How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1

This week begins a new demonstration series: How to draw a dog in colored pencil.

In this series, I’ll show you how I drew a black dog by layering several different colors. Because Bouviers are known for hair—a lot of it—I’ll also show you how to draw masses of thick hair.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1

The drawing for this demonstration is a portrait of a black Bouvier.

Katy was the companion of a couple from church. When she passed away, her people wanted a portrait. Since they already had a colored pencil portrait of another canine companion, they came to me with their request.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil

About the Drawing

The finished drawing is 12×16. I chose Strathmore’s Artagain Art Paper in Flannel Gray because it provided an ideal background for this vignette-style portrait.

It also saved a lot of time because I didn’t need to do anything with the background.

Unless otherwise noted, I used Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils.

I used a direct drawing method for this project.

Read how this drawing method compares with other colored pencil drawing methods.

Preparing for Drawing

The first thing I had to do was process the digital images I used for reference. The dog is so dark and was sitting on a white table in a light colored interior. Her facial features were difficult to see and impossible to draw accurately, o some photo manipulation was necessary.

I saved the primary reference photo with a different name, then increased the brightness and contrast. This is the original reference photo cropped.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1 - Original Reference Photo

This is the lightened version.

The colors are diluted, but the eyes, nose, and mouth are much easier to see and draw.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1 - Reference Lightened

I put a grid on the lightened reference photo, then developed the drawing using the grid method.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1 - Line Drawing

When the drawing met with my satisfaction and had the client’s approval, I transferred it to the paper by mounting it to the back of the drawing paper and transferring it on a light box.

Beginning Color Work

Step 1: Block in basic values with Indigo Blue

When I begin building black by layering, I almost always begin with Indigo Blue. Whether the final color is a warm black or a cool black, Indigo Blue is a good base color.

Begin with several layers applied with light pressure. Develop dark shadows with through multiple layers. In the dark areas between the dog’s front legs and under its belly, there are as many as five or six layers of color.

Apply no color in the lightest areas in the first few layers.

In the illustration below, I’ve added color in the darkest shadows with a sharp pencil and crosshatching strokes. I put down a couple of layers with light pressure, keeping the strokes close enough together to draw an even layer of color in most of the dark shadows.

Along the edges of those shadows and over the eyes, the strokes are directional and duplicate the growth pattern of hair.

In the middle value areas, use the sides of the pencil to lay down one or two layers with very light pressure. In the areas where middle values and light value meet, stroke in the direction of hair growth. Use whatever strokes covered the paper best where you need flat color.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1 - Indigo Layer 1

Step 2: Add a few details in the head and chest.

Use small, tight strokes with a sharp pencil to add detail in the eyes, the nostrils, and the shadow on the tongue.

Use either the side of the pencil or a blunted tip to draw hair masses. Broken strokes also contribute to the look of masses of hair.

The detail below shows the variety of strokes on head.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1 - Indigo Layer 2 Detail

The detail below highlights the variety of strokes I used in the chest.

Pencil strokes mimic hair growth and hair mass, as well as the contours of the legs.

How to Draw a Dog in Colored Pencil Part 1 - Indigo Layer 2 Detail 2

The outline on the left is the transferred drawing. It begins establishing the uneven edges of the dog from the beginning.


The goal right from the start is to establish the shape of the dog and the nature of the surface texture.

From the initial drawing and first layers of color to the last layers, the drawing should become more and more defined and refined with each step.

Next week, we’ll continue learning how to draw a dog in colored pencil by adding the next color.


  1. Melinda BC

    Carrie, thanks! Just thanks! I look forward to getting these, always pick up something useful from them, find new things to try. I really appreciate the work you out into these lessons, and being on your list.

  2. Bonnie

    Carrie, I really appreciate these tutorials, but especially appreciate how you start from the drawing and transferring part. Often times, tutorials start with the drawing completed. I look forward to Part 2!

  3. Joletta M. Brooks

    Carrie… this is so interesting! I have a Corgi and have thought to sketch Jack but with colored pencil wasn’t sure how to start. You have given me valuable information to use and I am excited to try it now. I sketch portraits of just my family in graphite so know about shading … and I have done in graphite buffalo, bears, and chickens so know about hair. I just didn’t know what colors to start with. Also how you put your sketch onto paper is very interesting. I don’t have a light box and have used a proportional divider tool with a bit of a grid to do my portraits. Getting the initial sketch onto paper this way is pretty time consuming so I would enjoy a different method for this process. THANK YOU!

    1. Joletta,

      I’m so glad to have been helpful.

      About my “light box”… I use either our huge front window or the front door for a light box. Both face south so I get good light almost all the time.

      I do have some smaller, homemade “light boxes”, too. Basically frames with glass that can be rested on my knees. For light, I use a small clip lamp between my feet. It’s rough on the back for large pieces, but ideal for little ones. Maybe I’ll have to write about that….

      Thanks for the comments! Happy drawing.


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