Paper Holes showing through Colored Pencil

Are paper holes showing through colored pencil layers a problem area for you? You’re not alone!

Today’s question comes from an artist who asked about that very thing. Here’s her question.

Hi Carrie,

I’m painting a subject in CP that I first planned to paint in WC, and it was drawn on a paper that is very textured. I only realized my error when I started the very dark parts. I’ve tried sharp pencils, burnishing, solvent, but nothing changed. I don’t mind the white showing through, but I don’t know if it’s acceptable.

And thank you for the tips on plants. My photo has lots of grass and I didn’t know how to approach it.

By the way, may I mix watercolor and colored pencils for the grass?

Thank you!

Mirian

Thank you for your question, Mirian. Your project sounds quite intriguing!

Personally, I usually don’t like paper holes showing through colored pencil in my finished art.

However, there have been times when it can be a great tool, especially in landscape drawings. Letting a bit of paper show through the color can help create the illusion of distance in a landscape. It’s also good for drawing fog or mist, or for creating texture.

In the end, it’s an entirely personal choice.

Paper Holes showing through Colored Pencil

Most colored pencil artists seem to prefer full color saturation (no paper showing through,) but it’s perfectly acceptable to have paper showing through the color.

Back when colored pencils first started coming into their own as a fine art medium, a lot of works had that sort of “grainy” look. That seemed to be the standard for colored pencil art.

I don’t know if artists consciously made that decision, or if it was due to the newness of the medium and the tools being used.

This is one of my first colored pencil horse portraits. The color is not at all as saturated as I now prefer it, but it’s what I knew to do (and what I knew HOW to do at the time.)

As I look at this again, I wonder what it would look like if I were to do it over.

You have to admit colored pencils, colored pencil artists, and colored pencil art has come a long way in the last few decades.

So if having a bit of paper showing through the color layers gives you the result you want, then use it.

Otherwise, keep layering and blending until you fill in those paper holes.

How to Fill in Paper Holes

There are several ways to fill in all the paper holes (also known as saturated color.)

Layering

My preferred method is simply adding color until the combination of layers covers the paper completely.

I used light pressure for this test sample, building up value and filling paper holes with several layers of blue. I used heavier pressure in the darkest area, but only after putting down quite a few layers with light pressure.

I did this sample on Bristol, which is a very smooth paper, but I could get similar results on toothier papers or even sanded papers. It just takes more layers.

Paper Holes showing through Colored Pencil

Now, I have a naturally light hand, so I can add dozens of layers if I want to. That helps fill in paper holes. But that’s not the only method out there.

Solvents

Blending periodically with solvent is a great way to blend smooth color and fill in paper holes. Make sure you have enough color on the paper to be blended, then use solvent sparingly. Don’t soak the paper! That could actually remove color.

If necessary, layer more color, then blend with solvent until the paper tooth is filled.

I’m surprised solvent didn’t work on the paper Mirian is using. It must be very toothy. But she should be able to alternate between laying and blending until the tooth is filled.

Burnishing

Burnishing is also a good way to fill paper holes. I burnished the salmon colored leaf in the upper left, and the three purple or pink leaves in the lower right.

Burnish sparingly and toward the end of the drawing process. Once you burnish, it’s difficult to layer more color over the top.

It’s possible that Mirian needs to use all three methods together, alternating between layering followed by solvent blending and layering followed by burnishing. I’ve never burnished and then blended with solvent, but it’s possible that might also help fill in the paper holes on Mirian’s drawing.

Mixing Watercolor and Colored Pencils

Another alternative is starting with water soluble media to lay down base colors, then applying colored pencil over the top.

This works with watercolors and watercolor pencils. Many artists also use inks or Derwent Inktense for base layers.

How to do a Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape shows you one way to use water-based media under colored pencils for a landscape.

Paper Holes showing through Colored Pencil

Just make sure to do all the watercolor work first. Then let the paper dry completely and you can layer colored pencil over that.

You can use the same methods to combine watercolor paint and colored pencils. Watercolors and watercolor pencils are a great way to lay down base colors quickly and fill all the paper holes.

You will probably want to use a paper made for wet media, though. Otherwise you’ll have problems with the paper warping, buckling, and possibly falling apart!

The Bottom Line on Paper Holes and Colored Pencils

Whether or not you allow paper holes to show through layers of colored pencil in your finished work is up to you.

Some artists like that look. Some do not.

If you prefer smooth, saturated color, the tips I’ve shared will help you achieve it.

