How to Draw a Blurred Background

During December’s question and answer session, a reader asked how to draw a blurred background. I gave a general answer and a few tips, but didn’t have more specific information.

Today’s post is a step-by-step showing how I drew a blurred background.

How to Draw a Blurred Background

Although quite long, this tutorial covers only the background. Watch for the cat in a few weeks.

I’m working on Clairefontaine Pastelmat for the first time. The color is Sienna, which is very close to the same color as Prismacolor Yellow Ochre. Just a bit more orange.

I’m using a combination of pencils, but mostly Prismacolor and Faber-Castell Polychromos.

The reference photo is one of my own, and is of our oldest cat, which we lost due to the infirmities of old age on August 21, 2019.

How to Draw a Blurred Background - The Reference Photo

How to Draw a Blurred Background

Creating and Transferring the Line Drawing

I roughed in the initial sketch using Dan Duhrkoop’s drawing method as described in How to Draw Exactly What You See. I described that process in a previous post, which you can read here.

When the drawing was correct, I made a sheet of homemade transfer paper to try on the Clairefontaine Pastelmat. It worked well enough to draw a border with medium-heavy pressure, but couldn’t transfer the drawing with medium light pressure.

So I switched to a Verithin pencil and used medium-heavy to heavy pressure. The transfer worked best if I drew short, straight lines, but I had to go over some of it twice. I also had to clean up smudges afterward, but that was easily done with mounting putty.

How to Draw a Blurred Background - The Line Drawing

Getting Started

To establish the blurred background, I alternated layers of Prismacolor Cool Grey 20% and Slate Grey in the area behind Thomas’ head, beginning with Slate Grey in the corners, then Cool Grey 20% over all of that. I covered the paper with two or three layers of each, then added vague shapes with Slate Grey.

Then I lightly sketched the tree shapes in the rest of the background with Slate Grey.

I layered Prismacolor Slate Grey over the tree shapes with medium-light pressure, and the pencil held at about 45-degrees. I used circular strokes and did a couple of even layers for the base value, then went over the shadows with a couple of additional layers.

Smooth color layers is essential to drawing believable blurred backgrounds.

Then I used the side of the pencil, medium-light pressure, and circular strokes to add a few more shapes loosely based on the reference photo. Mostly to break up the larger negative areas.

I kept the edges soft by working over those I’d sketched earlier.

First Layers of Color

Next, I layered Cool Grey 20% over all of the background (including the trees) with medium-light pressure and circular strokes. This blending layer unified the background and softened the edges nicely.

Circular strokes left somewhat mottled color layer, though, so I switched to a vertical, back-and-forth stroke for the next layer. That created a much nicer, smoother color layer and a far more pleasing appearance.

To finish the session, I layered White over the negative spaces in the background, using medium-light pressure and small, circular strokes. I layered White almost to the bottom so that the negative spaces (which are sky in the reference photo) were lighter in value at the top than at the bottom.

Sometimes, shading the negative spaces is the best method for establishing a blurred background.

Laying in the Sky

Next, I layered Prismacolor Mediterranean Blue into the upper portions of the sky. I continued using medium-light pressure and a blunt pencil, but added only one or two layers in the darker areas at the top, and only one layer further down. I didn’t add blue toward the bottom, because this blue is too dark and gray.

After that, I layered Polychromos Ultramarine into the upper portions of the sky. I used light to medium-light pressure and whatever stroke or combination of strokes best filled in each area.

Dry Blending to Blur the Shapes

After the previous step, I dry blended the sky with a bristle brush in three stages. The first stage was with a corner of the brush and blending each shape individually.

For the second stage, I used the flat of the brush and blended across all the shapes horizontally, and the third blend was with the flat of the brush and vertical strokes. Working over the tree shapes helped blur them and make them look more distant and out-of-focus.

In the areas where I had several layers of color, the result was very pleasing. The color smoothed out nicely, creating a beautiful foundation for the blurred background I wanted.

But in those areas where I had only two or three layers of color, the dry blend accomplished very little.

The Next Round of Color

I used Slate Blue with medium pressure, and rough, open vertical strokes to shade the larger trees.

I continued shading the trees and larger branches with Slate Blue using medium pressure and firm, vertical strokes. The tree behind Thomas’ mouth is next closest, so I used the same strokes, but made the strokes less defined.

For the larger branches criss-crossing the background, I layered Slate Blue with no visible strokes. I used fewer layers on branches that are further away so that they were lighter in value.

