Sanded Art Paper & Drawing Paper: 5 Differences

Have you tried sanded art paper with colored pencil yet?

If you haven’t, you may be wondering why you should. After all, isn’t it just like drawing on sand paper from the local hardware store? (And who wants to do that?)

That’s the way I thought before my first experiments with sanded art paper. I almost didn’t try it, because I just couldn’t see how it would work.

But I’m glad I took the plunge! There are a lot of differences between sanded art paper and traditional drawing paper. Some pretty big—and surprising—differences.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

Now that I’ve created several pieces on sanded art papers, it’s time to share with you what I’ve learned. Both good and bad.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Drawing Paper

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper. More recently, Clairefontaine Pastelmat has entered the market.

In another post, I described 6 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil. A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sandpaper.

I’ve used only Uart and Fisher 400. Following are five of the biggest differences I discovered.

Paper Strength

This is a good difference.

Sanded papers are much stronger than most traditional papers. The substrate itself is heavier than most drawing paper. Combined with the coating of grit, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally damage the paper, so you can be as aggressive in applying color as you like.

Many sanded art papers are also available mounted to rigid supports for even better durability.

An additional upside to this is that you do not have to frame sanded art paper under glass if you don’t want to. It’s advisable, but not absolutely necessary, as is the case with traditional art papers.

Detailed Line Drawings

Transferring a detailed line drawing is difficult. You can’t use a light box because the paper is so thick. Transfer papers of any type are also unsatisfactory on some of the coarser surfaces.

I’ve found this difference to be less than ideal. I like detailed line drawings when I do portraits. For a while, that made sanded art papers a no-go for me.

But many artists use the grid method or a projector to transfer their drawings. Both are acceptable alternatives to regular transfer papers, and both give great results.

Another alternative is light sketching right on the paper. I usually start landscapes with just a basic sketch, so most of my drawings on sanded art paper have been landscapes.

August Morning in Kansas
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

August Morning in Kansas (above) is one of the most recent and it’s the best one so far. I’ve started all of them with simple sketches.

Sharp Pencils

You don’t need sharp pencils to work with sanded paper. In fact, sharp pencils can be a detriment. They break easily on the gritty surface, and even if they don’t, you get two or three strokes before they go blunt.

So forget sharpening. Use your pencils more like pastels. It’ll be a lot less frustrating.

Forget preserving your pencils, too. Sanded art paper quite literally “eats them for lunch!”

But that’s not as bad as it sounds, because most of that color is going onto the paper. Yes, pencils wear down more quickly, but you’re building color more quickly, too. The details in the trees in August Morning in Kansas are lighter colors applied over darker colors.

And just in case you’ve heard the rumors about pigment dust when you draw on sanded papers, it’s true. But you probably haven’t heard that you can use a bristle brush to push that dust into the tooth of the paper so it’s not wasted!

Show me another drawing paper you can do that with!

Pigment dust can be dry blended into sanded art paper.
Use brushes like this to dry blend pigment dust into the surface of sanded art paper.

Thick Color Layers

Thick layers of color work better than thin glazes. Even with the smoothest sanded papers, the tooth is such that getting an even color layer is next to impossible without solvent.

And light pressure? Forget it. Medium to medium-heavy pressure is going to be a lot more productive.

The best part? You can absolutely layer light over dark and it will show up. Try that with any traditional drawing paper.

Is this a good difference or a bad one?

I haven’t made up my mind yet. I have a naturally light hand so working on sanded art papers requires a definite adjustment in working methods.

But as I mentioned above, I can add so many layers even with medium pressure or heavier, that working on sanded paper is getting less and less frustrating.

Excellent Tooth

If you’ve ever had trouble getting colored pencil to stick after a certain number of layers, the tooth of sanded art paper is a good difference.

Granted, it will take a lot more layers to get fine detail if that’s what you’re after and you may find the extra layers not to be worth the trouble.

But if you take the time, the tooth will definitely work for you.

This little drawing (3-1/2 by 2-1/2) is the first drawing I did on sanded art paper. I drew it like I always draw and the tooth didn’t help. See all those dots in the sky? Paper holes. I wasn’t able to fill in the tooth at all, and although the result was very painterly, I didn’t like it.

Spring in CP
Spring in Colored Pencil
Colored Pencil on Sanded Paper

It took a long time before I tried colored pencil on sanded paper again, but the results were much more satisfactory. I was already learning how to use sanded art paper.

East of Camp Creek
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

Conclusion

If you give sanded art papers a try, be prepared to do some bad drawings for the first few. It’s a great drawing surface, but there is a very definite learning curve!

Even so, I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different.

