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 some of the methods I’ve found that help me draw landscapes that look like landscapes, no matter what shades of green, what time of year, or what the lighting conditions.

That’s our subject for the week and we begin today with a description of the method I use most often.

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 light 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.

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 light umber and dark umber and 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.

Landscape Umber Under Drawing 1

How to 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 in the drawing process by drawing the darkest shapes near the center of interest or in the foreground and keeping other parts of the drawing more subdued.

Landscape Umber Under Drawing 2

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. 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).

Once the under drawing is finished, glaze local color. Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so the umber under drawing will tone 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

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

4 Colored Pencil Mistakes I’ve Made (And How You Can Avoid Them)

Colored pencil mistakes. If you’ve drawing for any length of time, you’ve made them.

4 Mistakes I've Made with Colored Pencil

We’ve all done it. Made some mistake with a drawing that frustrates us at best and can necessitate starting over at worst (don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s ever done that!).

Artists like learning new ways of doing things. We want to be more creative and more productive. We want to learn how to do things in the best possible way.

Most of the time, though, the best way to learn how to do something right is by discovering all the ways to do it wrong.

So here are four things I’ve learned how to do right by doing them wrong!

Four Common Colored Pencil Mistakes

Mistake #1: Destroying Highlights

I was an oil painter for nearly twenty years before I started with colored pencils. I was accustomed to being able to add opaque highlights over everything else because oil paints are well suited to that process.

Colored pencils, on the other hand, are not.

I started with Prismacolor pencils because that’s what was available where I lived when I first started using colored pencils. I didn’t shop online (it wasn’t widely available way back then) and I had no idea there were other brands of colored pencils.

Or that Prismacolor pencils were wax-based or that there were oil-based pencils.

I used what I had and what I had wouldn’t allow me to add highlights over everything else. Usually because there was already too much pigment and wax on the paper by then, but also because all colored pencils are more or less translucent. Lighter colors simply disappear when applied over dark colors.

So I was forever creating colored pencil artwork with few or no bright highlights.

And I hated them!

How to Avoid It

hoof-drawing-demo-03I eventually began outlining highlights during the drawing process. It was much easier to work around highlights if I knew in advance where they were. It’s still all-too-easy to layer color over the highlights, but it happens much less frequently than it used to.

I’ve also started outlining shadows, as the drawing at the right shows. The heaviest lines are the outside edges. I use a medium weight dotted line to define the strongest shadows and a light, dotted or broken line to outline highlights. Those lines are all transferred when the drawing is transferred, so I have a clear map for developing highlights and shadows.

I’ve also learned how to lift color after it’s on the paper. For highlights with extremely soft edges, I now glaze color lightly over the highlight, then lift color from the brightest areas with an eraser, sticky-stuff, or tape.

It’s also possible to burnish a lighter color over a darker color to create a subtle highlight.

Use all three methods to draw a range of highlights.

Mistake #2: Getting Too Dark Too Soon

I like my colored pencil drawings to look like my oil paintings. It is possible, but it takes a light hand and lots of layers. When I was first getting started with colored pencils, I didn’t know that and I often put too many darks on the paper too early in the drawing process.

And often over the highlights (see Mistake #1).

How to Avoid Getting Too Dark Too Soon

limitedpalettedogdetail1-carrielewisUse light pressure and light colors at the beginning of the drawing. Glaze colors carefully and work slowly to avoid getting too dark too quickly. The illustration at right shows several layers of color and you can still see paper through it. Even with darker colors, this technique helps you keep from going too dark to quickly.

Use harder, dryer pencils like Prismacolor Verithin pencils for work in the first stages. They go onto the paper more lightly and are easier to erase if necessary.

They also contain less wax, so you can add a lot of layers without filling in the paper tooth. Because they contain less wax, softer pencils can be applied over them with ease.

Mistake #3: Giving Up on Drawings Because They’re Ugly

These two mistakes led invariably to my third mistake: Giving up on drawings. I might add, giving up too soon, but in most cases, any time I gave up, it was too soon. A little more work, and I could have gotten past the problem.

How to Avoid Giving Up on a Drawing

The most important thing I’ve learned about colored pencil drawing (and most artwork) is that every piece goes through an awkward or ugly phase. At some point, a drawing starts to look hopeless.

But I’ve also learned that a drawing can go from looking hopeless to looking finished almost from one stroke of the pencil to the next. I can’t explain it but I know it happens.