To darken the shadows on the three closest trees, I used Black Raspberry applied in vertical strokes.

Next, I used medium-heavy pressure and the side of a sharp pencil to blend the largest trees with Yellow Ochre. I chose Yellow Ochre because the light is golden, evening light, and because it matched the color of the paper.

Using the side of the pencil softened the strokes already on the paper and working over every part of each tree unified the shapes.

Darkening the Darkest Values

Beginning with Dark Umber in the shadows on the trees, I layered color with medium-heavy pressure and strong, vertical strokes. I applied Light Umber in the same way into the highlights and lighter middle values. In some areas, I worked over Dark Umber with Light Umber, while using neither color in other areas.

I next added more Dark Umber with a diagonal stroke to soften the edges between light and dark.

I finished the two large trees (for now) by layering Light Umber over most of the lighter areas with medium-heavy pressure and diagonal strokes.

Correcting Mistakes on Pastelmat

At this point, I realized I’d made a mistake in drawing one of the trees. That tree is one of my favorite life drawing subjects and I’d totally misdrawn it.

And I immediately discovered another benefit to Pastelmat. It’s easy to correct mistakes. With a mistake like this on any traditional paper, I would’ve had to start over or live with the mistake. Or at best with a partially corrected mistake.

I sketched in the right shape with Light Umber.

Next, I filled in the shape with even color, then added two darker areas, still with Light Umber.

The correction was completed by blending the new branch into the existing tree. It’s impossible to tell where the correction is!

Koh-I-Nor Pencils on Pastelmat

I then decided to try Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless pencils to see if I could layer color fast, then dry blend it. I layered Sky Blue over the top half of the sky using medium-heavy pressure with horizontal strokes.

Next, I layered Light Grey over the sky using medium-heavy pressure and a mix of horizontal and vertical strokes. Then I added two layers of White over the whole thing, one layer with horizontal strokes, the second with vertical strokes.

For all of those colors, I used medium-heavy pressure. I also worked over all but the largest trees.

Multiple layers and varied strokes help create saturated color for blurred backgrounds.

I used a well-worn bristle brush to blend the layers together. To begin with, I used the corner of the brush, but that didn’t do much good, so I used the flat edge with short, vertical strokes to push the layers together and pull one color into another. Circular strokes dislodged more pigment dust than it blended.

Back to Polychromos & Prismacolor

It never hurts to experiment, even when the experiments fail. I didn’t like the Progresso pencils, so went back to Faber-Castell Polychromos.

I also started working the background section by section, something I should have done from the beginning.

The first Polychromos color was Sky Blue, which I layered from the top down. Cold Grey I was next, layered from the bottom up with firm pressure and short horizontal strokes. I overlapped the two colors in the center.

For the branches, I used Brown Ochre, then blended that area with Gamsol and a small round sable, using tapping strokes.

While those areas dried, I added Sky Blue and Cold Grey I to the areas between and in front of Thomas’ ears. This time I tried blending pigment dust with a bristle brush, then with my fingers. Neither method appeared satisfactory.

Mixing brands of pencils as well as colors is helpful in drawing a blurred background.

The Final Layers

To finish the blurred background, I added Faber-Castell Cold Grey I into the sky holes with medium-heavy or heavier pressure and a variety of strokes. My main goal now was smooth color and soft edges.

I used touches of Olive Yellowish-Green and Indianthrene Blue in some of the larger branches that are further away. For other branches, I worked around the branches so they showed up blue with no brown.

Next, I switched to Prismacolor French Grey 20% and burnished the sky holes, starting at the bottom. I used a blunt pencil and a variety of strokes to fill in the paper holes.

When I finished the sky, I used French Grey 70% and Slate Blue to rough in more trees. I sketched in branches of different sizes, values, and colors, and in different directions to fill in the background a little more.

Finally, I did a light solvent blend with a small round sable brush. I wanted to soften the edges between sky and branches, so I stroked in the direction the branches grew and started at the base of each branch or twig, and stroked outward.

This blurred background is ready for a final review.

Drawing a Blurred Background on Pastelmat

Whew!

This started out as a simple tutorial on drawing a blurred background. What a journey it’s turned out to be!

Even so, I hope you enjoyed it and learned from it. And I hope you’ll try drawing a blurred background of your own. Hopefully, it will go more smoothly than mine!

This tutorial was drawn on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I’ve also written a blurred background tutorial for EmptyEasel, which was drawn on regular drawing paper. Read How to Draw a “Soft Focus” Background with Colored Pencil for more tips.