Interested in reading more? I wrote a good mini clinic for EmptyEasel based on that first, small drawing. I think you’ll find it useful. Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See

Dan Duhrkoop, founder of EmptyEasel and author of How to Draw Exactly What You See, asked if I would provide a review of his book if he sent me a copy.

I love books, reading, and art, so I said, “Sure!” (Who doesn’t like free, if it’s something they can use?)

Ordinarily, I don’t accept freebies because it almost always leads to unwanted obligations. But I’ve been freelance writing for EmptyEasel since 2012 and have a good working relationship with the author of this book, who is also the founder of EmptyEasel.

Even so, my review is unbiased. I’d say the same things if I’d purchased the book on my own, and didn’t know Dan!

So let’s get to it, shall we?

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See - Book Cover

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See – My Review

From the Introduction:

Whether you’re a brand-new artist with zero training, or a more experienced artist looking to improve your drawing skills, this guide will teach you everything you need to know to look at a still life scene and draw it EXACTLY as it appears.

I’m not a still life artist. I love looking at well done still life artwork, and I can look at the produce section in the grocery store and see sorts of possible subject. But that’s as far as it usually goes. I have next to no interest in drawing my own. So I wasn’t sure what this book could offer me or how it could help me improve my drawing skills.

One look at the cover, and you may be thinking the same thing. Don’t let that put you off. If you do, you’ll be missing a great opportunity.

And if you do enjoy still life drawing of any kind—in studio or plein air—then you’ll want this book. It covers every step of the process from basic composition and setting up your own still life to sketching what you see and rendering it realistically in graphite.

If you’re just getting started drawing, the book also contains over a dozen high-quality still life images from very easy to quite complex. You’ll start out ahead of the game!

Putting the Draw EXACTLY What You See Method to the Test

As I mentioned, I’m not a still life artist, but I did intend to do some still life drawings just to see how they turned out. A number of things derailed that plan, so my first trial with the author’s drawing method concerned a dog portrait I’d been having fits trying to get right.

That difficult portrait line drawing turned out so well using Dan’s drawing method that I decided to try another one for this review. I am so glad I did!

My Demo Subject

This is the reference photo I chose for this demo. I chose it for two reasons.

The first and most important is that the cat is our oldest cat, Thomas. We’ve had him since mid-2003, when we saw him and a litter mate playing in the gutter while we were out walking. They were our first rescues. Thomas recently died and I wanted to do his portrait.

Second, I have always loved the golden light of late evening and liked this photo of Thomas, taken when he was at his prime. Now that he’s gone, that westward gaze into the sunset seems somehow appropriate.

How to Draw Exactly What You See - The Reference Photo
Thomas, Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Second, the drawing method described in How to Draw EXACTLY What You See starts with marking off each of the places where the subject leaves the composition. This photo of Thomas focuses so closely on his face and eye that one ear leaves the composition as well as the back of his neck and his upper chest. That made it perfect for this demo.

Preparing the Image

Since I wasn’t working from life, I had to make a few adjustments. But I prepared the reference photo as much according to the steps in the book as possible.

I used GIMP (a free photo editor download) to add a wide white border around the reference photo and then mark with a red line each place where an edge leaves the composition. Edges included Thomas’ markings.

Marked up reference, showing each of the places where an edge goes off the picture.

Then I printed the reference photo above, and the picture plane (below) on a blank sheet to draw on. I was able to do that because I put the border and marks on a separate layer added to the photo in GIMP. All I had to do was hide the image and print the new layer. (If you’d like to see a tutorial on that, let me know.)

Picture plane with edge marks. I don’t have to worry about measuring because the black border and red marks are the same ones I put over the reference photo!

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See

Step 1: Start with negative spaces

The first step is to make a contour drawing of the negative space using the edge markings as a guide. However, I was so focused on drawing Thomas that I totally forgot that step.

Had I remembered, these blue shapes are the shapes I would have drawn. All of the light blue is negative space. Just two large, fairly simple shapes. (That’s another reason I chose this reference photo.

Draw the negative spaces as accurately as you can. According to the author, this is a good way to “trick” your brain into accurately drawing shapes instead of drawing what it thinks it sees.

Don’t be frustrated if it’s difficult at first. Just choose a mark and draw the shape as best you can. Measure and erase if it needs correction.

The negative space in any composition is the space around the subject.

Step 2: Rough in the subject

Next, block in the subject with light pressure and loose lines. I didn’t draw very many interior details and instead focused on the big shapes. The eye, the ear, and the nose and mouth.

I roughed in the dark patches of hair, too, but only because they’re such a big part of the drawing.

