Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

Lets talk about drawing techniques that minimize hand stress.

Sometime ago, I answered a reader question asking for ways to minimize hand pain. That article listed some of my favorite drawing tips.

A few weeks ago, I expanded on that topic by sharing a couple of art products that help reduce hand stress.

Today, I want to focus on drawing techniques that will help you if drawing creates hand discomfort.

As I mentioned in each of those previous posts, the best way to manage hand pain or discomfort is to avoid it. Frequent breaks are the best way to prevent hand stress.

For example, if you can comfortably draw for 30 minutes, then set a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, take a break. I like AS Timer and use it often. It’s a free app you can download and install easily. It is Mac-based, however, so if you use a PC, you’ll have to find a PC-based alternative.

And if you like really simple gadgets, an egg timer or alarm clock is perfect.

Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

Simple changes in method and technique often help minimize hand stress, pain, fatigue, and discomfort. Hopefully, that’s your experience. But even if simple changes don’t give you much relief, they are a good place to begin looking for solutions to hand stress.

Use Different Types of Strokes

Change up the type of strokes you use. Work with circular strokes for a while, then switch to directional strokes. You still need to take breaks, but changing the type of stroke changes the motions you make with your hand. This simple change helps avoid the discomfort that results from sustained, repetitive motions.

Also, if you usually stroke with the pencil moving away from you, try stroking with the pencil moving toward you.

Change the Way You Hold the Pencil

Most of us hold the pencil in a normal hand writing position most of the time.

But you can also hold the pencil nearly vertical and make most of the same types of strokes. You’ll also have more control.

Or you can hold the pencil in a more horizontal position and draw with the side of the pencil. This is especially useful if you need to use very light pressure for part of the drawing.

You can also rotate through these different ways to hold your pencil. That gives your hand and fingers a bit more variety, and that can be key in preventing tired or sore hands.

Change the Angle of Your Desk, Easel, or Drawing Board

If you work at a drawing table, change the angle of the table top if you can. If you work on a drawing board, put it in a different position.

You might even try working with a drawing board in your lap.

This works much the same as changing how you hold your pencil. The biggest difference however, is that it affects your arm more than your hands.

Work Standing

Working while standing up puts you at a different level relative to your drawing table or easel. Consequently, your hands and arms are at a different angle, too.

A standing desk, a drafting table, or an easel are great ways to work on art and stay on your feet.

Bonus: You keep the rest of you in better shape, too, since you move around more when standing. At least I do!

Those are My Suggestions for Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

These things have helped reduce discomfort in my hand. I hope they work for you, too, but they may not. If they don’t, keep looking. There are other techniques that might work for you.

We all need to be more mindful in how we draw. The best way to avoid hand and wrist pain is to find ways to prevent it.

There are many reasons you might be dealing with hand and wrist pain. The best first step is consulting your doctor to find out why, then treating that underlying problem.

I make no claims on medical knowledge. I’m not doctor! These are just a few things I’ve found myself doing to get through long work sessions.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

Today, I want to share 4 tips for beginner artists. These tips are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years, but that I wish I’d known from the start.

You see, I’ve been an artist for a long time. Long enough to have learned many lessons that come only with experience.

Long enough to also know that there are many things I could have learned from other artists had I known where to find those artists (I started before the days of the internet.)

Most of those tips have less to do with art than with attitude. They’re the sorts of things we all need to be reminded of periodically.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

1. Be prepared to persevere.

I don’t know about you, but when I started painting, I thought all I had to do was paint the portraits and get them in front of people. They’d sell themselves and they’d sell themselves quickly. I’d be an overnight success.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

The selling part is a discussion for another time (if you’re interested in that, let me know. There’s lots to share.)

The overnight part? Let’s just say I’ve been painting and drawing for over forty years and I’m still waiting for the overnight success.

Making art is not easy, even when you love what you’re doing. Building a livelihood around it is even less easy. Even when it’s your passion.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented artist since Rembrandt, but even he persevered.

Keep going. Be persistent.




2. Develop a thick skin. 

From the first drawing you draw to the last, there will be critics. You will have to learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing—probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

beginning artist

How? Ah, that’s the hard part, isn’t it.