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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.

How to Use a Colored Pencil Tutorial

We all enjoy a good tutorial, don’t we? But do you know how to use a colored pencil tutorial to get the most from it? If you’re serious about learning colored pencils, this post is written for you.

To begin, I’ll share a few tips for choosing a tutorial that’s right for you. Then I’ll give you a few tips that have helped me learn more from the tutorials I watch and do.

Let’s get started.

How to use a colored pencil tutorial

Choosing the Right Tutorial

I think most students choose a tutorial based on one of two things.

One, the tutorial is by a favorite artist and, two, they like the project.

There’s nothing wrong with either of those two things, but if you really want to improve your skills or gain new skills, you need to consider a few other things, too.

What do you want to learn?

If drawing water is something you want to get better at (and who doesn’t?), then choosing a pet portrait tutorial probably isn’t going to help you very much. It may be fun, and you may learn something, but you won’t have advanced your goal.

Instead of looking for any tutorial with a fun or attractive project, look for a tutorial that features water. Any kind of water. Drawing water in a glass will help you even if you really want to draw water in a landscape.

Can’t find any tutorials with water? Then look for one with a reflective surface. Reflections behave pretty much the same no matter where you find them, so if you find a tutorial with a classic car or lots of glass, that’s a good substitute for a tutorial with water.

Artistic style matters.

That is, if you want to improve your skills and not just have fun. Earlier this year, I worked on an art deco tutorial that was interesting and enjoyable, but didn’t really improve my existing skills or teach me any new skills.

If you want to learn the art deco style, then look for art deco tutorials. If you want to learn mixed media with colored pencils, look for those kinds of tutorials.

And if you want to learn a new support, that’s what you should look for. Matching the style of the tutorial to the style you want to learn will help you advance your skills much more quickly and could be a lot less frustrating!

Unless you just want a fun project.

Look for a Challenge

Every now and again, it’s a good idea to deliberately push yourself. Challenge is a key to avoiding stagnation. That was, in essence, the theme of the post I recently wrote about getting bored with my favorite subject. I’d forgotten to challenge myself within that subject and eventually got tired of it.

Don’t do that! Periodically look for a tutorial that really stretches you.

Maybe it’s more advanced than you think you’re capable of doing. Maybe the composition is more complex than anything you’ve ever done before, or maybe it’s a totally different subject. Don’t automatically exclude a tutorial because of those things.

The best way to learn anything is to push yourself. The more often you do, the more quickly you’ll improve. Just be aware of challenging yourself to the point of giving up. No good will ever come of that!

How to Use a Colored Pencil Tutorial

So now you’ve chosen a tutorial. Let’s talk about how to use that tutorial.

Read it first.

Before you set up the paper or get out the pencils, sit back and read the tutorial front to back.

Yes, it will take time and I know you’d rather be drawing, but you do want to learn, don’t you? The best way to soak up new knowledge is by repetition. Reading a tutorial first and then doing it is one form of repetition.

Follow the instructions.

This seems so obvious I shouldn’t need to say it, right? But I do need to say it because I know I’m not the only one who tends to take shortcuts. Especially if I think my way is better, faster, or easier.

Again, you’re taking the tutorial to learn something, so do what the instructor tells you to do, when and how they do it. If that method doesn’t work for you, you can change it later.

Or drop it altogether. That’s perfectly okay, too; but how are you going to know if you don’t do the tutorial the way it was written?

Do it over.

Once you’ve finished the tutorial, remember that you don’t have to be done with it. You can follow the same steps to do your own subject.

After that, you can do it yet again, but this time adapt the method to your own personal style.

The Bottom Line

Knowing how to use a colored pencil tutorial for maximum benefit is important if you want to do more than just have a pleasant experience. Choose wisely, follow the tutorial faithfully, and you’ll reap the benefits.

Interested in reading more on this topic? I’ve written an article for EmptyEasel that expands on some of these points and adds others. Read How to Find the Best Art Tutorials Online for Your Learning Style.

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 Correct an Umber Under Drawing

It would be nice to say that every step of every drawing goes smoothly; that I never have to go back and correct an umber under drawing (or any other phase of a drawing.) That an eraser never touches my drawings.

The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. You know what?

Almost every drawing has a few minor missteps. After all, I’m not perfect and make no claim to be.

Little missteps are easy enough to correct just by adding more layers.

But what happens when you make a big mistake?

