Let’s talk a little bit about reflected light basics today. You’ve probably heard me mention reflected light in various tutorials and maybe even in a class if you’ve taken one of those. It’s time to define what I’m talking about.
What is Reflected Light?
Reflected light is light that comes from a source other than the primary light source. The light of the moon is sunlight reflecting off the moon and back to us.
Reflected light in art is the light that bounces off one object and strikes another object.
No matter what subjects you draw or paint or how you draw or paint them, you’re working with light. How well you draw light determines how three-dimensional your drawing turns out.
How well you draw reflected light determines how strong the illusion of three-dimensions is.
So it’s important to know and understand just how reflected light works.
The Basics of Reflected Light
A natural light source (the sun) in an outdoor setting, illuminates these books and their surroundings. The light source is strong and direct.
The light source is from the upper right and almost directly to the right of the books.
The Merck Manual gets the most direct light, but since the brightest light is on a side that isn’t visible, you can’t see the brightest highlights anywhere but along the edge where the spine curves around to meet the front cover.
But there is plenty of reflected light. The black arrows below mark light reflected onto the books from other books or from the floor.
But do you see the red-tinted area on the white bricks? That’s light bouncing off the front of the Merck Manual, and illuminating the wall. In other words, reflected light.
If the light source is strong enough and the object off which light is being reflected is close enough to the object onto which light is being reflected, the second object reflects color as well as light.
Horses and Other Animals
Reflected light affects more than smooth or shiny objects. It affects all subjects, animate and inanimate. Take a look at this photo, for example.
The primary light source is the sun, and comes from the upper right. The cast shadow is directly beneath the horse and stretches out behind. The shadows are all exactly where you expect them to be.
But note that his belly and the downward facing planes of the chest are light. The darkest part of the shadows is not on those surfaces—where you expected them—but partway up the horse’s side and chest.
Light bounces off the sandy ground and illuminates the underside of the horse. The affect is especially noticeable because the primary light source is so strong, the horse’s coat is smooth, and the ground is flat, bare, and reflective.
Reflected light on a wet horse is also quite noticeable. That’s what makes “bath shots” so appealing.
Dimmer primary light (as in a cloudy day or indoor light) creates less reflected light. Longer hair also produces less reflected light, as would mud or grassy ground cover.
Also take a look at the top slope of the horse’s rump. The rump is well lighted even though it doesn’t face the light source. Compare it to the shadow on the ground.
The light across the top of the rump is another form of reflected light. This time, the reflect light comes from the sky, hence the bluish tint.
Just to show you reflected light does appear on long haired animals, here’s Max. Asleep in a patch of sun falling on a pink towel.
Pink reflects up onto Max between his eyes, on the underside of his outstretched paw, and in the fur around his neck. It appears in shadows and in mid-tones.
Not drawing or painting reflected won’t make your art bad. I painted portraits for years without understanding or using reflected light.
But a good understanding of the basics of reflected light, and knowing how to draw or paint it will make the subjects you paint or draw look more three-dimensional. It is a valuable addition in your art toolbox no matter what your preferred subject.
This week, I’d like to welcome fellow colored pencil artist Peggy Osborne to the blog to show us how to draw a long haired dog using her area-by-area method.
Please welcome her to the blog!
How to Draw a Long Haired Dog
by Peggy Osborne
I’m using Robert Bateman Series 110 lb. paper. It has slight tooth and is a nice paper for learning to draw in colored pencils. I use primarily Prismacolor pencils on all my work.
Step 1: Setting up the line drawing
I thought this little Chihuahua had such an intense look and such a beautiful coat that he would be fun to draw. The original image was from Pixabay.
I first transferred the image onto my paper using transfer paper. A sketch is like a road map for me.
Step 2: Start with the Eyes
I always start my portraits with drawing the eyes. I just love looking into the finished eye as I work as it makes me feel more connected to the subject.
Here I started out with Cream and Light Umber using light pressure and tiny circles. I used a number of colors to complete the eye, about 11 different colors all together.
More color is added to the eye, preserving the white highlight til the end.
I added more colors with light pressure, using Sand, Chocolate, Black Cherry, Dark Brown, and Indigo Blue in the iris with black.
I use some French Grey in the corner of the eye as white is not pure white.
Black is used to outline the eyeball and in the end I used Sienna Brown to lightly wash over the entire eye.
For the highlight in the eye, I used my colorless blender to bring the surrounding colors in toward the circle of the highlight to make it look natural.
I finished the eye rims with tiny circles of color using White in the highlighted areas and 70% French Grey and 50% Warm Grey and a touch of Black Grape to deepen the color.
Now on to the fur.
Step 3: Drawing the Fur Around the Eyes
I study the reference photo to see which way the fur grows and always follow the way it grows.
Using a sharp point and light pressure, I draw a few strands of dark fur with Sepia. Then I use White and Cream to lay in base colors before heading to the darker colors.
I usually work from light to dark with colored pencils. It’s easier to fix something as you go this way.
Next, I use Cream for a base layer and then Light Umber. This is combined with Beige and Chocolate to bring the colors to life. I use Sepia and Dark Brown in the darker areas, and White and Cream on the lightest areas above the eye. I layer a light wash of Rose Peach over the area when complete.