The thing I did that helped me most in this area was deciding with myself what I wanted to paint, how I wanted to paint, and for whom I wanted to paint.

Once those things were settled in my own mind, the criticisms that came because I was painting horses or painting them too realistically or painting for clients didn’t matter. Sure, they still sometimes stung—especially those delivered by artists whose work I admired but whose vision was different than mine. But they didn’t sting as much.

You may need to make the same decisions.

Then go forward with confidence.

3. Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all. When an artist whose vision was similar to mine commented negatively on something I’d done, I paid more attention. Maybe they were right.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

If a client had a complaint, I definitely paid attention. After all, they were paying me for my artistic skill. If they weren’t happy, neither was I.

But I still had to learn to be gracious.

I also had to learn to analyze those criticisms at face value and glean from them the information that helped me. Especially the comments that improved my skills in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up in our studios and make art.) Toward that end, I asked myself the following questions:

In other words, I looked for ways to learn, and to improve my artistic craft.

That’s what you should do, too, Make every legitimate criticism an opportunity to learn and grow.

Ignore the spewing, hostile, and rude comments and criticisms.

4. Draw every day. 

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

I’ve lived long enough to have lived through both attitudes. I now know they are not true.

The best way to be an artist is to be an artist.

Every day.

Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not.

Even if it’s just a few minutes to sketch on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you drew something.

beginning artist

Those are My Top 4 Tips for Beginner Artists

These are only four of the lessons I’ve learned over the years and which I wished I’d known at the start.

But they are the four most important in my opinion.

I will be sharing more tips over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

And if you’re a long-time artist and would like to share lessons you’ve learned, leave your tips in the comments below.

Covering a Fixative Spatter on a Finished Drawing

Covering a Fixative Spatter on a Finished Drawing

Over the years, I’ve heard more than one artist complain about spatters from spray fixative. I’ve experienced them myself, so when I recently encountered an especially “obvious” problem, I decided to share my steps for covering a fixative spatter.

One disclaimer before I begin, however. I used Clairefontaine Pastelmat with Brush & Pencil products for this painting. Since I also used Powder Blender, ACP Textured Fixative was the fixative I used during the drawing process and afterward. One of the purposes of ACP Textured Fixative is restoring tooth for additional color application.

Covering a Fixative Spatter on Pastelmat

I usually “fix” drawings with three light coats of ACP Textured Fixative between work sessions, and again when I finish. I’ve found three light coats work better than one heavy coat. For one thing, there’s less chance of spatters and blots with light coats.

But spatters do happen with even the best products. The moment you see a spatter, blot it carefully with paper towel. Just one, quick dab is usually enough.

When I saw spatters on the second spray for this piece, I blotted the spatters with a paper towel. That method removed the smaller ones (there were two or three.)

The Damage

But there was one large one near the top center of the piece. It’s quite visible. Blotting helped, but didn’t remove it completely.

Covering a Fixative Spatter

Here’s a closer look at the blot after blotting and drying. I was disappointed blotting didn’t remove the mark completely, but I already knew I could try at least two things to cover it.

The first thing I did, however, was apply the third light coat of ACP Textured Fixative to make sure the colors were completely sealed. Since I didn’t know for sure what it would take to cover the blemish, I wanted to be absolutely certain I’d cause no further harm to the drawing, which was otherwise finished.

Covering a Fixative Spatter

The Fix

The obvious first solution was layering color over the blemish. Textured Fixative is meant to be worked over, so I knew I could rework the area. But could I cover such an obvious blemish? That was the question.

I used the same colors I’d used to make the painting: Faber-Castell Polychromos Terracotta, Cadmium Orange, and Dark Cadmium Orange.

I applied each color in that order over the blemish using a combination of circular strokes and cross hatching. That helped blur the blemish, but didn’t cover it, so I repeated the process several times, alternating between the colors.

After working over the spatter and smoothing it into the surrounding colors, I added the same colors to the inside of the spatter. Since the spatter was round, I used circular strokes, and worked around and around within the spatter.

Next, I essentially drew circles around the outside edge of the spatter with the same combination of colors.