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

I’m no stranger to big mistakes. You probably aren’t either. That’s why you’re still reading, right?

But a few years back, I discovered an almost fatal mistake with a large piece (16 x 20 inches.) A problem big enough to require removing a portion of the drawing and doing it over.

So, just in case you’ve made big mistakes, here’s what I did to correct my umber under drawing.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

The first thing I did was open the digital reference image and enlarge it enough to see the details that were either not visible in the smaller printed photo or were hidden under the lines of the grid drawn over the image. I worked directly from the computer.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing Reference

I don’t like erasing my work any better than any other artist does, so the first thing I tried to do was correct the problem by adding color and covering up the mistake. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work. I’d have to lift color and start over.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 1
Adding color didn’t help cover the errors in the line drawing.

How to Lift Color

To remove color, I used something called Handi-Tak.

Handi-Tak is a low-tack adhesive product created for hanging posters. Brand names include Blu-Tack, Poster Tack, and by many other names. The common name is mounting putty.

See products at Dick Blick.

Mounting putty is very pliable. Pieces can be broken off the larger piece and worked between your fingers or in your hand. It’s just sticky enough to pick up color when you press it against the paper.

It’s also a self-cleaning product, which means that as you work it in your fingers, the color it lifted off the paper is absorbed into the substance and disappears.

Mounting putty can be rolled into a ball or shaped into points and used to lift color off colored pencil drawings without tearing, scuffing or damaging the paper.

I prefer mounting putty for lifting colored pencil because it doesn’t damage the paper surface and it can be pinched or rolled into sharp edges or points for lifting color in small areas.

Other options are transparent tape, a click eraser, or an electric eraser.

Read more about lifting color on EmptyEasel

What I Did

I warmed the mounting putty by working it in my fingers for a few minutes. Then I pressed it repeatedly against the areas I wanted to lift and rolled it forward while maintaining pressure. Each time, it lifted a little more color.

Another method involves pressing the mounting putty against the paper and turning it. You can also use a blotting motion in which you simply press the mounting putty against the paper and lift it again without any secondary motion.

After every two or three applications, I worked the color out of the mounting putty again. Several cycles of this removed most of the color, allowing me to pinch or press the mounting putty into smaller shapes and fine-tune the amount of color lifted in specific areas.

TIP: It’s next to impossible to lift every bit of color from paper when you’re using wax-based colored pencils. Using a combination of methods and tools can remove most color, but be careful of damaging the surface of your paper in the process.

When I finished lifting color, the head looked like this.

It’s not a pretty sight, but sometimes the best way to cover a mistake is to first remove as much of it as you can. Even if you’re quite a ways into the drawing process.

Redrawing the Image

After that, it was a slow, careful process of applying color and lifting color until I got the head correct.

I began redrawing the features of the horse’s face with Prismacolor Light Umber using the enlarged digital image for reference. I redrew the off side eye and that side of the face, which was the original problem area. That led to redrawing the muzzle and mouth and in doing that work, I also saw some mistakes in the jaw and neck. I corrected all of those areas.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 4
Often making corrections in one area reveals problems in adjacent areas. Take your time and fix as many of those problems as you can.

I also started developing values as I worked.

Corrections took about forty-five minutes, and it seemed at first like I was going backward faster than I was going forward.

But the end result was a much better drawing. It was even a little bit further ahead of where I started in spite of the initial backward steps.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 5
The corrected drawing. Much better than what I started with!

These corrections not only allowed me to finish the umber under drawing, but set the stage for the color glazes that followed.

It Is Possible to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

Or any drawing, for that matter. The key is not to panic or despair when you discover the mistake. Don’t leap to any hasty solutions either.

Take your time. Assess the amount of damage, decide the best way to correct it, and then proceed carefully. Nine times out of ten, that plan will make it possible to finish the drawing successfully!

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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 Folds of Cloth

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

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

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

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Tips for Drawing Cloth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Project Details

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

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

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

Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Step 1: Sketch the Folds of Cloth

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

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

Step 2: Begin Shading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Blend with Paper Towel (optional)

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

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

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

Step 4: Darken the Values

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing the Drawing

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

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

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

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

Here’s the finished demo piece.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth - The Finished Drawing

That’s How to Draw Folds of Cloth

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

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

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How to Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic

This week, I want to share a few tips about how to make coloring pages look more realistic. The post is the result of a reader question, and an opportunity to guest post for artist, Sarah Renae Clark. I’ll tell you more about that article in a minute.

