How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

Today, I’d like to show you how to draw leather with colored pencils. The project for this tutorial was drawn on gray paper, which gave me a head start on establishing values.

But this method of drawing will work on any color of paper. Yes, even white!

How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

Pencils: Prismacolor Premier

Paper: Canson Mi-Teintes 98lb pastel paper, Steel Grey. (If you use Mi-Teintes, make sure to use the back, which is much smoother and more suitable for colored pencils.)

Step 1: Add basic colors to begin developing values.

Begin drawing the leather by working on an isolated piece, as I did here, or by layering each color over all parts of the bridle. I tend to work section by section, but either way works.

Ordinarily, it’s best to begin with lighter colors, but since we’re working on a medium gray paper, you can begin with darker values first.

Use a sharp pencils and light pressure to layer Dark Brown over the middle and dark values. Start with the darkest area first, then put a second layer over that area plus the middle values. Work around the two bright highlights at the top and bottom of the leather strap (also known as the headstall.)

Next, layer Mediterranean Blue with light pressure between the lightest area and the darkest value, then layer White over the lightest area at the top of the headstall.

Also layer White over the highlight near the bottom of the strap. To warm up the color, layer Spanish Orange over the browns.

How to Draw Leather - Step 1

Step 2: Layer colors again to create saturation and color depth.

The texture of Canson Mi-Teintes paper helps establish the “feel” of the leather without much effort. The appearance of color on the paper gives the leather a finished appearance after only one round of color. For some kinds of leather, that would be appropriate.

This leather is very smooth, though. Almost polished in appearance. So add a couple more layers of Dark Brown alternating with White in the lighter areas along the side of the head.

Mix Dark Brown and Indigo Blue over the top of the head. Use slightly heavier pressure to create smooth color, but don’t burnish.

At the top of the head, darken the shadow with Indigo Blue, then punch up the reflected light highlight with a little bit of White.

Also layer White over the lower part of the strap and burnish the brightest part of the highlight with White.

How to Draw Leather - Step 2

Step 3: Fine-tune highlights, shadows, and reflected light.

Next, I fine-tuned the headstall by re-enforcing the reflected light with a stroke or two of Cool Grey 20% and adding a form shadow on the back edge of the strap with Indigo Blue.

How to Draw Leather - Step 3

Step 4:

Continue drawing the leather parts of the bridle and reins by using Sienna Brown as the base color, and mixing Dark Brown and Indigo Blue in the shadows and darker areas.

Draw the lighter middle values by mixing Goldenrod and Sienna Brown, then add highlights with a mix of White and Powder Blue.

Use light pressure and circular strokes for the first layers of color in each strap. Add additional layers with medium pressure and the highlights with heavy pressure.

The primary goal is filling in all of the paper holes, so after the colors are established, continue layering with a variety of strokes, gradually increasing pressure with each layer.

Add touches of Black in some of the darker shadows.

Step 5: Add detailing.

To give the bridle an extra look of realism, use a light and dark color to add shadows and highlights around the holes in the straps, the stitching in some of the straps, and on and around the restraints holding the ends of the straps. A stroke or two in most of these areas makes a big difference.

Step 6: Draw the reins using the same colors and layering process.

Finish the reins in the same way and using the same colors.

How to Draw Leather - Step 6

This illustration shows the finished bridle.

That’s How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

At least, that’s how I draw leather.

Drawing leather doesn’t have to be complicated. If you follow the steps described here, you can draw even the most complex bridle or harness. Take your time, keep your pencils sharp, and work from one strap to the next.

This tutorial is excerpted from the Portrait of a Black Horse tutorial. The tutorial covers drawing the horse and bridle, ribbons, and metal.

3 Replies to “How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils”

  1. I love how you arrived at the finished leather. It’s so pretty and you are speaking to me with the horses as I love horses with a passion. Thanks for all you do and stay safe!

    1. Thank you, Patricia, and you’re welcome.

      I have some detail photos of bridles and saddles with very detailed tooling. One of these days, I want to do a drawing based on one or two of them. Wouldn’t that be fun!

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