On the top of the head, I use Sepia to add very fine strokes of fur in the darkest areas. This will blend in later with the subsequent layers of color.
I add a base layer of Cream and Light Umber, covering completely.
Then with very sharp pencils and direction strokes, I add fur lines around the eyes, using some of the colors already used.
Then I use the colorless blender to gently blend all this together and smooth it out so the tooth of the paper doesn’t show. I can add more color with a sharp pencil even after burnishing.
Remembering to follow my reference photo where the colors are darker or lighter, I use a sharp Black pencil and then Sepia to add fine hairs all around the face. I leave the lighter areas light.
I use Mineral Orange in some of the areas that show this color on the reference to stay true to the reference. Following the reference is important especially when doing commissions.
Step 4: Drawing the Muzzle and Nose
Now comes the fun part: White fur around the nose.
White fur is full of reflecting color and once you realize that white is not just white, it is so much easier. I used a combinations of colors to create the nose, using strokes in the direction of hair growth.
The darker colors were used in the shadow areas. 20% French grey, 50% French Grey and 50% Warm Grey.
I also used Greyed Lavender in the shadows and to add random hairs here and there.
I burnished this with white. Once this was done I finished with my black pencil with a sharp point, creating very light hairs in the areas that show in the reference photo, around the nose, under the nose and lip.
Step 5: Drawing the Longer Hair around the Face
Drawing the cheek area is pretty much just repeating the same process from beginning to end. I first layer Cream as a base over the whole area. Then adding hair like strokes, I add Light Umber avoiding the light areas. Then I wash Rose Peach over all.
Next, I add lots of light layers to get the depth I want. Here I have added Mineral Orange just over the Light Umber areas that I did previously, avoiding the light areas on the cheeks. I do a light wash with Cream over the whole area. With a sharp point and light pressure I add more Light Umber in the same areas, then I wash the whole area with Rose Peach.
Following the reference photo closely, I want to darken the areas around the cheek area. Using a fine hair-like stroke with Dark Brown and Sepia, I go all around the outside of the cheek. I also use a few light strokes of Black in some areas just to darken it.
Step 6: Drawing the Fur on the Chest
Most of the chest hair is white so I start out using 20% French Grey and Greyed Lavender. I lay out some fine hair-like strokes where I will be adding detail later.
On the areas under the cheek area I add strokes of Beige and Rose Peach.
This process is repeated several times with the same colors from the beginning, then I use 50% French Grey and Dark Brown all around the outside of the fur following the details in the photo.
Continue using the same colors on the same areas building up layers and fur texture. I use white to burnish the area, which helps blend the colors together. Then I add more layers of color with a sharp point and a little heavier pressure as the layers are building up.
The final touches of his chest are pretty much just continuing to add the same colors in the same areas building up the layers.
After getting it almost to completion, I take my black pencil and darken some of the dark outside area even further. I stroke up and down so the the stroke cuts into the lighter area making it look more natural.
Then with my white pencil and a sharp point, I draw light hairs down into the dark areas, making sure to wipe the tip each time so that the dark color doesn’t stick in areas I don’t want it.
As a final touch I take the Brush & Pencil’s Titanium White mixture and paint very light hair whiskers around the mouth and light hairs in the chest fur. This is a wonderful product designed to be used with color pencil. I will use it in the ear area for the fine ear hairs.
Now on to the ears.
Step 7: Drawing the Ears
First I wash of Rose Peach inside the ears then wash over that with White to smooth it out. Most of this area will be covered with hair but I want it to show through the hair.
On the outside of the ear, I draw fine hair-like strokes of Beige and Light Umber, then I wash the whole area with 10% French Grey.
Following the reference photo, I continue the same method of drawing fine hairs on the outside with Dark Brown then a row of Mineral Orange below the brown. I draw some fine hairs inside the ear so I can go back and darken them when ready.
Continuing with the outside of the ears, I draw hairs with Light Umber and Sepia. Then I add a few black hairs along the outside area.
I use Cream and 10 % French Grey to wash the area lightly. I use a sharp point and fairly heavy pressure to blend everything together with a colorless blender. Even when blending, I always follow the way the hair grows. This covers the white dots of paper making it smooth and brings a nice point to the hairs.
You can see where I used the colorless blender to smooth the ears with a very sharp point.
I added more layers of Sepia, Light Umber and Black to the areas to add more depth to the ears.
Step 8: The Finishing Touches
Finishing up this little fellow with some last touches.
A comparison photo shows me where I need to make changes or adjustments. I needed to deepen the inside of the ears so used Clay Rose to get the color closer to the photo reference.
I also added some Sepia and Black in the areas that needed stronger darks.
Then I went back in with Titanium White mixture to add more highlights where needed.
Then last but not least, I used a sharp point to add the whiskers with black.
Another trick which helps me find my values is turning the comparison photo into a black and white photo.
And this is the finished portrait.
Thank you, Peggy, for showing us how you draw a long haired dog.
If you enjoyed Peggy’s tutorial, please tell her in the comments below.
And if you have questions, please ask them. We artists love talking about our work!