Step 3: Start drawing details

When the rough sketch was as accurate as I could make it, I went back over the entire drawing again. I corrected and adjusted lines by measuring the distance between edges on the reference photo, and then on the line drawing.

This step involves a lot of erasing. You can see faint smudges and even a few eraser crumbs around that off-side ear. That’s why I used an ordinary number 2 pencil. I can make light lines to begin with, then draw steadily darker lines, and I can also easily erase mistakes.

Besides, I have a drawer full of ordinary number 2 pencils; why not use them!

Step 4: Fine-tune the drawing

After that round of work was done, I went over the drawing again and fine-tuned it still more. I added interior details like whisker lines, creases in the fur, and other things. The outside lines are darker, but those interior details will help me when I get started with colored pencil work.

How to Draw Exactly What You See--The Finished Line Drawing

It took three days to develop this drawing of Thomas and I confess that when I stepped back and looked at what I’d done, I cried. It looked so much like Thomas.

That’s How to Draw Exactly What You See…

…even if it isn’t a still life!

As I said before, the book focuses on drawing still life subjects, but as you can see here, it can easily be adapted to other subjects. Even portrait work!

Whether you’re new to drawing or just looking for a better way to create line drawings, I recommend this book. You can get the first three chapters of How to Draw Exactly What You See – A Drawing Guide free!

You can also see my first trial with this drawing method.

How to Draw Black Fur with Colored Pencils

Welcome Peggy Osborne back for a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to draw black fur.

Peggy’s tutorial comes in response to discussions about the difficulty of accurately and realistically drawing black fur that she’s seen (and participated in) on social media. As an artist specializing in horses for so many years, I know from personal experience how difficult black can be.

So here’s Peggy to explain how she dos it!

How to Draw Black Fur Step-by-Step

by Peggy Osborne

I hear it all the time.

Drawing black fur is hard. How do I keep from just having 2 eyes floating in a black blob?

Black fur does have variations in shading and can also have a number of other colors in it depending on the lighting. The fur in shadow is very dark while the highlighted fur is lighter. Those highlights are where you see different colors.

If the lighting is warm, you will see tones of peach, golden colors, browns. If the lighting is cool, you will see tones of blue, violet, greens.

In this reference photo, I see a lot of cool colors in the highlights.

The reference photo for How to Draw Black Fur
Image by brandog from Pixabay

I will be drawing this with Prismacolors and a few Polychromos colored pencils on light grey Pastelmat paper. The nice thing about Pastelmat is that you can layer light colors on top of dark colors. Although I usually always work from light to dark, this will help to add more details in the end.

Getting started with the eyes and face

My first step is to draw a detailed map/sketch of the reference.

The line drawing for How to Draw Black Fur

Then I start with the eyes using various brown, orange, and cream tones.

How to Draw Black Fur - Drawing the Eyes

For the black fur, I started out layering White, Light Blue, Greyed Lavender. I gradually add layers of fur-like strokes with darker colors like Cool Grey 20%, Slate Grey, and 50% Cool Grey.

I keep adding darker strokes of Violet and Indigo Blue. In the very darkest areas I use strokes of Black in random areas to give the fur a more realistic texture.

Blocking in and drawing the rest of the head

I start blocking in the rest of the head with initial light layers to show where the darks and lights go. I use a light touch and draw in the direction that the fur grows.

Here I have used White, Light Blue, Greyed Lavender, and Slate Grey.

As you can see these drawings require lots of layers to achieve the realistic look I’m aiming for and the Pastelmat paper is perfect for that as it holds lots and lots of layers.

How to Draw Black Fur

This ear was completed with many, many layers of Light Blue, Indigo Blue, Greyed Lavender, Violet, Cool Greys, and Black. I repeated the layers, adding the lighter colors in the highlights and darker colors in the deep shadows.

The first layers are applied with a light touch, and I increase pressure as I build up layers, always looking at the reference photo, and following the way the fur grows.

Trying new tools

With this portrait, I tried a new product, to me, to pull out little hair like textures…. The Slice tool. I’d heard many good things about it and decided to try it for myself.

It works very well. You can see where I used it along the top edge of the ear where I was able to create some little hairs for more texture.

Finishing the head and ears

For the next steps I basically follow the same process as before. Layering the colors following the direction of the fur growth. I use the same colors throughout the dog since he is the same color overall.

I’ve completed the left side of the face and started on the other side and ear. This photo shows about 4 or 5 layers.

How to Draw Black Fur - Drawing the face and head.

This photo shows 4 or 5 more layers.