Here’s the reader question.

I would like to know how to make the subjects in the coloring books come to life using your pencils. I do ceramics so I know dry brushing an blending. But since I do not draw but use the coloring books, which i enjoy just wish i could make them look better.

Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic

I used the same coloring page for this post and for the guest post for Sarah Renae Clark. The page is called Cat Wisdom*, and you can purchase your own coloring page here*.

How to Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic

While the bold outlines of coloring pages make it impossible to create truly life-like realism, you can make your coloring pages look more realistic with just a few “tricks.”

The most important of those tips is contrast. The more contrast in your drawing, the less flat it looks. The less flat a drawing looks, the more real it looks.

Step 1: Draw a Smooth Base Layer

Base layers are generally a color that’s similar to the final color, but lighter in value. Something you want to be dark green can begin with a base layer of light green.

The color you choose makes a difference in how something looks finished. Do a base layer of warm green (yellowish-green) on one leaf, and a base layer of cool green (blue-green) on the leaf next to it and you will end up with two slightly different colors if you do all other layers the same.

The base layer should cover every part of each shape.

It should also be smooth, with no visible pencil strokes. The best way to draw smooth color is by using a sharp pencil and light pressure with small, circular strokes.

Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic Step 1

NOTE: If you’ve been drawing long enough to have found the stroke that gives you the smoothest results, use that stroke. If you’re beginning, the best stroke to learn is the circular stroke.

Shade all the leaves with base color. Then all the flowers. You can do as I did and use different base colors for the flowers, or do them all the same.

I chose to make the background areas very dark. You can leave them white if you prefer.

If you can’t decide on colors for every part, that’s okay. You can leave some of them for later.

Step 2: Add Darker Values

Select colors that are one or two shades darker than the base colors. Layer those colors into the parts of each shape that you want to be darker. Use a sharp pencil and light pressure to draw small, overlapping strokes or short, directional strokes.

For example, I used circular strokes in the blue flowers because those flowers are so small and because I wanted smooth color.

In the longer petals of the purple flowers, I used long, directional strokes that curved slightly to follow the shape of each petal.

When you want smooth color, draw smooth color that shows no pencil strokes. In areas where you want a little texture, use strokes that best create that texture.

Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic Step 2

Step 3: Blend with Base Colors

Use well-sharpened pencils to blend each shape. Use medium pressure to smoothly blend together the previous layers of color.

Cover every part of each shape EXCEPT the highlights you want to show. Work around those highlights. Keep the edges of the highlights soft by fading color into the highlights.

If you left blank places in your drawing, you should already begin seeing a difference between the blank spaces and the areas you’re shading layer by layer.

Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic Step 3

Step 4: Continue to Darken Values

The next step is to continue darkening values in the deep shadows and the darker middle value areas. To do that, you can do one of two things.

You can choose a darker shade of the base colors.

That’s what I did with the green leaves. The base color was Chartreuse. Over that, I added a shade of green one or two shades darker. For this step, I layered Olive Green over each of the leaves. I used a sharp pencil and medium pressure for the first layer or two.

Then I increased pressure to heavy pressure to add the darkest shadows.

I did the same thing with the small, blue flowers.

You can choose a different color.

The purple flowers started with a pink base layer (Step 1.) For the second step, I used a medium blue, and for this step, I chose Violet.

Why the different colors?

To add depth of color and increase the value range, as well as to create a new shade of purple. I wanted these flowers to stand out a little more and combining colors was a good way to do that.

Step 5: Blending Layer

This next step also can go in one of two directions. You can either burnish with a colorless blender, or blend with another round of the base colors. How do you know which option to choose?

If you’re finished with your drawing, then burnishing with a colorless blender is the way to go. You won’t change the colors (other than darkening some of them.) The end result will be smooth color and good color saturation.

Blending with the base colors is the better option if you plan to add more detail layers afterward, or if you want to change the color of an area. You will be able to add more layers after blending with the base colors because you’ll be using medium pressure.

If you burnish, you’ll press down the tooth of the paper, and it will be very difficult to make additional color stick.

Make Coloring Pages Look More Realistic Step 5

In my sample, I layered Pink over the pinkish-purple flowers, and Light Cerulean Blue over the blue flowers.

Step 6: Keep Layering and Blending Until the Drawing is Finished

I’m considering my coloring page finished at this stage, but you can continue to layer colors and blend as much as you want or until the paper will take no more color

Here’s the whole drawing.

