing.

I can’t tell you how many times the play of light and shadow has prompted a drawing. One of the things I like about the image above is the light on the leaves, and the pattern of light and shadow on the fence.

The definition of good lighting differs for each one of us. For me, it’s a strong light source (usually the sun) coming from a single direction. But two light sources also often produce interesting affects.

Many artists find the unlimited possibilities of artificial lighting suits their tastes better.

Unique Characteristic Make for a More Interesting Drawin

There should be something unique and interesting about your subject. Something that sets it apart, and gives it character, like the worn away part of the wood in this 2016 plein air drawing.

How to Draw Realistic Wood Grain Rotted Wood

Usually, the thing that attracts your attention to a potential subject is the same thing that attracts the attention of viewers to the finished art. Look for those unique details, then make them the center of interest.

A Successful Finished Drawing Begins with an Accurate Line Drawing

Once you’ve chosen your subject, take the time to make an accurate line drawing, beginning with the larger shapes. Wood grain is, by nature, filled with details. Get bogged down too quickly in the details, and frustration results.

By the same token, don’t get so finicky about the big drawing that you lose sight of the end result. You can measure and refine and adjust until your drawing is 100% accurate, but it’s better to draw in more general terms, unless you’re drawing in a hyper-realistic style.

Add the Details After the Foundation Drawing is in Place

Add details after the larger shapes; things like knots, knot holes, and the larger grain patterns. The things that make the piece of wood you’re drawing unique.

Make sure to indicate where the major shadows and highlights fall in the wood grain. It’s all too easy to lose sight of them when shading, and once you’ve shaded over a highlight, it’s difficult to restore it.

Draw Strong Values to Catch the Eye of Viewers

Values are more important than colors in most cases. That’s one of the reasons I usually use an under drawing of some form; it’s easier to get values right, if I’m not also trying to get the color right.

It doesn’t matter what method you use to draw the under drawing. Use just one or two colors to develop the light and dark values, then glaze color to finish.


Follow these basic suggestions and you’ll soon be drawing realistic wood grain—and anything else.

Want to Know More?

In this EmptyEasel article, I explain how I do that in a tutorial that includes tips for rendering a few familiar features of weathered wooden boards. It’s not as difficult as you might think if you know what to look for. Read the full article.

OLYMHow to Draw Realistic Wood Grain Details

A tutorial is also available in the Summer 2014 issue of Colored Pencil Student magazine. Back issues are available in print and digital form. Mastering Wood Grain includes step-by-step instruction on developing the drawing shown here beginning with an umber under drawing.

How to Draw Realistic Wood Grain Mastering Wood Grain

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing

Welcome back to Tuesday Tutorials. This weeks’ topic is adding colored pencil over a water soluble under drawing.

This post is the follow up to last week’s Tuesday Tutorial, in which I showed how to draw an under drawing using water soluble colored pencils. If you missed that post or if you’d like a quick review before continuing, you can find the post here.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing

For this step, I switched from Faber-Castell pencils (Art Grip Aquarelle), to Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils. It wasn’t until later that I realized I could have used the same colors had I used Faber-Castell Polychromos instead.

My bad! I guess I’m still not accustomed to having Polychromos pencils to use!

Anyway, if you’re following this tutorial, if you have Polychromos, and if you want to use them instead of Prismacolor, go ahead. Do a little bit of color matching, and you should get good results.

Adding Traditional Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing

Step 1

Layer Prismacolor Jade Green over all of the sky except the bottom one quarter to one third. Use a combination of strokes and two or three layers to draw smooth color.

Next, layer Powder Blue over all of the sky, top to horizon. Use the same methods and strokes to cover the paper.

Keep your pencils sharp and vary the type and direction of the strokes from one layer to the next, in order to draw a sky with even color and few or no visible pencil strokes. Use light to medium-pressure for both colors.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 1

Step 2

Next, add several layers of Slate Gray. Draw the darkest values at the top of the sky, but don’t create a lot of variation toward the horizon. This sky is not clear. The landscape was in sunshine when I took the photograph, but the sky was still full of clouds.

Vary strokes from layer to layer. I used diagonal strokes in both directions, as well as horizontal strokes and vertical strokes. As I finished the Slate Gray layer, I even used the side of the pencil to lightly glaze color over the sky.

In areas where the color layer was a little rough, I used tiny, circular strokes to fill in some of the paper holes and smooth out the color.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 2

Step 3

Once the sky is the color and value you want, blend the color by burnishing. You can use a colorless blender to burnish if you don’t want to change the colors.

If you want to make them lighter without changing the color, use a white pencil to burnish.

I chose to burnish with Powder Blue to lighten the sky and give it a blue cast.