I will probably add another 4 or 5 layers to complete this section, maybe more. The Pastelmat paper has a different finish than regular paper and it takes many, many layers to fill the tooth of the paper. I like to fill the tooth of my paper when I work, not leaving any little dots of the paper showing through.

Drawing the muzzle

Always make sure to follow the reference photo very closely. I’m layering the same colors I have been using throughout, blues, Greyed Lavender, cool greys, Violet, etc. I use White in the lightest areas.

I’m using a sharp point and a light touch going with the direction of the hair growth.

The next steps on the muzzle are just adding more and more layers, alternating colors and adding the lightest colors to the lighter areas and the darker colors to the darker areas. I continued this process up along the right side of the face and ear finishing off that area.

Once I have as many layers as I need, I use the Slice tool to scrape out some teeny tiny hairs along the muzzle to add more texture.

I also scraped out a few more highlights along the ears and where the light hits the face and bone structure. I use Black along with my darkest cool grey and Indigo Blue to really punch up the darkest shadows.

The nose is basically an extension of the muzzle using all the same colors. I use a circular motion with a light touch when drawing the nose, building up the layers as I work.

The nostril is super dark as it is in shadow and the top of the nose is in highlight. In the end, I take my electric eraser and tap the nose erasing tiny dots from the nose to add texture.

Drawing the Black Fur on the Chest

The next two photos show the chest area. There should be less detail here so the focus on this lovely dog’s face is not lost. I use the same colors but use a looser stroke. I laid out the darkest areas with black and the lightest areas with white. The mid layers are created using violets and blues.

Then I continue adding layers with all the other colors I have used throughout this painting. I still follow the direction of the fur but with a looser stroke.

Here is more done on the chest area, once again just building up those layers.

Making Adjustments and Adding Final Details

At this point I use the reference photo to compare values and color to each other. I can see I need to add more violet to the painting and darken the overall picture.

How to Draw Black Fur - Side by side comparison of the reference photo and portrait help you see where you need to make color and detail adjustments.

So I add a wash of Black Grape throughout the dog, and Black in the darker areas. Then I use solvent to smoothly blend all this together. This gives the more realistic look to the painting and looks more like the reference photo.

TIP: When doing commissions you want to continue to look at the reference photo to get as close a likeness as possible. You aren’t just drawing a dog, you are drawing the client’s dog.

Finishing off the muzzle and chin area with all my blues and cool greys. I used the Slice tool to add the whiskers .

One last step I do to check values is to turn the original and art into black and white.

How to Draw Black Fur - Convert your reference and portrait to black-and-white for a side-by-side comparison of values.

I finished tweaking the portrait by zooming in to areas on the original photo and putting in as many details as I can see on the drawing. Little stray hairs along the ears, (scraped out with the Slice tool) , adjusting the nose just a bit and overall highlights and darkening in areas that need it. And a few more whiskers.

And here is the finished piece.

How to Draw Black Fur - The finished portrait.

Hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed working on it.

Now you’re seen how to draw black fur using Peggy’s method.

Use the same process to create your own drawings of animals with black fur.

If you missed it, check out Peggy’s previous tutorial, How to Draw a Long Haired Dog.

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.

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy.

Preparing a Reference Photo

Today, I’d like to talk about preparing a reference photo. There are a lot of ways to do this, so I’ll keep it simple and describe some of the things I do almost all the time.

Most of my work in the past was for portraits, but I’ve also used these methods to turn so-so reference photos into great (or at least better) reference photos for my own work. They can help you do the same.

NOTE: This post is not intended to be a step-by-step tutorial. There are too many photo editors on the market to make that possible. I use three different pieces of software as needed, and I will link to them below.

Preparing a Reference Photo for a Portrait

Preparing a Reference Photo

Preparing reference photos is important whether you’re doing a portrait, an exhibit piece, or something for yourself or a friend. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should be an important part of your creative process.

My sample was for a portrait, but I’ve also taken the same steps with my own pieces, with animal art, landscapes, and the occasional still life.

I used a photograph taken by photographer Mark Adair, whom I want to thank for allowing me to use his work. Thanks, Mark!

Mark provided a great selection of images, so there was a lot of material at my fingertips. This is the image the client chose.

Preparing a Reference Photo for a Portrait - The Original Reference Photo
Photo by Mark Adair

Composition

The first thing you should always do is start with the most basic stuff: Configuration and composition.

The portrait was 16 inches by 20 inches in size, so the first thing to do was crop the reference photo to the same dimensions as the final portrait. I usually make 8 x 10s of printed reference photos (unless the drawing is complex,) so I cropped this image to 8 x 10 as well.

I used Irfanview for this image. Irfanview is a free down-loadable program. Somewhat limited in scope, it still does almost everything I need to do to prepare digital reference photos.