Then, I worked over the spatter and some of the surrounding area again to soften any edges and make sure the color transitions were smooth and seamless.

This is the result. Can you see the spatter? I can, but I know where to look for it.

Here’s the full image after repairs.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison showing the drawing before the damage and after the repair.

Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

Covering a Fixative Spatter

What if the First Fix Didn’t Work

If the first option didn’t work, the next step would have been mixing Touch-Up Texture either with White or with the three colors I mentioned above.

If I used Titanium White, I’d have painted the liquid mixture over the spatter, then layered the same three colors until there was no visible damage.

I could also have shaved pigment off the three colors (Terracotta, Cadmium Orange, and Dark Cadmium Orange,) then mixed each of those shavings with Touch-Up Texture. Then I could paint each color over the spatter until it disappeared.

I know both methods would work, because I used both methods to paint the flying lava spatters and sparks toward the end of the painting process.

Covering a Fixative Spatter on a Finished Drawing

As I mentioned above, using Brush & Pencil products on sanded art paper made covering this fixative spatter much easier than I anticipated. It gives me a lot more confidence in using these products.

But regular workable fixative sometimes produces spatters, too. Would a similar process work to cover those kinds of spatters?

I most often use workable fixative on traditional drawing papers such as Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Teintes. Could I cover spatters on those papers with this process?

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, so I may be doing some experimenting. When I get an answer, I’ll let you know!

Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

Today’s post is a follow up post from a reader question published sometime ago. The subject for that previous post was layering color to get soft colors. Since I discussed pencils and drawing techniques before, it seems right to now talk about paper choices for drawing smooth colors.

Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

Why Paper is Important

The choice of paper affects the final look of your artwork. Use a smooth paper, and you can create sharper details and smoother color (most of the time.)


Use paper that’s too smooth, and you’re limited on the number of layers, and possibly the blending tools you can use.

Using rougher, toothier paper gives you the option of using lots of layers and blending tools like solvents.


Rougher paper may make smooth color more difficult because of the tooth of the paper.

I used the words “most of the time” in the first paragraph under this heading because a lot of artists (myself included) have learned how to draw smooth color on sanded art papers. There is a significant learning curve, but sanded art papers can be the best paper choice for drawing smooth colors and fine detail.

I really enjoy sketching and drawing on Clairefontaine Pastelmat and Lux Archival papers, for example.

But they aren’t the best paper choice for every artist.

Choosing the Ideal Paper for You

Several factors play into your ideal paper. You need paper that’s heavy enough to take a lot of color, smooth enough to allow you to draw detail, but also has enough tooth to accept a lot of layers. The ability to handle solvent blending or heavy blending with burnishing are also things you want in a good drawing paper.

Your choices may vary, but I suggest papers like Stonehenge, Strathmore Artagain, or Canson Mi-Tientes. Those are the traditional papers I use most often, so if you want results similar to mine, try these three papers.

I used to use Bristol vellum 144lb for most of my work. I could buy it locally and it has a beautiful, smooth surface.

But it has very little tooth, so layering becomes difficult after a few layers. I don’t use it for anything but sketching anymore. It’s perfect for that and allows me to do light shading and details in just a few minutes.

Your Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

When it comes right down to choosing the best paper, you need only one question. What papers help you draw smooth color? Which surface gives you the results you want with the least amount of work?

The best advice I can give you without knowing your specific drawing style and methods, is to try different papers. Try a variety of weights, surface textures, and even colors. That really is the best way to find your perfect paper.

And don’t fret. It can be done because that’s what I’ve done over the years.

So get some small pads and start drawing! You’re sure to find exactly the right paper for you!

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

Sometime ago, I answered a reader question asking for ways to minimize hand pain. That article listed some of my favorite drawing tips. Today, I’d like to share some art products that minimize hand stress.

As I mentioned in that previous post, the best way to manage hand pain or discomfort is to avoid it. Frequent breaks are the best prevention. If you can comfortably draw for 30 minutes, then set a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, take a break. I like AS Timer and use it often. It’s a free app you can download and install easily. The only drawback is that it’s Mac-based.

There are also free PC-based timing apps, as well as many online apps.

If you like old-fashioned solutions, an egg timer works great!