This illustration shows the sky about half burnished, so you can see the difference burnishing makes.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 3

Here is the sky completely burnished.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 4

TIP: When burnishing an area that has gradations in color or value, start with the lightest areas and work into the darker areas. If you work from dark to light, you may leave dark marks in light areas. Once these marks are burnished into a drawing, it can be difficult to remove them.

Step 4

Layer Jade Green and Slate Gray into the most distant hills. Use medium to medium heavy pressure to apply one layer of Jade Green, followed by a layer of Slate Gray. Continue to alternate layers until you have the color and value you want.

TIP: It’s helpful to overlap the colors so that the color is not uniform, but you don’t need to draw a great deal of detail because these hills are a good distance away.

When the colors and values are the way you want them, burnish with Powder Blue. Make sure to soften the edges of the hills where they meet the sky. You don’t want those edges to be too sharp.

You can also use a warmer color to burnish parts of the middle hill if you wish. I used Cream in the lower portions on the left. This will create a transition between the shadowed parts of the landscape and the sunlit parts.

You can also wait until after the drawing is finished to add these touches.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 5

Step 5

Layer Jade Green very lightly over the large hill in the middle, just behind the most distant trees. It’s all right to use a blunt pencil. The texture of the paper helps create the look of the landscape. Use light to medium light pressure. Cover all of the hill, but don’t worry about filling in every paper hole.

Then layer Sand over that using light to medium-light pressure.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 6

Step 6

Layer Chartreuse over the hills immediately behind the trees. Use a sharp pencil and light pressure to lay down an even layer of color.

Make sure to add a few “holes” where the hills show through the trees.

Next, add the cast shadow from the large trees on the left with a lightly applied glaze of Dark Green. This shape should be fairly even, but it’s okay if you end up with patches of brighter green showing through the shadow. That will make the shadow look more like a shadow and less like a piece of dark green fabric lying on the hillside!

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Detail

Layer Dark Green into the darkest shadows of the trees. Make sure the pencil is sharp. Use light-medium pressure and squiggly strokes to mimic groups of foliage.

Add Dark Brown over that, followed by Indigo Blue to darken the shadows, but maintain a natural looking green color.

In this illustration, the trees on the far right show only the under drawing. Next to them, I’ve added only Dark Green in the shadows.

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing Step 7

In the next group, Dark Green and Dark Brown have been applied and the tree on the left shows Dark Green, Dark Brown, and Indigo Blue layered into the shadows, then Dark Green applied with lighter pressure over most of the rest of the tree.


The next step in the process is finishing the shadows on all of the trees. Then I’ll pick up how I finished the trees, drew the foreground, and made final adjustments to the drawing, all in the next post. I hope you’ll join me.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil

Today, I’m going to share some basic brushing techniques for water soluble colored pencil, as well as a few basic ways to put water soluble color onto drawing paper.

The brushing techniques I’ll describe are pretty basic to watercolor painting. These brushing techniques are methods I’ve used on the few occasions I’ve used either watercolor or water soluble colored pencil in my work. They’re easy to learn, but are extremely versatile.

Before we look at them, though, let’s look at four different ways to get color on the paper.

Dry on Dry

This is probably the most familiar way to put color on paper, even with water soluble pencils. Draw on dry paper with a dry pencil, then brush water over the color to activate it and blend color. It’s ideal for covering large areas quickly with even color that does not fill up the tooth of the paper.

You can also blend two or more colors together as I’ve done in this illustration, or layer colors to create a new color.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Dry on Dry

Dry on Wet

To draw dry on wet, dampen the paper first, then draw into it with a dry pencil. The moisture on the paper “melts” the water soluble pigment, so you get better color saturation, but it doesn’t melt it  so much that the strokes blend together.

The darker strokes in this illustration are on wet paper. The lighter strokes show where I continued drawing onto dry paper.

This method is perfect if you want to draw a small accent or detail with water soluble pencil.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Dry on Wet

Wet on Dry

When you draw wet on dry, you put wet media on dry paper.

In this sample, I’ve dipped the pencil into water, then drawn with it. The strokes on the left are with wet pigment. With each stroke, the pencil gets drier, so that the strokes on the right are drawn with dry pigment.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Wet on Dry

Another way to do wet into dry is to use a damp brush to pick up color from a palette, then brush it onto dry paper. The results are much the same as using the pencil, but the strokes are more fluid and less defined.

Wet on Wet

Most watercolor painters dampen their paper, then brush wet color into the wetness. The color flows and blends randomly to create interesting color gradations and shapes.

You can do the same thing with water soluble colored pencil by wetting your paper, then using a large brush to pick up color from your palette and stroke it onto the wet paper.