Since this is a pretty straight forward project, there wasn’t much to do with composing. I placed the horse a little bit to the right of center, so he was trotting into the space. I also placed him a little bit above center. That put his head next to one of the four “sweet spots” according to the rule of thirds (see below.)

You’ll notice that the knee of the raised front leg is also near one of those sweet spots, and a third one falls over the crossed back legs. All three are centers of interest, though the head is the most important of the three.

That wasn’t my intention. I usually focus on the head, even in full body portraits, but this is icing on the cake, so to speak.

Once you have the composition nailed down and the digital image is the same proportions as the your artwork, you can start making smaller adjustments.

Fine-Tuning the Reference Photo

Most photo editors provide the opportunity to adjust photos in dozens of ways from adding special effects to creating halftones or sepia tones (or almost any other tone.)

When you prepare a photo reference for portrait work, you probably won’t care about all those other features. But there are some adjustments you should consider.

Contrast

The key to a successful portrait is contrast. The light values need to be light enough and the dark values need to be dark enough.

If your photo reference doesn’t show clear light and dark values, now is the time to tinker with contrast.

Adjust the contrast and brightness of the photo a little, reviewing the results after each adjustment. Continue to experiment until you either find a contrast setting you like, or decide to go with the original settings.

Changing the contrast even a lot didn’t do much for this photo. The initial adjustment made so little difference that I tried a more dramatic adjustment. Here’s what I ended up with. Can you tell the difference between this and the original reference? I couldn’t.

Color Corrections

Sometimes it helps to adjust the color settings. Most photo editors can adjust each of the three primary colors individually or all of them together. Depending on your software, you may be able to make a lot of complex adjustments, or just a few simple ones. Whatever the case, it’s worthwhile to experiment to see what happens.

Canva is a good online option. Canva is a graphic designer. I use it to create the memes in my posts and to make illustrations that contain more than one image.

But they have a great photo editor and it’s free to use. Just open an account, upload images, and try any number of adjustments without changing the original image.

GIMP is also a good option. It’s a free download and works a lot like Photoshop, but the learning curve is pretty steep. I’m still trying to figure out a lot of the features.

I made color corrections in Irfanview and came up with the photo below. Again, I didn’t see a lot of difference between it and the original image, so I decided I was finished preparing the reference photo. Contrast and color could be adjusted as I worked on the portrait. That’s one of the advantages of drawing horses for over 40 years!

Conclusion

Additional changes to the composition—such as leaving out elements or moving them around—could be done in a photo editor, but I usually prefer to do those things while making the line drawing.

The real secret to this process is taking your own reference photos and making as many of these changes as possible in that process. The better the photographs you take, the fewer adjustments you’ll need to make now!

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How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Today’s post is a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to draw folds of cloth.

The cloth in my demonstration is white and somewhat silky, but the basic principles I’m about to describe apply to any type of fabric that folds or drapes.

It also works with any color or method of draping or folding. Just break down the drawing process into these steps and you can’t go far wrong.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Tips for Drawing Cloth

Before we get into the tutorial, lets talk a little bit about basic tips on how to draw folds of cloth (or pretty much any subject.)

First of all, take time to look at the cloth you’re drawing. Really study it. What’s the surface texture? Is the cloth lightweight or heavy? Is it soft or silky, smooth or woolly?

If it’s a soft cloth like this t-shirt, the values are likely to fade softly one into another. The only exceptions to this rule are the cast shadows, where one fold of cloth casts a shadow on another part, and where something else casts a shadow on the cloth. Those shadows almost always have hard edges.

Knowing how to draw folds of cloth starts with taking a good look at your subject. What type of cloth is it? How does it reflect light?
Soft cloth, soft shadows and soft edges between values except for the cast shadows.
Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Shiny cloth like catches and reflects light differently than soft cloth. The transitions between values can be much more dramatic and often have sharper edges.

It’s also more likely to show reflected light and color from the objects around it. This sample shows traces of blue since I photographed it outside on a clear, sunny day.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth: Shiny cloth reflects light differently than soft cloth.
Shiny cloth has sharper transitions between light and dark values, often with more dramatic shifts.
Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Environmental light has more of an influence on shiny cloth than on soft cloth. Both of the garments shown above are white, but I photographed the silky cloth in the early evening so the white has more of a yellow tint.

Also notice that the middle values look bluer on the silky material than on the t-shirt because they’re reflecting more sky color than the t-shirt would in the same lighting conditions.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth

Project Details

My demo drawing is drawn on Stonehenge 98lb white paper. I used Prismacolor pencils, but you can successfully complete this tutorial with any brand of colored pencils and on any drawing paper.