You’ll notice I didn’t do every flower the same way. One reason for that is to keep the finished drawing from getting too busy. The dark spaces in the background, and the plain flowers give your eye a place to rest.

But another reason was to show you the difference you can make by layering and blending colors instead of using a single color. Even combining just two colors and a couple of blending layers really help you make coloring pages look more realistic.

About that Guest Post….

Sarah Renae Clark asked me to write a post showing her readers how to draw more realistic fur. Since I used the same drawing as the project for this post and Sarah’s, I thought you might like to read How to Draw Fur with Colored Pencils* as well.

*All links to Sarah’s website and store contain affiliate links.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils

In this post, I’ll show you how to finish a drawing started with water soluble colored pencils.

Last week, I shared the method I used to create an under drawing using water soluble colored pencils. While I focused on water soluble colored pencils in that post, the technique applies to any type of water soluble media with the possible exception of water miscible oils. I’ve never tried that combination, so cannot tell you whether or not it would work.

Before adding dry color, make sure the under drawing and the paper are completely dry. If there’s any residual dampness, you risk damaging the paper. I usually allow paper to dry over night, just to be on the safe side.  I also usually allow papers to air dry by natural evaporation. Even on the hottest days, this process is less likely to cause warping or buckling.

But you can dry paper with a hand-held hair dryer if you need to finish it quickly. Use a low heat setting and don’t get the dryer too close to the paper to keep the color from running before it dries.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils

Unless otherwise noted, the colors listed in this article are Prismacolor Soft Core colors. Any colored pencils work over watercolor pencils.

Step 1: Start dry drawing with the base colors.

When the paper is ready for dry color, use the same methods of choosing colors you use for any other technique. Start with the lightest colors and build toward the darks layer by layer.

In this illustration, I’ve added a very light earth tone that’s also a warm color. Burnt Ochre was lightly shaded over the darker area behind the ears and in front of the ears. I used light pressure with a very sharp pencil to draw an even color layer.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils - Step 1

Next, layer Burnt Ochre over the rest of the horse except the highlights. I always work around highlights so they don’t become muddy or—even worse—disappear. This is the best way to get sparkling highlights when you work on white or light colored paper.

On the horse’s head and neck, use a sharp pencil to draw a smooth, even color layer.

In the mane, stroke with the growth of the hair, starting at the bottom edge of the highlight and stroking downward to the ends of the hair groups.

Use light or very light pressure on the head, neck, and ears. For the mane, use light to medium-light pressure.

Begin drawing the muzzle with a light layer of pink at the chin and light gray in and around the nostril.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils - Step 1b

Step 2: Glaze color over the base layers.

With the base color in place, begin developing deeper values and richer colors.

For this demo, I used Sienna Brown and Mineral Orange in the middle values, a light glaze of Light Umber and Goldenrod to the lighter values, and Dark Brown to the shadows. However, getting the values right is more important than correct color. Since we don’t all see color the same way, select colors based on what you see in your reference.

Continue working around the brightest highlights.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils - Step 2a

For each round of work, add more of each color. Getting good coverage (filling all of the paper holes) requires multiple layers. For the best color, alternate between two or more colors.

Continue using light pressure and sharp pencils to draw smooth color. Stroke in the direction of hair growth in the mane and forelock.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils - Step 2b

Step 3: Add finishing details to complete your drawing.

When the drawing nears completion, begin working on the highlights. Leave the brightest highlights alone. The highlight along the top of the crest, for example, is whatever color shows through from the under drawing.

For the others, add Spanish Orange, Orange, or Yellow Ochre if the highlight is warm in color (the highlight along the cheek). If the highlight is more neutral, use Sand or Cream (behind the eye).

Most of the highlights are then burnished with a color like Beige or Cream to keep them unified with the coat colors around them.

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils - Step 3

Conclusion

Using water media or water soluble colored pencils to draw the under drawing is a great way to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a colored pencil work. It’s also a good way to cover the paper without filling in the tooth of the paper.

I probably won’t be using this combination very often because it doesn’t work very well on my favorite papers. They just don’t handle moisture well and I don’t care for the texture of watercolor papers that are heavy enough to take the moisture.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a viable—and valuable—alternative to using only traditional, dry colored pencils.

As I mentioned in the previous post, if you hope to enter your artwork in shows that are exclusively colored pencil, stick with water soluble colored pencils.

If that doesn’t matter, then experiment and have fun!

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