One Thing To Remember

Water and oil do not mix. Neither do water and wax.

You can layer wax-based or oil-based colored pencil over water soluble color with great results and the drawing is still archival.

But if you put water soluble colored pencils over either wax- or oil-based pencil, it may not stick if you use water.

So if you plan to use water soluble pencils, always do that work first!

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil

Following are a few brushing techniques I’ve used, and how I’ve used them.

Washes Before Drawing

A wash is a broad application of color on wet paper. You use a large, soft brush that allows you to cover large areas with a minimum of strokes. Strokes usually cover all of the area you want to paint. Specially designed “wash brushes” are available in many sizes and shapes.

“Drawing” takes place in two steps.

First you wet the paper either by misting it with a spray bottle or by brushing the paper with a wet brush. The wetter the paper, the more easily colors will blend. Also, the wetter the paper, the more likely random effects become.

Second, dampen your brush and pick up color, then stroke it onto the wet paper.

This plein aire drawing was done with a wash. The colors in the sky blended together the moment I put them on the paper. The paper was very wet, so the color shows no brush strokes.

It’s also possible to get very interesting results, such as the area on the right, where blue and pink have formed a blurred line.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Wet Wash

For more broken color, let your paper dry a little before adding color.

Washes After Drawing

You can also do a wash after applying dry pigment. In this little landscape, I drew the sky with dry pencils, then used a medium-sized soft brush to create a wash.

The result isn’t quite as smooth as doing a wet-into-wet wash, but it allows you to work around areas you want to preserve, such as the clouds.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Adding Water to Dry Pigment


When you “stipple,” you tap your brush or pencil against the paper without actually moving it across the paper.

You can also stroke slightly to make more elongated marks.

I painted these trees with a stippling stroke, and a round sable brush that no longer holds its shape properly. As a result, no two strokes look exactly alike.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Stipple Stroke

TIP: To prevent patterns from developing, turn the brush after each stroke or two.

Directional Strokes

Directional strokes are strokes that mimic whatever you’re drawing. If you’re drawing grass, stroke upward from the bottom and curve the strokes in different directions and to different degrees.

If you’re drawing hair, stroke “from the skin” outward.

Overlap strokes to create light and dark values.

This illustration shows directional strokes stroked onto wet paper. The same type of stroke on dry paper produces bolder strokes.

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil Vertical Strokes Wet into Wet

“Dry” Brushing

With dry brushing, you use a damp brush loaded with color to stroke color onto dry paper. Color will stick mostly to the tooth of the paper, leaving paper holes showing through. The drier the brush, and the toothier the paper, the more paper is likely to show through.


These basic strokes work equally well with water soluble colored pencil or water color. Water soluble colored pencil work makes for great under drawings, and you can lay down a lot of color quickly.

But you can also do complete drawings with water soluble colored pencils.

You might also want to read How to Use Traditional and Water Soluble Colored Pencil 8 Must Read Articles on this blog or a pair of two-part tutorials written for EmptyEasel. How to Draw a Sunrise Landscape with Water Soluble Colored Pencils begins here and How to Start a Drawing with Water Soluble Colored Pencils begins here. Each tutorial shows you step-by-step my methods of using water soluble colored pencils.

Using a Complementary Under Drawing to Draw Animals

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know one of the drawing methods I use most often is the complementary under drawing method. Several landscape tutorials feature this method. But is that all it’s good for? Can you use a complementary under drawing to draw animals?


I don’t use it very often because I prefer the umber under drawing method for drawing animals. But both methods work, so I thought I’d show you one horse drawing I did using the complementary under drawing method.

Using a Complementary Under Drawing to Draw Animals

Before we visit the tutorial, though, let’s take a quick look at just what the complementary under drawing method is.

What is a Complementary Under Drawing?

An under drawing is the first layers of the drawing. They can be in the same colors as the final drawing (what I refer to as the direct method). They can also be shades of brown (umber under drawing), complementary, or any other single color (monochromatic.)

When you use a complementary under drawing, you draw the first layers with colors opposite the final colors on the color wheel. If you’re drawing a red apple, for example, the first layers are drawn in greens. Green is on the opposite side of the color wheel from red.

The reverse is also true. Use shades of red or earth tones to under draw green subjects. Yes, even landscapes!

Read How to Use a RED Under Drawing to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens with Colored Pencil.

The complementary method works for any subject.

How to Use a Complementary Under Drawing to Draw Animals

NOTE: This drawing is an older project, so there are no step-by-step illustrations available.

Getting Ready to Draw

I used Beach Sand Ivory Strathmore Artagain drawing paper because the color was ideal for this subject and the very vague background I wanted to use. Artagain drawing paper is also smooth enough for drawing details, and sturdy enough to take lots of layers.