I also drew it in grayscale, using one gray pencil and black. You can do the same tutorial with other colors if you wish, though drawing in grayscale is a great way to practice drawing values.

This is the reference photo. Feel free to use it for your own practice.

Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Step 1: Sketch the Folds of Cloth

I started by lightly sketching the cloth with Cold Grey 70%. I didn’t outline many of the shadows, but you’ll notice I did lightly outline the main highlight on the most prominent fold on the left side of the drawing.

This sketch is drawn a little darker than I usually sketch so it shows up in a scan. You’ll want to keep your line drawing quite light so the lines disappear into the drawing as you layer. Sketching or transferring your line drawing with light pressure also avoids indenting the lines into the paper.

Step 2: Begin Shading

I used a combination of strokes and two or three layers of Cold Grey 70% to draw a light value in each of the more clearly defined cast shadows.

First, I blocked in each shadow with light pressure so they were all the same value. Then I went over some parts again to darken the values.

Cast shadows are shadows caused when one object throws (or casts) a shadow on another object. In this case, the cast shadows happen where one part of the cloth throws a shadow on another part.

Form shadows happen where each fold curves away from the light source.

Unlike cast shadows, they usually have softer edges and transition smoothly from light values into dark values. The shapes of form shadows can be indistinct, especially on cloth, but they give shape to the cloth.

I used a couple of different shading methods for the middle values. I started out on the left by shading the darker values first, then the lighter values.

That didn’t produce the softness of value I wanted, so I started shading a light value over each shape, working around the lighter values and highlights. Then I added more layers to draw the darker values.

Also, instead of using a sharp pencil, I worked with a slightly dull one and sharpened it only when it developed a flat wedge angle. A dull pencil covers more paper with each stroke and the marks have softer edges.

About half of the cloth shaded with light values. It’s already beginning to take shape. The contrast I draw, then more three-dimensional it will look.

Step 3: Blend with Paper Towel (optional)

At this point you can lightly blend with paper towel or bath tissue to smooth out the values a little more. A paper towel blend is ideal for softening color or value, but it works best with a little more pigment on the paper.

If you prefer not to blend with paper towel, skip to the next step.

I blended the right fold with paper towel, but left the other side unblended for comparison.

Step 4: Darken the Values

You can continue to darken values with Cold Grey 70% or switch to a darker pencil. It will take more layers with Cold Grey 70% than Cold Grey 90% or even black, and the resulting values will not be quite as dark.

But it is good practice to push values as much as you can with a single pencil.

Because time was of the essence for me, I switched to Prismacolor Black, and repeated the same process already described.

I used a sharp pencil and small, controlled strokes with medium pressure to draw the cast shadows along the hem of the fabric.

The goal was to begin defining the subtle variations in values in these shadows, so I worked slowly and carefully from one section of shadow to the next.

Then I continued layering Black with light pressure and a sharp pencil to add more definition and volume to the folds of cloth.

Darken the values in the cast shadow layer by layer. You may have to increase the pressure somewhat, but always use the lightest pressure possible.

Next, I continued using Black and light pressure to darken the values in the form shadows, especially around the darkest cast shadow near the center of the drawing. I followed the same process here: Starting with a single lightly applied layer to darken each form shadow, then adding more layers as needed to create more variations.

Form shadows generally have smoother transitions from one value to another. The more the object–in this case cloth–is curved, the sharper the edges are more likely to be. Notice the difference between the large fold on the right and the smaller folds on the left.

Finishing the Drawing

From this point on, finishing the drawing is mostly a matter of adjusting values, refining details, and bringing the drawing as close to the reference as you want.

At this stage, I continue to refer to my reference photo, but less and less. Instead, my focus is on balancing the values in the cast shadows and form shadows so they relate correctly to one another.

I’m also paying closer attention to the edges and transitions between values, especially around the highlights.

As mentioned above, I chose to do this using only two colors: Cold Grey 70% and Black. But it could easily have been turned into a color piece by glazing blues over the drawing. The fabric in the reference photo shows a lot of blue because it reflected that color from the sky.

Here’s the finished demo piece.

How to Draw Folds of Cloth - The Finished Drawing

That’s How to Draw Folds of Cloth

That’s how I drew this piece of smooth, silky cloth. As I mentioned above you can take the same steps to draw any type of cloth.

In fact, if you really want to learn how to draw folds of cloth, the best thing you can do is draw lots of it. Draw different types of cloth and different cloths of cloth either from life (if you can set up a still life in strong light) or from reference photos. Pixabay is a great place to find all sorts of fabrics and you can download images for free.

