How to Get Started Drawing

How to Get Started Drawing

Every artist begins somewhere. Not every artist started at the same time in life or with the same mediums, but the journey often starts the same way: With basic drawing.

I’ve answered a lot of art questions over the years on this blog and in other places. Rarely does anyone ask how to get started. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps most people assume they know how to begin. I know it was never a question for me, but I was drawing before I was old enough to ask why.

Or even how.

But any time you think about starting something new, it is important to have a least a basic idea of how to begin. That’s the purpose of this post.

The suggestions I’m about to make are very basic, but hopefully they will be helpful to those of you who are thinking about starting with colored pencils.

I’ll also provide a few links to other articles that are a bit more in-depth for those who want more specific information.

Of course, if you have questions, you’re welcome to ask them either in the comments below or more directly by sending me an email. I’m always happy to answer questions and chat by email.

How to Get Started Drawing

The first thing you need to get started drawing is the desire. Without the desire to draw, it doesn’t matter how good your tools are or how many you buy. You won’t get very far.

The truth is that drawing isn’t something you can pick up overnight. Yes, it is easier for some than others, but all of us have to practice to get good at drawing. Even once you become good at it, you have to draw to remain good.

All of that drawing requires a certain amount of desire.

But since you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you have the desire.

Choose Your Medium

Since this blog is all about colored pencils, you may think this question is a bit daft. After all, what else would you draw with but colored pencils?

I’ve drawn with graphite, charcoal, conte crayon, Crayola crayons, and even ball-point pens. Any of those mediums are suitable for creating fine art. What’s more, all of them are also perfect for new artists. Most of them are inexpensive, capable to creating value and drawing intricate detail.

So the first step is for you to decide what you want to start drawing with.

How to Get Started Drawing

If you’re like I was back when I first started, I didn’t want to mess around with graphite or anything else. I went straight for the colored pencils. That’s a perfectly natural decision if colored pencil drawing is what you want to learn.

But there’s also nothing wrong with deciding to begin with something less expensive and simpler.

A lot depends on where you are, how much you have to spend, and what’s available to you. I’ve heard of people who start drawing with a stick in the dirt. Why not? It’s not permanent, but you can learn to draw that way.

Remember, everything you learn about drawing accurately with graphite, charcoal, conte, pen, or any other tool transfers to drawing with colored pencils.

You can also always try other drawing mediums if your first choice doesn’t work out.

So don’t bypass this step because it doesn’t seem important.

Choose Your Tools

Once you’ve decided on the medium, it’s time to look at the tools that are available. As I mentioned above, you can start drawing with a stick and some dirt, but most of us want something a bit more permanent. And convenient!

All you really need, however, is paper and a drawing tool. Depending on the drawing tool, you may also need a sharpener, but those three things are enough to make a beginning.

Learn Everything You Can

If you’re just getting started drawing these days, you have a treasure trove of learning opportunities as close as your internet connection. Choose from free video tutorials on YouTube, paid videos through Patreon, Teachable, Craftsy, and a number of other options.

Many artists also produce and publish downloadable PDF and print tutorials. I have my own collection of tutorials for all levels at my store, Colored Pencil Tutorials. There are books, blogs, teaching websites, and online courses to suit every budget and style.

So how do you find the right teaching method and teacher for you? Look for an artist who does the kind of work you want to do in a style you like. It’s also helpful if they draw similar subjects to what you draw, but that’s not as important. All methods work for every subject for someone.

How to Get Started Drawing

Practice, Practice, Practice

Did I mention practice?

Nothing helps you learn a new skill faster than using it as you learn. Or rather, learning it by doing it. I remember learning how to use a computer the first time. It went much more smoothly when I was able to use a computer in my spare time.

Drawing is the same way. So watch those videos and do those tutorials, but also draw for yourself. Fun stuff. Difficult stuff. Whatever catches your attention.

That’s How I’d Get Started Drawing If I were Beginning Today

Do you remember I mentioned some links? Here they are.

On this blog, you can find a list of the best posts about getting started with colored pencil.

There is a nearly-free resource at Colored Pencil Tutorials that is a downloadable shopping list for you if you’re ready to buy colored pencils and accessories, but don’t know where to start.

The main thing is to start where you are. If all you can get is a number two lead pencil and typing paper, then do that. It’s far better to make that kind of start, than to wait until you have everything available and never start.

Nearly Top 35 Posts from This Blog

Nearly Top 35 Posts from This Blog

Today’s post is a list of the nearly top 35 posts for the past quarter on this blog.

I’m not a big fan of checking statistics every day. There are just too many other things to do and getting bogged down in statistical analysis is a lot like getting bogged down in details too soon. It slows everything down.

But I did take a peek at the statistics this week looking for a good topic to write about today. The idea that came to mind was to share a list of previous posts that have been well-read, but are still under 600 views for the past three months.

Why 35? I don’t know. It seemed like a good number and when is the last time you saw a list of 35 anything? Top ten or twenty, yes. But nearly top 35? Not so much.

So that’s the number I settled on, and I have to admit that the collection is impressive. There’s definitely something here for everyone.