About Peggy Osborne
Peggy is an accomplished self-taught artist living in Canada specializing in creating beautiful realistic portraits of pets and family members. She’s had an on going love affair with colored pencils, loving their simplicity, for as long as she can remember.
She started out using graphite pencil so it was an easy transition to carry on with colored pencils. Love of animals and art go hand in hand. Peggy is in awe of what can be accomplished with colored pencils.
A reader recently asked about tips for drawing dogs and puppies. An excellent topic, and one I could spend an entire month on without doing more than just scratching the surface. Here’s the question.
I would love more instruction on drawing dogs, any and all kinds of dogs and puppies. Thank you so very much for all you do! Deb
First of all, thank you for the question, Deb. I don’t get the opportunity to talk much about drawing dogs because most of my drawings have been of horses, or landscapes, or horses in the landscape.
Colored pencil artist Peggy Osborne and I are working on a full-length tutorial on drawing a long-haired dog. Peggy’s doing all the hard work, but she’s doing a fantastic job. That tutorial is coming on Saturday and I know you’ll love it.
To get us ready for the tutorial, I’m going to share a few basic tips for drawing dogs and puppies of all sizes, types, and breeds—things that apply no matter the type of dog—and follow up with a few specific tips for drawing different types of dog hair.
A Few Basic Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies
Draw What You See; Not What You Think You Know
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Large and small. Long haired and short. Straight hair, curling hair, sweeping hair. Hundreds of color combinations. It’s important to look at the particular dog you’re drawing and draw what you see; not necessarily what you know about dogs in general.
It’s doubly important if you’re subject is a breed of dog in which all the members look pretty much alike. Weimaraners, for example.
This applies to anything you might draw, so it’s a good rule of thumb for all subjects. But it’s especially applicable to drawing dogs.
Get to Know Your Subject
Things to take special note of are:
Proportions: How long are the legs compared to the length of the body? How big is the head? How long is the neck?
General Appearance: Do the ears stand up or fold over? How long is the tail? What type of hair does the dog have? What colors and how many different colors are in the dog’s coat?
Character & Attitude: If you get a chance to meet the dog, take time to just watch it. Is it an active dog? Bold or timid? Playful or sedate? You can use all of this information to capture more than just how the dog looks. Getting the character right is especially important with portrait work, so if you can’t visit the dog, ask the owner what their pet is like.
Make Sure Your Line Drawing is Accurate
There’s no way to fix a bad drawing once you’ve started adding color. Believe me. I’ve tried it! You can layer, glaze, and blend like Michelangelo, but you won’t be able to hide a poor drawing.
It’s well worth your time to make the very best line drawing you can even if you have to work through several revisions or use aids like projectors, light boxes or tracing paper.
Take Your Time
Colored pencil is a naturally slow medium, so don’t rush yourself. Take time to study the subject before you put pencil to paper, and take time with the line drawing.
Then expect to take at least that much time and probably more to do the layering, blending and rendering. If you find yourself rushing through something or getting careless in how you put color on the paper, stop! Step away from the drawing and take a break!
A Few Tips For Drawing Dog Hair
Other than the overall shape of a dog’s body, color and hair are the most noticeable traits. Get those right and you’re more than halfway to drawing a good likeness of your subject.
But hair is a difficult thing to draw. For some artists, it’s their least favorite part of drawing portraits or animal art. I happen to love hair. The longer the better! That’s one of the reasons I have so much fun drawing horses.
So I’m going to followup basic tips with suggestions for drawing three types of dog hair: Short, medium length, and long.
Keep in mind as you read these tips that there are different types of hair within each of these much broader categories.
Start with the best possible reference photo. You can’t draw what you can’t see.
Take extra time to map out the basic hair growth patterns and values in your line drawing. It’s a lot easier to correct errors at this stage than after the drawing is half done.
Begin with initial layers that are evenly applied.
Use directional strokes that follow the pattern of hair growth, but don’t try to draw every hair. That will leave you disgusted and discouraged, and will also not look all that great.
Use more obvious hair-like strokes where color or value changes. Between a highlight and middle value, or between a marking and the regular coat color.
Other places that define the length and type of hair are over body contours, around the head, neck and ears.
NOTE: This sample actually from a horse drawing, but the coat type is the same as many short haired dogs.
Use sharp pencils and careful stroking to lay down even color. Keep your strokes short and overlapping. Pay special attention to the direction of the hair where it’s most obvious, such as along the edges between colors and values, or over the contours of the body.
Medium Length Hair
With medium length and longer hair, make more use of pencil strokes. Don’t draw every hair, but draw more texture in the middle values than you would with a short-haired dog.
Also be aware of the direction of hair growth. It’s important all over the dog’s head and body, but is especially vital along the outside edges of the dog, and where the skin curves over muscular and skeletal structures.
This detail shows the area across the dog’s chest, and shows how the hair is also slightly curly. It’s not straight hair. Pay attention to the type of hair as well as the length and growth patterns.
Long hair is the delight of some artists—myself included—and the bane of others. It looks so complicated when you first begin.
The key is to break down all that wonderful hair into smaller sections, such as the “moustache” on each side of the muzzle, the curving hair over the eyes, and the “bib” under the head.
Then break down each of those areas into groups of hair.