Now let’s get to those art products!

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

Sanded Pastel Paper

I know what you’re thinking: Sanded pastel paper will make drawing more difficult.

That’s what I used to think, too, but it isn’t true. Believe it or not, the drawings I’ve completed on sanded pastel paper have been finished more quickly and with less stress than similar drawings on regular drawing paper.

I’ve also observed (in hindsight,) that I don’t notice my hand aching as much. The fact is that my brain and eyes tire faster than my hands when I draw on sanded pastel paper.

One reason sanded pastel paper is so easy on the hands is that it produces pigment dust. You can blend the dust into the paper with a brush or paper blending stump.

This blending method also extends the use of the pencils, and reduces the amount of pressure required to fill the tooth. That reduces the number of pencil strokes needed to finish a drawing and that reduces overall stress to hands and fingers.


PanPastels are a form of pastel packaged in small, lidded containers. Apply them with any of the sponge application tools shown below, or with ordinary make-up sponges.

They’re perfect for creating plain or blurred backgrounds quickly, and many artists also use them for under painting.

I’ve written two posts about how to use PanPastels (and how other artists use them) on the store blog. How to Use PanPastels and Colored Pencils and Using PanPastels Under Colored Pencil.

Brush & Pencil Powder Blender

Brush & Pencil makes an excellent blending product called Powder Blender. Powder Blender blends colored pencil more quickly and completely than anything else I’ve ever seen. You can use it alone, or in combination with Brush & Pencil’s texture fixative.

Purchase products individually or as part of a kit from Brush & Pencil. Some of the individual products are also available through Dick Blick.

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

These are three of products I’ve either used personally, or other artists use to minimize hand stress. They aren’t the only three available. I’ve also used watercolor, watercolor pencils, and India ink to speed up the drawing process. If you don’t mind mixed-media art, these are great ways to reduce hand and wrist pain.

Hand stress or discomfort has many causes. If your hand or wrist pain is persistent, your best first step is consulting your doctor. Find out if there’s a medical cause, then treat that underlying problem.

How to Draw Flame in Colored Pencil

How to Draw Flame in Colored Pencil

Today’s post represents something I haven’t done in a long time: a tutorial! The subject is how to draw flame in colored pencil.

A few readers have asked how to draw fire over the years, and I’ve never given what I considered a very satisfactory answer. So when I came across a series of campfire photographs I took a few years back, I decided to sketch it.

Since I’ve also been practicing at drawing illumination and patterning my studies after Thomas Kinkade’s work, I also decided to test Brush & Pencil products with this kind of light.

How to Draw Flame in Colored Pencil

This is my reference photo. My goal is not to draw this fire exactly. Instead, what I want to do is draw something that likes like fire.

But since we all know it’s easier to draw something you can see, I needed a reference photo, and chose this image from more than half a dozen.

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils because they seem to work better with Powder Blender than Prismacolor.

One other note. I’m working on Clairefontaine Pastelmat because I’m using Brush & Pencil products. I’m also using the three-step drawing method I described last week, so I’m recording the drawing process in a series of “rounds” instead of steps.

Let’s get started.

How to draw flame in colored pencil

Round 1: The Block-In

Step 1

The first thing I did was apply Powder Blender to the paper with a sable round brush. It doesn’t take much Powder Blender, so use it sparingly.

Then I loosely outlined the fire with Cadmium Orange. I chose that color because it’s a good mid-value base color.

Next, I layered Dark Indigo over the background, followed by Black around the outside edges. Since orange and purple are complements, I next added Mauve over the background.

I did a couple of layers of each color, working through the order with each layer (Dark Indigo, Black, and Mauve.)

Then I blended the layers with a sable round brush.

Step 2

After blending, I layered Dark Indigo over all of the background. This time, I layered it with a more careful, precise stroke. I still didn’t stroke as carefully as I would when drawing on traditional paper, but I was more careful to shade all of the background.

I did a couple of layers of Dark Indigo, hatching the first layer and crosshatching the second.

Then I blended with the brush again.

How to draw flame in colored pencil

Next, I filled in the fire shape with Cadmium Orange and medium pressure. I filled all of the fire shape and overlapped the background just a bit to begin suggesting the glow that surrounds fire.

