How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

It would be nice to say that every step of every drawing goes smoothly; that I never have to go back and correct an umber under drawing (or any other phase of a drawing.) That an eraser never touches my drawings.

The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. You know what?

Almost every drawing has a few minor missteps. After all, I’m not perfect and make no claim to be.

Little missteps are easy enough to correct just by adding more layers.

But what happens when you make a big mistake?

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

I’m no stranger to big mistakes. You probably aren’t either. That’s why you’re still reading, right?

But a few years back, I discovered an almost fatal mistake with a large piece (16 x 20 inches.) A problem big enough to require removing a portion of the drawing and doing it over.

So, just in case you’ve made big mistakes, here’s what I did to correct my umber under drawing.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

The first thing I did was open the digital reference image and enlarge it enough to see the details that were either not visible in the smaller printed photo or were hidden under the lines of the grid drawn over the image. I worked directly from the computer.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing Reference

I don’t like erasing my work any better than any other artist does, so the first thing I tried to do was correct the problem by adding color and covering up the mistake. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work. I’d have to lift color and start over.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 1
Adding color didn’t help cover the errors in the line drawing.

How to Lift Color

To remove color, I used something called Handi-Tak.

Handi-Tak is a low-tack adhesive product created for hanging posters. Brand names include Blu-Tack, Poster Tack, and by many other names. The common name is mounting putty.

See products at Dick Blick.

Mounting putty is very pliable. Pieces can be broken off the larger piece and worked between your fingers or in your hand. It’s just sticky enough to pick up color when you press it against the paper.

It’s also a self-cleaning product, which means that as you work it in your fingers, the color it lifted off the paper is absorbed into the substance and disappears.

Mounting putty can be rolled into a ball or shaped into points and used to lift color off colored pencil drawings without tearing, scuffing or damaging the paper.

I prefer mounting putty for lifting colored pencil because it doesn’t damage the paper surface and it can be pinched or rolled into sharp edges or points for lifting color in small areas.

Other options are transparent tape, a click eraser, or an electric eraser.

Read more about lifting color on EmptyEasel

What I Did

I warmed the mounting putty by working it in my fingers for a few minutes. Then I pressed it repeatedly against the areas I wanted to lift and rolled it forward while maintaining pressure. Each time, it lifted a little more color.

Another method involves pressing the mounting putty against the paper and turning it. You can also use a blotting motion in which you simply press the mounting putty against the paper and lift it again without any secondary motion.

After every two or three applications, I worked the color out of the mounting putty again. Several cycles of this removed most of the color, allowing me to pinch or press the mounting putty into smaller shapes and fine-tune the amount of color lifted in specific areas.

TIP: It’s next to impossible to lift every bit of color from paper when you’re using wax-based colored pencils. Using a combination of methods and tools can remove most color, but be careful of damaging the surface of your paper in the process.

When I finished lifting color, the head looked like this.

It’s not a pretty sight, but sometimes the best way to cover a mistake is to first remove as much of it as you can. Even if you’re quite a ways into the drawing process.

Redrawing the Image

After that, it was a slow, careful process of applying color and lifting color until I got the head correct.

I began redrawing the features of the horse’s face with Prismacolor Light Umber using the enlarged digital image for reference. I redrew the off side eye and that side of the face, which was the original problem area. That led to redrawing the muzzle and mouth and in doing that work, I also saw some mistakes in the jaw and neck. I corrected all of those areas.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 4
Often making corrections in one area reveals problems in adjacent areas. Take your time and fix as many of those problems as you can.

I also started developing values as I worked.

Corrections took about forty-five minutes, and it seemed at first like I was going backward faster than I was going forward.

But the end result was a much better drawing. It was even a little bit further ahead of where I started in spite of the initial backward steps.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 5
The corrected drawing. Much better than what I started with!

These corrections not only allowed me to finish the umber under drawing, but set the stage for the color glazes that followed.

It Is Possible to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

Or any drawing, for that matter. The key is not to panic or despair when you discover the mistake. Don’t leap to any hasty solutions either.

Take your time. Assess the amount of damage, decide the best way to correct it, and then proceed carefully. Nine times out of ten, that plan will make it possible to finish the drawing successfully!

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