Whatever you do, don’t draw every single hair.
Also make use of the color of your paper whenever possible to serve as a middle value, as I did in this sample. This “almost-a-sketch” portrait was drawn on a light earth tone paper that allowed me to draw only the darker values. In hindsight, it would be better with a darker paper on which I could have also drawn a few highlights.
And there you have it: A few short tips for drawing dogs and puppies of all ages, breeds, and types.
If you have specific questions about drawing dogs or puppies, let me know that, too.
No reference photo is ever perfect. Even with the best images, you can make changes to improve the composition. So the question is: Do you know what to keep and leave out of reference photos?
Then you’re in luck, because that’s the topic of this article!
The subject for this article is a colored pencil drawing titled The Sentinel, and the reference photo on which I based it.
The drawing was created using the complementary under drawing method, and I described the process step-by-step in a three-part series for EmptyEasel. If you’re interested in that tutorial, here are the links.
What I want to do today is talk a little bit about how I changed the reference photograph for The Sentinel to create a better composition.
To get started, here’s the original reference photo.
This is the drawing that resulted.
I know what you’re thinking! How in the world did I get from the reference photo to the drawing?
Some of you are also no doubt wondering why I made the changes I made.
Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (or whatever), and I’ll tell you all about it.
The Perfect Reference Photo
Before I go any further, let me stress the fact that something about the reference photo drew my attention the moment I saw it. The original scene was so appealing that I made my husband stop the car so I could get out and take pictures. That appeal came through in this photo.
The reason I mention this is to tell you that if there isn’t something appealing about your reference photo, find a different photo. Colored pencil drawings take long enough to finish that you had better be excited about the subject before you put pencil to paper. Otherwise, it’s likely to end up unfinished.
But, having said that, I can also assure you that no reference photo is ever perfect. There’s always some way to make it better. Something to leave out, something to add.
What to Keep and Leave Out of Reference Photos
Now lets take a step-by-step look at the changes I made, and talk about why I made them.
Step 1 – Find the Right Configuration
Believe it or not, I did not want to draw horses this time. I’d already done that with Afternoon Graze. This time, my subject was the landscape itself, with the largest trees as the center of interest.
So the first thing I did was crop the reference photo so that those trees were not dead center in the composition.
Step 2 – Eliminate Obvious Distractions
The next change was removing all the animals. I did that with the first, basic sketch.
Those fences also had to go because I wanted a landscape without “additives.”
Since I didn’t want to draw any of the animals, I removed them too.
I did this quick work in Irfanview. It’s not pretty but it’s enough to show me what I wanted to see without having to do a lot of sketches.
You can do the same thing in almost any photo editor.
In this case, it was actually faster to do quick thumbnail sketches!
Step 3 – Move Things Around
Once the distractions were removed and only basic elements remained, I considered how to arrange them for maximum effect. (Yes, it is all right to move things around!)
About the only thing I moved was the little tree on the left. I needed something to balance the trees in the background on the right, so I “moved” the small tree on the left so it nearly overlapped the large tree.
It’s also not as far in the background as the first row of trees on the right, so it helps establish the illusion of distance.
Step 4 – Change Size & Shape
Next, I emphasized the center of interest by making those trees larger.
I also changed the shapes of some of the trees in the background, to serve the same purpose, by making them similar in size and shape to one another.
Step 5 – Changing Color
From the start, I wanted a green landscape. I love earth tones, but the earth tones in the reference photo were simply too dull and flat to provide much interest. So I changed dry summer grass to fresh spring grass by replacing most of those earth tones with greens when I began color work.
I also brightened the greens in the trees to liven things up still more.
Step 6 – One Last Change
Finally, as the drawing neared completion, I realized it needed one more change. The colors were shaping up nicely, but there wasn’t much to lead the eye into the composition. Despite my best efforts to add interest with color, value, and texture, the foreground was, well, pretty blah.
So I erased a narrow, winding strip of color in the foreground, and added a path. Then I finished drawing the grass around the new path.
Comparing the before and after version, it’s easy to see that the path makes a big difference in the composition.
So What’s the Purpose of All This?
First and foremost, I want to let you know that you can change reference photos. There is almost always some way to improve upon even the best images if you know in advance what you want to draw and how you want it to look.
Second, as I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve gotten at least three drawings from this reference photo just by changing things around or by taking things out altogether. Just because you’ve made one drawing from a reference photo doesn’t mean you have to set it aside forever.
There’s an endless number of ways to change a reference photo enough to get different drawings from it.
So if you have a favorite image that keeps drawing you back, try some of these tips and see what new drawings you come up with.
Today, I want to go off topic just a little bit and share a few reasons why every artist should watch videos of new art mediums once in a while.
As some of you know, I write freelance as well as draw and sometimes paint. I write about colored pencil topics (usually the business side of things) for Ann Kullberg’s COLOR Magazine. I also write about a variety of more general art topics for EmptyEaseland occassionally contribute to Colored Pencil Magazine.
Most often, I come up with my own topics, but I also “write to order” when an editor has a particular topic they want an article about or when a reader asks a question.
That’s how I came to watch painting and drawing videos on different mediums last month.