I did two or three layers of Cadmium Orange, then blended.

This time, I tried a small bristle brush. That worked better than the sable brush, but still didn’t give me the results I wanted. So I blended with my finger. Fingers aren’t recommended unless you wear a cot, because skin oils could damage the drawing.

A sponge applicator would also work better for this.

The block-in phase ended with three light applications of ACP Textured Fixative, with about fifteen minutes of drying time between each application. After the third application, I set the drawing up to dry overnight.

Round 2: Modeling

Step 1

As with the previous round, I again began with a layer of Dark Indigo over the background. I used medium-heavy pressure and strong, diagonal strokes to cover all of the background. Some of the background color overlapped the flame.

Then I layered Cadmium Orange into the darkest areas of the flame, Cadmium Yellow into the lighter areas, and Cream into the lightest areas. I used a bit of White in a few very bright areas.

I then darkened the darker values with applications of Caput Mortuum Violet applied with light pressure and smooth strokes.

Step 2

I layered Black over all of the background with heavy pressure, filling all the tooth of the paper as much as possible. I also began more clearly defining the shape of the fire and some of the hot gas wisps around the edges by cutting into the orange with Black.

During this phase, I added the log at the bottom with Caput Mortuum Violet, followed by Black.

In the flame, I refined the interior shapes with Caput Mortuum Violet, Cadmium Orange, Dark Cadmium Orange, and few touches of Cream.

How to draw flame in colored pencil

Step 3

After that, I blended with Powder Blender and a sponge applicator. Because the transitions in flame are so smooth, I started in the lightest colors and blended into the darker flame colors.

Then I blended the background, and softened the edges of the flame by pulling some of that color into the flames. I didn’t want to dirty the oranges, though, so I was very careful not to get too much Black into into the flames.

Then I sealed my work with three light coats of ACP Textured Fixative.

Round 3: Detailing

Step 1

The first step in detailing was adding White to the brightest parts of the flame, then building additional colors around that. I used medium-heavy to heavy pressure with each color. Unless I needed to draw a fine line or sharp edge, I also worked with dull or blunt pencils.

From lightest to darkest, I used White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, and Dark Cadmium Orange. To get smooth transitions, I overlapped colors, then blended. I went over each area more than once to get smooth color.

Despite adding the two Cadmium Oranges to my palette, I wasn’t getting the amount of contrast I wanted, so after layering those colors a couple of times, I went over the background with Black. I used heavy pressure and cross-hatching strokes to make a solid black background.

When I finished this step, I sealed the drawing with three light applications of ACP Textured Fixative.

Step 2

The the fixative was dry, I mixed Brush & Pencil Touch-up Texture and Titanium White into a paint-able liquid and applied it to the brightest parts of the flame. I used a small round sable to stroke the mixture into the brightest highlights.

I also added a few details that I’ve seen on burning logs but that don’t appear in my reference photo. Those were the two “rings” of fire around the fire log.

Step 3

After the mixture dried, I layered Cadmium Yellow with medium-heavy to heavy pressure over most of the white and into the oranges. I worked around the areas I want to remain white.

Then I added Cadmium Orange around the yellow, overlapping some to create smooth transitions. I used medium-heavy to heavy pressure for this color, as well.

I continued working into the darker oranges with Dark Cadmium Orange, then added Terracotta in the darkest oranges.

Step 4

After that, finishing the campfire was a matter of alternating between the colors to make adjustments and create the “right look.” I wasn’t interested in duplicating the reference photo, but I did want my campfire to look as bright, hot, and lively as the fire in the reference photo.

I made quite a few adjustments to the colors, values, and shape of the fire, as well.

This is the finished drawing.

How to draw flame in colored pencil

That’s How I Drew Flame in Colored Pencil

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tutorial. An expanded tutorial explaining this process in more detail is now available at Colored Pencil Tutorials. Click here to read more or get your copy.

A Three Step Drawing Method for Colored Pencils

A Three Step Drawing Method for Colored Pencils

As many of you know, I started my art career as an oil painter. I painted portraits in oils for over 40 years before switching to colored pencils. Today, I’d like to share a three step drawing method for colored pencils that I’ve learned from an oil painter.