Nearly Top 35 Posts from This Blog

A single list of 35 posts is a lot of posts to sort through. So I sorted them into categories. You can browse all the categories, or choose the categories that are of the most interest.

How to Posts

The Best Way to Transfer a Drawing to Black Paper

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Tips for Drawing on Black Paper

How to Make a Color Lighter

How to Draw a Night Sky

7 Ways to Draw Whiskers for Colored Pencil Artists

How to Draw the Blackest Black in Colored Pencils

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing

Layering and Blending Colored Pencils

How to Draw White Fur with Colored Pencils

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils

Realistic Landscape Greens with Colored Pencils

How to Make Drawings Look Less Flat

Draw Cat Eyes with Colored Pencil

How to Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Drawing Vibrant Highlights with Colored Pencils

How to Draw Carpet with Colored Pencil

Supplies and Materials Posts

My Thoughts on Gel Pens and Acrylic Paint

The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Papers

Reasons to Try Canvas with Colored Pencils

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Tools

Alternatives to Drawing Paper for Colored Pencil

The Best Black Paper for Colored Pencil Art

Everything You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencils

Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil

Can You Use Graphite Under Colored Pencil?

After the Artwork is Finished Posts

Do You Really Need to Varnish Colored Pencil Art?

How I Store My Colored Pencils

Framing Colored Pencil Drawings: Must You Use Glass?

Other

Brushing Techniques for Water Soluble Colored Pencil

5 Drawing Exercises with Curving Lines

Where to Begin a Colored Pencil Drawing

The Biggest Mistake I Made as a Beginning Artist

An Easy Way to Test Colored Pencil Lightfastness

And there you have it. The Nearly To 35 posts from this blog.

A well-rounded list of 35 of posts that lurk just under the top-rated posts for the past quarter. I hope you’ve found something helpful among these topics.

How I Finish Colored Pencil Drawings

How I Finish Colored Pencil Drawings

What do you use to finish your colored pencil artwork? Do you use something different if you use a different substrate?

When I first saw this question, I thought the reader wanted to know how I finish drawing colored pencil drawings.

Then I looked at the question again and realized that might not be what the reader wanted to know. Maybe they really wanted to know if I use a final fixative to “finish” a drawing.

After all, the reader mentioned different substrates and that makes more sense if we’re talking about final fixatives. The way I finish drawing a drawing is the same no matter what kind of paper I draw on.

But whether or not I use a final fixative does matter depending on the paper.

So I went back and rethought my answer.

How I Finish Colored Pencil Drawings

Most of the time, I finish drawing colored pencil drawings by making final adjustments. I make a few notes on the back (title, date of completion, type of paper, pencils, and other comments.) Then I slip the drawing into a protective, archival clear plastic envelope and either ship it or store it.

That’s because most of my work was on traditional drawing papers. For years, that’s all I used.

I rarely use final fixatives on artwork created on traditional paper. About the only time I do is when I need to control wax bloom. I see no need to use final fixatives on most other artwork.

However, the type of paper does make a difference and there are some papers that require final fixative.

The Paper Does Matter

When I work on sanded art papers, I use a light coat of final fixative on the finished drawing. That’s because drawing on sanded art papers creates pigment dust. If I don’t use a fixative on work like that, the dust may fall off the drawing.

Many artists remove the dust by blowing the dust off. They might also hold the drawing a bit past vertical and lightly tap it on a hard surface. The dust falls off without damaging the artwork, and can be disposed of. Pastel artists use the same methods because pastels also produce dust. A lot of it.

I prefer dry blending to push the dust down into the grit of the paper during the drawing process.

To keep pigment dust from falling off after the piece is finished, I apply two or three light coats of fixative after the drawing is finished.

The Process Also Matters

I also use a final fixative to finish colored pencil drawings when I use Brush & Pencil’s Powder Blender.

Powder Blender helps you blend colored pencil by acting as a dry lubricant. Apply a little Powder Blender before you start drawing and you’ll be able to blend colors effortlessly. You can add color, blend, add more color, and blend some more.

In fact, you’ll be able to continue blending for an unlimited amount of layers.

You can also lift color too. It’s better than erasing and you can remove color all the way to the paper if you want to. Brush & Pencil designed Textured Fixative to make those layers of color and Powder Blender permanent. It also adds texture to the surface of the paper, allowing you to continue adding color.

It’s important when using these products to use the Final Fixative when you finish a piece. The Final Fixative makes the entire drawing permanent.

It also seals the drawing. That’s important if you want to varnish a finished piece. The varnish can later be removed and replaced without damaging the drawing underneath. Oil painters often use a similar process to protect their paintings and make it possible to clean them later.

That’s How I Finish Colored Pencil Drawings

I don’t always finish colored pencil drawings with final fixative, and I rarely varnish them. My drawing methods simply do not require a final fixative unless I’m working on sanded art paper.

And I prefer not to varnish artwork, but I rarely did that with oil paintings either.

Whether or not you use a final fixative, a varnish, or nothing at all is mostly a personal decision. But I hope describing what I do (and why) helps you decide.

How to Improve Reference Photos

Last week’s featured newsletter article was called Planning for a Successful Drawing. One of the tips I shared was starting with great reference photos. A reader responded by asking how to improve reference photos that are less than ideal.