Economical Ways to Sharpen Colored Pencils

Economic Colored Pencil Sharpening

Sharpeners are one of the more frequently discussed topics here, and I continue to get questions about them. Today, let’s take a look at the subject from a different angle: let’s talk about a few economical ways to sharpen colored pencils.

But first, since this is Q&A Wednesday, here’s the reader’s question.

What is the best – and most economical – way to sharpen colored pencils, particularly the softer ones?

I use an electric sharpener for graphite but it seems to “eat” colored pencils quite rapidly. Thank you.

Kathy

I want to thank Kathy for asking this question. Most people want to know the best sharpeners. That’s an impossible question to answer because there are so many factors to consider.

But very few people ask economical ways to sharpen colored pencils. And there is a difference.

Economical Ways to Sharpen Colored Pencils

But before we get started, let’s consider sharpeners.

A Few Words About Sharpeners

The purpose of pencil sharpeners is eating pencils. Whenever you sharpen a pencil with a mechanical sharpener, the sharpener has to chew up enough of the lead to make a sharp point.

That’s true for graphite pencils, and it’s true for colored pencils.

But there are ways to sharpen pencils so less of the pigment is wasted.

Kathy’s Sharpener

I also suggest that Kathy find out if her electric sharpener is an auto-stop model. Sharpeners with an auto-stop feature automatically stop sharpening when the pencil is sharp.

Other types of electric sharpeners continue sharpening until you remove the pencil. It’s very easy to sharpen a pencil to a nub quickly if you don’t pay attention to the sharpener while you’re sharpening.

Economical Ways to Sharpen Colored Pencils

A Sharp Knife Works Wonders

The absolute best way to sharpen pencils with minimum waste is by sharpening them with a knife.

I use an X-acto knife, but any knife sharp enough to cut through the wood casing is suitable.

Sharpening pencils with an X-acto knife is also a great way to sharpen a pencil that’s prone to breaking. You can whittle away the wood casing with very little pressure on the pigment core itself.

This method requires extreme caution! It’s easy to cut yourself while sharpening pencils, and we most certainly do not want that!

How to Hand Sharpen Colored Pencils

Use a knife with a finely sharpened blade.

Hold the pencil in your non-dominant hand with the exposed pigment core facing away from you.

Hold the knife in your dominant hand, with the blade at a slight angle to the pencil. As you can see in the illustration below, the knife blade is nearly lying on the sharpened wood casing. This keeps you from gouging too much of the wood casing with each stroke.

Push the blade downward along the pencil with your thumb. Use light pressure and make as thin a cut as you can.

Hold the knife at a slight angle to the pencil and stroke away from yourself. Turn the pencil after each cutting stroke.

Always stroke away from yourself.

Turn the pencil between strokes and work around the pencil two or three times or until the sharpened end is as smooth or even as you prefer or until as much pigment core is exposed as you need.

Pointing the Pencil

To get a needle-sharp point, rub the pencil on an emery board. Roll the pencil as you stroke it along the emery board until the point is as sharp as you want it to be.

A sanding block or sand paper (not sanded art paper) also works for fine tuning a newly sharpened pencil.

Economical Ways to Sharpen Pencils

One Word of Caution

Hand sharpening with a knife is a very economical way to sharpen pencils. But it’s not a fast method. For the best results, work slowly and carefully. Always stroke away from yourself, and always keep your knife sharp.

It also requires practice, just like drawing. So be patient. Injuries happen when you rush, so go slow and be careful.

Other Benefits of Hand Sharpening Pencils

Sharpening pencils with a knife allows you to more easily save pigment shavings. You can then soften them with solvent or Brush & Pencil’s Touch-Up Texture and use them like paint.

If you decide to use this sharpening method, get several small containers with screw-on caps to store the pigment. Label each one with the color and brand of pencil (if you use more than one type of pencil.) Then, when you need that color to “paint” with, you can mix a small amount of solvent or Touch-Up Texture and make use of this otherwise wasted pigment.

I found this very helpful article on sharpening pencils with a knife. The demonstration is with a graphite pencil, but the process is the same.

Pay Attention to the Length of the Sharpened Point

The length of the exposed pigment core on a freshly sharpened pencil also makes a difference.

The longer the tip, the more pigment has been left in the pencil sharpener.

Economical Ways to Sharpen Colored Pencils
The length of the exposed pigment core makes a difference in how much pigment is wasted in sharpening. As a rule, the longer the point, the more pigment is left in the sharpener.

