How to Draw Wet Stones with Colored Pencil

Last week, I showed you how to draw wet pavement. This week, we’ll continue the discussion with a tutorial showing you how to draw wet stones with colored pencil.

How to Draw Wet Stones with Colored Pencil

Basic Tips to Remember

Before we get to the tutorial, let’s look at a few basics that will help you draw wet stones more accurately all the time.

Colors look darker when wet.

These six stones are dry. The light falls on them without much hoopla. No really bright, shining highlights or sharp edges in color or value other than where the stones themselves have sharp edges.

Here are the same stones, with a little bit of water dropped onto them. Still no bright, shining highlights or sharp edges.

But you can see one change.

The wet areas are darker than the dry areas. This is important, because water almost always makes a surface look darker. There’s a scientific explanation I’m sure, but all we need to know as artists is that it happens.

You’ll also notice that the darker the stones, the more obvious the difference. The light-colored stone in the lower right corner exhibits very little difference. You really have to look to see tell the wet part from the dry part.

The middle stone in that row, however, shows an obvious difference.

Highlights are brighter on wet stones than on dry stones.

Darker color isn’t the only way to tell where the water is. Look at the light colored stone in the detail below. The highlight is brighter and has sharper edges than the rest of the stone, because that’s the part that’s wet.

This is why it’s so important to look closely at your subjects—yes, even stones if they’re an important part of the composition. If you don’t, you’ll end up drawing generic stones. That’s all right if the stones are background, but not if they’re the subject!

Here are the same six stones completely wet. The biggest difference between the way they look wet and the way they look dry (other than value) is the highlights. They’re more reflective, so there are more highlights. The highlights are also brighter and have sharper edges.

All of these factors play a role in drawing stones—or anything else—so it looks wet. Each detail varies from object to object, but they will all be present.

Now for the tutorial!

How to Draw Wet Stones with Colored Pencil

Step 1: Draw your subject.

Use light to medium-light pressure to draw your subject.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 1 Line Drawing

NOTE: My line drawing is a little darker than normal so it would show up digitally.

Step 2: Shade the darkest shadows.

Use a loose, circular stroke to shade basic shadows on the stone. For the cast shadow, use a horizontal stroke. Make sure the cast shadow is darkest next to the stone.

Also take note of the reflected light areas on the shaded side of the stone. The stone is wet, so reflected light areas are more noticeable than they would be on a dry stone.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 2 First Shading

Step 3: Outline the brightest highlights, and darken the darkest shadows.

Because this stone is wet, the highlights are quite bright with sharp edges. You won’t be able to shade a slightly darker value over the highlights, then lift enough color to produce the right effect. You have to work around the highlights.

So outline the brightest of the highlights with a light touch, but a firm, thin line. If you’re working on white paper, all you need to do is shade around them.

If you’re working on a colored paper, fill in the highlights with White. That will help preserve them if you accidentally work over them.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 3 Darken Shadows Mark Highlights

Also darken the darker shadows within the larger shadows, as shown on the shaded side of the stone.

Step 4: Add the middle values.

Lightly shade middle values throughout the stone, be very careful to work around the highlights.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 4 Shade Middle Values

TIP: When you outline the highlights, draw them larger than they’ll end up being, especially if you’re working small. I drew my highlights too small, and they’ve all but disappeared! The drawing is only 4 inches wide.

Step 4: Add some color.

Layer a medium color over the under drawing with very light pressure.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 4 Add Brown Layer

Step 5: Darken the values on the shadowed side, but keep the edges sharp.

Remember to treat the color and value shapes as abstracts in order to draw the look of water or wetness.

Color saturation also helps convey the look of water or wetness. The less paper showing through your drawing, the stronger the illusion of water.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 5 Darken Values

I also added yellow to the surface on which the stone was resting, and glazed it over the shadow. Make sure your drawing reflects the color of whatever it is sitting on or next to.

The illusion of wetness will also be enhanced by drawing water around the object, as shown above, under the right end of the stone. Keep the edges sharp, and refer often to your reference photo.

Step 6: Blend with Odorless Mineral Spirits to smooth out the color.

Add a few more layers of color, always working around the highlights.

Then use a soft brush to blend the colors, especially if you’re using a paper with a lot of tooth. I used Canson Mi-Tientes white, so even though I worked on the smooth side, there was still a lot of tooth to fill.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 6 OMS Blend

Step 7: Add a Couple of Shades of Blue and White Highlights

Layer a medium and light blue over the parts of the stone facing the sky. Use medium to heavy pressure, and burnish in a few places for lighter, bright color.

Then burnish with a soft White pencil. I tried Luminance, Polychromos, and Prismacolor. For the brightest highlights, Prismacolor worked the best on this paper and over so much color. That’s not surprising because Prismacolor pencils are wax-based so are naturally much softer than the other two brands, which are oil-based.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 7 Add Reflected Light

Step 8: Darken the Darkest Values

For the final detailing work, I put away my reference photo, and adjusted the drawing so the stone made sense visually. I also switched to Prismacolor pencils.

I burnished Indigo Blue and Dark Brown repeatedly over the darkest shadows, and Dark Brown into the darker values.

The lightest reflected light is Yellow Ochre burnished with Sand, and the lighter middle values are Dark Brown burnished with Yellow Ochre.

I also added a couple of white accents to the water under the rock and to reflected light on the rock.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 8 Darken Shadows

Step 9: Finishing Details

Finishing details depend a lot on the way you want your art work to look, the level of realism you’re aiming for, and the subject you’re working on.

I added reflected light to a few more surfaces, darkened shadows on the lightest sides of the stone, and cleaned up the edges somewhat.

Draw Wet Stones - Step 9 Finishing Details

Now You can Draw Wet Stones of Your Own

Look for a good reference photo and then follow the steps above.

Small studies like this are a good way to learn a new subject or technique or test new pencils or paper. They don’t have to be perfect.

I confess to not being entirely happy with this study, but it is the first wet stone I’ve ever drawn.  The subject is a difficult and complex one, though, so I can tell you not to give up if your first drawing doesn’t meet with your approval!

One Reply to “How to Draw Wet Stones with Colored Pencil”

  1. I tried to do the rock with your drawing. I prefer to paint a pile of rocks than just one. That was so hard! I almost swear that I will return to acrylic painting and dump the colored pencils.
    I got that book by Morrel Wise years ago with in mind to take that medium to a level. I learn the basic techniques, it is a good little book for beginners mostly landscapes my favorite.
    I wanted to do a portrait of my cat but finished it by using pastel pencils. Maybe color pencil is not for me, I don’t have the patience I try to teach to my grandkids.
    Thank you so much, you are so very generous to give us these great techniques.

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