When we talked about background options sometime ago, I intended to talk about fast and easy backgrounds for colored pencil drawings. Then a few reader questions on the topic led me in different direction.
So we talked about how to draw a clear sky, how to draw a bokeh background, and tips for deciding the best background for your next drawing. All good topics, but not much that’s fast or easy.
It’s time to share some background options that are not only fast and easy, but fun.
Fast and Easy Backgrounds for Colored Pencil Drawings
Over the course of the last several years, I’ve shared ideas for fast and easy backgrounds here and on EmptyEasel. Ideas you may have thought of already, but some that may be new to you. Things like using pencil shavings or your favorite beverage to color a background.
But for the most part, those articles were all about backgrounds created with a plan in mind.
Today, I want to share three backgrounds I made with no plan in mind. The fact of the matter is that I was just playing around at the end of the day on a Saturday because I needed a drawing for the week.
Fun, Fast and Easy Backgrounds for Colored Pencil Drawings
So let’s take a look at each of these backgrounds and I’ll tell you how you can make your own.
Each of the following three samples are on Canson L’Aquarelle 140lb hot press watercolor paper. I had three small pieces cut and decided to play around with watercolor pencils, to see what happened.
Watercolor Pencil Scribbles Etc.
I wet the paper thoroughly, then stroked a wet brush on the pigment core of a couple of pencils and brushed the color onto the paper.
The yellow isn’t very vibrant, but in some areas, it mixed with blue to make an interesting green.
While the paper was still wet, I drew the loops with a dry pencil. Then I dipped a brush in clean water, and spattered color by stroking the brush across a pencil. When the bristles snapped over the pencil, they threw pigment everywhere (and I do mean everywhere. A drop cloth is advisable.)
After the paper was well dry, I painted the tree with oil paints just to see if I could. That was one of two tests combining oils and colored pencils, and you can read Can You Oil Paint Over Colored Pencil? for more on that.
On to the second experiment.
Watercolor Pencil Spatters
I wetted this paper thoroughly as well, but didn’t do washes. Instead, I spattered two or three different colors as described above. The wetter the brush, the bigger and more random the spatters appeared. As the brush dried, the spatters became more intense in color, smaller, and more uniform in shape.
Some of the color bled together to create washes. If you want washes like this, make sure the paper is as wet as you can make it.
You can also alter the shape of the spatters by changing how and where you hold the pencil and brush. I worked from almost directly over the paper. If you hold the pencil closer to the paper or to one side, the spatters will be more elongated.
Later, I drew the circles and created a spacescape of sorts. The spatter method is ideal for paintings of this type, but you could also use it to create backgrounds for other subjects.
Watercolor Pencil Shavings
The final experiment was a little more daring (to my way of thinking.)
I’ve dissolved chips of watercolor pencil in water to create fluid pigment and it works quite well. It would be another great way to make a fast and easy background for colored pencil.
But this time, I used an X-acto knife to pare shavings directly onto wet paper. That didn’t accomplish much other than partially dissolving some of the smaller pieces of pigment.
When I washed the paper with a wet brush after it had dried, however, it produced a pastel wash of the blended colors. The chips of color remained mostly undissolved, but they also appear to be more or less permanently attached to the paper.
Only time will reveal whether or not that’s true, but they stayed in place while I drew the tree with dry colored pencil.
If you try any of these suggestions, tape your paper down first. Since I was just playing around and didn’t expect to create great works of art, I didn’t bother taping any of the pieces of paper. They all curled a little, but since they’re 140lb watercolor paper, they all dried pretty flat.
Tipping a piece of paper after you’ve added color and before it dries is a good way to create random blending. The paper needs to be wet enough for color to “run” for best results. I didn’t try that because I’d used up all my pieces of paper, but it is something I may try the next time I want to do something fun.
Finally, if you know what you plan to draw on the paper, it’s probably a good idea to put the drawing on the paper, then mask it before using any of these techniques. As you can see from my samples, the drawing I put over the background didn’t cover anything that was already on the paper unless I put down a lot of color or used heavy pressure.
Still More Fast and Easy Backgrounds for Colored Pencil Drawings
The EmptyEasel article I mentioned earlier isn’t the only one I wrote. A couple of years later, EmptyEasel published a second article. Read all about more fast and easy backgrounds on EmptyEasel.
Want to read more posts like this? Sign up for Carrie’s free weekly newsletter and be among the first to know when she publishes new articles.