How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

Colored pencils are an ideal medium for creating a detailed miniature drawing. Their very nature is perfect for small works of art, so if you’re looking for something new, I encourage you to give it a try.

DEFINITION: Miniature artwork is 24 square inches (4×6) or smaller. My demo piece measures 3-1/2″ by 2-1/2″ (commonly known as an art trading card). Miniatures can be much smaller, too.

For more information on miniature art, visit the Miniature Art Society of Florida for national and international definitions. While there, take a look at some absolutely marvelous miniature work in a variety of mediums.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

But how do you draw a miniature drawing? What special methods do you need to know?

My short answer is that whatever method you use for other drawings will work if you want to draw a miniature drawing. The biggest adjustment you’ll have to make is the length of pencil strokes; they need to be smaller!

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil

My subject for this demonstration is a mare and foal, but the method I’m about to describe works for any subject and any size.

The drawing method is a simplified version of the classical method in which I do an under drawing first, then layer color over the under painting.

Step 1: An accurate line drawing

A detailed drawing is a must with any form of miniature art. The composition is so small, it’s difficult to correct drawing errors once you’ve started rendering.

With most wet media, you can still cover up mistakes, but not so with colored pencil. Since details are developed from the very beginning, take the time to make sure your initial line drawing is correct.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - The Line Drawing

Step 2: Block in the under drawing

Use Light Umber and Dark Umber to create a detailed under drawing. Most of the foundation work should be done in Light Umber, but Dark Umber is very handy for adding darks and contrast, especially with these two bays.

Add Yellow Ochre and Dark Umber to the background.

I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils, because they hold a point much longer and have a thinner lead. This allows for more even color application. It is also very helpful in working with such small images and in areas where there is a high level of detail.

Verithin pencils are also ideal for the first layers of work because they’re easier to erase or cover over if you do make a mistake.

Step 3: Add the first color layers with Verithin pencils.

Layer Verithin Goldenrod over all parts of both horses except their manes, the halters, and any other areas that are not brown.

Follow up with Verithin Orange Ochre over all areas but the darkest darks and the brightest highlights.

Keep your pencils sharp and use light pressure.

Work toward getting each layer of color as smooth as possible. With a work this small, that means tiny strokes that overlap. Work around the white markings, the halters, and the highlights on each horse.

Step 4: Add the next color layers.

Continue adding layers of color to achieve the most accurate possible coloring on each horse and the best color saturation. Usually, saturation of color is more difficult than getting accurate color, but they go hand in hand.

Use Verithin Dark Brown and Terra Cotta on the foal, followed by Ultramarine and Black on both horses. Use blue and black in the manes and tail, as well as the muzzles and eyes.

Step 5: Add final details.

You may want to switch to a softer pencil for the final layers. I used Prismacolor Soft Core.

Layer different earth tones such as Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Mineral Orange over the mare’s coat. Next, add accents of Cerulean Blue and White over the top of the backs and rump, and in the highlights of the mare’s mane.

Darken and smooth out the background texture to set it apart from the horses. Alternate layers of Light Peach, Parma Violet, Ultramarine Blue, and  Dark Brown until the background looks the way you want it to look.

To finish the horses, blend each one lightly using Dark Brown and Terra Cotta.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - Finishing the Drawing

That’s How I Draw a Miniature Drawing

That’s not to say it’s the only way, but if this little tutorial gets you interested in trying your hand at miniature drawing, then I’m satisfied.

Miniature drawings can be a fun way to take a break from larger work and still make art. While a miniature drawing is often just as detailed as a larger piece, they can be finished more quickly.

And they’re a great way to try out a new technique AND use up those bits of scrap paper that so often accumulate around the studio.

So I encourage you to give miniature art a try. Who knows? You may like it!


  1. Gina

    Carrie, You always give me little tips that I wasn’t aware of before. The biggest one has been to color in layers. And you recommend different tools for different applications. Thanks!
    I can’t wait for Christmas, because I asked for your new book!

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