That’s a legitimate question. Many clients who want pet portraits are asking for posthumous portraits. In those cases, the reference photos are usually less than ideal for any of several reasons. Poor lighting, awkward perspective, and photos taken inside are just a few.

I’ve created portraits from less than ideal reference photos, and while it can be done, it is usually more difficult. I also often find the resulting portraits less satisfying to me as the artist.

But there are times when the only choice is between refusing the commission or working with what the client provides. Sometimes refusing a commission really is the best decision, but I’ve always had difficulty doing that.

So I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to improve reference photos using a photo editor, and I’d like to share those tricks with you today.

How to Improve Reference Photos

The reader who wrote to me provided a couple of photos and granted me permission to use them. So I’ll do what I can to improve each of the photos and tell you what I did with each one.

One quick note before I begin: Any good photo editor such as PhotoShop or GIMP can do basic adjustments. I think a lot of phone apps are also good for making basic adjustments to brightness, contrast, and other similar basic manipulations.

I used GIMP before I started publishing CP Magic! and tutorials. Afterward, I purchased publishing software called Affinity. Serif makes Affinity Publisher, Affinity Photo, and Affinity Designer. They all work together and you can move a file from one software to the next without closing and re-opening it. As you might expect, the range of photo adjustments is much broader. The Affinity apps are inexpensive ($50 per app and you can purchase only the ones you need,) so if you do a lot of photo work, Affinity Photo is well worth the purchase price.

But the adjustments I’m about to describe are more basic and you can do them on most basic photo editors.

Now on to the sample photos.

Improving Photo #1

Here’s the reader’s first photo.

Lightening Dark Photos

Poorly lighted photos are one of the most common types of reference photos clients provide. Poor lighting has several causes but the worst is interior photos because you often also have to deal with flash lighting.

Because of this, the first thing I always try is making the photo brighter. In most photo editors, look for a setting called Brightness & Contrast. Where you’ll find that setting varies from editor to editor. Sometimes it’s under a menu labeled “Images,” sometimes under “Adjustments” or in some other menu or option. No matter where it is in your photo editor, it’s a good place to start when adjusting most photos.

For this photo, I brightened it about 50%.

How to Improve Reference Photos

Improving Contrast

The next adjustment I usually do is adjusting the contrast. If a photo is too light, you can increase the contrast to bring out the details in washed out values. If it’s too dark, you can decrease the contrast to reveal details in areas that are too dark.

Since this photo was too dark, I decreased the contrast. You can see in this side-by-side that the details in the black parts of the black-and-white cat are much clearer in the adjusted photo than in the original photo.

Adjusting Brightness and Contrast

In the first two steps, I did just the brightness (first side-by-side) then just the contrast (second side-by-side.) Sometimes you need to do both, but don’t start by doing both. If one of these adjustments works, great. That’s all you need!

But sometimes it’s helpful to adjust both the brightness and the contrast. In that case, start with the adjustment that’s the most obvious. For this photo, that was adjusting the brightness. Whichever you decide to adjust first, get the photo to look the best you can with the first adjustment.

Then make the second adjustment.

That’s what I did here, and this is the result from adjusting the brightness first, then adjusting the contrast.

How to Improve Reference Photos

Making these adjustments is easy.

Finding the right balance is more difficult and is based on your preferences about how a photo should look. If you know the subject, then you’re better equipped to get the most accurate adjustments possible. If you’re working with a client photo, then you’ll have to do the best you can.

There will be situations in which you need to work from two versions of the reference photo: One adjusted for brightness and one adjusted for contrast. I’ve done this in the past and it works quite well.

If I were working from this photo, I’d use the third photo, but I’d also keep a copy of the original so I could make other adjustments as needed to see details.

Improving Photo #2

Here’s the second photo. This one was taken outside and is back-lit with strong light, so it presents some unique challenges.

Adjust the Brightness First

I once again began by adjusting the brightness first. I started out by increasing the brightness by 50%, but that didn’t bring out the details in the black areas as much as I liked. So I increased the adjustment to 100%.

There are more visible details in the black fur, but look at that white fur! It’s nothing but blazing white!

How to Improve Reference Photos

Adjust the Contrast

So I canceled the brightness adjustment and adjusted the contrast. Because the contrast is already so strong in this photo, I decided to decrease it.

Decreasing the contrast by 50% didn’t do much for the photo, so I pushed it all the way to 100%. That turned out much better than I expected. Other than the brightest white highlights still being blown out (over-exposed,) there is plenty of detail visible in the white fur and a good amount in the black fur. You could do a portrait based on this adjusted photo and have it turn out fairly well.

Adjusting Brightness and Contrast

The last thing I tried was adjusting brightness and contrast together. As you can see below, this produced the best results. Brightness is increased by 56% and contrast is decreased by 100%.

The colors are a bit washy, but you can see plenty of details in both the black and the white fur. Color is much easier to correct as you draw, so this is the photo I’d work from.

However, as with the first photo, I would keep a copy of the original photo for comparison.

