How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils

CK provides the question for today’s post. Her question is about how to draw textures with colored pencils, but it’s more than that, so here’s CK to speak for herself.

Carrie,

First, I’d like to thank you for creating this website. You have helped me come so far in my colored pencil work, and I’d like to formally thank you.

Now, onto the more interesting topic: my questions on texture.  In my opinion, texture is both one of the easiest and one of the hardest techniques to master. While I have only been working with colored pencil for two years,  I find creating those realistic textures one of the hardest things to do with colored pencil.

I can say, however, that I have had one or two projects where I managed to create decent textures, the first being a pug and the second a pomegranate. The pug, I noticed, required lots of strokes to accomplish, while with the pomegranate, I utilized  the tooth of the paper.

These are probably the few times where the texture of the subjects have really come to life. Other than that, I have tried and tried to recreate it or even create something relatively similar. I’m thinking it has something to do with the pressure or how fast I am trying to create the project.


If you have anything you think can help with creating realistic textures (fruit specifically, if you don’t mind), I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on textures.

Thanks, CK

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil

I have already written posts on drawing some types of texture, including grass, dirt, stone, and even carpet, so what I’ll do today is share basic tips that you can use for drawing any type of texture.

Let’s get started.

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils

There are essentially two parts to drawing texture, no matter what type of texture you want to draw.

Laying down the base color or colors, and adding texture over that.

My first demo is cat hair and the second is a rug, but the same method can also be used for other types of texture.

Step 1: Draw a Base Layer

The base color should usually be a light middle-value or lighter color.

You can begin by laying down smooth color with light pressure with a single, “generic” color if you wish. This is the best way to begin with smoother textures. I sometimes do that when drawing landscapes, then I build texture on top of that. I did that for the eyes and nose on this cat.

In the hair, I drew the base layer with hair-like strokes, mixing colors stroke by stroke in the brown hair. I used three colors for this piece. A very light cream, a medium value earth tone, and a dark earth tone in the hair.

Stroke in the direction of the texture, whether you’re drawing hair, grass, foliage, or any other strongly textured surface.

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil - Drawing Fur.

Step 2: Use Strokes that Mimic the Texture

Use pencil strokes that mimic the texture you’re drawing. Grass or fur are both fairly easy and use similar strokes. Short (or long,) slightly curving strokes in which you start at the bottom of the hair or grass and stroke upward. The primary difference—other than color—is that fur is usually fairly uniform, especially with short haired animals. Grass, on the other hand, can be tall and unruly.

(I know. There is such a thing as unruly hair, too) but that’s almost a topic for another post.

You can create texture by hatching and cross-hatching, stippling (tapping), circular strokes, and random strokes.

Continue layering colors using those strokes. Each layer of color adds depth to the texture, creating patterns of light and dark that mimic the texture of your subject.

It’s important to follow your reference photo closely to make sure you’re stroking in the right direction. It’s also important to get the light and dark values in the right places. They’re more important than the colors you use.

Step 3: Blending Layer

A blending layer is a layer of color meant to smooth out strokes. A lot of artists use a light-value warm gray to smooth out strokes when drawing animal hair, for example.

The blending layer is applied with light or medium-light pressure and a sharp pencil so that the resulting color is smooth. It doesn’t completely hide the texture, but it does subdue it.

Step 4: Repeat

Follow steps 1 through 3 again, and as many times as you need to get the color, values, and saturation you want for your finished piece.

Another Example

Here’s another section from the same project. This is a fluffy white rug the cat was lying on.

First the reference photo.

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil - Drawing a Fluffy Rug

Then the base layer of color (white.) I added a lot of white in the foreground, where sunlight falls across the run. The shadows are the paper color showing through.

In the shadowed area, I used a dark medium gray to add shadows.

Notice how the shape and placement of the strokes creates the look of a fluffy rug. Is it exact? No, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to look like a fluffy rug, and even with just a layer or two of color, it does.

I continued layering white and a variety of grays over the rug until it looked the way I wanted it to look. For each layer, I used the same kinds of strokes to add depth to the pile of the rug.

I didn’t put a lot of detail into this area because I didn’t want it to distract from the cat. But I still matched the type of pencil stroke to the area I was drawing, then let the light and dark values do the rest.

Here’s the finished piece. I don’t know about you, but I like the rug better than that cat!

Yes, We Have No Bananas Today

I apologize for the lack of fruit in this post, but the closest I could come was these two textures, and basic tips that can be applied to any texture.

The main thing is to study your subject, look at the colors and the type of surface, then match the type of strokes you use to draw that subject. The smoother the surface texture, the smoother you color layers should be.

For example, if I were to draw this composition, I’d start with a base layer of yellow over all of the pomegranate, then layer red or red-orange in the darkest or brightest areas. Sharp pencil, light pressure, and work around the highlights with each layer.

Always pay attention to the edges of the highlights, since highlights often indicate the nature of the surface texture, no matter what you draw.

Then I’d continue to layer color until the paper tooth was filled in, and add those red spots with a stippling (tapping) stroke. The end result should be a nice smooth texture

How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencil - Pomegranate
Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

One Way to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils

The method I’ve described in this post is my favorite way to draw texture, but it’s not the only way. If it works for you, wonderful!

If not, then the best thing I suggest is to experiment with different types of strokes to duplicate different types of textures.

No matter what texture you’re drawing, the real secret is to look at your subject in sections, like a mosaic or abstract, and draw exactly what you see (or as close as you want to get.)

2 Replies to “How to Draw Textures with Colored Pencils”

    1. Yes, Jose, drawing hair can be difficult.

      But it’s like drawing anything else. Start with the big shapes, get the values right, and match stroke type to texture.

      And practice, practice, practice!

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