Mistake #4: Giving Up on Drawings Because They’re Taking Too Long

Even if a drawing skipped the “ugly phase”, it sometimes took so long to finish a—especially a large drawing—that I just got tired of it. New drawings started to look real attractive and a lot more exciting. It’s oh-so-easy to giving up on a large or time-consuming drawing because I just get tired of it.

How to Avoid Giving Up on a Drawing

If you tend to work all over a drawing at the same time, cover everything except one element of the drawing with paper. Work on that element to near completion, then move to another element.

You might also try working section by section. Divide the drawing into sections by the square inch (or square foot or whatever size works best). Finish or nearly finish that section, then move to the next. Keep the edges between the sections soft so you can blend them together. When the drawing is nearly finished all over, work on the entire piece again to do whatever fine-tuning is necessary to finish the drawing.

Another method that works well for me is to have more than one piece in progress at the same time. If I get tired of one, I move to the other. You can alternate by the day or by the week, or simply move to the second drawing whenever you get tired of the first one.

Those are four of my early mistakes. I confess. I still struggle with all of them once in a while and with a couple of them routinely.

They are not, by any means, the extent of my mistakes!

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet

Knowing how to draw horse legs and feet accurately is as important as drawing an accurate likeness of the horse’s head. Especially if you’re a portrait artist. Why?

BA horse’s feet are nearly as distinctive to each horse as human fingerprints are to each person. Bone structure, body type, and genetics all play a role in the shape of the natural hoof, how it strikes the ground, and it’s position throughout the stride.

In other words, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all foot for the artist who is interested in painting individual horses.

How to Draw Horse Legs and FeetA Personal Story

For the longest time, all my horses appeared in tall grass or water or were painted or drawn in poses that didn’t require feet. I hated drawing feet because I could never get them right.

But practice really does make better, and over the years, skills at drawing feet improved. Hoofs are now among my favorite horse parts to draw

Hopefully, this tutorial will help you find the same enjoyment in producing a solid, believable foot.

Let’s go!

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet

Drawings are developed through a series of stages beginning with a full-size grid drawn or printed on drawing paper. I try to make the squares as large as possible and still retain the ability to capture finer details.

Step 1-3: Getting the basic shapes on paper.

Draw Horse Legs and Feet - The Initial Drawing on a Grid

In the illustration above, we’re looking at the third step in the drawing process. The grid was printed on drawing paper and the first stage of the drawing was done in Verithin Non Photo Blue pencil. That shade of blue doesn’t photograph very well, but it’s ideal for the first phase of drawing because it’s easy to erase and easy to work over. At the blue stage, my goal is placing the large shapes in the correct sizes and positions on the paper.

For the next step, I used Prismacolor Vermilion Red/Pale Vermilion to begin fine-tuning the lines. I worked throughout the drawing, reshaping and re-positioning as necessary.

Step 4: Making corrections as needed.

The flexed front leg is one step beyond. I stopped using the reference photo with the grid and relied more on the enlarged (11×14) original photo at this stage.

I’m still correcting the line drawing, but I’ve also begun establishing shape and contour by adding value. I keep the values light even at this stage, because I am still drawing.

But I had drawn this foot in profile based on what I could see in the gridded 8×10 photo, and when I looked at the enlargement, I realized the foot is actually tipped outward so the shoe and a bit of the sole of the foot is visible. That required redrawing that area.

I also noticed that the shin boot doesn’t cover the fetlock on the outside, so I had to correct that area. To keep the lines and shapes in correct order, I added the shading.

The image below gives you a better idea of how the leg took shape through the first four phases of drawing.

Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Detail

NOTE: I haven’t bothered to erase previous lines. The drawing is built on each phase of work and unless there’s a major error, no erasing is done until the final version.

Step 5: Refining the drawing and adding details.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Step 2
Once the drawing is in place on the paper, the process becomes a matter of refining the shapes and adding detail, one layer after another.

I defined the details in the two extended feet. The shoes have been drawn and I’ve added shading to the hooves to give them mass and shape.

I also shaded the fetlocks on both legs and, although you can’t see it, I shaded into the upper legs. As in the previous step, pressure is kept light and the color layer is thin and light enough to be erasable.

Step 6: Adding darker values to further define the legs and feet.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Step 3

In this step, I started adding darker values. Technically, I’m still drawing, but because the lines between highlights and shadows can get confusing, shading helps establish those edges more clearly.

Take note that the hooves are unique shapes. The two front hooves are very similar shapes, but the angle of the foot changes the shape.

The back foot is not the same shape. This horse has a blockier back hoof. Because this is a portrait of a specific horse, I’m taking special care to draw each part the way it appears in the reference photograph.