The editor of EmptyEasel suggested some time ago that I write a couple of link articles, one on 50 great painting videos and another on 50 great drawing videos. When I endured a bout of problems with my right wrist and drawing or painting was off limits, it seemed like a good idea to watch videos. (I could not only “work,” I could ice my wrist, too. Win-win!)
I saw a lot of wonderful artists creating wonderful art in a wide range of different mediums; some familiar, some previously unknown. It was such an informative time that I had to share some of what I learned with you!
Why You Should Watch Videos of New Art Mediums
You Discover New Mediums
The best reason to watch videos that are not about colored pencil is that you learn about new art mediums.
You may love your colored pencils and not currently be thinking about trying a different medium, but seeing what else is available is still helpful. If for no other reason, it broadens your horizons. (Did you know there was such a thing as resin painting? Neither did I!)
Those broader horizons may lead you to try something new, or may help you improve your colored pencil work.
You Learn New Methods
Even if you don’t ever try a new medium, seeing how artists use those mediums can provide keys to using your own medium.
For example, I’ve seen oil painters, gouache painters, and watercolor painters applying paint in what appears to be haphazard strokes. When they zoom in on their brush work, the image doesn’t look like much.
But take a look at the entire painting, and all of a sudden those “random” strokes look very much like trees on a distant hill or variations in color in a wave.
Here’s something else I’ve picked up that applies to colored pencil: Most of those artists make very deliberate strokes. Strokes that are short, purposeful, and often follow long pauses to reload brushes AND consider the next stroke.
How does that affect me (and maybe you, too?) It shows me that my sometimes rushed manner of making marks on paper may actually hinder me in some cases. Yes. There is a time for quick washes of color, but there are also times to slow down and be very deliberate in applying color.
You May Find a Medium You Want to Try
That’s been my experience.
Of course, you have to remember that part of me wants to try every medium I see when I see someone doing wonderful things with it. The day I watched egg tempera painting videos, I wanted to start cracking eggs and making paint.
The day I watched gouache artists, I wanted to try that medium, and so on down the list through acrylics, watercolor, casein and even resin painting.
That may be your experience too.
But there are a few of those mediums that intrigue me beyond mere whim. Mediums like gouache and egg tempera might work as under paintings for colored pencil work. Who wouldn’t enjoy experimenting with that?
Even if none of the other reasons to watch videos in other mediums happens to you, what about the sheer inspiration of seeing artists create?
When you find yourself in the creative doldrums, try watching videos of other mediums. They can give you a fresh look at art and, if you watch long enough, a fresh look at your art.
Those are just a few reasons you should watch videos in other mediums.
There are more. In fact, the reasons are as varied as all of you. Each of you will find other reasons after you take the time to explore new mediums by video.
Every artist has an ideal colored pencil class or workshop in mind. I’d like to know yours.
Sometimes On-Line Art Classes Aren’t Enough
Learning art is one of those things best learned in person.
Whether you’re in a classroom setting with everyone working on the same project, an independent study group with each artist working on his or her own project, or one-on-one in the studio, you have the best chance of learning new skills and improving existing skills when you and your teacher are in the same room.
I’m Thinking about Starting Local Classes
Over the years, people have asked if I did local classes or private lessons. So far, the answer has always been “no.”
I’m thinking about changing that this Fall.
Plans are still in the very early stages, so this is the perfect time for me to get your thoughts on what an ideal colored pencil class looks like.
A few general ideas are floating around in my thoughts these days. Nothing concrete to be sure, but enough to share basic details on a few possible classes.
Graphite for Beginners
Four or five weeks beginning with basic introduction to the tools and techniques of using graphite. Students would do a different drawing each week.
Colored Pencils for Beginners
Four to six weeks beginning with basic introduction to the tools and techniques of using colored pencil including layering and blending (without solvents or special supplies.) Students would then either do a different subject each week or work on a beginner’s tutorial kit such as one of these for the length of the class.
Colored Pencils for Intermediate to Advanced Artists
Ongoing, weekly. Each student brings a project to work on and I help them. No end date. Come and go as you’re able, pay as you go.
Got a Better Idea?
I’m open to suggestions. As I said at the beginning, planning is still in the very early stages, so if you have an idea or suggestion or something you’d love to work on but haven’t seen anywhere else, let me know.
And if you don’t live close enough to make the trip to Newton on a regular basis, but would be interested in a two- or three-day workshop, I’d be thrilled to hear your ideas for that, too.
So What Does Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class Look Like?
To make it easy to share your thoughts, ideas, comments, suggestions, or anything else I’ve set up a survey. It’s easy to do and will take only two minutes to describe your ideal colored pencil class.
Are there alternatives to drawing paper for use with colored pencil?
The short answer is yes. There are times when choosing the best support for your next drawing involves choosing something other than drawing paper.
Why You Might Want Alternatives to Drawing Paper
First, lets take a look at a couple of reasons why you might be looking for drawing paper alternatives. (There are more than you might expect.)
You Need to Frame Without Glass
It is possible to frame colored pencil art without glass, but you need to make preparation from the beginning. Since the primary reason for framing colored pencil drawings under glass is to protect the drawing paper, the only way to safely frame without glass is to draw on a rigid support—something that cannot be easily torn or punctured.
