How to Draw a Night Sky

Last week, I shared tips on how to draw a night sky, and promised you a step-by-step tutorial this week. When I wrote last week’s post, I hoped to have an actual subject to work with.

That didn’t happen, but I did spend the week looking up after sundown and before dawn. I saw enough to draw a generic night sky.

Before we get started, let me recommend another sky drawing tutorial, How to Draw a Clear Sky with Colored Pencil. The methods are basically the same, but with different colors and a few additional tips and techniques.

How to Draw a Night Sky

Step 1: Establish the Foreground

Establish the horizon by outlining anything that shows against the sky. It will be easier to work around those details than to draw them over the finished sky.

TIP: You can use masking film to protect the shapes that show against the sky. Cut the film to shape and press it lightly into place. Carefully shade the sky so you don’t disturb the film, then remove the film.

If you prefer, you can also shade the shapes that show against the sky. I drew a horizon of trees, then blocked them in with black and dark green.

There won’t be much detail in the foreground, so keep the values fairly dark and featureless. I used medium-heavy pressure, but lighter pressure  makes it easier to make adjustments after the sky is finished.

If you want stars, impress them into the paper with very sharp pencils. Not all the stars should be the same brightness, so select three or four light colors. Press firmly with some and more lightly with others. I used Prismacolor Verithin because they can sharpened to a very fine point.

You can also use a stylus. The resulting dots will be white. My “stylus” is a fine point Zebra pen with no ink in it. Press more heavily with some than others.

NOTE: The stars impressed with a stylus showed up best. Consider using two different tools for impressing, so the resulting stars are different sizes.

How to Draw a Night Sky - Establish the Foreground

Adding green over black keeps the black from getting flat, and gives the trees just enough green cast to show they are trees.

Also notice the various directions in which I stroked while adding black and green. If this were a more finished piece of art, I would probably use lighter pressure and more layers, but that isn’t necessary.

Step 2: Adding Color to the Sky

Begin glazing color into the sky with black and dark blue. Use light to medium pressure, and draw each layer as evenly a possible, so no pencil strokes are visible.

NOTE: Medium pressure is the same as normal handwriting pressure.

It’s best to use a blunt pencil. The blunter the pencil, the less likely you’ll “fill in the stars” you impressed into the paper.

In this illustration, I put black over all of the sky, and dark blue over half of it. The slight darkening at the top is the result of multiple layers.

How to Draw a Night Sky - Adding Color to the Night Sky

TIP: You can use heavier pressure for these layers. Just remember that the heavier the pressure, the more likely you are to fill in some of the impressed stars.

Step 3: Darken the Values

Darken the values by continuing to layer the two original colors. I added a medium blue to my palette for this step, but I sandwiched it between multiple layers of Black and dark blue.

With each layer, start at the top and work downward, using a variety of strokes to cover the paper.

To smooth out the color and value gradations, use a piece of bath tissue folded into a small square. Start at the top and “pull” color down into the lighter parts of the sky, then I blend horizontally.

How to Draw a Night Sky - Darken the Values

This might be all you need if you want to draw an early evening sky. You can almost feel the descending chill of evening, can’t you?

But if you want full night, then keep layering!

TIP: If you’re drawing early evening, reduce the number of stars, especially down near the horizon.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

For a darker sky, continue adding alternating layers of black and dark blue. Blend the colors every few layers.

Continue until the sky is as dark as you want it.

How to Draw a Night Sky - Finishing Touches

Is It Finished?

I used Bristol vellum for this tutorial. By the time the drawing reached this point, the paper was so slick, even the lightest tissue blend removed more color than it blended. I had hoped to go much darker, but decided to stop here.

For a finished piece, I’d use a paper with more tooth. Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes or maybe a sanded paper. Strathmore Artagain is another possibility, though that may also be too smooth.

If you prefer Bristol vellum, use heavier pressure and fewer layers, or spray the drawing with workable fixative. Even a workable fixative made for colored pencils—such as Prismacolor Tuffilm—will not completely restore the tooth, but you will be able to do a little more layering.

Conclusion

Seeing the stars “come out” on this little drawing leaves me wanting to do a larger, complete piece. What about you?

This is only one way to draw a night sky. As I mentioned above, I think I’ll expand on this method for a “real drawing.”

Of course other factors play a role. Is there a moon? Clouds? What about artificial lighting? Or maybe a shooting star? The possibilities are endless.

No matter what type of night sky you want to draw, follow these basic steps and you can draw a night sky of your own!

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