There are times when you want a longer tip. Glazing with the side of the pencil works best if the exposed pigment is quite long.

But you really don’t need a long pigment core for most work, so look for a sharpener that doesn’t sharpen this way.

Keep Points Sharp While You Draw

One way I keep sharp tips on pencils is by alternating glazing with other types of layering.

I always turn my pencil in my fingers as I draw. I don’t know when or how I developed that habit, but I do it even when writing longhand with a pen. Turning your pencil helps keep the tip from getting flat on one side.

But it doesn’t keep the point sharp.

If, however, you do a little layering with the side of the pencil AND you turn the pencil as you draw, the tip will stay sharper longer.

And that pigment ends up on the paper, not in the sharpener!

Three Economical Ways to Sharpen Colored Pencils

And there you have it. Two suggestions for economical colored pencil sharpening, and a bonus suggestion for maintaining sharper points.

I hope you find them helpful.

CP Magic May 2021 now Available

Announcing CP Magic May 2021, with featured artist Susan Brinkmann. 40 pages of great and inspiring information for colored pencil artists at all levels, including a great, intermediate-level tutorial.

Here’s a peek.

What’s in CP Magic May 2021

The Featured Artist

Susan Brinkmann is an award-winning British artist based in the Netherlands. She specializes in colored pencil portraits of people and animals, and her artwork has been published and exhibited on an international scale. She also receives portrait commissions from around the world.

As much as she enjoys creating art, she loves even more teaching others how to create their own colored pencil art.

She talks about her artwork and passion for teaching in the interview portion of this month’s CP Magic.

This Month’s Tutorial

Susan’s intermediate-level tutorial is based on a portrait of a Welsh Terrier. In addition to showing you how she draws such thick, curly hair, her tutorial includes suggestions on making the most of a less than ideal reference photo.

CP Magic May 2021 Page 21

Susan uses Caran d’Ache Supracolour and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils on Winsor & Newton Smooth Surface Heavyweight Paper.

New This Month: Pet Portraits in Colored Pencils

This month features the second in a series of new columns focusing on specific subjects. Last month, I wrote about The Landscape Artist.

This month’s special column is for the reader who is or wants to become a pet portrait artist. This column focuses on the most important thing to get right in any kind of portrait.

Also in CP Magic May 2021

Making the Kind of Art You Want to Make

When it comes to creating art, you should create what you’re passionate about. At least that’s the guiding principle.  But what does that mean?

Nothing But Pencils & Paper for Beginners

Are you new to colored pencils? Then this monthly column is for you!

Then & Now

Every artist started somewhere. Even your favorite artists. Then & Now features “then” and “now” works to encourage all of us to keep drawing when we fell like we’ll never improve!

The CP Magic Reader Gallery

The CP Magic Reader Gallery is dedicated reader work. Selections cover the range of skill levels.

The full collection is available for viewing online. Take a peak at the May collection here, then learn how you can submit your latest finished colored pencil artwork.

The Final Pencil Strokes

Have you ever reached the end of an issue of CP Magic, and wished there was more to read? The Final Pencil Strokes wraps up each issue with links to three colored pencil blog posts for further information on the wonderful world of colored pencils.

Ask Carrie

Featured Photo

About CP Magic

CP Magic is a monthly digital publication written by colored pencil artists for colored pencil artists at all levels.

Each month features an artist interview and tutorial so you can meet the artist and see how they work. You also get great general-interest articles and regular columns and features with each issue.

Get your copy of CP Magic May 2021 today.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details

Today’s question comes from a reader who wants to know the best paper and pencils for drawing details. Here’s her question.

Can you share a table or grid, anything, that would match the best pencil(s) and best surface combinations for artwork type, e.g. portraits (in hyper realism or whimsical. Landscapes, still life, etc)? I have learned mainly portraits on Stonehenge and I never get the effect I hope for.

Thanks, Romona

Romona,

Thank you for your questions. The short answer is no. I don’t have a list of the best surface and pencil combinations for every subject and every type of drawing. Nor do I know of one.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details

What I do have are a few basic principles from years of using colored pencils on different types of papers and other surfaces.

So let me share those.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details

Paper

As a rule, the more detail you want in your art, the smoother paper you probably need. It’s easier to draw details and create smooth color on smoother papers, because they have less tooth.

But that isn’t the only consideration.

Stonehenge is fairly smooth, but it’s also soft. It takes a lot of layers, but it’s easily scuffed. The last portrait I did failed on Stonehenge because I couldn’t get enough layers without scuffing the paper.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details
This is Stonehenge paper. The blue in the middle is color layered over a piece of Stonehenge. The deckle edge is the type of edge on full sheets.