The drawing method is based on the Flemish technique normally used with oils.

Drawing the Background

I drew the background by applying several layers of color and blending heavily with a clean tissue between each layer. The result is a look that is “watercolor-like” in appearance.

To create the look of the Arabian horse’s native desert, I used blues at the top and blended into golds at the bottom—the look of sky and sand.

The colors were so soft and subtle, they neither photographed nor scanned very well!

Drawing the Under Drawing

I had to find suitable opposites for horse colors. Namely, the browns, red-browns, and golds in the horse’s coat.

Browns are shades of oranges, so the logical choice was to begin with violets, purples and/or blues. Sometimes, near complements are more useful than direct complements, so I considered a number of colors.

I chose Verithin Parma Violet* because it’s an excellent color with a light value. I didn’t want a strong complementary color presence, so this seemed like the ideal choice.

However, it was much too light to provide the necessary range of values even after several layers.

So I layered Verithin Violet* over the darks and darker middle values.

I worked on the under drawing for two days, reviewing the work at the beginning of each day and making necessary changes or corrections.

TIP: Verithin pencils are a harder version of Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils. They hold a point longer, lay down thinner layers of color, and do not fill up the tooth of the paper as quickly. You can do an entire under drawing with Verithin pencils, then layer softer pencils over them.

Read 2 Ways to Use Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil.

Glazing Color

After a final review of the under drawing, I began glazing color. I applied each color only into the areas where I could see it in the reference photograph or where I remembered seeing it in the horse’s coat.

Working from light to dark, I used Verithin Goldenrod, Verithin Orange*, Verithin Dark Brown, and Verithin Indigo Blue. With every color layer, the goal was to get as seamless and smooth a glaze as possible.

This is what the drawing looked like when I finished the Verithin layer. The complementary under drawing is still very evident. The warmer areas are the first glazes of color.

Complementary Under Drawing - Finished Under Drawing

Glazing Color over a Complementary Under Drawing

As already mentioned, this is an older project, so I don’t have step-by-step photographs of either the under drawing or the glazing process. The photo shown above is the only one, in fact, and I now wish I’d taken more in-progress images (a good reminder to all that you cannot have too many in-progress photographs!).

However, you can see how I outlined the highlights and worked around them with each layer of color.

You can also see how I used purples and lavenders to lay the foundation for the horse’s bay coat. Darker purples in the darker, blacker areas along his neck and lighter purples or lavender (or no purple at all) in the areas where he shows a more golden color.

After this point, I used Prismacolor Thick Lead pencils and continued layering color. I developed color saturation and value through a series of glazes, all applied with light to medium pressure until the drawing was finished.

For the sleek hair on the body, I used short strokes, placed close together. In the illustration below, you can also see that I used the color of the paper for the highlights.

Complementary Under Drawing - Shoulder

I drew the mane and forelock with long, directional strokes, working around the highlights.

By the way, since blacks often show a variety of other colors, I let the under drawing show through around the highlights in the mane.

Complementary Under Drawing - Mane Highlights

This is the finished drawing.

Complementary Under Drawing - Finished Drawing


For a more information on using a complementary under drawing to draw animals, check out the free eBook, The Complementary Method for Colored Pencil. It also features a horse as the subject, but also includes a landscaped background.

*The colors marked with asterisks are not lightfast colors, and I no longer use them. If I’m working with Prismacolor products only, I substitute lightfast blues and/or reds for purples. You can also substitute lightfast purples in other brands of pencils for Prismacolor purples. Faber-Castell Polychromos has a nice selection of lightfast purples.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water

We all welcome tips for drawing reflections on water, don’t we? Water is notoriously difficult to draw well, and it’s certainly the concern of Cindy, who asks today’s question.

Hi. First I’d like to say thank you for your help.
I’m trying to do a sailboat, with reflections on water. If you have some tips that would be great. Cindy

What a great question, Cindy. Thank you for asking! I know there are many others anxious for the answers.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water

Drawing water is a topic capable of taking up several full-length tutorials. Rather than wait until I can do a tutorial, I’ll share a few basic tips that apply to drawing any kind of reflections on any kind of water.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water

To All Perfection There is An End

Water is fluid. It looked different the instant before your reference photo was taken, and it looked different the instant after. It will never look exactly the same again. Not that anyone will notice, at any rate.

So don’t fret over trying to get every single detail correct. Instead, focus on the general shapes and the overall character of your subject and its reflection.

Think “Abstract”

Here’s a very nice picture of a sailboat on water. The colors are beautiful and the reflections are really interesting.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Full Image

But there’s an awful lot of information in the photo, even if you are looking only at the boat and its reflection. It’s nearly overwhelming, isn’t it?