Some drawing papers are available with rigid backing, but not all. So if you need (or want) a rigid support, you need an alternative to traditional paper.
You Want Your Colored Pencil Drawings to Look More Like Paintings
There is a perception that artwork on paper is less valuable than artwork on supports such as canvas, canvas panel, or hardwood. The bias isn’t usually accurate—most mediums suitable for paper are just as archival as other mediums if used and displayed correctly—but the bias does exist.
Colored pencils can be used on all of the rigid supports above and many others. I’ve tried it on canvas and have drawn on wood supports and liked the results.
You Want Your Colored Pencil Drawings to be More “Approachable”
A lot of colored pencil artists perceive glass to be an obstacle between their work and the audience. To avoid that, they frame colored pencil art without glass.
You and Traditional Drawing Paper Just Don’t Get Along
It may be that traditional drawing papers just don’t work with your method of drawing. That’s perfectly all right! Nothing works all of the time for everyone. Even those of us who like drawing paper often have several favorites. I know I do.
But sometimes, an artist needs something totally different. Watercolor paper for watercolor pencils or mixed media. Sanded paper for lots of layering. The list is endless.
That’s when you need a alternative to drawing paper.
You Want to Experiment
Lets face it, some of us just like to try new things! There’s nothing wrong with that! Alternatives to drawing paper are only one way to experiment, but they are often the least expensive way to experiment.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to draw on something besides paper, what are your choices?
4 Alternatives to Drawing Paper
In a previous article, I described some of the non-paper supports I’ve drawn on. You can read about mat board, sanded art papers, and wood in 3 Excellent Drawing Paper Alternatives, so I won’t do more than just mention them here. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the other types of drawing paper alternatives.
Let’s begin with something I mentioned earlier: drawing paper boards.
Bristol Paper Boards
These papers are all mounted on rigid supports that are archival and acid-free. Most of them can withstand heavy use, and some are even capable of holding up under light washes of water soluble color.
There only two disadvantages:
First, they are probably not the type of support you’d want to frame without glass. They are more durable than drawing paper, but because they are drawing paper mounted to a rigid support, they are still susceptible to damage.
Second, they are available in only two surfaces: Vellum and plate. Plate is very smooth and are therefore not reliable for drawing methods that require lots of layering. Vellum is better for layering, but may still be too smooth. As I mentioned in our discussion of paper tooth, neither may be suitable if you do a lot of layering.
I’ve included Rising Museum Board in the list below, but it is actually not intended as a drawing surface. It’s not a surface I’ve drawn on before, but I do like Rising Stonehenge paper, so wouldn’t be afraid to give this a try. I’ve also used mat board effectively, so wouldn’t be afraid to try this.
The links below are to the Dick Blick website, where more information is available on each support.
Gemma Gylling has been using suede board for years and creates the most phenomenal pet and wildlife artwork.
I’ll be honest. I was biased against suede mat board because of past experiences with velvet paint-by-numbers. I tried one or two of those and absolutely, positively did not like them. So whenever someone asked if I’d tried colored pencil on suede board, I said I hadn’t. I didn’t intend to, either.
But colored pencil works much more nicely on suede mat board than oil paints work on velvet. All I had to do was draw one eye from imagination on a sample of blue suede board to decide I wanted to try it for a larger drawing (stay tuned for a work-in-progress demonstration on that).
Although its surface is best described as “plushy”, it can take a lot of color. You can also render a lot of detail on it. You will have to adjust color application methods somewhat and you’ll need to build up three or four layers before the colors begin to pop, at least on the darker color I was using.
But it produces a type of drawing that I’ve not been able to duplicate on any other paper. It’s definitely worth a try.
Pastel boards are designed to be drawn on with pastels. They generally have more tooth because pastels require more tooth to stick to the drawing surface. Some are actually sanded art papers, while others are just a toothier form of drawing paper. There are so many that I can list only a few here.
But you may recognize many of the brand names: Names like UArt, Art Spectrum, Canson Mi-Teintes.
Most of these surfaces are listed as “multi-media”. I’ve seen the most luscious oil paintings on Ampersand Pastelbord, for example.
Some of these supports are on my wish list. All of them sound intriguing. If one of your primary reasons for wanting to draw on something other than drawing paper is framing without glass, give one of these a try.
The last surface I’ll look at today is canvas. Plain and simple oil or acrylic painting canvas. Granted, this is not a support I’ve ever considered, though John Ursillo’s work on canvas does make the prospect more inviting. Canvas is so toothy that about the only way to use it successfully with colored pencil is to use solvents to melt the color down into the weave.
Master that method, though, and you can produce any level of detail you desire AND have a surface that never needs glass in the framing process.
These are just a few of the more common alternatives to drawing paper. There are many others, so if you really want to experiment, you have lots of options.
I’ve long been an advocate of drawing miniature art and small format art. Colored pencils are ideal for both, but I’ve also used oils, acrylics, and graphite—even a ball point pen—to make miniature art.
We all know colored pencil is a slow medium. You don’t have finish dozens of drawings to figure that out. The fact of the matter is that you have to do only one piece!
