So you’re learning to use colored pencils and you want to know which of the colored pencil drawing methods is the best, right? I mean, you don’t want to spend time learning a method that’s not any good. I sure didn’t when I was beginning.
The short answer is that the best method for you is the method that produces the results you want.
And the best way to find that out is by trying them all.
But there is help!
I’ve tried a lot of things over the years and have settled on two methods that are my favorites. I’ve also used two others often enough to be able to explain them.
The following articles are the best articles on the subject to found on this blog. Articles are separated into categories, with general discussion articles first, followed by articles about each specific method.
Colored Pencil Drawing Methods – General Discussion
Side by side comparisons of four ways to draw the initial layers. Also includes a definition and explanation of each method, when each method is best, and why the method you chose makes a difference in your final work.
There are a lot of reasons for choosing the method you use to draw. Even if you use an under drawing method—as I do—your reasons for making that decision may not be the same as mine. This article lays out reasons to use an under drawing method, as well as reasons not to.
What is a monochrome under drawing? Why would you choose it instead of a complementary or umber under drawing? And what colors are best for drawing a monochrome under drawing?
NOTE: I have used the monochrome under drawing method in the past, but only once or twice. It’s a good method, but it’s not one of my favorites. That’s why this article is under general discussion even though it deals with a specific drawing method. If you’d like to see more on this method, let me know.
Complementary Under Drawing Articles
The first few layers of color are called the under drawing. No matter what method you use, they are the layers that establish the foundation for the drawing.
With the complementary under drawing method, the under drawing is drawn with the complementary colors of the final colors. Green is opposite red on the color wheel, so if you’re drawing a landscape, all the greens begin with a red under drawing.
Part 1 of a two-part tutorial showing how to draw a chestnut horse in a pastoral landscape. This post introduces the subject and includes the reference photo and information about the materials used in the tutorial. It walks you through the process of drawing the complementary under drawing.
Part 2 of a two-part tutorial. This post picks up with the first glazes of color over the complementary under drawing and concludes with the finishing touches.
Using any shade of red to draw any shade of green is using what’s known as a complementary under drawing. When you use a complementary under drawing, you choose colors for the under drawing that are opposite the color wheel from the local (final) color you want to draw.
Step-by-step tutorial on using the complementary under drawing method to draw a dark-colored horse. Includes tips on color selection, stroke selection and layering local colors as well as drawing the under drawing.
Direct Drawing Articles
When you use the direct drawing drawing method, your initial layers are the same colors as the finishing layers, though they may be lighter in value. Color and value are developed layer-by-layer from first to last. It’s probably the most commonly used method, and it’s the method I began with when I started using colored pencils over twenty years ago.
This full-length tutorial is ideal if you want to see how I create a horse portrait from first step to last. It includes basic information on the direct drawing method and why I chose it, how I prepared the reference photo, and step-by-step instructions and illustrations from the first layer of color to the final details.
When you use a direct color under drawing, you begin with pretty much the same colors you’ll finish with. You start with light colors and build color through a series of layers. While it’s quite likely you’ll include earth tones and complementary colors to keep the greens looking natural, you won’t use them by themselves at any part of the drawing process.
How to Draw Complex Flowers, Part 1
How to Draw Complex Flowers, Part 2
This two-part tutorial features step-by-step lessons on drawing a complex flower. The posts include tips on color selection, and stroking methods and more.
Umber Under Drawing Articles
When you use the umber under drawing method (my preferred method,) you always begin with an under drawing in earth tones. The subject may determine whether you use a cool brown or a warm brown, but you always start with some shade of brown.
This free full-length, step-by-step tutorial, takes you from the initial line drawing (including putting a grid on a digital reference photo) to the finishing touches. The subject is a dark colored horse with lots of shine and shadow.
Every colored pencil drawing method is suitable for drawing landscapes, but the umber under drawing method is perhaps the best. Why? See how using an umber under drawing can help you draw realistic landscape greens.
Didn’t find the answer to your question? Send me an email.
I’ll be adding updates, so bookmark this post if you want to learn more about any—or all—of these colored pencil drawing methods.