Let’s look at just the reflection. Still a lot going on, but now the focus is on the shapes in the water.

And that’s where you begin to see that all these shapes are really abstract shapes. They fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Draw each piece, make it close to the right size, shape, and color, and when you finish you have a reflection!

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Abstract Shapes

Try a Different Point of View

The human brain has an uncanny ability to observe. After we’ve seen something a certain number of times, our brains begin to learn what details should be there, even when the eye cannot see them.

That’s good…except when you’re drawing something. Why?

Because after a while, your brain begins telling your hand what should be in a picture, instead of letting your eye see what’s really there. An example.

I’ve been drawing horses for over 50 years. When I draw horses now, it’s automatic to draw a hoof in a certain way. My brain has learned what a hoof looks like in general, so it assumes that all hoofs look like that. The problem is that no two hoofs are exactly the same. I MUST let my eyes (rather than my brain) tell my hands what to draw.

The same thing applies to any subject. Even if you’ve never drawn a reflection on water before, you’ve seen enough of them that your brain thinks it knows what a reflection looks like.

You need to find a way to quiet your brain so your eyes can show you what’s really in your photo reference. One excellent way to do that is to turn your photo reference upside-down and work with your drawing turned upside down, too. Your eyes see this image and your brain says, “Ah ha! Something new to look at! Woo-hoo!” You’re immediately able to see the shapes and colors not as a reflection on water, but as a collection of abstract shapes.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Upside Down

You can also do this by looking at your reference in a mirror (or by flipping it horizontally as shown below.) The drawback with this method is that you can’t easily view your drawing in the same way.

I use this method when I really get stuck on something, but it’s almost always a last resort!

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Horizontal Flip

Darker Reflections

Here’s the full image again. Notice that the whites in the sail are lighter than the whites in the reflection of the sail. The pinks in the sail are also darker than the pinks in the reflection of the sail.

As a matter of fact, the reflection of the sky is darker than that the sky.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Full Image

Under most circumstances, any reflection on water will be darker than whatever is being reflected. The difference between the subject and the reflection varies depending on time of day, atmospheric conditions, and the nearness of the object, but there will always be a difference.

What’s more, the further the reflection gets from the object, the darker it gets. Look how much grayer the reflection is at the bottom of the image, than up close to the boat.

Values Not Color

Get the values right and getting the colors right isn’t as important. Get the colors right, but miss the target on values, and your drawing will be dull and lifeless. Flat.

Of course there are times when contrast will be low. Night scenes, foggy scenes, and similar settings will have less contrast than a middle-of-the-day, brightly lighted scene. But it’s still important to draw enough contrast so the drawing makes sense. That’s why I like doing an under drawing so much. An under drawing allows me to work out the values enough that the under drawing could be a standalone drawing. It’s the substance of the drawing. The color is  a wonderful addition.

Read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

Sharp Edges

The thing about drawing water—or anything wet or highly reflective—is the quality of the edges between values and colors. Most of them are pretty sharp. There are abrupt changes between values and colors, as you can see here.

Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water - Sharp Edges

Yes, there are some value and color shifts that are more subtle, but they are much less frequent than if you were drawing something soft or dry. So pay attention to those edges and make sure they’re crisp and clearly defined. Even when it doesn’t look right while you’re drawing it.


Those are my tips for drawing reflections on water. They’re the most important basics in drawing water correctly. Once you master these, the rest is, well, clear sailing!

How to Draw Carpet with Colored Pencil

I have learned so much from you in my learning of art work with colored pencils over the past few months, and I thank you for that. I’ve been searching for something lately and not really finding good answers. I need to figure out how to draw/color carpet with colored pencil for a portrait of a cat lying on carpet.

Thanks again, Carrie. I, and many other beginning artists, are benefiting greatly from your tutorials.


Thank you for your very kind words, Vickie. Thank you also for such a great question. The best way to answer your question is to show you how I’d draw carpet.

But first, a few guidelines that apply to almost every kind of colored pencil drawing.

Colored Pencil Guidelines

Use light pressure as long as possible. Using heavy pressure not only fills the tooth of the paper more quickly; it also presses it down. Both make it more difficult to add layers. In most cases, it’s better to work with light to medium pressure until the very end.

Don’t worry about getting everything exact. For those of us who love detail, it’s a constant struggle to avoid fixating on the details. I know I want everything perfect, but that’s a sure road to frustration. Instead, focus on capturing the character of the background. Color is a primary factor, but so is value. You can also add a few accents that hint at the details without emphasizing them.