It not seem to make sense, but drawing tiny is one way to improve your ability to render details in artwork of all sizes.
First, though, lets think about reasons why you might want to draw miniature art.
Reasons to Draw Miniature Art
Faster to Finish
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, colored pencil is a naturally slow medium. It takes a long time to finish a detailed drawing no matter what size it is.
Of course, the bigger the drawing the longer it takes to complete.
For a lot of us who work jobs or have families or other obligations, drawing time is limited. That means it may take months to finish a piece that takes only 24 hours of actual drawing time. That’s a long time to work on the same piece.
Even if you do a lot of detail, you can still finish a miniature in just a few hours. If you have an hour a day to draw, you can probably finish one miniature a week. I drew these eight ACEOs in less than two months for a card swap, while I had a part-time job.
And we all know that finishing a piece is very motivating!
Forces You to Focus on the Important Details
When you draw small, you don’t have room to draw every detail, so you have to choose the most important details. That’s good exercise no matter how large you usually draw.
Unless you’re going for hyper-realism, when you really do draw every single hair.
Drawing Miniature Art is Perfect for Quick Sketches
Trying to figure out a difficult part of a larger drawing?
Working out compositions?
Draw miniature sketches. They’re quick. They’re easy. And they’re extremely portable. You can keep a small sketch book or art journal in your purse, briefcase or a field kit.
Miniature Drawings are a Great Way to Experiment
We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? To see if a pencil, type of paper, or drawing method works for us, the best thing to do is experiment.
But those supplies are so expensive, we hesitate to “waste” them on experiments.
Why not experiment with miniature art? You can learn just as much about new supplies, tools, or methods by drawing small as you can by drawing large.
Miniature Drawings are a Great Way to Use Paper Scraps
Speaking of expensive, don’t you hate throwing away those scraps of paper left over when you trim a sheet to size? Don’t throw them away; turn them into miniature art!
You don’t even have to cut them to any specific size. Use them in whatever size or shape they happen. I have a box of scraps cut down to ACEO size because I did a lot of those one year.
But I also save every scrap of paper that’s more than an inch wide on the short side, no matter what shape it is. When I’m stuck for something to draw, I sometimes go through those scraps and see if one of them sparks an idea. Even if the result isn’t a masterpiece, I did draw something. Some days, that’s a huge win!
Tips for Drawing Miniature Art
Keep Your Pencils Sharp
Sharp pencils are always important, but unless you want a broad accent (which doesn’t need to be very broad for a miniature,) sharp pencils are doubly important to drawing the important details in miniature art.
The sharper your pencil, the smoother your color layers, too.
Keep the Background Simple
Unless you’re doing a miniature landscape, it’s best to keep the background simple with miniature art. Especially with human or animal subjects.
Work Slowly and Carefully
Of course this is important with all sizes of colored pencil art, but it’s especially important with miniature art. You don’t have a lot of room to correct errors or cover mistakes when you’re working small.
If landscape art has always appealed to you but you’ve not known where to begin, then let me encourage you. It’s not as difficult (or scary) to draw landscapes as you might think.
In fact, when mastering landscape drawing eluded me, I was dong it the hard way.
Maybe you are, too.
I know what you’re thinking! All those trees and hills. A sky. Maybe water. It’s impossible to master! That’s what I used to think.
Then I made a couple of discoveries that made landscapes one of my favorite things to draw.
And one of the easiest!
Three Basic Tips to Draw Landscapes
There are a lot of complex sounding things to remember when drawing landscapes. Most of them only look complex, but I’ll save them for another post. Instead, let me share three tips that will help you draw better landscapes almost immediately.
You Don’t Have to Draw Everything
Just looking at a beautiful landscape can be intimidating. Especially if you’re in a wide open place like the desert or the Flint Hills. There’s so much to take in.
There’s also a lot to draw.
But you don’t need to draw everything to draw a believable landscape. Focus on one thing in the landscape.
Let me show you what I mean.
Here’s the reference on which August Morning in Kansas is based.
It looks simple enough, but there are several possible smaller compositions within the scene.
The group of trees on the left are one possibility. It’s simple and straight forward, but there’s also good light and “space.”
The group of trees at center right are another possibility. It’s not quite as simple, but it also shows good detail in the main trees.
Finally, a composition that focuses on space rather than trees. There’s a tree in the foreground (far right,) more trees in the middle ground (left,) and trees in the background.
August Morning in Kansas was based on the second crop, but I like the third one, too. It’s worth trying to capture on paper at some point.
Simplify Wherever Possible
You don’t have to draw every leaf or every blade of grass everywhere in the drawing. If you do, you’ll not only frustrate yourself to no end, you’ll end up with a drawing that’s highly detailed, but flat.
Details should always be saved for the center of interest in any art piece, but especially in landscapes.
Here’s a closeup look at the distant trees on the left side of August Morning. Although they look detailed when you see the entire composition, there isn’t much detail. Just splotches of color with a lot of paper showing through.
They look like you’d expect trees to look if they were far away on a hazy day.
Here’s a look at the space between the main trees and the trees on the right side of the composition. The dark green trees are closer than the trees on the far left, but they’re also deep in shadow, so there’s next to no detail. I used more intense color to make the shapes look closer, and suggested detail with subtle variations in value.