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Colors for Under Drawing Waves

What are the best colors for under drawing waves?

Should you use the umber under drawing method that’s so good for landscapes or would some other color work better?

I get a lot of questions about drawing water, and it’s no surprise. Water is beautiful to look at but difficult to draw.

But the following question is unique in that the reader wanted to know, well…. Let her tell you.

Really got a lot out of your articles on under drawings for landscapes and understand why you would go with an earth color such as light umber for all that green

I love seascapes so I’ve been thinking that if it’s going to be a “cold” ocean then perhaps a 50% cool gray would be appropriate, but if it’s going to be a warmly lit ocean then maybe a 50% French or warm gray would be better for the under drawing. I’ll remember to leave the lightest areas blank on the under drawing.

What do you think? I’m a relative newcomer to colored pencil, just a few months of working on small pieces. I have lots of Prismacolor Premier and Verithins as well as the three trays of Polychromos.

Thank you so much!

Thank you to my reader for her question, which I answered personally and directly.

However, after sending her answer, I thought the question was well worth answering publicly, as well. After all, this reader isn’t the only artist interested in drawing waves!

Colors for Under Drawing Waves

A public response also gives me an opportunity to expand on my personal answer and to provide a few examples for everyone.

Colors for Under Drawing Waves

Colors Not to Use

I almost always start with an umber under drawing. That’s my favorite drawing method because it works so well with animals and landscapes.

But there some instances in which an umber under drawing probably isn’t the best choice. For example, I never under draw a clear sky with an earth tone. The reason is that the colors in the sky should be pure and don’t need to be toned down.

So my first inclination would be not to go with an earth tone to under draw water. Especially translucent water like a wave. Earth tones (and complements) tend to tone down the final color. That’s why they work so well with a landscape, where you don’t want brilliant color.

You wouldn’t want to use a complementary under drawing either, and for the same reasons. Complementary colors naturally neutralize each other. Perfect for a landscapes.

Not great for waves.

Waves need to look like light is coming through them and an earth tone or complementary color could make it more difficult to achieve that look.

The Color of Waves

Something else to keep in mind is that water is highly reflective. It “assumes” the color of the light around it.

Water looks blue under a blue sky because it reflects the color of the sky. The same water at sunset takes on the colors of the evening sky.

Waves emphasize that because the light shines through them. The time of day and the location of the light source determine what colors you’ll see in a wave.

A wave on a clear day.

This wave is lighted from the upper right (notice where the wave is shadowed) on a sunny day. The sand or rocks in the lower left give it a yellow look, but the main colors are blues. The dark blue is reflected by the light from the sky. The light blue is the result of light shining through the water.

The first colors I’d use to draw the wave above are shades of blue. Probably very light blue with a slight greenish tint, such as the color you see in the crest of the wave. Prismacolor Light Aqua or Faber-Castell Polychromos Light Phthalo Green would be good choices.

For the flatter water in back, I’d choose a darker blue. Maybe Prismacolor True Blue or Polychromos Cobalt Blue.

A wave lighted from behind on a cloudy day.

Here’s a wave lighted from behind. The yellow light of the sun gives the wave a green tint. Notice that even the white foam is really a yellow color. Perhaps even yellow-green.

The first colors you put on this drawing should reflect those local colors. Prismacolor Olive Green or Polychromos Permanent Olive Green in the darkest areas of the wave and Prismacolor Chartreuse or Yellow Chartreuse or Polychromos Light Green in the brightest areas.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

A wave lighted from behind at sunset.

The lighting and color on this wave is totally different than any of the others in this post. This is the only one I would even think about using an earth tone for and that’s because it’s such a golden-brown color to begin with.

I’d start a drawing of this wave with Prismacolor Yellow Ochre, Spanish Orange, or Golden rod or Polychromos Dark Naples Ochre where the light shines through the water. In the darker areas, Prismacolor Burnt Ochre or Sienna Brown or Polychromos Brown Ochre or Raw Sienna would be good choices.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How to Choose Colors for Under Drawing a Wave

Choosing colors for under drawing waves doesn’t have to be complicated. The key to success is studying your reference photo to see what colors you see. Remember that no two artists see color the exact same way, so trust yourself.

Then start with the lightest shade of the local (final) colors you see and gradually build the values through layering different colors and values together.

Work around the highlights in each area, especially if you’re working on white paper.

If you’re still not sure about color selection, the best option is to do some swatches first. Select the colors you think you’ll use for the final colors, then try layering them over different colors (earth tones, grays, lighter shades of the same colors,) and see which combinations give you the best results.

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1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Is there a sure-fire way to draw realistic landscape greens most of the time?