Keep the background in the background. This is important. The background must stay in the background, or the drawing becomes too busy. Ways to do this are softening edges, muting colors, and minimizing details. It will matter less in a drawing such as this, where the background is limited to the pattern, color, and texture of the carpet, but it is still important.

Go slow. Every part of the drawing deserves your best work. It’s counter productive to rush through the background, because it is the background. Yes, it needs to be less important than the subject, but that doesn’t mean you skimp on time or effort. The subject and the background should work together. They should look like parts of the same drawing, rather than having a well drawn subject with a slapped together background. I did that in my younger days and it wasn’t helpful!

Let the paper work for you. There are times when the texture of the paper you’re using can help you draw your subject. I discovered that using light pressure with Stonehenge paper allows the texture of the paper to assist in creating the look of carpet. I hadn’t expected that.

Now you have a few basic guidelines for drawing this sort of background. Lets get to the tutorial.

How to Draw Carpet

Here’s a detail of the reference photo Vickie supplied. As you can see, it’s mostly blue, but there are different blues as well as a few bits of oranges and reds.

How to Draw Carpet - Reference Photo

Vickie is working on tan suede mat board. I’m doing the following tutorial on Fawn Stonehenge. The steps will work with any good drawing paper, though the results will vary depending on the tooth and color of paper you draw on.

By the way, I’m using Prismacolor pencils, but am using only colors with the best lightfast rating, so you don’t have to worry about fading if you use the same colors.

Step 1: Establish the Basic Color

Chose a good, middle value color for the carpet you’re drawing. With this dark blue carpet, I chose Mediterranean Blue, which I layered over the carpet with circular strokes and light pressure.

In this illustration, I drew horizontal strips across the sample, then worked my way back across the sample. The area on the left shows a couple of layers, while the area on the right shows one layer.

I also worked in columns, as shown in the lower left corner.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 1

Do three or four layers, and stagger the layers so you don’t cover the entire area with any one layer. The resulting variation in values will begin establishing the look of a fabric. You can follow the pattern of light and dark in your reference photo, or let the layers overlap in a totally random manner.

The following illustration shows my sample after two or three additional layers.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 1b

TIP: If you want to create the look of carpet without adding additional colors, you can work entirely with one or two colors, and continue layering until you have the color saturation you want. You could even do it with just one color, but I strongly recommend against that, since using a single color could result in a flat looking area of color.

Step 2: Add a Second Color to Create Color Depth

Layer a second shade of the blue to the carpet. Use the same layering method. I chose Indigo Blue, which I applied with light pressure in a random pattern. I didn’t want to totally cover up the Mediterranean Blue, but did want darker variations in the carpet.

This illustration shows two or three layers of Indigo Blue. Again, I overlapped layers so that some areas are darker than others.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 2

Step 3: Darken the Values

Next, I darkened the overall values with two layers of Black. The first layer was applied over all of the blue with light pressure and circular strokes. The second layer was applied only in the darker areas, and mostly at the bottom.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 3

Step 4: Add a Complement

To keep the blues from looking too flat or vibrant, I layered Henna over all of the area twice. I used light pressure and circular strokes for both layers.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 4

Step 5: Repeat

If the carpet were a solid, slate gray or blue-gray color, this would be a sufficient treatment for background purposes.

But the carpet in the reference is quite a bit darker, so I’ve added more layers of Indigo Blue, Black, and Mediterranean Blue to darken the overall color.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 5

I also drew a cast shadow in the upper right corner, and began establishing the diagonal pattern in the carpet’s weave.

TIP: The carpet in the reference photo shows the weave on the diagonal. If that works all right with the coverall composition, it’s okay to draw the weave on the diagonal. I couldn’t help feeling my sample looked a little off balance with the diagonal detailing. I kept wanting to make it horizontal, but my sample is taken out of context. Do whatever works best with your composition and subject.

SUGGESTION: Save the next two steps until after the drawing is completely finished, then do only as much of each step as you need.

Step 6: Add a Few Details

Finally, add a few details to suggest the surface color and texture. I used Powder Blue, Mineral Orange, and Beige to burnish small circular spots over the blue of the carpet.

You don’t need a lot of these. Cluster them in a random pattern near the cat. As you move away from the cat, reduce the number of accents, and also make their edges softer and more blurry.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 6

Step 7: Add Highlights

This step is optional. If you like the way the carpet looks after step 6, you’re good. If you don’t then consider adding a few overall highlights. Chose a color that’s lighter than the main colors to burnish a few highlights. You can also use a colorless blender if you have one. This will blend the areas you burnish without changing the color.

If you chose to burnish highlights, wait until the drawing is completely finished. It’s quite possible you’ll discover you don’t need to do Step 4 after the rest of the drawing is finished.