How to Improve Reference Photos

There Are More Ways to Improve Reference Photos

These are just the three steps I take with most reference photos. Additional adjustments include things like color balance, white balance, color temperature corrections, clarity and so on. Some of them are quite complex and involved.

But for most artists, getting the brightness and contrast correct is all that’s necessary. The good news is that most photo apps, even the ones in your phone, are capable of these adjustments.

Blending Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

Blending Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

Some topics never grow old. Either they’re so expansive, there’s always something to write, or there are always new readers who haven’t read previous posts. Blending smooth color with colored pencils is one of those topics.

I have written posts on blending smooth color in the past. How to Blend Smooth Color and My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods are just two of those posts. Even if you have read them before, they’re well worth reviewing again.

Today, I’d like to share some additional tips for blending smooth color.

Tips for Blending Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

Some of these tips are common sense (to me anyway,) and some might be a bit “radical.” But I have used all of them at least once or twice, and they have been helpful.

Go Slow & Draw Carefully

Okay, so this is neither new nor radical, but I mention it first because I have so much trouble with it myself.

The key to blending smooth color is drawing smooth color.

The key to drawing smooth color is to go slow and draw carefully. It’s very difficult to blend smooth color from color that’s been scribbled onto the paper. Trust me; I’ve tried it. It just does not work.

Here’s a sample of “scribbled” color. In the background, I got tired and started scribbling color. It’s very light color to start with and may be difficult to see here (in the circle,) but it sure showed up as I was working on the drawing. I was thoroughly disappointed with myself and had a difficult time smoothing out those scribbles. It took several layers to smooth the color enough to create the look of grass.

Blending Smooth Color with Colored Pencils 1

It’s always better to take your time drawing smooth color. If you find yourself getting careless in applying color, take a break.

Read Drawing Smooth Color With Colored Pencils on the Colored Pencil Tutorials blog.

Now for some newer ideas.

Experiment on Scrap Paper

The absolute best way to learn a new tool or technique is by drawing. You can learn on “real art,” art that you want to finish, but I’ve found that method to be frustrating and sometimes discouraging.

Instead, save scrap pieces of your favorite drawing papers and use them to test new tools and techniques. They don’t have to be large pieces. Four inches by six inches is large enough.

If you like the results, then you can try it on a drawing. If you don’t like the results, at least you haven’t ruined a drawing.

Use the same type of drawing paper you’re using for the drawing for the best results.

Put Enough Pigment on the Paper

When you blend with solvent, you need enough pigment on the paper for the solvent to work.

If you layer with medium pressure or lighter, put down two or three layers, blend, then add a couple more layers, and blend again. You may have to do that a couple of time to get smooth color, so you might want to try it on a test sample first. Just layer color on a paper, blend it, then add more color and blend again. See what happens.

If you draw with a naturally heavy hand, you may be able to blend smooth color after only one or two layers of color. I have a naturally light hand, so usually have four or five layers before I do solvent blending of any kind. But each layer is quite thin.

Blend with Paper

Sometimes the best way to blend smooth color is by trying different blending tools. I like bath tissue and paper towel to blend because they give a different look than colorless blenders or solvents.

But did you know you can also blend colored pencil by using small pieces of the paper you’re drawing on? It’s nowhere near as effective as using solvents, but if you want to “gently smooth” color, take a small piece of drawing paper and rub it on your drawing. You can use light pressure for light blending or use heavier pressure.

Blending Smooth Color with Colored Pencils Doesn’t Have to be Difficult.

Or complicated.

But it does take patience, and a willingness to try different and unusual methods.

Keep in mind that not every method works for every artist or on every drawing. You may need to do some experimenting on your own to get those special results that make artwork sing.

Just remember to practice and experiment on scrap paper; not on your artwork!

My Favorite Watercolor Papers

My Favorite Watercolor Papers

Time to talk about the art supplies I find the most useful for the type of work I do. Today’s topic is paper; specifically, my favorite watercolor papers.

Here’s the reader question.

Hi Carrie.

I have read a few of your articles on eliminating paper holes showing through colored pencil, but I would like to know which paper you recommend using to apply the water color or Inktense under painting before applying colored pencil. Multi-media, hot or cold pressed watercolor paper, or something else. Some watercolor papers have so much texture they are no fun to use for colored pencil drawings. Thank you.

The Different Types of Watercolor Paper

The reader mentioned the surface texture of some watercolor papers. That is probably the most important thing to consider when choosing watercolor paper for colored pencils.

There are two types of watercolor paper. Hot press and cold press. The type you choose makes a huge difference in how your art looks.

Cold press paper has more texture. The amount of texture differs, but it’s always a bit rougher than hot press watercolor paper and most traditional papers. The texture isn’t gritty; it’s more pebbly, and in my opinion, it’s unsuited to dry colored pencil work.

Hot press paper is smoother, but it’s not as smooth as Bristol. It also has a different feel. Rather than being slick feeling, like Bristol, it’s a bit softer. Almost velvety, sometimes.

So when it comes to choosing the right watercolor paper for your colored pencil work, make sure to look at the differences between cold press and hot press.

For more detailed information, you might want to read The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Watercolor Papers.

Now, to my favorite watercolor papers.