Step 7: Transferring the drawing to fresh paper.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Step 4

When the original drawing is as finished as I can make it, it’s time to lay a fresh sheet of tracing paper over the drawing and make a new one.

This will be the drawing I photograph for the client if they get an electronic proof, so it needs to be as clean and crisp as possible. If they’re getting a full-size physical drawing, this will be the second to last step. The client drawing will be the final step.

The photo above shows the front legs and the cast shadow drawn on the new sheet of paper. I work through each area carefully, making sure the line is crisp and dark enough to photograph. Accuracy is of major concern so even at this point, I continue to compare the drawing and the reference photograph. I take measurements if necessary, and erase and make changes as I go.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Detail of Final Drawing

Because this is a pretty intense part of the process, I tend to work in short sessions. I work standing up, so my legs and back need frequent breaks. So do my eyes. It’s better to work in shorter sessions than to push through a long session and risk getting impatient. Mistakes happen in moments of impatience. It’s best to avoid them.

No drawing is ever complete until the painting is finished. Tweaking continues until the signature is in place.

But a good drawing provides a clear road map for the painting. With a paid portrait, it also gives the client an idea of the composition of their portrait.

Muscle Hill

The finished portrait for this tutorial was an oil painting, but this drawing method is a good way to start any project in any two-dimensional medium.

It’s also a great way to improve your skills at drawing any horse.

Or any other subject, for that matter.

The Only Methods You’ll Ever Need for Blending Colored Pencil

There are many methods of blending colored pencil, but they can be classified in three basic ways.

Pencil blending

Dry blending

Solvent blending

Over the course of the years, I’ve touched on each of these methods in various demonstrations and tutorials, including a few tutorials dedicated to nothing but blending colored pencil.

The Only Methods You’ll Ever Need for Blending Colored Pencil

Because this is such an important topic—and one of the most frequently searched topics among all of you—I’d like to share basic information on blending methods in a single post.

Basic Methods of Blending Colored Pencil

Pencil Blending

This might seem painfully obvious, but the obvious is often the thing that gets overlooked most. One of the only three blending methods you’ll ever need for colored pencil is….

…your colored pencils.

Blending Colored Pencil - Pencil Blending

It’s also the method that is the most automatic. Every time you layer one color over another, you’re blending.

The most familiar way of blending colored pencil with colored pencil is burnishing. When you burnish, you use very heavy pressure to “grind” layers of color together.

You can use any color over any color, but it’s most common to burnish with a color that’s lighter than the color you’re burnishing. The one thing to keep in mind is that the color with which you burnish will affect the color you’re burnishing.

TIP: When blending colored pencil with colored pencil, be careful to match pressure with sharpness. The sharper your pencil, the lighter the pressure. Using heavy pressure with a sharp pencil is likely to either break the tip off the pencil–possibly leaving an unsightly mark–or tear the paper. If you want to burnish, it’s best to use a blunt pencil.

Dry Blending

For the purpose of this discussion, when I refer to “dry blending”, I’m talking about blending without solvents (see below), but with a tool other than your colored pencils.

The blending tools I use most often are a couple of household items. Paper towel and bathroom tissue. Both are great for blending colored pencil and producing an eggshell smooth surface.

Blending Colored Pencil - Dry Blending

They’re also easy to use. Simply fold a piece into quarters or smaller and rub them over the area you want to blend. You can use very heavy pressure if you want without risk of damaging the drawing paper. Granted, the effects are light, but if all you want is a light blend between layers, paper towel or facial tissue is the tool you’re looking for.

Blending stumps and tortillons are more often associated with graphite drawing, but they also work with colored pencil. I’ve found them to be slightly less effective than paper towel, but they are very useful if you want to blend a small area.

I also use a Prismacolor Colorless Blender. It’s basically a colored pencil without pigment and it works great for any colored pencil that’s wax-based, as Prismacolors are. Other lines of colored pencil may also include colorless blenders. One thing to note when using this type of blending tool is that it adds wax or oil (depending on the brand) to the paper.

Solvent Blending

I use three basic solvents for blending colored pencil. In order from mildest to most aggressive are rubbing alcohol, odorless mineral spirits, and turpentine. (I have used rubber cement thinner in the past, but only sparingly, since it’s very aggressive in “melting” color. It’s also quite toxic.)

Blending Colored Pencil - Solvent Blending

Solvents work by breaking down the binding agent that holds the pigment together in pencil form. When the binder is dissolved to any degree, the pigment flows together almost like paint.

