A reader recently asked for suggestions on correcting an uneven color layer. Since I know from personal experience that drawing smooth color is both important and difficult, I wanted to share a few tips with you.
Here’s the reader’s question summarized:
If the color that you layered isn’t even can one correct it and if so how?
Learning from My Mistakes
I can speak of uneven color layers from personal experience.
I made mistakes with Afternoon Graze early in drawing the meadow in the background, and I know exactly how they happened.
Getting careless in finishing the first layer in the middle distance was my downfall. This detail reveals my careless drawing. You can see “streaks” of slightly darker color to the right and left of the horses.
Here’s a closer look at the area on the left.
I was drawing on Bristol, a very smooth paper that’s made for smooth color. Imagine how uneven this layer of color would have been on Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes!
Even on Bristol, it took a lot of work to cover the unevenness. However, if you look at that piece now, you can’t see those uneven patches. You’d never know they were there, under all that color, if I didn’t tell you.
The moral to that story is that there is hope for correcting uneven color layers, or at least covering them up. If I can do it, you can too.
Tips for Correcting an Uneven Color Layer
Covering up uneven color will take a little time and effort, as my example proves. But you probably already have all the tools you’ll need to smooth out the color. The six tips that follow require no special skills or purchases. You can implement them right now!
Continue layering color over the uneven color.
Make each additional layer as smooth and even as you can. It will take a lot of layers, but you will eventually cover the uneven areas. Careful stroking is the key.
Read Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils for two more tips on layering.
Keep your pencils sharp.
The sharper your pencils are, the more easily the tip goes into the tooth of the paper. The more color you get into the tooth of the paper, the more even the resulting color layer. So sharpen often.
Try holding your pencil in a more vertical position.
Holding the pencil in a more vertical position makes it easier to get the tip of the pencil into the tooth of the paper without damaging the tooth. Especially if your pencil is as sharp as you can make it.
Try a stippling (tapping) stroke with this grip for even better results.
Mix strokes from one layer to the next.
Using different types of strokes helps fill in the uneven color a little more quickly. You might use circular strokes for one layer, then cross hatch for the next, and use directional strokes for the following layer.
If you do mix strokes, keep them all close together and use light pressure so you don’t accidentally make the problem worse. Or create a new one!
Work slowly and carefully.
Perhaps most important of all is to work slowly and carefully. I created my problem by rushing through the work. Had I been more careful in putting color on the paper, I would have avoided the uneven color in the first place.
And I didn’t help myself by trying to hurry through making corrections, either!
So whenever you find yourself hurrying or getting careless in how you draw, take a break! You’ll save time in the long run.
Blending with odorless mineral spirits may help.
Solvents blend color by breaking down the binder and allowing the pigment to flow together. The more fluid the pigments become, the better they sink into the tooth of the paper.
You do need a sufficient amount of pigment on the paper for solvent to work, though. In the case of Afternoon Graze, solvent would not have helped me because there was so little color on the paper.
If your uneven color layer happens after you have a lot of color on the paper, you might try carefully blending that area with solvent before trying any of the previous tips.
However, blending will change the appearance of the color, even if just a little bit. That’s why I mention it last, and why I usually use it as a last resort.
So the next time you discover you’ve drawn an uneven color layer, don’t panic. Take your time. Keep your pencils as sharp as you can, and keep every new layer as smooth as you can.
It will all work out!
I found this article helpful and enlightening. Your examples were a good tool to see what you were referring to. I just used colored pencils to do a bouquet of flowers and your tip made the ending results come out beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you for your comments! I’m glad the illustrations and information helped you with your current project. That’s my goal with every post.
Thank you for the tip. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t sharpen my pencil often enough.
Oh, me too, Gail! It’s so easy to forget to sharpen as often as necessary.