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.

What Is Reflected Light? How Does It Affect My Art?

Reflected light is light that comes from a source other than the primary light source. When you’re talking about art and drawing or painting, reflected light is the light that bounces off something else and strikes whatever object you’re painting.

No matter what subjects you draw or paint or how you draw or paint them, what you’re really working with is light.

The most noticeable light is direct light, whether from an artificial source or a natural source. But that’s not the only type of light.

Inanimate Objects and Reflected Light

Here are a few reference books. A natural light source (the sun) in an outdoor setting, illuminates the books and their surroundings.

Reflected light and inanimate objects.

The light source is from the upper right and almost directly to the right of the books, so if you could see highlights, you’d see them on the front covers.

The Merck Manual is getting 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.

Examples of Reflected Light

Take a look at the edges of the pages on the top most book lying on its side immediately to the right of the Merck Manual. Light is bouncing off the cover of the Merck Manual onto that edge. The two books are close enough to each other and the light is intense enough that not only does it light the edges of the pages; it tints them red.

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 will reflect color as well as light.

Now look at the other side of the Merck Manual. See the strip of light on the left side of the spine? That is light bouncing onto the Merck Manual after striking the middle book. It’s much dimmer than the reflected light on the horizontal books because the source light is less intense. The two surfaces are also further apart.

The angle between the two books is also different. They are closer together at the top than at the bottom, so the reflected light on the Merck Manual is strongest at the top (where the two books are closest together) and fades away completely at the bottom (where the books are furthest apart).

The bricks are also illuminated by reflected light from two directions: Red-tinted light from the cover of the Merck Manual and orange-tinted light from below off the orange book.

Reflected Light and Horses

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.

This horse is well lighted, with strong sunlight from the upper right of the image. 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 but partway up the horse’s side and chest.

The light areas light bouncing off the sandy ground and illuminating the underside of the horse. The affect is especially noticeable because the primary light source is very strong, the horse’s coat is smooth, and the ground is flat, bare, and reflective.

If the horse was also wet, the reflected light would be more noticeable.

If the primary light source was dimmer (as in a cloudy day or indoor light), if the horse had longer hair, or if the ground was covered with grass or mud, there would be less reflected light on the horse’s undersides.

Also take a look at the top slope of the horse’s rump. Note that it’s well lighted even though that part of the horse doesn’t face directly toward 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 light being reflected is from the sky, hence the bluish tint.

 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 how reflected light functions 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.

Framing Colored Pencil Drawings: Must You Use Glass?

Glass is so expensive. Are there any other options for framing colored pencil drawings?

This is a great question.

For the longest time, the answer was almost always the same. Yes.

Why Framing Under Glass Is Usually Necessary

The reason is simple. For many years, colored pencil drawings were almost always on paper. Paper is vulnerable to damage by tearing, puncturing, or bruising very easily if not properly protected. Stains also pose significant risk to unprotected paper. Unprotected paper also tends to absorb moisture and dirt out of the atmosphere.

So when framing drawings on paper under glass, it’s the paper—more than the drawing itself—that needs protection. So any time you use paper, frame it under glass or something similar.

colored-pencil-drawings-always-framed-under-glass

Alternatives for Framing Colored Pencil Drawings

However, there are other supports available that do not require this degree of protection. If you work on any one of these, you can safely frame your drawing without glass.

Rigid Supports

Pastelbord and similar supports were originally designed for pastel work. They are, in essence, pastel papers mounted to a rigid support such as gatorboard or wood. They come in a variety of sizes and some of them also come in a variety of colors. Draw on them the same way you draw on paper, but when your drawing is finished, all you have to do is give it a light coat of varnish and it can be framed just like an oil painting.

detail-oil-painting-frame

Some popular drawing papers are also now available mounted on rigid supports. You can also mount your favorite paper to a rigid support and use it that way.

Keep in mind that these drawing supports are less vulnerable to mechanical damage. It’s much more difficult to puncture or tear them. But paper is paper and it will still tend to absorb moisture or dirt out of the atmosphere if framed without glass. If you want to frame it without glass, take care to hang it in a place that’s as free of contaminants as possible.

colored-pencil-on-woodWood is another rigid support you can draw on. Look for the same types of wood the Old Masters used. This landscape is drawn on a piece of Silver Maple cut from our own front yard.