Bristol is a good, smooth paper with a somewhat harder surface. You can draw a lot of detail on it, but may have problems layering. Because Bristol has so little tooth, it sometimes doesn’t take very many layers.

Canson Mi-Teintes is a pastel paper that can also be used for colored pencil. The front and back are two different textures, so you get two surfaces with each sheet.

When I first tried it, I didn’t think it would be any good for drawing details, even if I used the back. But I soon learned differently and now prefer it to Stonehenge. For me, it’s the best combination of smoothness and strength.

140lb hot press watercolor paper is great for drawing details. It takes moisture very well, so you can use it with water-based media and colored pencils combined. It also handles solvent blending very well.

Stonehenge Aqua feels like regular Stonehenge and can be drawn on much the same, but it’s much sturdier than regular Stonehenge.

I’ve also used Canson’s L’Aquarelle watercolor paper and it performs very well with colored pencils wet or dry.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details

Exceptions to Every Rule

Unfortunately, these principles don’t always apply.

Remember that failed portrait I mentioned above? The one that failed on Stonehenge? I completed it successfully on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, which is a sand paper-like surface. Sanded art papers are fast becoming my go-to papers for portraits and landscapes.

The bottom line on the question of paper is that you need to try several different papers of the type you think will work for you based on the principles above.

But also be prepared to discover that the unexpected surface may be the right one for you.

Pencils

As for the pencils, what I’ve found is that a combination of pencils works best for me.

In the past, I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils for under drawings because they’re thinner and harder than regular Prismacolor pencils. They are not as saturated as regular Prismacolor pencils, but I don’t need saturation for under drawings. I needed a pencil that allowed me to draw values and details without leaving much wax on the paper. Verithin pencils do that.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details
The two pencils at the top are Prismacolor Soft Core pencils. They are what most artists think of when they think of Prismacolor pencils. The two bottom pencils are Prismacolor Verithin pencils. You can see how much thinner they are than the soft core pencils. This makes them great for drawing details.

These days, I use Faber-Castell Polychromos more than Verithin. They’re harder than regular Prismacolors so they give me much the same result as Verithin pencils, but they have a far superior color selection.

Then I layer softer pencils over the under drawing. Usually a mix of Polychromos and Prismacolor regular.

The basic rule of thumb with pencils is that harder pencils are better for drawing detail and softer pencils are better for layering color.

However, artists of all types use one type or the other exclusively to make great art.

In other words, there is no hard-and-fast rule for pencils any more than there is for paper.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Drawing Details

If you have a pencil that you like, then stick with that for now. Try different papers until you find one that works with the pencils you have and that gives you the results you’re looking for.

You might also search for videos of colored pencil artists who use the same pencils you use, and see what paper they’re using. That can be a good place to begin your search, and can save time and money in the long-run.

But I also want to suggest that you keep drawing. The difficulty may not be with the pencils and paper themselves, but with your skill level. Especially if you’re still relatively new to colored pencils.

Skill level is easy to improve.

Just keep drawing.

Do You Want an Artist’s Website?

If you want to market your artwork, social media is great, but you really need an artist’s website.

Why?

Two Reasons You Need an Artist’s Website

You Own Your Content

The content you post to social media is not yours. There are a few exceptions, of course, but most of the time, your account can be closed without warning at any time. When that happens, you may lose all the content you’ve posted.

If you have a website (and especially if you have a self-hosted website,) your content is yours. No one is going to come along and close your website.

It’s Easier for Visitors to Find Things

How many times have you looked through any social media platform for something? You saw a post or picture, but simply cannot find it.

At least not easily.

Your visitors and potential students, clients, or buyers have the same experiences. You need to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for and there’s no better way to do that than an artist’s website.

Why I Recommend Foliotwist

Foliotwist was created by artists for artists. It’s easy to get started, and easy to use.

As your art business grows, your Foliotwist artist’s website can also grow.

Foliotwist offers two plans. The monthly plan includes a $59 setup fee. Sign up for a year and there is no setup fee. After the free trial, hosting is only $19 a month.

Opening an Account

It took less than a minute to fill in the initial sign up section. Most of that involved coming up with a good password.

I took the time to read the Terms of Service in the process and that took about ten minutes. The Privacy Policy is written in two sections. The In Plain English section takes five minutes or less to read. The legalese form takes about ten minutes to read. I didn’t read it because the In Plain English section was sufficient.