Short answer, yes.

The question is, what’s the best solution for you?

I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself, but I can share with you the method that helps me draw landscapes that look like landscapes, no matter what shades of green, what time of year, or what the lighting conditions.

1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Landscape greens can be the most difficult colors to get right in any medium. Most of us have drawn landscapes in which the greens are too soft and muted or are way too bold and artificial.

My Favorite Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Over the years, I’ve used several methods to draw landscapes. My favorite method to draw realistic landscape greens is beginning with an umber under drawing, then glazing color.

The first few layers of color you put on the paper are called the under drawing. An under drawing can be a single color, two or three colors, a limited palette, or lighter shades of the final colors.

When the under drawing is in earth tones, it’s called an umber under drawing. You can use any earth tone, but the best choices are generally medium-value, neutral colors like Prismacolor Light Umber or Polychromos Nougat or Raw Umber. Once I discovered umber under drawing, my landscapes began to look like they were supposed to look.

Learn how the umber under drawing method compares to other colored pencil drawing methods.

Step 1: How to Begin an Umber Under Drawing

The process is simple. Develop your landscape first in all earth tones. Choose one or two browns—three at most—and draw the entire landscape with those colors.

I prefer Prismacolor Light or Dark Umber, usually use just Light Umber. It’s possible to get a nice value range with Light Umber simply by adding layers. The more layers, the darker the value.

You don’t want to get too dark too quickly, and you also want to avoid developing details too quickly, so draw the under drawing with several layers applied with light pressure.

You can also use a tinted paper, as I did with the drawing below. The paper is Rising Stonehenge in a very light tan color. The color of the paper provided the lightest values for the drawing.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 1
Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to begin shading values. Start with the shadows, then gradually darken values and add middle values layer by layer.

Step 2: Develop Detail & Values

Use a variety of strokes to mimic each element of the landscape. Short vertical strokes with a sharp pencil for grass, stippling (dotted) or circular strokes with a sharp to slightly blunt pencil for trees (use a sharper pencil in trees close to the foreground and a blunter pencil for more distant trees), and the sides of the pencil to lay down even color in the distance.

Define the center of interest early by drawing the darkest shapes near the center of interest or in the foreground and keeping other parts of the drawing more subdued.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 2
Keep the darkest values and sharpest details in and around the center of interest (the tree on the left.)

Step 3: Finishing the Umber Under Drawing

You can make the under drawing as detailed as you like. When I draw horses, I generally draw a more detailed under drawing, because I want the under drawing to look like a finished drawing on its own.

But with landscapes, I develop just enough light and shadow to define the landscape elements and to begin depicting the sense of space (pictorial depth or aerial perspective).

Glaze color over the finished under drawing layer by layer with light pressure. Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so the umber under drawing tones down the greens you glaze over it. Even if you appear to totally cover all of the under drawing, its influence is still present.

draw realistic landscape greens
Spring 2012, 4×6 Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

Want to See How I Drew Realistic Landscape Greens Step-by-Step?

I drew this landscape as a demonstration piece for EmptyEasel.com. To see the full, step-by-step demonstration on EmptyEasel.

How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Underpainting

Color Glazing a Landscape Painting with Colored Pencils

The Basics of Reflected Light

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.

The Basics of Reflected Light

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

Inanimate Objects

A natural light source (the sun) in an outdoor setting, illuminates these books and their surroundings. The light source is strong and direct.

Reflected Light on Books

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.

Reflected Light on Books 2

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.

Reflected light and animate objects.

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.

 Conclusion

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.

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How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step

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 Step by Step

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.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog, The Reference Photo
Photo by HG-Fotografie on Pixabay

I first transferred the image onto my paper using transfer paper. A sketch is like a road map for me.

Step 1: The Line Drawing on Drawing Paper

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.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Step 2: Blocking in the Eyes

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.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Step 3: Drawing the Fur

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.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step: The Finishing Touches

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.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Color Comparison

Another trick which helps me find my values is turning the comparison photo into a black and white photo.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step Value Comparison

And this is the finished portrait.

How to Draw a Long Haired Dog Step by Step: 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.

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies

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.

The condition (long or short, straight or curly) and color is vital to capturing a good likeness of your canine subject.

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.

Keep the setting in mind when drawing dogs and puppies. Sometimes, the dog’s surroundings are as important as the dog.

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!

Look for the light in any portrait. How the light falls on the dog (or any subject) can either bring the portrait to life or keep it flat and uninteresting.

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.

General Tips

  • 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.

Short Hair

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.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair Sample

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

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.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long 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.

Tips for Drawing Dogs and Puppies - Long Hair Sample

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.

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