Before you try any solvent on a colored pencil, test it on a piece of scrap paper. You want to make sure the paper will stand up to a solvent blend. Nothing is more discouraging than to have your paper buckle or warp when it gets wet.

It’s also a good idea to see how colors react to the various solvents before blending a drawing. While solvent blends are appropriate in most cases, they may not produce the look you want.

If the paper you’re drawing on is very smooth or is heavily sized, it’s also possible to remove color completely, no matter how carefully you blend.

So test first!

Blending with Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is ideal for doing a light blend. It breaks the wax binder in colored pencil just enough to move a little pigment around and to fill in paper holes. You need a good amount of pigment on the paper for the best results, but it also works with less pigment.

Use cotton balls or swabs or painting brushes to blend with rubbing alcohol. Because rubbing alcohol is relatively mild, you can do a little scrubbing with a bristle brush IF THE PAPER WILL TAKE THAT KIND OF ABUSE.

Blending with Odorless Mineral Spirits

Odorless mineral spirits blend color more completely than rubbing alcohol. It breaks down the wax binder more completely, freeing pigment to blend more thoroughly. Again, the more pigment on the paper, the better the results, but you can also do a watercolor-like wash with odorless mineral spirits.

For an even lighter tint, “melt” a little color in odorless mineral spirits, then wash it over the paper. You need sturdy paper or board for this kind of treatment, but the results can be very painterly and saturated.

Any type of odorless mineral spirits suitable for oil painting can also be used with colored pencils.

Use bristle or soft brushes to blend with odorless mineral spirits. In later layers, where there’s a lot of pigment on the paper, you can use heavier pressure, but it’s best to use medium pressure (normal handwriting pressure) to avoid scuffing the paper or removing color.

The most potent of the solvent blends I use is turpentine. It works the same way as odorless mineral spirits, but breaks down wax-binder more completely. My experience has been a maximum of two blends before the solvent begins removing more color than it blends.

Use turpentine the same way you’d use odorless mineral spirits.

Safety Tips

Make sure you use all of these solvents safely. Work in a well-ventilated space and exercise caution. Don’t work around children or pets and make sure to clean your work area and tools thoroughly, and close containers when you finish.

Artwork should also dry thoroughly before you begin working on it again. I like to let drawings air for no less than an hour and often let them sit overnight.

And there you have it. The only three blending methods you’ll ever need for creating fabulous colored pencil work.

What method is your favorite?

Living With Creative Stillness

Creative stillness is usually one of the worst things that can befall an artist. But I’ve been living with creative stillness for many months and have discovered some preciously silver linings among the clouds.

creative-stillness

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t worked on a painting since putting the finishing touches on a large and complicated portrait on June 24, 2014.

In the months since, I’ve lifted a paint brush only to illustrate a lesson for an online oil painting student. Nothing started. Nothing to finish.

Living With Creative Stillness - Line Drawing of My Dog

I’ve done a little more work with colored pencils, but the last major drawing I attempted got no further than a finished line drawing (left). Again, the only work I’ve done since is making illustrations for online drawing students and EmptyEasel.

In fact, had it not been for the online art courses and writing articles for EmptyEasel, I probably would have done nothing at all with drawing or painting.

The confession is that—for the moment—the lack of activity in the studio doesn’t bother me. Sure, I feel a twinge of guilt every now and again, but I’m enjoying the lack of pressure too much. Guilt doesn’t stand a chance!

It used to be impossible to foresee a future when I wasn’t painting. Even the one time I deliberately took six months off, I never doubted that I’d paint again, although the six months stretched into a year by the time that happened.

Now?

Living with Creative Stillness

It’s been seventeen months since my last major painting and the thought has crossed my mind more than once that that portrait may truly have been my last portrait.

You know what?

That idea doesn’t raise terrible specters.

Nor does it cause guilt or pain. A little sadness, maybe, but nothing more.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved portrait painting. I loved the clients I worked with, the places I went to photograph horses, the horses I saw, touched, smelled, and was awed by. Nearly 40 years of painting pictures of other people’s horses for fun and profit is a great experience and I’m grateful for it.

But if it’s over, I’m okay with that, too.

Why?

Because the studio isn’t the only place I’ve experienced creative stillness. Fiction writing went on hiatus, too. The silence in that creative arena wasn’t as long, but it was no less silent. From January through August 2015, I didn’t work on a story. Not. One.