Sometime ago, I wrote a blog post or two about adapting the Flemish method of oil painting to colored pencils. For those who don’t know, the Flemish Masters built their paintings one layer at a time through seven phases. That’s why their method is also known as the Seven Step Method.

Artists worked in translucent or semi-translucent layers until they glazed color. Then they glazed transparent color over the under painting to “color” it in. The result was rich, luminous color that glowed. That’s why I started learning this method a couple of years before giving oils up.

Colored pencils are perfect for this method because they’re translucent by nature. You don’t need glazing mediums to make them translucent.

But it’s difficult to get through all seven steps with sufficient paper tooth to make the glazes stick. The article I wrote described how I made changes to the classic seven-step method to make it work with colored pencils. Still, the results weren’t totally satisfactory, and I eventually moved on to try other methods.

A Three Step Drawing Method for Colored Pencils

The method I’m learning now involves three clear stages in “painting” with colored pencils. I use the term painting deliberately because what I’m doing now is more like a blend of painting with wet medium and drawing with dry. But I’m not using wet media nor am I blending with solvents. This is all just pencils and paper.

I do need to mention, however, that the paper is sanded art paper. This three-step process works best on sanded art papers because there’s enough tooth for all three phases.

Sanded art paper is also more forgiving. It allows me to layer dry color more like I used to layer oils. Yes, I do dark over light just like I always have, but I can also do light over dark if I need to.

I’m not sure how well this method works with traditional papers like Stonehenge or Bristol. I may have to give that a try at some point. But it works very well on sanded art papers.

So if you’re not interested in using sanded art papers and decide to read no further, I understand. That was my opinion for a long time, too!

A Three Step Drawing Method for Colored Pencils

For the rest of you, let’s talk about this three-step method.

Adapting The Three Step Oil Painting Method to Colored Pencils

Let’s begin with an important disclaimer. I didn’t think this up on my own. I learned it from Andrew Tischler. Andrew creates the most breathtaking New Zealand landscapes, portraits and still lifes with this basic process. His is an oil painter, but his methods can be adapted to colored pencils.

This painting process involves three steps. Blocking in, modeling, and detailing.

The Three Steps

Blocking in is just what it sounds like. You “block in” the composition in blocks of color and shape. Sort of like an abstract. You can add some detail if you like. I suggest shadows and other major details during blocking in.

For my small demo piece (4 x 6,) this is the block-in stage. It doesn’t look like much, does it? I confess that I was pretty discouraged with it at this point. I almost didn’t continue.

You may feel the same way, but don’t stop. The purpose of the blocking in stage is establishing the colors, values, and shapes. That’s all.

The modeling phase involves going back over the entire piece again and building on the blocking in phase. You develop the colors and values more, add more details, and start bringing your painting to life.

A painting can look finished at the end of the modeling phase. If you wanted to stop there, you could, I suppose. But your painting would lack a lot of punch if you did.

A Three Step Drawing Method for Colored Pencils

That punch is added during the detailing phase. In this phase, you go over the composition again and fine tune color, value, and details.

This is also the phase in which you add the “sparkle” to your artwork. For example, if you’re drawing water, you add those bright white highlights, now. You punch up the other highlights and deepen the shadows if necessary.

This phase could take the most or least amount of time, depending on the composition and how realistic you want your artwork to be.

Why Should You Try the Three Step Drawing Method?

I can think of several reasons, including learning something new, experimentation, and the fun of exploration.

Beyond that, this is a great way to create colored pencil works that allows you to work the entire piece step-by-step. Correcting problems as you go is easier when you begin with a basic block in.

This is Just an Introduction

Next week, I’ll walk you through the process with the piece I used for the illustrations in this post. I hope you’ll join me.

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Today, I’d like to share a post on a topic we artists don’t talk about very much: Reworking old colored pencil art.

I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because we don’t think it’s really possible to do much with an old piece. Or maybe we don’t like admitting we have pieces we’d like to improve upon!

But I’m always urging readers and students to experiment.

“Don’t be afraid to try things, and don’t be afraid to make bad art,” I say.

