4 Colored Pencil Mistakes I’ve Made

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

We’ve all done it. Made a mistake that frustrates us at best and necessitates starting over at worst. Today, I confess four mistakes I’ve made over the years, and share tips to help you avoid those mistakes.

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.

Fortunately, correcting many colored pencil mistakes is easy. All you have to do is identify the problem, then find the solution.

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. Oil paints are perfect for adding opaque highlights last.

Colored pencils, on the other hand, are not.

I started with Prismacolor pencils because that’s what was available where I lived at the time. The internet wasn’t widely available way back then so there was no online shopping or quickly discovering what else might be available.

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 constantly created colored pencil artwork with few or no bright highlights.

And I hated them!

How to Avoid It

I 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.

hoof-drawing-demo-03

I’ve also started outlining shadows, as the drawing above 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. I transfer all those lines, and they provide 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, mounting putty, 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 first started colored pencils, I didn’t know that and I often drew too many dark values too early in the drawing process.

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

How to Avoid Getting Too Dark Too Soon

Use 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 below 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

The first 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 Because it’s “Ugly”

The most important colored pencil lesson I learned 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.

So the best way to avoid giving up on a drawing because it’s ugly is to set it aside for a day or a weekend. Chances are that when you go back to it, it won’t look nearly as ugly!

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, I just got tired of it. Especially large pieces. New drawings start looking real attractive and a lot more exciting. At that point, it’s oh-so-easy to give up on a large or time-consuming drawing.

How to Avoid Giving Up on a Drawing Because It’s Taking Too Long

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, 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 work on 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 colored pencil 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! But that’s a post (or two or three) for another time!

I hope my solutions work for you, too, or that they at least help you find the solutions that do work for you!

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet

How to Draw the Legs and Feet of Horses Step 2

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 Feet

A 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.

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.

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

Now that You’ve Seen How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet…

You can draw any horse portrait with confidence.

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

Blending Colored Pencil with Rubbing Alcohol - Blending

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. I dedicated a few tutorials to nothing but 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 lighter than the color you’re burnishing. Keep in mind 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 a colored pencil without pigment and it works great for any colored pencil. 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. Dissolving the binder to any degree allows the pigment to flow 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 your paper is very smooth or heavily sized, it’s 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?

Blending Colored Pencils Without Solvent

I’ve written a tutorial describing how to blend colored pencils without solvents. The tutorial is now available at Colored Pencil Tutorials. It’s ideal for artists who cannot use solvents for health reasons or who simply prefer not to use solvents.

Click here to read more about the tutorial or to buy your copy.

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.

Today, I want to share those silver linings with those others among us who may also be living in 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.

I’ve worked a little more with colored pencils, but the last major drawing I attempted got no further than a finished line drawing. 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 so 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 I went back to the easel.

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 my clients, the places I traveled and 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.

Not My Own

I learned through the months that my ideas about what I do with “my” talents and interests isn’t always up to me. Sure, my personal interests have an impact on what I choose as subjects and how I do drawings, paintings, and sketches based on 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 the 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 exerted over the studio and how closed I’d become to doing anything outside my comfort zone.

And believe me, this creative silence is so far outside my comfort zone, I can’t even see the comfort zone!

Living with Creative Stillness - Embrace the Possibilities

I 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. Talk about 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 no longer grieve. Why? I believe with every fiber of my soul that I will be given something to replace portrait painting. Something far better and far more exciting. Something for which living in creative stillness has been the preparation.

You know what?

I can’t wait to see what it is!

How to Draw a Horse Hoof

How to Draw a Horse's Hoof - Step 3

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!

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

Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil 1

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

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.

What Is Reflected Light? How Does It Affect Art?

Reflected Light on Books

When you’re talking about drawing or painting, reflected light is light that bounces off something else and strikes something else.

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

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 reflects 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.

Horses and Other Animals

Reflected light affects more than smooth or shiny objects. It affects all subjects, animate and inanimate. Take a look at this photo, for example.

Reflected light and animate objects.

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.

 The Basics of Reflected Light

Not drawing or painting reflected light won’t make your art bad. I painted portraits for years without understanding this aspect of light and lighting.

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.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil

masking-colored-pencil

Lets look at 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 describe 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 worked 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. Place film over the drawing and cut the design from it or 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 pulling the piece or pieces up one at a time. The film came off easily and without leaving residue. Another advantage to film over fluid.

Here is how the drawing looked after removing the masking film.

If I Use Masking Film With Colored Pencil Again

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 applying color.

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.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already subscribed to this blog, I hope you will. It’s an easy process that will take five minutes or less. It’s also free of charge. You can subscribe to RSS notifications of new content or email newsletters. If you want everything, you can do that, too! Just click here to get started.

Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

How to Remove Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could remove color from a colored pencil drawing? You’re not alone, as the following reader question reveals:

I’m working on a colored pencil drawing and have too much color over an area. How do I remove color? Can it be fixed or do I need to start over?

My first response to any question like this is to tell the artist to take heart. In most cases, you don’t need to start a drawing over, particularly if it’s nearly finished. There are ways to lighten or remove color and make corrections, even over heavy applications of color.

First, let’s take a look at a couple of ways to lift color. Then I’ll show you how to layer fresh color over the damaged area.

How to Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

There are several ways to remove color from a colored pencil drawing without damaging the drawing or the paper. Following are the methods that have given me the best success.

Transparent Tape

Transparent tape is an ideal tool for removing color from a colored pencil drawing. You won’t be able to remove all of the color—some staining will remain—but you can remove a surprising amount if you’re careful and diligent.

How to remove color with Transparent Tape

Take a piece of tape a little longer than the area you want to work with.

Lay the tape sticky side down on the paper

Press it VERY LIGHTLY into place. If you press the tape too firmly, you run the risk of pulling up paper fibers in addition to color, so be careful.

Lift carefully.

Repeat.

Most tape is sticky enough to lift color if the color hasn’t been too heavily burnished. Even if it has been heavily burnished, you will be able to lift a lot of color. If you need to, use a couple pieces of tape.

The one thing you don’t want to do is tear the paper, so work slowly and carefully. Evaluate the drawing each time and stop when you’ve removed enough color to continue drawing.

There is one other warning I need to share. Transparent tape does tend to leave the surface of the paper a bit slick feeling. The smoother the paper to begin with, the more likely using tape will leave the paper slick. That’s why it’s important not to overuse transparent tape in lifting color.

Removing Additional Color With An Eraser

After you’ve done everything you can do with the tape, use a hard eraser (like a click eraser).

A click eraser can be sharpened to a fairly sharp point that allows you to do more detailed color removal. Used in tandem with a color guard, you can remove color and create shapes or edges.

When I’m making corrections of this type, I usually use the tape on all of the area, then use the click eraser in more specific areas. This method creates a surface with gradating values and color, and that makes it easier to seamlessly blend new color into old.

Remember, be careful. If you’re not confident enough to try the process on a drawing, lay down color on a piece of scrap paper and practice with that.

Adding New Color

Once you’ve lifted all the color you want to lift or can lift from your drawing, it’s time to add new color. Use the same methods you used to put down the original color.

You will have to be more diligent in keeping your pencils sharp because you’ll be working over a “used” surface.

You may also have to use slightly more pressure than you originally used. But work slowly, use several layers of color, and carefully blend old and new.

A Demonstration

I used several layers of medium to heavy pressure to lay down the color quickly over this circle. The darkest areas are quite thick and waxy. The middle values are less so. The highlight has very little color on it.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - First step in removing color from a colored pencil drawing.

Once I finished drawing the ball, the highlight seemed too small. To make it larger, I need to remove some of the color.

Using tape to lift color

I began by pressing short pieces of tape over the highlight and gently lifting the tape. Because I put so much color on the paper and used such heavy pressure, I used more than one piece of tape.

Removing more color with a click eraser.

Next, I used a click eraser to work lightly over all of the highlight. I held the eraser like a pencil and moved it in circular strokes over the area I wanted to erase.

The first time, I started with the lightest area and worked outward into the middle values.

Then I cleaned the eraser by rubbing it on a scrap piece of paper until there was no color left on the eraser.

Next, I worked only on the brightest area. Again, I used circular strokes and went over the highlight a couple times.

I continued to remove color from this drawing until it looked the way I wanted it to look.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - Third step in removing color from a colored pencil drawing.

Another Demonstration

Here’s another ball. I drew this one the same way. Lots of color applied with lots of pressure. But rather than lift color, I want to add color.

So I layered indigo blue over the right three-quarters of the highlight using medium pressure. I also worked out into the black around the edges.

Next I added Non Photo Blue. Again, I used medium pressure to add color to the right part of the highlight. I covered all of the area I colored with indigo blue, and also worked into most of the left part of the highlight.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - Third step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

Then I layered Powder Blue over the left half of the highlight with medium heavy pressure.

As I moved into the darker part of the highlight, I decreased pressure and gradually blended the blue into the surrounding middle values.

Next was a layer of White, burnished over the brightest part of the highlight.

If I wanted to, I could layer blue over the rest of the ball, too, including adding reflected light to the bottom curves. It’s more difficult to add color to the areas with a lot of color, but it could be done.

That’s How I Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

It isn’t the only ways to remove or lighten color, but it works for me and will work for you, too. The key is to work slowly and carefully.

There are other ways to lighten colors, which I write about in How to Make Colors Lighter.

The next time you find you’ve put too much color on part of a drawing, try this method to lift color, then make corrections. You’ll be surprised what you can do with a little bit of tape, an eraser, and some patience!