I learned through the months that my ideas about what I do with the talents I’ve been given isn’t always up to me. Sure, my personal interests have an impact on what I choose as subjects and how I manifest those choices.

But there is also a greater Source—the place from which all good and noble ideas come—and He wants a say in what I do. In fact, He demands it.

Personally, I think I got to the point where I was too comfortable in my ability to paint pictures. I got too full of myself, you could say.

So I was taken outside of that place of Adequacy and Ability and put in a place of stillness.

Learning to Embrace Creative Stillness

The time has been well spent. As I’ve thought about, prayed over, and explored the creative silence, I’ve come to realize how much control I’ve exerted over the studio and how closed I’d become to doing anything outside my comfort zone.

And believe me, being sequestered in a creative silence is so far outside my comfort zone that I can’t even see the comfort zone!

Living with Creative Stillness - Embrace the PossibilitiesI’ve learned to just be. Not to push so hard or demand so much.

I’ve also learned that I can teach others what I know. That’s a fresh and new idea, something I only dabbled with before the creative silence. Now, it’s a primary source of pleasure and income. There’s something about seeing a new student gain skill and enjoyment in his or her work that painting a well-crafted portrait could never provide.

Do I miss portrait painting and everything it entailed? Yes. Even the hard stuff.

Will I be sad if I never paint another portrait? Yes.

But I don’t grieve because I believe with every fiber of my being that something will be given to me to replace portrait painting. Something far better and far more exciting. Something for which this creative silence has been the preparation.

You know what?

I can’t wait to see what it is!

How to Draw a Horse Hoof

Even if your all-time favorite thing to draw is a horse, you probably don’t love drawing the feet. Learning how to draw a horse hoof was among the biggest challenges I faced when I decided to become a horse portrait artist.

I suppose that’s why I spent so many years drawing heads!

If you have the same difficulties, it’s time to take the bit in your teeth and get over this obstacle!

Are you ready? Let’s go!

How to Draw a Horse Hoof

There are any number of ways to draw a horse’s feet. Front, side, back, just to name a few. Then there’s the foot in motion. How do you begin to tackle all those positions and angles?

The best way to begin is by learning how to draw better feet standing still. So that’s our subject today.

As Unique as Fingerprints

A horse’s hoof structure is as unique as a human fingerprint. While the general shape may be the same or similar, the relationship of size, slope, heel, toe, and a number of other details are unique from one horse to the next; sometimes from one hoof to the next.

If you’re working on a conformation pose such as Salt Lake in Colored Pencil, getting the shape of each hoof correct is as important as getting the hip or shoulder right. It’s less important in an action image, but it is still important.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you step-by-step how to draw a standing hoof based on this reference photo.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Reference

NOTE: This tutorial is all about making the line drawing. Whether you paint or draw, an accurate line drawing is the first step in creating realistic artwork. The steps I’m about to show you can be used with any hoof in any position. The fact of the matter is that these steps can be used with any subject!

Let’s get started!

How to Draw a Horse Hoof Step-by-Step

Step 1: Begin with the big, basic shapes.

Start with the overall shape, and begin by taking a good look at your reference photo. How long is the toe? How shallow is the heel? What angles are created between hoof and ankle?

Using light pressure and a medium softness drawing pencil (2H, HB or F, 2B) or a colored pencil that’s light in color, sketch the basic contours. Don’t be afraid to erase and redraw as many times as necessary to get a good likeness.

I used an F graphite pencil. At this stage, I’ve drawn and redrawn the hoof to get the best possible shape and position. The lighter lines are the first lines. The darker lines are the corrections and refinements that followed.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Step 1

Step 2: Begin adding details to the basic shapes.

Once you have the overall shape in place, begin placing details like the coronet band (the ring around the top of the hoof.) Take your time working through this part of the process.

If it helps to do multiple drawings on tracing paper, take the time to do that. Lay a fresh piece of tracing paper over the current drawing and transfer the drawing. Refine it as you transfer it.

You can then work on the drawing from the front and the back, which helps correct any right-hand or left-hand drawing bias you might have.

Repeat the process as often as necessary because this is the best way not only to get an accurate drawing of this particular hoof, but to learn the basic structure for all hooves.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Step 2

Step 3: Add smaller and smaller details each time you rework the line drawing.

When you’re satisfied with Step 2, start with a fresh sheet of tracing paper. This time, as you transfer the drawing, begin adding smaller details. Add stripes or other markings on the hoof. Add leg markings if there are any. Don’t forget the growth rings and the shoe, if the horse is shod.

You can even do a little modeling if you want, just to check the three-dimensionality of the drawing.

