Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Today, I want to talk about glazing color over an umber under drawing.

The umber under drawing method is one of my favorite drawing methods. I first started using it with oil paints, but it works just as well with colored pencils.

It’s good for animals, landscapes, and most subjects.

Some of you have asked about the umber under drawing method in general, so I thought it was time to share a tutorial.

This one features a horse in a landscape. I’ve finished (or nearly finished) everything but the horse. The horse is still at the umber under drawing stage, and I’ll show you how to glaze color over it.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 10

Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Glazing color over an umber under drawing involves two steps: establishing the base colors and details, and developing color and value ranges. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you get the best results by following these two basic steps.

The final step with every drawing is reviewing it as a whole and making whatever adjustments to color, value, and detail may become apparent.

NOTE: This is an older drawing. I used some fugitive (fading) colors that I no longer use. Those colors are marked with an asterisk (*). You can use those colors if you wish, or find lightfast replacements.

Step 1: Establishing Base Colors and Details

I used four colors for the base layers. Yellow Ochre in the lighter mid-tones, Pumpkin Orange* in the mid-tones, Dark Umber in the shadows, and Cloud Blue* in the reflected highlights. It isn’t always necessary to use more than one base color. But choosing base colors that represent the final color helps establish contrast and color variations more quickly.

I applied each color with light pressure and a sharp pencil. Wherever possible, I stroked in the direction of hair growth. When that wasn’t possible, I worked around the contours of the horse’s body.

Adding Color to Umber Under 1rawing Step 11

TIP: The base color is the foundation for everything else. Use small strokes placed close together or the side of a well-sharpened pencil to create smooth, even color.

You want smooth color and even application, so use sharp pencils and light pressure. Add more layers in areas where you need darker values. Work around the highlights as much as possible to avoid losing them.

Step 2: Glazing Color over the Base Layers

Over the base colors, I layered Slate Gray in the light areas and Black in the shadows of the muzzle and black areas. I applied color with tiny, circular strokes to the muzzle and directional strokes in the forelock.

Next, I worked on the legs and muzzle with Black and Slate Blue, darkening values and drawing detail.

Mineral Orange, Dark Umber, and Red Ochre were used in the body, neck and head.

(Red Ochre is not a Prismacolor color.)

For this round of color, I continued working throughout the horse with light pressure and sharp pencils.

TIP: At some phases of a drawing, you can spend a couple of hours working without appearing to make much progress. Be patient! Your work will be rewarded if you stick with it!

Add More Color Layers

I layered Mineral Orange, Sienna Brown, and Burnt Umber over the body, legs, and neck, then added Black to the legs and darkest shadows of the body. I shaded reflected light on the under sides of the belly, chest, and legs with Limepeel*.

Next, I added Orange* throughout the horse, shading over some of the highlights that had been protected up to that point while working around others. I used reading glasses for the work so the work was slightly out of focus. That helped me avoid getting too detailed too quickly. I also applied color mostly with the side of the pencil.

Then I layered Sienna Brown and Henna over the brown parts of the horse following the contours of the horse. Except for the smaller areas or tighter details, I used the side of the pencils.

The browns were getting a little too bold, so I toned them down with a layer of Peacock Green, which I also used on the black areas.

To darken the blacks and darker shadows, I next used medium pressure to apply Copenhagen Blue*, then glazed Henna over all of the horse except the blacks.

Step 3: Developing Depth of Color

At this point, my goal shifted to building up color and value toward a finish.

I layered Tuscan Red* over all of the horse but the brightest highlights and the reflected light areas, followed by Ultramarine* on the legs and in the darker shadows in the head and body. Over almost all of the horse, I layered Dark Brown, then Bruynzeel Full Color** Permanent Orange over all of the browns

**The Full Color line of Bruynzeel pencils is no longer available. I’ve read that the Design line is the same basic pencil and that the colors are the same, but I have yet to give them a try.

I applied all colors with medium length, parallel strokes except in the tighter, smaller areas or when I needed to create a directional pattern.

The Legs

Next, I used Black, Blue Slate*, Powder Blue, White, and Limepeel* (in that order) to draw the legs. First, I layered Black over all four legs.

Then I singled out the flexed front leg and concentrated on that. I alternated among the colors and, when the leg was nearly complete, began working the grass and fence, so I could adjust edges.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 17

When I finished that leg, I worked on the off side hind leg using the same method. In that manner, I worked from leg to leg until they were all finished.

Still More Color Layers

When I finished the legs, I started on the body, again, layering Bruynzeel Permanent Orange** over all of the body, neck, and head except the reflected lights and brightest highlights. I worked into some of the highlights I’d previously worked around, but only very lightly. I used the side of the pencil and stroked in several different directions to get even color.

Then I used True Blue* and the side of the pencil to layer color into the reflected highlights along the back, top of the neck, and rump, as well as on the off side of the shoulder and the front leg. I followed that by layering the same color throughout the body to gray and darken the orange.

When I finished, I used Dark Brown to deepen the shadows on the chest and neck.

By the time I finished, the paper was losing tooth and burnishing the drawing or spraying it with fixative were possibilities.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 18

TIP: I try never to make a decision like this without giving myself time to consider options. You can’t unburnish a drawing. Nor can you remove fixative, so it’s better not to rush these decisions.

Final Detailing

When I reviewed the drawing later, I decided against using fixative at least long enough to try burnishing.

Detailing began with the muzzle, where I used Dark Brown and Black to darken values, then burnished with White. I worked up into the head, brightening highlights and darkening darks as I went, adjusting edges and shapes, and burnishing area by area. I finished the head and ears, then worked down the neck toward the shoulders.

TIP: With larger drawings, it can be better to work section by section when doing final details. This method produces a sharper, clearer image more quickly. It also looks like you’re making faster progress as more and more surface was covered. That can be a major encouragement!

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 19

The final layers on the neck, shoulders, chest, body, and rump were Bruynzeel Permanent Orange**, Sienna Brown, Dark Brown, Dark Green, Deco Blue*, Tuscan Red*, and Cream.

When I finished adding color, I blended with rubbing alcohol applied with a cotton swab. Rubbing alcohol “melted” the wax binder enough for the colors to blend slightly. It also restores some of the paper tooth, so after the paper is dry, I can add more color if necessary.

When I finished, I set the drawing aside for a few days, so I could review it with a fresh eye.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 20

There was nothing more to do when I reviewed it later. Finished!

That Concludes this Quick Lesson on Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the umber under drawing method is useful for many subjects. That includes another favorite subject, landscapes. You can read a full landscape tutorial right here.

3 Replies to “Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing”

  1. I read the detailed instructions. Since drawing horses is not one of my skills i did not complete the assignment, however I plan on trying the landscape following your instructions.

    Thanks for this information.

    Helen

  2. This lesson is amazing. It does help me some to color my stamped images for my cards. I have come a long way. Recently purchased some better colored pencils and found them amazing.

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