I checked the box to accept, and I was done.

Foliotwist signup page for an artists website

So if you read the required documents, it could take you up to half an hour to sign up.

If you don’t, two minutes or less and done.

Confirm your email address, and you’re official.

NOTE: It did take nearly half an hour for the confirmation email to land in my inbox. If it doesn’t show up immediately for you, keep checking.

And check your spam or junk folder as well as your inbox.

Setting Up Your Website

Once you’ve confirmed your email address, the setup moves into the hands of the designer. All you need to do is submit good, clear images of the artwork you want to appear on the website, titles, and mediums (and sizes if you wish.) A short bio isn’t a bad idea either, but if you don’t have one handy, you can write one and submit it later.

An experienced web designer uploads your materials and designs your website to complement your artwork and style for you. You don’t have to do anything. When it’s ready, you’ll get a notification by email and can review your new website. If you need changes, you can suggest them.

This is what my artist’s website at Foliotwist looks like. Yours can look just as good, even if it’s your first ever website!

And if you have a little tech savvy, you can also further customize your website at your leisure.

Ready to Get Your Artist’s Website?

Click this link to Foliotwist.

This post contains affiliate links.

Learning to Draw with a Light Hand

Learning to Draw with a Light Hand

For most artists, learning to draw with a light hand is an important part of the artistic journey. I’ve heard from many readers who complain of having a heavy hand, so I wasn’t surprised to receive the following appeal.

What can you do if you have not been able to overcome the dreaded heavy-hand?

Thanks,

Romona

Romona’s email conveyed not only her struggle with a heavy hand, but her emotional response. How many of us haven’t struggled with the dreaded heavy hand?

I have the opposite problem. My hand is so light that I have to increase pressure to reach what other artists consider light pressure. If you have a heavier hand, you may see no problem with a light hand, but it’s sometimes frustrating when I have to do several layers of light work just to get the same amount of color saturation other artists get with one or two layers!

The interesting thing is that what works for me in learning to draw with a heavier hand also works for those who want to learn how to draw with a lighter hand.

What is it?

Training!

Tips for Learning to Draw with a Light Hand

Here are a few of the training exercises I use, and that will also help you.

Change the Way You Hold Your Pencil

When you need to draw with a lighter hand, change the way you hold your pencil. Instead of holding it in a normal way, try holding it at the back.

Holding the pencil at the back reduces the amount of pressure you can exert on the pencil.

You will also be holding the pencil in a more horizontal position, which means you’re drawing with the side of the pencil more than with the tip. That means the pencil is skimming across the surface of the paper, hitting the high spots. Less color gets into the tooth of the paper and that produces a lighter value.

It also keeps the tooth of the paper from filling up so quickly, so you can add more layers.

Learning to Draw with  Light Hand

Work at an Easel or Standing Table

Have you ever tried drawing while standing? If not, give it a try.

Working at an easel or drafting table changes the way you approach the paper, especially if the paper is in a vertical or nearly vertical position.

I was an oil painter for over 40 years, and while I usually worked with the painting lying on a drafting table, I did notice a difference on those occasions when I worked with the painting on an easel.

I have done some colored pencil work on an easel and can say that it changes the dynamics between my pencil and my hand, and between the pencil and the paper.

You don’t need a big, fancy easel like this one. A simple table-top model that’s properly anchored so it won’t move as you draw will let you know whether or not this way of drawing helps you.

Give it a couple of weeks, though. It will be uncomfortable at first.

If you try this, you might also want to experiment with working a little further away from your paper. Oil painters often work with the brush held in their extended arm. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work for colored pencils, too.

Keep in mind that you will lose a lot of control, so you’ll have to find the right balance between light-handedness and control.

Drawing Exercises

You might also try some simple drawing exercises, such as those described in Straight Line Drawing Exercises.

Not all of these are designed to help you lighten your hand, but they are all helpful in gaining better control of your pencil. That, in turn, gives you a better ability to control the amount of pressure you use when you draw.

And that WILL help you draw with a lighter hand.

What About a Hand or Wrist Rest?

Typists use rests on their keyboards quite frequently. The rest is only an inch or so thick and you rest your wrist on it. It changes the angle between your hand and your drawing paper, and that might help.

It also takes some of the stress off your hand, and that is always a benefit.

I haven’t tried this myself, but it just might work.