For this stage, I switched to a 6B graphite pencil to get a good, solid line drawing.

I also used a variety of line types to develop the drawing. Solid, slightly darker lines mark the outside edges and edges between shapes. I outlined the highlight on the hoof with a dotted line. Short, vertical strokes define the line between hair and hoof as well as the white marking.

I drew shadows with a heavier line. The softer lead pencil facilitated the different types of lines I used.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Step 3

TIP: I use line darkness and type to draw the various parts of a subject because it’s less confusing than using a similar line to draw everything. I learned this method when I learned how to draw pictorial depth in a Craftsy course on landscape drawing. Since then, I’ve discovered it has a variety of uses.

It’s not as important with simple drawings like this, but it is very useful in more complex compositions.

The Finished Drawing

Whether you continue working with graphite for a finished study, or create a study in another medium, you’re now ready for the finishing work.

Learning More About Drawing Hoofs

I recommend hoof studies for every work you do that shows feet, especially portraits.

Every hoof is different and unique. A discerning and involved horse lover may very well be able to see that the hoof in your artwork is not their horse’s hoof.

How to Draw a Horse Hoof - Study of Horse Feet

Whether you draw from life or from photographs, every hoof you draw will help you draw the next one more accurately.

And let’s face it, if you know how to draw a horse’s hoof, you can pretty much draw anything!

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil

Colored pencils seem ideal for drawing hair, don’t they?

Stop and think about it. Hair looks like it should be drawn with lots of lines and colored pencils are perfect for drawing lines.

But is that all there is to drawing realistic hair? Just making lines?

The short answer is no. There’s a lot more to it than just making lines. But it’s not as difficult as you may be thinking.

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil

The best way to draw realistic hair is by matching the strokes you use to the length and type of hair. Longer strokes for long hair, shorter strokes for short hair. If the hair is moving or wavy, use curving strokes instead of straight strokes.

Super sharp pencils or pencils with harder pigment cores are also helpful for drawing hair. Prismacolor Verithin pencils or Caran d’Ache Pablos have thinner, harder pigment cores. They sharpen to a finer point, and hold that point longer, which makes them ideal for drawing hair.

Beyond that, here are a few other tips for drawing hair that looks touch-ably real.

Don’t Get Bogged Down in Detail

Starting with big shapes and drawing toward details is a good drawing rule of thumb no matter what you’re drawing. It’s especially important with hair.

To draw hair, block in the large masses first, then break them down into smaller details. Don’t draw every hair. That’s not only frustrating, it’s unnecessary. A few shadows and middle values in the right places, and a few highlights are all you need. Get those right, then add other details.

This detail of Blizzard Babe makes it look like I drew every hair. I did draw a lot of hairs, but what makes these shapes look like hair is the movement in the lines, the shadows, and the few “stray details” along the top of the neck, and toward the ends of the hair.

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil 1

Notice the hair groups falling over black straps and blue straps. I drew the larger shapes in each area, then added the details that made the hair look like you could run your fingers through it.

Pay Attention to Values

It’s more important to draw accurate values, than to draw accurate color. If the values are right, the color looks right. If the values aren’t right, it won’t matter how accurate the colors are. The drawing will look dull and lifeless.

Healthy hair is glossy. The highlights should be bright, almost intense; especially in direct light. Against bright highlights, shadows appear deep and intense, too.

In the sample below, the highlight is nearly white (it’s the color of the paper, which is a light ivory.) Bright highlights combined with dark shadows give this horse’s mane a high-gloss appearance.

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil 2

Sharp edges between highlight and shadow also enhance the glossiness of long hair. You don’t need extremely hard edges, but you also don’t want extremely soft edges.

Note also that the shape and placement of the highlights gives movement to the hair. It’s not  just hanging there; it’s blowing in a strong breeze.

Include a Few Well-Placed Flyaway Hairs

Even the neatest hair has a few flyaways—those hairs that refuse to stay in place without a lot of hair spray. In the illustration above, most of the hairs form large shapes and groups that stick together.

But there are also some that are separate. These flyaway hairs make for more natural looking hair, and also enhance the sense of movement.

Try Impressed Lines

Impressed lines are a great way to add accents and random highlights to hair. Just don’t do too many.

This detail comes from an old portrait. There are too many impressed lines near the top of the illustration. They’re too distracting. The fact that the impressed lines move in different directions also detracts from the overall effect.

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil 3

But that doesn’t mean impressed lines don’t have a purpose. Used sparingly and in the right places, they are a great aid in rendering believable hair.