My Favorite Watercolor Papers

I prefer 140lb because it’s very tough and thick enough to stand up to many layers of color and some abuse. It needs to be taped to a rigid drawing board of some kind for larger piece, or it will buckle if you get it really wet. But it’s ideal for smaller pieces or for pieces on which I use moderate amounts to moisture.

For a really heavy paper, you could try 300 lb hot press watercolor paper. 300 lb paper is quite thick and stands up very well under lots of water and layering. I used Strathmore 300 lb. watercolor paper for this piece several years ago and it was quite sturdy.

I did not note whether or not the paper was hot press, but in looking at the texture shown in the high resolution image, I think it was probably cold press. So you can do great work on cold press, but it does take more work.

The Brands I Like Most

The watercolor paper I use most is Canson L’Aquarelle 140lb hot press. It has a nice, velvety surface that works as well for completely dry colored pencil, as it does for watercolor and colored pencil mixed.

I’ve used it for larger works (8×10 usually) and for small studies of 6×9 or smaller. It’s very satisfactory for every technique I’ve tried; even some very experimental techniques.

The reason I prefer this paper is that it’s usually available at outlets such as Hobby Lobby, so if I need a pad quickly, and I stop by the store and pick one up. I prefer 9×12 inch pads, but it comes in other sizes, as well.

If you shop online, you can also find it in full sheets.

I’ve also used Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press and it feels almost like regular Stonehenge. It stands up to water extremely well, and you can use regular pencils on it just like on regular Stonehenge.

I got samples of this paper from the Legion company and wrote a review on my experiences here.

The two papers are pretty similar in every way but cost. Stonehenge is a bit more expensive than Canson L’Aquarelle, but I’ve been very happy with both.

Those are My Two Favorite Watercolor Papers

The truth is that almost any watercolor should work, and you can try almost any brand. When you buy paper, keep in mind how you want your finished artwork to look, and choose the paper accordingly.

Also knowing how you plan to use wet and dry media is important. The example I showed above involved a lot of watercolor work. I used colored pencils for glazing and details, so the additional texture was helpful.

If you don’t plan to use wet media for more than tinting the paper, then you may want to consider a hot press paper.

And don’t be afraid to try heavier papers. Sometimes that additional substance in the paper is just what you need; especially for larger works.

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

Today, I want to talk about the things artists tell themselves. Those preconceived notions that hold us back.

Self-imposed limitations.

Let me explain by using myself as an example.

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

I spent over forty years drawing and painting portraits of horses. I was confident doing head studies, full body portraits, and action scenes. There wasn’t a horse I didn’t feel capable of drawing.

But put a rider in the saddle or add a buggy or carriage, and I was a bundle of insecurity!

In reality, I should have been able to draw the person or equipment with the same confidence with which I drew the horse. I had the skill to draw horses, so there was no reason I couldn’t also draw people or equipment.

The same methods work for drawing people that work for drawing horses. There was no reason I couldn’t draw people.

Except….

I told myself I couldn’t do it.

So I avoided drawing people or equipment whenever possible. When I had to include a person or a buggy or whatever, I struggled.

The Big Lie

In novel writing, one of the things the novelist must decide is what lie each character believes. Often referred to as The Big Lie, this belief keeps the character from achieving a goal.

The Big Lie might be something the person heard as a child. It may be the result of a failure or misunderstanding. The character may realize it’s a lie, but more often, it’s subconscious.

Artists are the same way. Actually every person is that way. There is something I believe about myself that’s not true, and there’s something you believe about yourself that’s not true.

As I get older, I can more clearly see my Big Lie was that I couldn’t draw people or technical things. I’ve done both, now. I know I can draw people, and I can draw technical subjects.

They are more difficult because I’m not familiar with them, but when I apply the same skills that help me draw horses to these other subjects, I can draw them.

Big lies apply to what we think we can draw and what we think we can’t draw.

They apply to what we think we can and cannot accomplish with our art. They also apply to turning hobbies into businesses, or any other worthwhile endeavor.

What’s the Solution?

My husband has cited Henry Ford to me often enough that I sometimes hate the quote I used below. But it is true. That’s another thing I’m learning as I get older (and hopefully wiser.)

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
― Henry Ford

Whether I think or can, or think I can’t, I’m right.

And so are you.

The solution is two-fold and both parts can be difficult. Very difficult.

The first step is to be totally honest with yourself and identify the Big Lie you believe about yourself or about your ability. Get past the things that are skills you have yet to acquire.

For example, if you believe you can’t shade smooth color, that’s a skill you can acquire with time and practice.

But if you believe you can’t learn to shade smooth color, that’s a lie you’re telling yourself.

Do you see the difference?

Back to my example, I believed I couldn’t draw people or equipment and that was a lie. I proved it was a lie by drawing people and equipment.

The truth was I didn’t have the skill or determination to draw those things. Another truth was that I didn’t want to try drawing them because they were hard.

So ask yourself the following questions and fill in the blanks as they fit you.

I believe I can’t draw ___________________.

I believe I can’t draw ___________________, but I can learn how.

The first is the lie. The second is the truth and a plan of action.

If you don’t think you believe any Big Lies, then you’re either miles ahead of the rest of us or….