Most of the time, a good sanding is all it takes to prepare a wood panel for drawing, especially if you want to use the wood grain and color as a background as I did in the drawing above. The ground at the bottom is the wood.

But you can also paint it with acrylic paint or gesso before drawing. In this way, you can work on a background of any color you wish. You can even do preliminary work with the paint for a mixed media drawing.

Varnish finished artwork like any other painting, then it’s ready to hang with or without a frame, depending on the thickness of the wood.

Semi Rigid Supports

Portrait of Blizzard BabeMat board can be used with colored pencils in a variety of ways. If you draw on it unprepared, as I did with this portrait, you will need to frame it under glass.

But if you prepare the mat board by gessoing it on all sides a minimum of three times, the mat board is properly sealed and will not absorb moisture from the atmosphere. While the layers of gesso do not protect the mat board from impact damage, it will allow you to frame smaller works without glass if you protect the back with a rigid support or foam core.

You’ll have to keep artwork relatively small—11×14 or less—but anything that size or smaller should be quite safe without glass. Provide proper back support for larger works on mat board.

colored-pencil-drawing-on-sandpaperSandpaper is another good drawing support, and doesn’t need to be framed under glass. Even if you don’t mount it to a rigid support, most sand paper is sturdy enough to do quite well with a rigid back board of some type. It’s also less likely to absorb moisture or dirt out of the atmosphere.

This colored pencil landscape is drawn on Uart Sanded Pastel Papers, which comes in a variety of grits and makes for a very “painterly” drawing.

Keep in mind that although a drawing on a rigid support is less likely to be damaged by tearing or puncturing, it is still susceptible to other hazards if framed without glass. I prefer glass for the simple reason that a colored pencil drawing framed under glass looks more complete and is easier to clean. If you get a UV protective glass, framing under glass also keeps light from altering the appearance of your artwork.

For your best work, I recommend glass and further suggest a UV protective glass or glazing.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a link to an article I wrote about masking fluid for the online art magazine, EmptyEasel. You can read that article here.

I also experimented with masking film on the same drawing. In this week’s post, I’m describing the process I used and comparing masking film and masking fluid.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil

Here is the portion of the drawing I wanted to work with.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 1

Instead of painting masking fluid onto the paper (as you do with masking film), you cut it to size and shape, carefully lay it over the area you want to mask, then smooth it down with a fingertip.

Step 1

There are two primary ways to use masking film. Film can be placed over the drawing and the design cut from it or you can draw on the masking film, cut out the mask and lay that over the drawing. You don’t need to wait for it to dry, which is a bonus. You can also create more intricate masks more easily with masking film than with masking fluid.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 2

Step 2

I chose to draw the pattern on the masking film and cut it out, then place it over the drawing. Why? Because I didn’t want to run the risk of cutting through the film, which is very thin, and into the paper. In hind sight, it would have been better to place the film over the artwork and carefully cut away the parts I didn’t want. It would have been no more time consuming and would have resulted in a much more pleasing masking.

However, I took the more cautious route and ended up with a good (not great) masking.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 3

Step 3

Once the masking film is in place, the drawing process is the same. Work around and over the masked area until it’s finished.

One way the film is different than masking fluid is that I couldn’t work over the masking fluid without lifting it. Masking film, on the other hand, was easy to work over, even with medium or heavier pressure. It didn’t move or pull up or otherwise interfere with the drawing process.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 4

Step 4

When I finished the background, I removed the masking film by carefully pulling up an edge with a fingernail, then carefully pulling the piece or pieces up until it’s completely removed. The film came off easily and without leaving residue. Another advantage to film over fluid.

Here is what the drawing looked like after I’d removed the masking film.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 5

Masking film worked extremely well for this purpose. Better than the masking fluid (read about that here).

But in retrospect, I would do things differently. I would

Apply the masking film to the drawing before any color was applied.

Lay down a piece of masking film large enough to cover the drawing.

Carefully cut away the parts I didn’t need.

These changes in method would allow me to create a more accurate mask and that would result in a more realistic area, instead of this blocky look.

All is not lost, however. There may still be hope for the mane. If there is, I’ll be sure to let you know how it turned out!

Next week, I’ll tell you how the background developed from a single layer of medium value Peacock Green to this wonderful deep, dark in just two days. I hope you’ll come back for that.

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