The topic for today is how to draw a foggy morning. I’ll begin by sharing some basic tips, then conclude with a short tutorial from a specific image.
To get us started, here’s the reader’s question.
I’ve been reading your posts on under painting a landscape… my question is, would you consider explaining how to get the effect of light showing through trees on a foggy morning? I love the soft, relaxing look that comes through a painting that has a partially “hazy” look to it…almost dreamy. Dianne
A good question, Dianne.
Let’s begin with a discussion of some of the tools I’ve used to draw foggy morning landscapes.
Tools I’ve Used to Draw a Foggy Morning
Water Soluble Colored Pencils
Water soluble colored pencils are ideal for drawing foggy morning landscapes—or any other type of misty landscape. They can be used dry like traditional colored pencils, then blended with a little bit of water on a brush.
The sample below shows a strip of color activated with a wet brush after being drawn on the paper (dark blue). The strip of yellow beneath it was washed onto the paper with a damp brush.
You can also dampen the pencil tip by dipping it into clean water, then either marking the paper with it, or stroking the damp pigment with a damp brush and brushing color onto the paper.
The method that works best for me is to make a palette of the colors I want to use, then dampen a brush, pick color up off the palette, and brush it onto the paper like regular watercolor.
Read How to Start a Drawing with Water Soluble Colored Pencils on EmptyEasel.
To get lighter values, dampen the paper first, then pick color up from a palette and brush it onto the wet paper.
How ever you use water soluble colored pencils, they can create beautiful washes with the addition of water. You can then use a paper towel to “lift” a little color for even more subtle affects, provided you’re quick enough to do so before the paper dries.
Read how I used this method in Colored Pencil Plein Air Drawing Week 8 Report.
Erasers can also be helpful in drawing a foggy morning landscape. In this sample, I drew the dark trees with regular, wax-based pencils. Then I “drew” the sunbeams with a click eraser. Combined with the super soft trees in the distance and the “fog” in front of the darker trees, the result was very pleasing.
I drew West of Bazaar (below) on gray mat board with a linen-like surface texture. I used Prismacolor pencils and the texture of the mat board to “break up the color” and create an atmospheric affect.
If you’re drawing on a smoother paper, you can get a similar effect by holding your pencil horizontally, and stroking with the side of the exposed pigment core. The pigment doesn’t get down into the tooth of the paper with a stroke like this.
The result is what painters call “broken” color. You can get much the same affect with colored pencils if you use very light pressure or the side of the pencil.
Now let’s take a look at a specific example.
How to Draw a Foggy Morning with Colored Pencils
Here’s a photo from Pixabay. Here’s a direct link to the image.
For this tutorial, I used traditional colored pencils without solvent blending. The only special tool was mounting putty.
TIP: For a subject like this, I’d probably use a toned paper. Stonehenge cream or ivory or Canson Mi-Teintes cadmium yellow, canary or pale yellow would be interesting choices. I had a pad of Canson Mi-Teintes assorted colors that includes buff and champagne, so I chose buff just to keep things interesting.
Step 1: Basic Colors
Lay in the basic colors of the drawing. In this case, a light yellow, a medium yellow, and a dark yellow or brown. The actual colors matter less than having a light, medium, and dark color.
Use sharp pencils and closely spaced strokes to add several layers of each color. Many artists recommend circular strokes because they leave no unwanted edges, but use whatever stroke gives you the result you want.
Draw with light pressure. Add layers to darken color, even in the lighter areas. This is almost always better than using heavier pressure to darken layers, because it doesn’t damage the paper’s texture.
It’s also easier to lift color if you’ve applied it with light pressure.
Don’t worry about details. Instead, suggest the trees, sky, and foreground with shape and value. Detail will come later. However, you can use fewer layers in the foggy areas if you prefer.
I layered the medium color (Polychromos Terra Cotta) over the dark color (Polychromos Burnt Siena.) The darker values represent three or four layers. The lightest values are the color of the paper.
Step 2: “Lift” the Fog
After you’ve established basic values and shapes, begin lifting color with mounting putty. You can use an eraser if that’s all you have, but mounting putty lifts color in a delightfully random manner that’s perfect for drawing fog.
It’s best to lift color in layers, but don’t lift color over all of the fog with every layer. Instead, overlap so that some areas are lighter than others. The resulting fog will look more natural.
To draw the lighter area of the sun, roll the mounting putty into a ball between your palms. Then press it against the paper, give it a half twist, and lift it again. Repeat the process until the sun is as bright as you want it.
I chose to make use of the color of the paper by working around most of the fog, but I also used mounting putty to lift some color where the sunlight angles to the lower right. To balance that, I also created a less clear shape angling to the lower left.
Step 3: Darken Values & Add Details
Darken the values in the background trees and the foreground with more layers of color. Make sure your pencils are sharp. Use light pressure and closely spaced strokes.
Also add whatever details you want, but keep them soft and in the foreground.
I was tempted to add a horse, but refrained for the sake of time!
What I did instead was add more layers of the previous colors to darken the trees in the background. Then I selected a darker brown to make the foreground darker and add the grass.
Step 4: Add Highlights
If you need to, add highlights by lightly layering lighter colors as needed. Don’t use white! Instead, use a lighter shade of the basic colors you chose at the beginning, or a lighter value that goes with whatever color of paper you used.
Avoid using heavy pressure. Burnishing will not help you create the soft look of fog.
Embracing Happy Accidents
As mentioned above, I used Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper for this drawing. Mi-Teintes paper has a texture designed for pastel on the front. It’s quite rough and not usually suited to colored pencil. I usually use the back, which is much smoother.
But this time, I accidentally used the front. However, the rougher texture was ideal for this subject. Rather than start over, I chose to make use of the texture of the paper (as well as the color.) As you can see, both were to my benefit!
And that’s how to draw a foggy morning with colored pencil!
Of course, that’s just one method, but it’s a method that works for complex compositions, as well as simpler ones. Just remember that fog mutes the value and detail of anything that appears behind it.
Experiment with different colors of papers and pencils, and with different methods until you find the one that works for you.
I’m trying to find how to do a foggy scene purely with graphite black pencils. Any tips?
Follow the same procedure as described in this post, but with graphite pencils.
You have one built-in advantage with graphite: You can very easily use an eraser or mounting putty to remove enough graphite to create the look of fog!