…maybe that’s the Big Lie you believe about yourself.

Think about it.

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

I decided to publish this post today because I’ve learned over years of blogging that if I struggle with something, some of my readers also struggle with it.

Self imposed obstacles and the things artists tell themselves (that aren’t true,) are some of the biggest hurdles we have to get over if we really want to succeed.

And I hope you do want to succeed.

How to Draw Thin Fabric with Colored Pencil

How to Draw Thin Fabric

Today’s topic is how to draw thin fabric, but the process I’m about to describe applies to drawing anything that’s transparent or translucent.

To begin, here’s the reader’s question.

I need to know how to make a hazy overlay with a white, like a mist or a thin fabric.

This is a good question, but not because of the specifics. Some time ago, I wrote a post describing one way to draw a foggy morning. That works for mist, too.

I’ve also written about How to Draw Folds of Cloth. The method I described in that post works for any kind of fabric; even sheer fabric.

Now for today’s post.

How to Draw Thin Fabric or Mist

I want to begin with drawing mist because that’s the easiest to draw.

Mist

The first thing to remember when drawing transparent or translucent subjects with colored pencils is that you can’t add the mist or veil after drawing whatever is behind it.

With oils or acrylics, you can paint a landscape, then glaze mist or fog over it. A thin layer of transparent color makes whatever is behind it look dimmer, just like mist or fog does in real life.

Colored pencils don’t work that way. In a lot of situations, you have to draw the mist first, then draw whatever is behind it.

Yes, sometimes you can draw the landscape, then lift enough color to create the look of mist. That’s what I did in this short demonstration.

But most of the time, it’s better to fade the landscape colors into lighter values from the start. If you still need to lift color, the results are likely to be more pleasing.

Thin Fabric

Thin fabric or other similarly see-through things usually can’t be drawn by lifting color. It’s far better to focus on the shapes, values, and colors (in that order) as they appear in the reference photo. Here’s an example.

How to Draw Thin Fabric

Preparing to Draw

The first step is to make an accurate line drawing. Whether you make your line drawing simple or complex is up to you, but include all of the main shapes. The shadows, the gold-colored drape on the left, the window frames visible through the sheer, and even the things you can see through the window if you want to include those details.

In short, your line drawing should contain enough details to provide a good road map for drawing the shapes, adding the values, and shading color. It shouldn’t be so complex that you get lost as you draw.

The next step is drawing the values. It may help you to convert your reference photo to black-and-white so you can see how light and dark things really are when compared to other parts of the image. I used GIMP to convert this photo to black-and-white, but most photo editors can be used this way.

Drawing Thin Fabric

Next, begin adding values layer by layer. You can either work with a single color or with all your colors. I personally prefer using one color at this stage, but use whatever method works best for you. How ever you start, use light pressure and draw what you see.

For example, the drape is clearly visible to the left of the sheer, so you should draw it that way.

But the part that appears through the sheer is visible only as a blotch of color where the light hits it. So don’t draw the same folds you see on the left. Draw the blotch of color.

The creases and wrinkles in the sheer also appear over that blotch of color. That looks complicated to draw, but it can be simplified very easily.

Focus on one small area at a time, and pretend you’re drawing an abstract. It works for water, and it works for sheer curtains, mist and anything else that’s translucent.

Put the shadows where the shadows should be, and put the highlights where the highlights should be. Also put the color where it appears.

When you finish an area as much as you want to, move to the next area and do the same thing.

When you’ve covered the entire composition that way, then work on the piece as a whole, and make whatever adjustments are needed.

How to Draw Thin Fabric

Drawing thin fabric—or any see-through subject—doesn’t have to be complicated. Just study your reference photo and draw what you see. If it helps, pretend you’re drawing an abstract collection of shapes, values, and colors.

Take it one step at a time, and don’t rush.

And before you know it, you’ll have a finished piece you can be pleased with!

Today’s topic is how to draw thin fabric, but the process I’m about to describe applies to drawing anything that’s transparent or translucent.

To begin, here’s the reader’s question.

I need to know how to make a hazy overlay with a white, like a mist or a thin fabric.

This is a good question, but not because of the specifics. Some time ago, I wrote a post describing one way to draw a foggy morning. That works for mist, too.

I’ve also written about How to Draw Folds of Cloth. The method I described in that post works for any kind of fabric; even sheer fabric.

Now for today’s post.

How to Draw Thin Fabric or Mist

I want to begin with drawing mist because that’s the easiest to draw.

Mist

The first thing to remember when drawing transparent or translucent subjects with colored pencils is that you can’t add the mist or veil after drawing whatever is behind it.

With oils or acrylics, you can paint a landscape, then glaze mist or fog over it. A thin layer of transparent color makes whatever is behind it look dimmer, just like mist or fog does in real life.

Colored pencils don’t work that way. In a lot of situations, you have to draw the mist first, then draw whatever is behind it.

Yes, sometimes you can draw the landscape, then lift enough color to create the look of mist. That’s what I did in this short demonstration.

But most of the time, it’s better to fade the landscape colors into lighter values from the start. If you still need to lift color, the results are likely to be more pleasing.

