In this post, I’ll show you how to finish a drawing started with water soluble colored pencils.
Last week, I shared the method I used to create an under drawing using water soluble colored pencils. While I focused on water soluble colored pencils in that post, the technique applies to any type of water soluble media with the possible exception of water miscible oils. I’ve never tried that combination, so cannot tell you whether or not it would work.
Before adding dry color, make sure the under drawing and the paper are completely dry. If there’s any residual dampness, you risk damaging the paper. I usually allow paper to dry over night, just to be on the safe side. I also usually allow papers to air dry by natural evaporation. Even on the hottest days, this process is less likely to cause warping or buckling.
But you can dry paper with a hand-held hair dryer if you need to finish it quickly. Use a low heat setting and don’t get the dryer too close to the paper to keep the color from running before it dries.
How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils
Unless otherwise noted, the colors listed in this article are Prismacolor Soft Core colors. Any colored pencils work over watercolor pencils.
Step 1: Start dry drawing with the base colors.
When the paper is ready for dry color, use the same methods of choosing colors you use for any other technique. Start with the lightest colors and build toward the darks layer by layer.
In this illustration, I’ve added a very light earth tone that’s also a warm color. Burnt Ochre was lightly shaded over the darker area behind the ears and in front of the ears. I used light pressure with a very sharp pencil to draw an even color layer.
Next, layer Burnt Ochre over the rest of the horse except the highlights. I always work around highlights so they don’t become muddy or—even worse—disappear. This is the best way to get sparkling highlights when you work on white or light colored paper.
On the horse’s head and neck, use a sharp pencil to draw a smooth, even color layer.
In the mane, stroke with the growth of the hair, starting at the bottom edge of the highlight and stroking downward to the ends of the hair groups.
Use light or very light pressure on the head, neck, and ears. For the mane, use light to medium-light pressure.
Begin drawing the muzzle with a light layer of pink at the chin and light gray in and around the nostril.
Step 2: Glaze color over the base layers.
With the base color in place, begin developing deeper values and richer colors.
For this demo, I used Sienna Brown and Mineral Orange in the middle values, a light glaze of Light Umber and Goldenrod to the lighter values, and Dark Brown to the shadows. However, getting the values right is more important than correct color. Since we don’t all see color the same way, select colors based on what you see in your reference.
Continue working around the brightest highlights.
For each round of work, add more of each color. Getting good coverage (filling all of the paper holes) requires multiple layers. For the best color, alternate between two or more colors.
Continue using light pressure and sharp pencils to draw smooth color. Stroke in the direction of hair growth in the mane and forelock.
Step 3: Add finishing details to complete your drawing.
When the drawing nears completion, begin working on the highlights. Leave the brightest highlights alone. The highlight along the top of the crest, for example, is whatever color shows through from the under drawing.
For the others, add Spanish Orange, Orange, or Yellow Ochre if the highlight is warm in color (the highlight along the cheek). If the highlight is more neutral, use Sand or Cream (behind the eye).
Most of the highlights are then burnished with a color like Beige or Cream to keep them unified with the coat colors around them.
Using water media or water soluble colored pencils to draw the under drawing is a great way to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a colored pencil work. It’s also a good way to cover the paper without filling in the tooth of the paper.
I probably won’t be using this combination very often because it doesn’t work very well on my favorite papers. They just don’t handle moisture well and I don’t care for the texture of watercolor papers that are heavy enough to take the moisture.
But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a viable—and valuable—alternative to using only traditional, dry colored pencils.
As I mentioned in the previous post, if you hope to enter your artwork in shows that are exclusively colored pencil, stick with water soluble colored pencils.
If that doesn’t matter, then experiment and have fun!