Learning to Draw with Light Hand

Learning to draw with a light hand is a matter of being conscious of how you’re pressing your pencil against the paper all the time. That sounds tedious, I know. It’s so easy to get caught up in the process of creating that we forget how we’re creating.

That’s why I recommend the drawing exercises. You can do those in a drawing pad or on scraps of paper and I believe that if you do them regularly, you will see an improvement in your ability to draw with a lighter hand.

But I’ve used most of these tips myself and they have all helped me control how much pressure I use.

I hope one of them helps you, too!

Straight Line Drawing Exercises

straight line drawing exercises

I can’t draw a straight line with a straight edge, and I’m the first to admit it. Horses, yes. Fences, no, in other words. I have to practice drawing straight lines, but really didn’t want to do it until I stumbled upon a few fun and easy straight line drawing exercises.

4 Straight Line Drawing Exercises

People often comment on the time and patience needed for colored pencil work. Some use the word “tedious” in describing the process. My response is that “tedious is in the eye of the beholder.” If you truly enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not tedious.

But there are times when time is of the essence, especially if you do portrait work or are working toward a competition or exhibit. Having a full arsenal of tools helps you make the most of your time. One of those tools is line control.

4 Straight Line Drawing Exercises

Following are four line control exercises that will help you improve pencil control. I used a 6B graphite pencil for each of these because I enjoy the way a soft lead goes onto paper. You can use any hardness of lead you prefer, or any dry medium you prefer. They’re excellent exercises for colored pencil, chalk, charcoal or pastel.

Parallel Line Exercise

Draw a line. Choose any pressure and value.

Draw a series of lines parallel to the first line. Make them as parallel as possible while drawing freehand. Use constant pressure.

Don’t worry if the lines aren’t perfectly straight or perfectly parallel when you begin. None of us start that way unless we use a straight-edge. The more often you do this exercise, the straighter and more parallel your lines will become, so keep practicing and leave the straight-edge in its drawer!

straight line drawing exercises

Gradated Parallel Line Exercise

This exercise is much like the previous one with the added dimension of making each parallel line either lighter or darker than the one before.

Start with a line. Make it either very light or very dark.

Make each stroke lighter or darker than the previous stroke (depending on where you started) and make each new stroke parallel to the previous strokes.

See how much gradation you can create just with lines.

A variation on this exercise would be to see how close together you can make the lines and how smooth the resulting transitions can be made.

For variation, see how close together you can make the lines and how smooth the resulting transitions can be made.

You can also work from one color to the next, varying color and value.

Hatching Line Exercise

Draw a set of parallel lines with even pressure and line weight.

Now draw another set in an opposing direction. Don’t draw through the previous set of lines. Create an edge between the groups by ending each line with the same amount of space between the first group of lines.

straight line drawing exercises

Continue adding new sets of lines in new directions.

The purposes of this exercise are:

  • Learning to draw parallel lines at different angles
  • Consistent pressure control
  • Learning to begin and end strokes precisely and consistently
  • Learning how changes in stroke direction affects the appearance of a drawing

Value Shift Parallel Line Exercise

It never hurts to practice pressure application as well as line drawing. This exercise allows you to do both at the same time.

Start with the lightest pressure possible and increase to the heaviest pressure possible as you draw the line. Do several this way, making them as parallel as possible and getting the widest possible value shift without lifting your pencil from one end of each line to the other, or going over the line a second time.

After you’ve done a few, start with heavy pressure and reduce pressure as you draw the line.

A variation on this exercise is to use a pencil with a slanted point and change the line width by turning the pencil as you draw.

straight line drawing exercises

These Straight Line Drawing Exercises will Get You Started

I highly recommend these straight line drawing exercises, as well as other types of drawing exercises. In the next few weeks, I’ll share a few more drawing exercises you can use to warm up, improve pencil control, or just have fun.

Most of us doodle from time to time. These exercises are ideal for doodling time whether you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, on a plane, train, or bus, or walking the pet of your choice.

They’re also a great way to relax for a few minutes.

And all the while, you’ll be improving line control and finding new ways to make every stroke carry it’s full weight with your next pencil project.

Blazing Sunset Tutorial for Advanced Artists

Blazing Sunset Colored Pencil tutorial

Are you ready for something exciting? Then let your creativity and imagination run wild with the Blazing Sunset Tutorial for advanced artists.

This tutorial began as an experiment. I found a photo I absolutely had to draw, and that was perfect for testing Brush & Pencil colored pencil painting tools on Lux Archival paper. The results?

In a word, thrilling!