Thin Fabric

Thin fabric or other similarly see-through things usually can’t be drawn by lifting color. It’s far better to focus on the shapes, values, and colors (in that order) as they appear in the reference photo. Here’s an example.

How to Draw Thin Fabric

Preparing to Draw

The first step is to make an accurate line drawing. Whether you make your line drawing simple or complex is up to you, but include all of the main shapes. The shadows, the gold-colored drape on the left, the window frames visible through the sheer, and even the things you can see through the window if you want to include those details.

In short, your line drawing should contain enough details to provide a good road map for drawing the shapes, adding the values, and shading color. It shouldn’t be so complex that you get lost as you draw.

The next step is drawing the values. It may help you to convert your reference photo to black-and-white so you can see how light and dark things really are when compared to other parts of the image. I used GIMP to convert this photo to black-and-white, but most photo editors can be used this way.

Drawing Thin Fabric

Next, begin adding values layer by layer. You can either work with a single color or with all your colors. I personally prefer using one color at this stage, but use whatever method works best for you. How ever you start, use light pressure and draw what you see.

For example, the drape is clearly visible to the left of the sheer, so you should draw it that way.

But the part that appears through the sheer is visible only as a blotch of color where the light hits it. So don’t draw the same folds you see on the left. Draw the blotch of color.

The creases and wrinkles in the sheer also appear over that blotch of color. That looks complicated to draw, but it can be simplified very easily.

Focus on one small area at a time, and pretend you’re drawing an abstract. It works for water, and it works for sheer curtains, mist and anything else that’s translucent.

Put the shadows where the shadows should be, and put the highlights where the highlights should be. Also put the color where it appears.

When you finish an area as much as you want to, move to the next area and do the same thing.

When you’ve covered the entire composition that way, then work on the piece as a whole, and make whatever adjustments are needed.

How to Draw Thin Fabric

Drawing thin fabric—or any see-through subject—doesn’t have to be complicated. Just study your reference photo and draw what you see. If it helps, pretend you’re drawing an abstract collection of shapes, values, and colors.

Take it one step at a time, and don’t rush.

And before you know it, you’ll have a finished piece you can be pleased with!

Sketches for the Week of August 16, 2021

Sketches for the Week of August 16

This week, I published a new tutorial, Draw Clouds from Life, available at Colored Pencil Tutorials. It’s a graphite tutorial and I had a lot of fun with it, so I decided that all my sketches for the week of August 16 would also be in graphite.

Why graphite?

Because it’s easy to use, it’s a great way to practice drawing values, and it’s fun.

It’s also a change of pace from colored pencil sketching, and since my sketching habit goals didn’t specify colored pencil, I thought, why not graphite?

My Sketches for the Week of August 16, 2021

Because I’d already decided to use graphite for all of my sketching this week, I decided to try different papers. I didn’t expect much difference from one paper to the next, but I got a couple of surprises.

Trunk Study in Graphite on Canson Mi-Teintes Pearl Grey

This sketch is on Canson Mi-Teintes Pearl Grey, which is a very light gray paper. I sketched on the back because that’s the smoothest side, and I chose Pearl Grey because it was the lightest color of paper I had cut to the right size.

I sat on the front porch and sketched the base of an old elm tree in the front yard. The shape of the trunk is interesting because it isn’t round. It looks almost like two trunks grown together early in the life of the tree. When the late afternoon and evening sun strikes it just right, the shape is clear.

I used a 6B Prismacolor Turquoise pencil sharpened to a sharp point and did all my shading with mark making. You can see the hatching and cross-hatching strokes quite clearly. It’s quite easy to create value layering graphite this way, and the direction of the strokes adds visual texture to the sketch.

So do my smudgy fingerprints! One thing I always forget about graphite is that it migrates so easily. Get a little bit on your fingers, and you leave finger prints everywhere!

sketches for the week of August 16

Branch Study in Graphite on Canson Mi-Teintes Steel Grey

I did this sketch immediately after doing the previous sketch, but i did this one from imagination.

The darker gray paper didn’t work as well for graphite, but I wanted to try it anyway, just to see what could be done. I like the sketch, but it would have been better on lighter paper and more detailed if I had been drawing an actual branch.

Even so, it was fun to practice blending by smudging. It was a good effort.

But probably the last combining graphite and medium-value paper.

Mountain Landscape in Graphite on Bienfang Bristol Vellum

The next paper was Bristol Vellum. I like Bienfang Bristol because it’s the only Bristol I’ve found that comes in a pad of 146lb weight. It’s a good, sturdy paper.

I thought it would be perfect for graphite because it’s so smooth. This is where I got the first surprise for the week: Bristol is too smooth for good graphite drawing.

I was able to get a wide range of values by starting with a 3H pencil. But that pencil was so hard, it felt scratchy on the paper. I sketched in the most distant mountains (barely visible) with this, then switched to an F for the next range. Better, but still too hard.

For the rest of the drawing, I used a 6B, which is very soft. Even this soft pencil didn’t work very well on Bristol.

I blended with a stiff bristle brush and my finger to smooth out some of the values, but the best work I did was the nearest range of hills, which I drew with the side of the 6B, then left alone. I also like the grass in the foreground. That was fun to draw!