Finally, here’s a look at the grassy meadow in the foreground. I reduced the detail here to nothing but changes in color and value to keep the attention on the center of interest.
Interestingly enough, this was the easiest part! I layered colors, then used a stiff bristle brush to blend the pigment dust into the grit of the paper. The result was smooth transitions and a blurred foreground.
Use Pencil Strokes to Create Detail
It really does matter how you put color on paper. The more your pencil strokes blend together, the less detailed they look.
Look at these light green strokes. They’re short, they follow the direction of foliage growth and some of them are sort of squiggly.
Most of them also are hard-edged. They’re not blurry. Maybe they don’t look like much in this up close view of the drawing but when you look at the entire drawing, they look like branches and leaves catching the light.
I used a blunted pencil and short, quick strokes to make these marks.
Here’s those distant trees again. To draw these, I moved a blunt pencil back and forth across the paper with medium pressure or lighter. You can’t see individual strokes, only shaded color.
The transitions from one color to another and from one value to another are also soft and blurry. Smooth color and soft transitions in color and value all convey the look of distance.
Finally, here’s a look at part of the sky. Since the drawing is on sanded art paper, it was difficult to completely fill in the tooth of the paper. But that’s okay. The scene was supposed to look hazy, and the paper holes contributed to that look.
But I drew smooth color in the sky by using very dull pencils and the sides of pencils to lay down lots of color without leaving visible pencil strokes. The resultimg color looks very smooth compared to the slightly more details distant trees and the more detailed trees at the center of interest.
Have I whetted your appetite to draw landscapes?
Does all this sound good, but you need a little more convincing? How about a book of tutorials featuring nothing but landscapes?
DRAW Landscapes in Colored Pencil is a collection of 26 landscape tutorials by 26 different artists.
My contribution to this wonderful new landscape drawing book is based on the drawing I used for this post, August Morning in Kansas.
Several readers have wanted to know the best methods for choosing colors that work together. Experimenting is a good way to discover those happy color relationships, but it does get old fairly quickly. Isn’t there a better way?
Yes, there is, and I’d like to welcome fellow artist Sarah Renae Clark to tell us about those methods.
Basic Color Theory and Choosing Colors that Work Together
by Sarah Renae Clark
When we hear the words ‘color theory’, most people think back to their early school days and learning about mixing red with blue with yellow. But color theory is about so much more than just basic color mixing.
Let’s run through some basic color theory so that you can have a better understanding of which colors work well together and WHY.
Basic Color Theory
The Color Wheel
Most of us are familiar with the basic color wheel, made up of primary, secondary and tertiary colors. The color wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666 and has been used ever since.
The primary colors are the 3 main colors that make up every other color. These are red, blue and yellow.
When we mix any 2 of the primary colors together, we get the secondary colors. These are orange, green and purple.
When we mix a primary color with a secondary color, we get a tertiary color. These are the colors that sit between the primary and secondary colors on the color wheel. These are named after the colors that they are made from, such as red-orange, green-blue, red-purple, and so on.
Choosing colors that work together
This is where the color wheel gets interesting. Instead of just randomly choosing two colors and hoping they match, we can use the science behind the color wheel to quickly choose colors that will work well together.
When choosing more than two colors, try to focus on one main dominant color and use the other colors to support it.
Complementary colors – Two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as yellow and purple, or blue and orange.
Analogous colors – Three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, such as red, red-purple and purple or orange, orange-yellow and yellow.
Triadic colors – Three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel (like a triangle).
Split-complementary colors – Similar to complementary colors, but instead of choosing one color on the opposite side, choose the two colors adjacent to the complimentary color, such as blue with yellow and orange.
Tetradic colors (A.K.A. Double-complementary) – Four colors, made up from two sets of complementary colors that make a rectangle on the color wheel, such as orange, purple, blue and yellow.
Highlights and Shading
Once you understand the basics of the color wheel, you can create additional colors by adding white or black to create shades (adding black) and tints (adding white).
You can also use monochromatic colors together – Various shades or tints of a single color, such as a range of light and dark blues.
Finding color inspiration
The color wheel isn’t the only source of color inspiration. Nature provides us with some amazing color palettes that work extremely well together.
You can find existing color palettes on my website where I’ve taken pulled the colors from various photos to create different color palettes with warm colors, cool colors, different themes, different moods (bright and fun or dark and moody). Explore the range here.
Adobe also has a fantastic color wheel tool where you can set rules (such as analogous, complementary, or monochromatic) and drag the cursor around the color wheel, which automatically matches the other colors for you.
The opportunities are endless
The color wheel is a great place to start to find colors that work together, but it doesn’t have to create a limit. You can choose colors from everywhere – and sometimes the best color combinations come from experimenting! So get creative and see what you can come up with!
About the author
Sarah Renae Clark is a coloring book artist and blogger at www.sarahrenaeclark.com*. A designer and artist for over 10 years, she loves working with color and regularly creates new color palettes for others to be inspired by. She has a huge selection of color palettes and tutorials available on her website. She works closely with other artists and also has a range of teaching articles on her website to help other creative entrepreneurs to build their own businesses too.