Laying down color was fun, easy, and fast! So was blending. I even got to do a little brush work, something I learned to love as an oil painter. A world of possibilities opened before me as I worked through this drawing.

Now, I want to share that world with you through this tutorial.

Blazing Sunset Tutorial for Advanced Artists

This is a great tutorial, but it’s more than just a tutorial.

In addition to the usual detailed step-by-step instruction and clear images you’ve come to expect from my tutorials, you’ll read my thoughts on each of the new products I tried. I’ll share not only what worked, but what didn’t, so you can avoid some of the mistakes I made!

But most of all, I want to encourage you to begin the transition from duplicating other people’s are through tutorials to making your own art from scratch. I’ve described how I made that transition. Now I want to help you make the same transition.

This tutorial is the beginning of that process.

What is an Advanced Tutorial?

Advanced colored pencil tutorials from Colored Pencil Tutorials are designed to assist beginner and intermediate artists transition to making their own art.

If you enjoy tutorials but really want to make your own art start to finish, the advanced tutorials at Colored Pencil Tutorials will help you.

This tutorial includes a full supply list, and a color chart so you can match colors if you don’t have Polychromos pencils. It also includes a full-size reference photo!

It does not include a line drawing. That’s one of the reasons it’s an advanced tutorial. But you know what? I hope you’ll have as much fun creating your own forest of trees as I had!

Blazing Sunset Tutorial for Advanced Artists

Are You Ready for Something Fun?

If you’re ready to try this new method of using colored pencils, I hope you’ll give this tutorial a try. It’s written so you can create your own blazing sunset, then follow the same steps for your own landscape.

And if you’re just looking for a new project to draw, then why not give this tutorial a try?

Click here to buy your copy of the Blazing Sunset Tutorial for Advanced Artists.

Overcoming New Artist Fears

Overcoming New Artist Fears

I want to thank the reader who asked the question for today’s post. She wants to know about overcoming new artist fears. Something all of us deal with at one time or another. Here’s her question.

I’m a beginner colored pencil artist stuck in beginner mode mostly due to “beginner fear”. I LOVE horses and landscapes, so I have enjoyed your blog very much.

After many years of owning horses, my body no longer lets me do that kind of activity, so I’ve turned to art. I even purchased your black horse tutorial but I’m terrified to try it. So I practice on things I’m less interested in, if that makes any sense.

I would love to hear from you and learn how to draw horses as well as you. Can you please offer your expertise on learning to draw horses in colored pencil? Did you have this kind of paralyzing fear when you first started? Thanks for any help.

Celeste

Overcoming New Artist Fears

First of all, thank you for your question, Celeste. I understand completely what you’re experiencing. The fact of the matter is that I chuckled out loud when I got to your last question. I STILL sometimes deal with this kind of paralyzing fear!

I actually think this difficulty could more accurately be called “new project fear.” Every artist experiences this moment of doubt or hesitation at least once. Some of us experience more than just once in a while.

Overcoming New Artist Fears

I understand working on “unimportant projects” before doing what I really want to do. Believe it or not, that’s a good way to get started.

You can consider those projects to be basic training if you like. You can also consider them warm-up exercises.

When you do projects like this, you’re getting more familiar with the pencils and paper, you’re learning what layering is all about, and you’re probably even learning what works and what doesn’t work.

After you’ve done a few of these, you’ll find the “real projects” far less scary.

A Personal Example

I recently finished a portrait that took a long time to do. Part of the reason for that was that I was using Pastelmat for the first time for a paid portrait. I didn’t know what to expect.

So I started a second portrait, which was my “test portrait.” Before trying any new technique on the paid portrait, I tried it first on the test portrait. Then, after I gained confidence, I worked on the paid portrait.

When I finished and delivered the paid portrait, I repurposed the test portrait. It will eventually become a landscape.

So keep doing those sorts of projects until you’re comfortable with using colored pencils.

Transitioning to Tutorials

Once you’ve gained confidence with the pencils, transition into that tutorial by practicing parts of it. I like drawing manes and forelocks, so that’s often what I’d practice. But there is no forelock and not much mane on this tutorial, so you might try some other part of the horse. One of the ears, maybe, or the eye.

That blue ribbon under the head would also be a great practice piece.

If you decide to do practice pieces from the tutorial, do them small. 4×6 inches is a great size for studies. You can finish them more quickly than larger pieces. They’re also easier to let go of if they don’t turn out.

And if they do turn out, you’ve gained confidence!