Well, I recently decided to take my own advice. What’s more, I decided to share my experiment with you. Here’s what I did.

The Original Piece

A couple of years ago, I finished a landscape on Fisher 400 pastel. This is the finished piece, “East of Camp Creek.”

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art - The original artwork.
East of Camp Creek, Colored Pencil on Fisher 400 Pastel Paper, 2018

I thought I did a great job on the sky and distant hills, but I’ve never liked the rest of the composition. The closer to the foreground, the less I liked it. So I put it aside and moved on. I just didn’t know how to fix it or improve on it, and it seemed smarter to make new art.

After using Brush & Pencil products on a few other pieces, I decided to tinker with this one again. I didn’t think I could ruin it. I already didn’t like it!

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Step 1: Dry Blending

The first thing I did was use a sponge applicator on it, just to see if I could dry blend an old drawing. I could! I blended the tree line and managed to fill in quite a bit of paper holes.

Then I decided to see if I could remove the center trees by blending them out. Those trees were supposed to be the center of interest but never quite lived up to that billing. I couldn’t remove them entirely, but I was able to blur them.

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

After that, I went sort of crazy and decided to blend all of the foreground. Tall grass and everything!

I concentrated on the darker values, since the foreground was mostly darker values. I pulled the sponge along the slope of each hill, starting at the bottom and pulling color up the slope.

The results weren’t perfect, but the overall affect was quite satisfactory. If nothing else, I learned that it is possible to continue dry blending colored pencil on sanded art papers for years, so long as you haven’t sprayed them with fixative of any kind.

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Step 2: Removing Color

Next, I used mounting putty to remove color. That worked extremely well. The mounting putty removed all the color except the darkest values, which may have been applied with heavier pressure.

To my surprise (and delight!) I got all the way back to paper in most areas.

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Step 3: Adding Color and Removing More Color

After that, I worked through a series of adding color and removing color to change the contours and create a more satisfactory pattern of light and dark values. Since I liked the distant background, I left that alone. But I reworked everything else from the belt of trees forward.

I simplified the hills and trees, but also brightened the middle ground. I wanted the focus to be on the middle ground, so I brightened that area while leaving the background gray and distant, and darkening the foreground.

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Step 4: Changing the Landscape

From that point on, I layered and blended various shades of green with a light warm gray, cream, and a light yellow. I used the warm gray in the distant hills, cream in the middle hills, and the light yellow in the closest bright hill. Using each of those colors as blending colors helped separate the three tiers of hills and further emphasized the sense of space and distance.

I also reworked the trees on the left, moving them forward in the composition to set them apart from the rest of the trees in the middle ground.

After I had the hills the way I wanted them, I redrew the trees in the center middle ground. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep them there, but it was easier to add them now. If I decide later to remove them, I can use the mounting putty to “cut them down.”

After working over all the hills, I worked on the darker hill in the immediate foreground.

Then I decided it was time to take a long look at the piece. So I set it up across the room and glanced at it as I did computer work. I was very pleased to note that it already looked a lot better than the previous version. Using the three blending colors as I did gave the composition more depth.

Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

Adding warmer greens and yellows also “cheered” it up quite a bit. Those warmer colors in contrast with the cooler colors in the far distance really accented the space I wanted to convey when I first thought of this composition.

The Final Steps

I continued working on this piece for the next few days. If an idea came to mind, I tried it. Some of them worked. Some of them didn’t.

This slide show documents the remaining steps in the experiment.

The Conclusion of my Experiment Reworking Old Colored Pencil Art

You may think that the experiment failed. It didn’t. At least I don’t consider it a failure. I learned a lot from the days I spent tinkering with this piece. For example, I learned that it’s possible to mix any color of pencil pigment with Touch-Up Texture and paint it onto paper.

I also discovered how very easy it is to remove color almost to the paper when I draw on sanded art paper.

And I learned that it is possible to improve on old drawings, even if this attempt wasn’t successful.

So the experiment was successful, but the artwork didn’t survive. That’s okay with me because I didn’t like the original artwork anyway.

And I do still like the concept. I’m looking forward to applying everything I learned about drawing distance into a new work.

One that will turn out well!

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?


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.