Impressed lines denote highlights if you’re working on light-colored paper. They should ideally occur only where you want random highlights, so they should move in the same general direction as highlights you draw.

So use impressed lines, but be very careful where you use them, and how many you use.

Use Multiple Colors

Always use a minimum of three colors: light value, medium value, and dark value.

But even for white or black hair, you want more than just shades of gray. For this black mane, I used different values of blue and brown in addition to black. Those colors are not obvious, but they provide depth for the black, and create a more lively black. Hints of them are visible in the actual drawing, and they provide the illusion of sparkle.

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil 4

To see the colors in hair, look closely at the highlights. Secondary colors appear most closely where the highlights transition into middle values and shadows. Add those colors throughout the rest of the hair.

It’s helpful to look at hair in natural light. Strong sunlight is best, since morning or evening light often produces a golden glow.

Pay Attention to Your Reference Photos

When it comes to drawing hair, we all too often set our reference photo aside and wing it. We all know what hair looks like, after all. We see it every day in one form or another.

But what your brain tells you hair looks like, and what the hair looks like in your reference photo may be two entirely different things.  If you want to draw hair that looks real and that looks like your subject, pay attention to the large shapes, the values, and movement of the hair in the photo.

Then draw what you see; not what you think should be there.

Conclusion

A lot of factors play a role in drawing hair that looks real, but if you get these basic things right, you’re on your way.

Interested in Learning More?

I describe how to draw four basic types of hair for an EmptyEasel article. Specific tips and illustrations show you how to draw short, neat hair; long, neat hair; long flowing hair; and wild hair.

So if you’re constantly having bad hair days when it comes to colored pencil, you definitely want to read How to Draw Realistic Hair in Colored Pencil.

How To Draw Thunderhead Clouds

Learn how to draw thunderhead clouds, and you can draw any kind of cloud.

Or anything else, for that matter.

An integral part of drawing believable skies is getting the clouds right. Whether towering and majestic or thin and wispy, clouds add sparkle, color, and dimension to even the most basic landscape.

But apart from water, they can also be one of the most difficult and frustrating things to draw. They are ever changing, filled with light and shadow, and capable of going from bright to dark in a matter of moments.

In this drawing tutorial, we’ll look at a six-step process for drawing thunderhead clouds.

How To Draw Thunderhead Clouds

My tools are basic drawing paper, a collection of graphite drawing pencils ranging from 2H to 6B, a Pink Pearl eraser, a click eraser, a bristle brush, and a tortillion.

How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds

Step 1: Get ready to draw

Whenever possible, draw from life. Find a comfortable place to sit where you have a clear view of the sky. If the view is somewhat restricted by trees or buildings, that’s okay. It will focus your attention.

If you happen to be in Big Sky country (Montana or anywhere else), find a fixed point of reference like a building, river, telephone pole, or hill and draw that part of the sky.

Step 2: Sketch basic shapes

Sketch the “gesture” of the cloud or clouds by using short, quick lines. Don’t worry about getting every line exactly in the right place. The cloud will look different in a moment or two anyway, so concentrate on the “personality” of the cloud.

I use straight lines as shown here because they reduce the shapes to the most basic form. This is the foundation upon which the rest of the cloud will be drawn.

A 2H pencil holds a good point for a long time, so you can do a large sketch or several small ones quickly without having to stop and resharpen the pencil.

Drawing Mini Clinic - How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds, Demo 1, Part 1

Step 3: Soften the initial sketch

Work the straight edges into curved edges. Since the cloud will likely have changed, pay more attention to the overall “character” of the cloud than the details. Work out the flat, hard edges and embellish wherever necessary.

Continue using the 2H pencil to avoid getting lines too dark to quickly.

Drawing Mini Clinic - How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds, Demo 1, Part 2

Step 4: Add basic shadows

Shade the shadowed sides of the cloud beginning with the biggest shapes and working into the smaller shapes. Use a softer pencil. I switched my 2H for an F.

Use a 6B pencil to lay down diagonal strokes through most of the shadows. On the shaded side of the cloud, work over the edges within the cloud. On the sunny side, add accent shadows.

Use light pressure throughout and keep the strokes “open”.

Drawing Mini Clinic - How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds, Demo 1, Part 3

Step 5: Blend the shadows

Once all the shadows are shaded, blend each area. Work toward flat values. These are the base for further work.

I used a short, bristle brush and my fingers to smooth out the graphite and soften some of the edges between light and shadow. You can also use a tortillion or other blending tool.

