I have learned so much from you in my learning of art work with colored pencils over the past few months, and I thank you for that. I’ve been searching for something lately and not really finding good answers. I need to figure out how to draw/color carpet with colored pencil for a portrait of a cat lying on carpet.
Thanks again, Carrie. I, and many other beginning artists, are benefiting greatly from your tutorials.
Thank you for your very kind words, Vickie. Thank you also for such a great question. The best way to answer your question is to show you how I’d draw carpet.
But first, a few guidelines that apply to almost every kind of colored pencil drawing.
Colored Pencil Guidelines
Use light pressure as long as possible. Using heavy pressure not only fills the tooth of the paper more quickly; it also presses it down. Both make it more difficult to add layers. In most cases, it’s better to work with light to medium pressure until the very end.
Don’t worry about getting everything exact. For those of us who love detail, it’s a constant struggle to avoid fixating on the details. I know I want everything perfect, but that’s a sure road to frustration. Instead, focus on capturing the character of the background. Color is a primary factor, but so is value. You can also add a few accents that hint at the details without emphasizing them.
Keep the background in the background. This is important. The background must stay in the background, or the drawing becomes too busy. Ways to do this are softening edges, muting colors, and minimizing details. It will matter less in a drawing such as this, where the background is limited to the pattern, color, and texture of the carpet, but it is still important.
Go slow. Every part of the drawing deserves your best work. It’s counter productive to rush through the background, because it is the background. Yes, it needs to be less important than the subject, but that doesn’t mean you skimp on time or effort. The subject and the background should work together. They should look like parts of the same drawing, rather than having a well drawn subject with a slapped together background. I did that in my younger days and it wasn’t helpful!
Let the paper work for you. There are times when the texture of the paper you’re using can help you draw your subject. I discovered that using light pressure with Stonehenge paper allows the texture of the paper to assist in creating the look of carpet. I hadn’t expected that.
Now you have a few basic guidelines for drawing this sort of background. Lets get to the tutorial.
How to Draw Carpet
Here’s a detail of the reference photo Vickie supplied. As you can see, it’s mostly blue, but there are different blues as well as a few bits of oranges and reds.
Vickie is working on tan suede mat board. I’m doing the following tutorial on Fawn Stonehenge. The steps will work with any good drawing paper, though the results will vary depending on the tooth and color of paper you draw on.
By the way, I’m using Prismacolor pencils, but am using only colors with the best lightfast rating, so you don’t have to worry about fading if you use the same colors.
Step 1: Establish the Basic Color
Chose a good, middle value color for the carpet you’re drawing. With this dark blue carpet, I chose Mediterranean Blue, which I layered over the carpet with circular strokes and light pressure.
In this illustration, I drew horizontal strips across the sample, then worked my way back across the sample. The area on the left shows a couple of layers, while the area on the right shows one layer.
I also worked in columns, as shown in the lower left corner.
Do three or four layers, and stagger the layers so you don’t cover the entire area with any one layer. The resulting variation in values will begin establishing the look of a fabric. You can follow the pattern of light and dark in your reference photo, or let the layers overlap in a totally random manner.
The following illustration shows my sample after two or three additional layers.
TIP: If you want to create the look of carpet without adding additional colors, you can work entirely with one or two colors, and continue layering until you have the color saturation you want. You could even do it with just one color, but I strongly recommend against that, since using a single color could result in a flat looking area of color.
Step 2: Add a Second Color to Create Color Depth
Layer a second shade of the blue to the carpet. Use the same layering method. I chose Indigo Blue, which I applied with light pressure in a random pattern. I didn’t want to totally cover up the Mediterranean Blue, but did want darker variations in the carpet.
This illustration shows two or three layers of Indigo Blue. Again, I overlapped layers so that some areas are darker than others.
Step 3: Darken the Values
Next, I darkened the overall values with two layers of Black. The first layer was applied over all of the blue with light pressure and circular strokes. The second layer was applied only in the darker areas, and mostly at the bottom.
Step 4: Add a Complement
To keep the blues from looking too flat or vibrant, I layered Henna over all of the area twice. I used light pressure and circular strokes for both layers.
Step 5: Repeat
If the carpet were a solid, slate gray or blue-gray color, this would be a sufficient treatment for background purposes.
But the carpet in the reference is quite a bit darker, so I’ve added more layers of Indigo Blue, Black, and Mediterranean Blue to darken the overall color.
I also drew a cast shadow in the upper right corner, and began establishing the diagonal pattern in the carpet’s weave.
TIP: The carpet in the reference photo shows the weave on the diagonal. If that works all right with the coverall composition, it’s okay to draw the weave on the diagonal. I couldn’t help feeling my sample looked a little off balance with the diagonal detailing. I kept wanting to make it horizontal, but my sample is taken out of context. Do whatever works best with your composition and subject.
SUGGESTION: Save the next two steps until after the drawing is completely finished, then do only as much of each step as you need.
Step 6: Add a Few Details
Finally, add a few details to suggest the surface color and texture. I used Powder Blue, Mineral Orange, and Beige to burnish small circular spots over the blue of the carpet.
You don’t need a lot of these. Cluster them in a random pattern near the cat. As you move away from the cat, reduce the number of accents, and also make their edges softer and more blurry.
Step 7: Add Highlights
This step is optional. If you like the way the carpet looks after step 6, you’re good. If you don’t then consider adding a few overall highlights. Chose a color that’s lighter than the main colors to burnish a few highlights. You can also use a colorless blender if you have one. This will blend the areas you burnish without changing the color.
If you chose to burnish highlights, wait until the drawing is completely finished. It’s quite possible you’ll discover you don’t need to do Step 4 after the rest of the drawing is finished.
DEFINITION: Burnishing is pressing very hard on the paper with your pencil, to “grind” colors together. It works best after you’ve applied all the other colors, usually late in the drawing, or just before you finish an area. Burnishing does press down the paper tooth, and also lays down a lot of wax, so it can be difficult to add more color over an area you’ve burnished.
I went ahead and burnished my sample just so you could see the difference. On the left, I used a colorless blender, the center is unburnished, and on the right, I used Powder Blue. In both cases, I used circular strokes drawn either on the diagonal or horizontally and large enough so that not every inch of the sample was covered.
I’m not sure which option I like best. It really depends on the overall drawing.
And that’s how I’d draw carpet.
If you’ve ever drawn carpet, how what method did you use?
Awesome job, Carrie. I love this tutorial and can see now how to make the carpet realistic, without trying so hard that it becomes the focal point. This definitely will give the perfect illusion of carpet, and make the portrait pop. Thank you SO much!!
Thank you for your comment, and thank you especially for the question you asked that got this post started. I’d never drawn carpet before, so it was a challenge for me, too!
I’m thrilled it was helpful to you. Best wishes with the portrait.