DEFINITION: Burnishing is pressing very hard on the paper with your pencil, to “grind” colors together. It works best after you’ve applied all the other colors, usually late in the drawing, or just before you finish an area. Burnishing does press down the paper tooth, and also lays down a lot of wax, so it can be difficult to add more color over an area you’ve burnished.

I went ahead and burnished my sample just so you could see the difference. On the left, I used a colorless blender, the center is unburnished, and on the right, I used Powder Blue. In both cases, I used circular strokes drawn either on the diagonal or horizontally and large enough so that not every inch of the sample was covered.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 7

I’m not sure which option I like best. It really depends on the overall drawing.


And that’s how I’d draw carpet.

If you’ve ever drawn carpet, how what method did you use?

What Is Bokeh and How Can I Use it with Colored Pencil?

I’m wanting to do a bokeh/blurred background in colored pencil for an image I’m working on, but the tutorials seem to range greatly between methods, and none of my practice samples look right. Some say all the circles much be the same size, some say different sizes, and still others say elliptical circles mixed with round ones. Some also say to start with the lightest highlights first, while others say do the dark outside first and leave the highlighted circles for last. Do you happen to have a tutorial on bokeh-like backgrounds in colored pencil?

Thank you for this question. While I’ve used blurred backgrounds in the past, I’d never before heard the term “bokeh”, pronounced bo-kay (like bouquet.) Research led to a wealth of information.

So much, in fact, that I decided to answer the question in two parts. I am planning a detailed tutorial on drawing bokeh backgrounds later this month, but today I’ll be exploring bokeh in a more general sense, as well as answering some of the questions that are easier to answer.

What Is Bokeh and How Can I Use it with Colored Pencil

What is Bokeh?

“Bokeh” is a photography term that refers to the blurry quality of backgrounds in photography. (Here’s the article I read. It won’t tell you how to draw bokeh, but it will tell you what it is and how it looks in photographs.)

Bokeh is the visual quality of out-of-focus areas of a photography. The term applies especially to the use of particular lenses, but can also be achieved if you use a shallow depth of field in taking photographs.

This photograph shows a blurred background. While this is not technically a bokeh-style background, it does show the effect of the method in emphasizing the flowers.

What is Bokeh Blurred Background

This photograph does not. The background is nearly as sharply focused as the flowers.

What is Bokeh Focused Background

The blurred background emphasizes the flowers by making the background look distant. When you draw a bokeh background, you’re doing essentially the same thing–pushing the background into the distance.

Quick Answers

Is Bokeh and Blurred the Same Thing?

They are similar, but they’re not the same.

This photograph shows a simple blurred background. The focus is on the foreground daisies, so the background daisies are out of focus, also known as soft focus. The edges are soft and get softer as the daisies get further away, but they’re still clearly daisies.

What is a Bokeh Background Blurred Daisies

In the following photograph, the background is a bokeh background. The shapes have been created by a lens attachment. They retain the colors of the objects in the background, but there’s no way to be certain whether those objects are tulips, stones, or sparkles on water.

What is a Bokeh Background Bokeh

What Shapes Appear in Bokeh Backgrounds?

Unless you use a special lens attachment, the shapes are generally going to be round. My theory is that the lens opening is round, so the blurred light also appears as round.

They may also be slightly oval.

However, there are lens attachments that create shapes such as stars, flares, and hearts.

Do All The Shapes Have to Be the Same?

If you’re using a lens to create bokeh photographically, the shapes will all be the same and are quite likely to be the same size because the function is in the lens, not whatever you’re shooting.

When it comes to creating a bokeh-like background by using a shallow depth of field, the blurred shapes will resemble whatever is in the background, so they will be different shapes and different sizes.

The Difference This Makes to Your Drawings

“That’s all well and good,” you say, “but what does it have to do with art?”

Not much, since you can obviously draw whatever type of bokeh or blurred background you want. But it explains the method behind the photographic process and may help you determine how to draw a bokeh background in colored pencil.

It may also help you decide whether a standard blurred background might suit your subject better than a bokeh and when bokeh could be the best choice.

Video Tutorial

The best tutorials I’ve ever seen on this are from Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art. She works in many different mediums, including colored pencil. Many of her subjects are very sharply focused, up-close-and-personal compositions with bokeh-style backgrounds. They all look great. If you watch almost any of her bird or butterfly videos, you’ll see her using that type of background.

But she uses an air brush to get those affects (an amazing process all on it’s own.) Here’s one of the most recent videos showing the air brushing for the background and the colored pencil butterfly drawing. There’s a bit of a promotion on a photo service first, but it’s short. It is a time lapse demo, but Lisa offers commentary over the video.