The clouds at the bottom are not blended, so you can see the difference made by blending.

Drawing Mini Clinic - How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds, Demo 1, Part 4

Step 6: Darken the shadows

Continue to darken the shadows and develop the highlights and middle tones. Remember that even in the shadows, there is reflected light. If you’re working from life, take note of the brighter areas of reflected light and work around them.

The sky will not be the lightest value in a drawing of clouds, so shade a light value into the sky. You can use your fingers or a soft cloth to blend the entire drawing, pulling tone from the darks in the cloud into the sky, as I did with this drawing. Don’t forget the cast shadow from the cloud.

Once you’ve finished, use an eraser to lighten some shadows and create areas of reflected light. A click eraser is ideal for drawing lighter vlaues around the sunlit edges. The flat side of a Pink Pearl eraser is great within the body of the cloud to lighten some of the shadows.

Drawing Mini Clinic - How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds, Demo 1, Part 6

Conclusion

Push the detail as far as you wish. Even for a small study, taking the time to capture a full range of values will help you later, when you add clouds to a painting or drawing.

Oh, and have fun. Drawing clouds can be frustrating, but discovering how to capture the unique personality of each one is truly a satisfying feeling.

4 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.

Straight Parallel Line Exercise

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.

Gradated Parallel Line Exercise

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.

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

Hatching Line Exercise

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 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.

Value Shift Parallel Line Exercise

Conclusion

I highly recommend these straight line drawing exercises, as well as curving line exercises, and other types of drawing exercises.

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.

5 Curving Line Drawing Exercises

In a previous post, I shared a few line control exercises for straight lines. This time around, I’m focusing on curving line drawing exercises. The following exercises will help you improve line control with curving lines, spirals, circles, and arcs.

5 Curving Line Drawing Exercises

You might expect curving lines to be more difficult to draw than straight lines. That hasn’t been my experience, and may not be yours.

But drawing a curving line, and drawing a curving line that accurately represents your subject are two different things. That’s why these curving line drawing exercises are just as important as straight line drawing exercises.

5 Curving Line Drawing Exercises

Outward Spiral Line Exercise

This is a simple, straight forward exercise. Put your pencil on the paper and begin drawing a line that curves around itself. Keep going as long as you can, making the circle ever larger.

This exercise is good for a number of things.

Improving your ability to draw parallel curves

Improving your ability to draw a long line with consistent pressure

Improving your ability to draw a long line with consistent line weight

In the sample below, pressure and line weight control were good, but those parallel lines…. I need a lot of work in that area and am not afraid to admit it!

Outward Spiral Line Exercise

Fixed Point Circle Line Exercise

This exercise is similar to the previous exercise except in one important area. Rather than drawing a curving line that enlarges on a central point in the center of the circle, the fixed point is at one side. It doesn’t matter which side you choose. Make every loop larger than the previous loop, but make every loop overlap at one point.

Fixed Point Circle Line Exercise

Broken Concentric Circle Line Exercise

Begin with a small circle drawn in the center of your paper.

Instead of drawing a parallel circle outside the first circle, draw arcs as shown below. You can vary the length of each arc, but make them as parallel to the inside line as possible.

You can also work on line weight and pressure control with this exercise.

Of course, drawing complete circles parallel to the center circle is also a good idea.

Broken Concentric Circle Line Exercise

Gradated Concentric Line Exercise

Start with a dot or very small circle either very light in value or very dark.

Draw the next line outside the first line and continue. Make each successive line lighter or darker than the one before. Also work on keeping them parallel. The goal is to create a full value range light to dark or dark to light, then work back in the opposite direction.

I was walking the cat when I did this exercise and standing with the pad of paper in one hand, the pencil in the other, and my end of the leash looped over my wrist. The line started out fairly circular, but it didn’t take long to become misshapen.

However, I rather like the topographical look. It rather fires the imagination, doesn’t it? What sort of topographical formation would look like this on a topographical map?

Gradated Concentric Line Exercise

Gradated Spiral Line Exercise

This differs from the Gradated Concentric Circle Exercise in that you started at the center and draw a single line all the way to the outside edge without lifting the pencil. Start with heavy pressure, reduce pressure to the lightest you can manage, then darken it again to the darkest.

This exercise puts a little spin on the previous exercise and on the first exercise in this post.

Gradated Spiral Line Exercise

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many drawing and line control exercises available. Whether you use these specific exercises or something else, the important thing is that you find something that’s helpful to you.

Above all, have fun.