Learning to Draw Horses & Landscapes

As for learning to draw horses and landscapes like I do, that’s no more complicated than making lots of drawings. My art didn’t always look like it looks now. It took lots of drawings, some of which were downright ugly!

Don’t be afraid to make ugly art. Every piece you finish (whether it turns out or not) helps you improve.

Overcoming Those New Artist Fears

Uncertainty is normal whenever you start something new. Making the first mark on a new piece of paper seems intimidating at first. You will get past that.

Start drawing, then keep drawing. Studies, full images, everything.

When you get ready, you can also study with someone whose work you admire, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I give one-to-one classes by email (you can learn more about them here.)

A couple of my favorite horse artists teach on Patreon. Bonny Snowdon and Lisa Ann Watkins are excellent horse artists and both teach on Patreon.

The most important part is making the start and you’ve already done that. So sit back and enjoy the process!

You won’t be sorry.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

Sometime ago, I wrote a post sharing 8 things I wished I’d known when I started as an artist. Those tips apply to all forms of art, so today, I want to share specific colored pencil tips for new artists.

As with most things, when you first begin, the world is at your feet. The sky’s the limit! Colored pencils are the best art medium ever and you’re going to create great art from the start.

Then reality hits.

You’re much better equipped for that reality if you remember these eight things.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

1. Colored Pencils are S-L-O-W!!!

New products are being developed all the time that can speed up the drawing process for colored pencil artists. Watercolor pencils. Sanded art papers. Great new blending tools.

But colored pencils are still a naturally slow medium, and if you prefer traditional colored pencils on traditional papers, expect to spend hours and hours on each piece.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

Especially if you prefer producing realistic work. Take your time and enjoy the process.

2. Not All Colored Pencils are the Same

Aside from variations in labeling and exterior treatment, most colored pencils look the same. Yes, some are round and some are octagonal. Most are wood-encased, and others have no casing at all. And they all look like pencils!

But they don’t all perform the same way. A set of cheap pencils purchased at the local craft store do not perform the same as a set of high quality pencils purchase from a dedicated art supply store.

To keep frustration levels to a minimum, start with the best pencils you can afford.

3. You Don’t Need a Full Set of Pencils

Despite all those lovely, beautiful, enticing colors, you can make a good start with just a few colors. Small sets force you to learn how to layer colors to mix new colors. You may not like all the new colors you make. I can just about guarantee you’ll hate a lot of them.

But that’s all right. Most artists learn more from their mistakes, than from the things that go right.

Smaller sets are also less expensive. If you make a few drawings, then decide you prefer another medium, you can give that small set away without guilt. Or regret!

4. Sharp is Good, but Not Always Best

You won’t have to watch many videos or do many tutorials to start hearing how important sharp pencils are. For many applications, that is true.

But dull and even blunt pencils are also useful in some applications. Try them for putting thin, nearly transparent color into larger areas.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

5. You Don’t Need Solvents to Get Smooth Color

For years, colored pencil artists created wonderful works of art using nothing but pencils and paper.

Then someone discovered colored pencil layers could be dissolved and blended with solvents. Solvents allowed color to “soak” into the paper and fill in the tooth of the paper without damaging the tooth.

That meant artists could add more layers, get smoother color, finish faster, and even work larger.

That doesn’t mean you have to solvents. A lot of artists prefer the way their work looks if they don’t use solvents.

So if you don’t like the look of solvent-blended color, or are allergic to solvents, don’t worry! You can still make great art the old-fashioned way.

6. You Don’t Need Fancy Tools

There are a lot of new tools, gadgets, devices, and other accessories for the colored pencil artist in today’s market. All of them are useful to someone.

Most of them are fun to try.

Some of them may even help you.

But beginners don’t really need them. As a matter of fact, adding tools to your toolbox before you know how to make the pencils and paper work together causes confusion and maybe frustration.

7. Experiment!

Don’t be afraid to make bad art. All of us have done it!

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

When you wonder if two colors work together, the best way to find out is to try them together. If they do, great!

If they don’t, then you’ve learned something not to do.

8. Have fun.

I can’t mention this often enough.

That’s because it’s so easy to get caught up in the creative process that you forget to have fun. Especially after you’ve been drawing for a while and you really want to improve.

The best way to improve is to do a lot of drawings. The best way to do a lot of drawings is to have fun with every drawing.

Those are My Tips Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

Keep them in mind as you begin exploring your colored pencils and your art journey will get off to a much better start.

They also work for those of us who have been making art for a while.

Sometimes we forget!