Broken Ends Graphite on Bristol Vellum

Unwilling to let the Bristol go without another try, I used it to sketch this branch.

Once again, I sat on the front steps and started by intending to sketch a dead branch from life. But I had a lot of help in the form of cats. After the first random mark made when a cat rubbed against my arm as I drew, I decide to just “wing it.”

I continued drawing the branch, but also worked in whatever additional random marks my “studio assistants” caused. This bare and cracked branch is the result.

Prismacolor Turquoise graphite worked better for this type sketching, but it was still a struggle to get really dark values. Confirmation of my conclusions after the previous sketch.

sketches for the week of August 16

Broken Graphite on Bristol Vellum

I liked the previous sketch enough to try a similar subject. This time, I focused on one end of a branch and made sure my studio assistants were elsewhere.

I also used different pencils. That’s part of the reason I wanted to try Bristol Vellum a third time.

The first pencil was a Prang 2B. Believe it or not, I liked this pencil better than the supposedly higher quality Prismacolor Turquoise pencils. Layering was much smoother and the pencil was easier to use. Surprise #2 for the week!

But a 2B is all I had. So for the darker values, I switched to a Mirado B1 pencil. I got these pencils in a box of over 1,500 pencils purchased years ago. They’re an excellent sketching pencil, with nice dark values, smooth lay-down, and several grades. They make Bristol vellum a decent sketching paper.

That’s the third surprise.

Sunset Graphite Powder & Pencil on Clairefontaine Pastelmat

The last sketch for the week doesn’t really look like a sketch, does it? I tried something brand new this time: Graphite powder on white Pastelmat.

Graphite powder is essentially a graphite pencil without the pencil. It’s all graphite. No binders, no fillers, nothing but pigment.

I used a bristle brush for everything but the sun and the trees. I dipped the brush into the graphite powder, then brushed it onto the paper. Pastelmat grabbed hold of it very well.

Better than expected, as a matter of fact. I couldn’t spread the graphite as thinly as I wanted, so the clouds are far darker than I intended.

I “drew” the sun and sunbeams with a pink pearl eraser. That worked quite well, but didn’t make as bright a sun as I’d hoped. Probably because white Pastelmat isn’t bright white. I would also have been better off with a smaller harder eraser.

After that, I used a 6B graphite pencil to draw the trees.

While it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, I’m pleased with the results. I learned a lot from this try and know what to do (and what not to do) the next time!

Those are My Sketches for the Week of August 16

I had hoped to do more than just six sketches, but it was a busy week. Then I spilled some of the graphite powder on Saturday afternoon, and spent the rest of the afternoon vacuuming and steam cleaning my “studio.” That happened to be a black couch. I’m still not sure I got all the graphite powder.

Despite the surprises, “help” from studio assistants, and spilled graphite, I really enjoyed sketching with graphite. I hope you’ll take up the challenge and do some graphite work, too.

If you purchase graphite pencils, I recommend not buying Prismacolor Turquoise. Some of the pencils I used felt gritty. One or two felt capable of scratching the paper.

I’ve heard good things about the Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils, and I’m sure Derwent’s graphite pencils are also high quality. In fact, all of the companies that make top-of-the-line colored pencils also make graphite pencils. You won’t go wrong with any of them.

If you feel really brave, get a little graphite powder and try your hand with that. It’s a lot of fun!

I hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit, and invite you to share your work. I’ll be happy to add your sketches for the week of August 16 as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Draw Clouds from Life Tutorial

Draw Clouds from Life

I’m very pleased to announce a new tutorial, Draw Clouds from Life. This is the second life drawing book I’ve published, and the first that focuses on graphite.

But don’t dismiss it because it’s not a colored pencil tutorial. The focus of this book is drawing, not graphite, and we all know that basic drawing principles apply to all media.

Even colored pencils.

About Draw Clouds from Life

I wrote this tutorial to encourage artists to take up the challenge to get outside and draw. So the tutorial begins with tips on setting up to draw outside as well as choosing a subject.

But it doesn’t stop there.

A step-by-step tutorial follows, showing how I draw clouds using nothing but graphite pencils and an eraser or two. I use the same drawing method described in Draw From Life in Three Easy Steps. This drawing method can be mastered by any artist from beginner upward who is willing to take the time to draw regularly.

Includes a Photo Collection

Drawing from life is beneficial to every artist.

But I realize that not everyone can get outside to draw. Nor can every artist easily view clouds or take pictures of them.

So I’ve put together a collection of some of my favorite cloud photos. The photos are my own so anyone can start drawing clouds the moment they download the tutorial.

Draw Clouds from Life

Draw Clouds from Life is perfect for anyone who wants to learn to draw clouds from life.

And once you master cloud drawing, you’ll be able to draw anything else you want to draw.

Skill Level

Beginner and higher.

This tutorial includes a complete, easy-to-get supply list and suggestions for drawing outside. It also contains a selection of reference photos so you can start drawing clouds today!

If you’ve ever wanted a good, basic drawing tutorial, this tutorial is for you. Start drawing better drawings now!

Read more about Draw Clouds from Life or get your copy by clicking here.