Other Ways to Draw Bokeh/Blurred Backgrounds

As for myself, I’ve never used bokeh for backgrounds, but I have done quite a few blurred or soft focus backgrounds with colored pencil drawings. Sometime ago, I wrote an article on drawing soft-focus backgrounds for EmptyEasel, which you can read here.

You can also take a look at the tutorial on the palomino filly here. I used a soft-focus background for that.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof

How to Draw a Horse's Hoof - Step 3

Even if your all-time favorite thing to draw is a horse, you probably don’t love drawing the feet. Learning how to draw a horse hoof was among the biggest challenges I faced when I decided to become a horse portrait artist.

I suppose that’s why I spent so many years drawing heads!

If you have the same difficulties, it’s time to take the bit in your teeth and get over this obstacle!

Are you ready? Let’s go!

There are any number of ways to draw a horse’s feet. Front, side, back, just to name a few. Then there’s the foot in motion. How do you begin to tackle all those positions and angles?

The best way to begin is by learning how to draw better feet standing still. So that’s our subject today.

As Unique as Fingerprints

A horse’s hoof structure is as unique as a human fingerprint. While the general shape may be the same or similar, the relationship of size, slope, heel, toe, and a number of other details are unique from one horse to the next; sometimes from one hoof to the next.

If you’re working on a conformation pose such as Salt Lake in Colored Pencil, getting the shape of each hoof correct is as important as getting the hip or shoulder right. It’s less important in an action image, but it is still important.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you step-by-step how to draw a standing hoof based on this reference photo.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Reference

NOTE: This tutorial is all about making the line drawing. Whether you paint or draw, an accurate line drawing is the first step in creating realistic artwork. The steps I’m about to show you can be used with any hoof in any position. The fact of the matter is that these steps can be used with any subject!

Let’s get started!

How to Draw a Horse Hoof Step-by-Step

Step 1: Begin with the big, basic shapes.

Start with the overall shape, and begin by taking a good look at your reference photo. How long is the toe? How shallow is the heel? What angles are created between hoof and ankle?

Using light pressure and a medium softness drawing pencil (2H, HB or F, 2B) or a colored pencil that’s light in color, sketch the basic contours. Don’t be afraid to erase and redraw as many times as necessary to get a good likeness.

I used an F graphite pencil. At this stage, I’ve drawn and redrawn the hoof to get the best possible shape and position. The lighter lines are the first lines. The darker lines are the corrections and refinements that followed.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Step 1

Step 2: Begin adding details to the basic shapes.

Once you have the overall shape in place, begin placing details like the coronet band (the ring around the top of the hoof.) Take your time working through this part of the process.

If it helps to do multiple drawings on tracing paper, take the time to do that. Lay a fresh piece of tracing paper over the current drawing and transfer the drawing. Refine it as you transfer it.

You can then work on the drawing from the front and the back, which helps correct any right-hand or left-hand drawing bias you might have.

Repeat the process as often as necessary because this is the best way not only to get an accurate drawing of this particular hoof, but to learn the basic structure for all hooves.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Step 2

Step 3: Add smaller and smaller details each time you rework the line drawing.

When you’re satisfied with Step 2, start with a fresh sheet of tracing paper. This time, as you transfer the drawing, begin adding smaller details. Add stripes or other markings on the hoof. Add leg markings if there are any. Don’t forget the growth rings and the shoe, if the horse is shod.

You can even do a little modeling if you want, just to check the three-dimensionality of the drawing.

For this stage, I switched to a 6B graphite pencil to get a good, solid line drawing.

I also used a variety of line types to develop the drawing. Solid, slightly darker lines mark the outside edges and edges between shapes. I outlined the highlight on the hoof with a dotted line. Short, vertical strokes define the line between hair and hoof as well as the white marking.

I drew shadows with a heavier line. The softer lead pencil facilitated the different types of lines I used.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Step 3

TIP: I use line darkness and type to draw the various parts of a subject because it’s less confusing than using a similar line to draw everything. I learned this method when I learned how to draw pictorial depth in a Craftsy course on landscape drawing. Since then, I’ve discovered it has a variety of uses.

It’s not as important with simple drawings like this, but it is very useful in more complex compositions.

The Finished Drawing

Whether you continue working with graphite for a finished study, or create a study in another medium, you’re now ready for the finishing work.

Learning More About Drawing Hoofs

I recommend hoof studies for every work you do that shows feet, especially portraits.

Every hoof is different and unique. A discerning and involved horse lover may very well be able to see that the hoof in your artwork is not their horse’s hoof.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Study of Horse Feet

Whether you draw from life or from photographs, every hoof you draw will help you draw the next one more accurately.

And let’s face it, if you know how to draw a horse’s hoof, you can pretty much draw anything!