How to Decide the Order of Colors when Layering

How do you decide the order of colors to get the right color, values, or appearance? There are so many options, how do you decide?

That’s what Catherine wants to know. Here’s her question:

How do you determine the order of layers of different colors? I spend a lot of time testing the order of laying down color on the outer edges of my drawings, is there a quicker or better way?

This is a great question, Catherine. Thank you for asking it.

How to Decide the Order of Colors when Layering

One of the joys of colored pencils is the ability to layer multiple colors to create new colors. You also have a wonderful selection of colors to use. So you have to decide which colors to use when, and I confess that decision can look mind-boggling.

So how do you decide the order of colors? Is there a simple method or technique?

I’m afraid the answer is no. In fact, the best answer is one most of us prefer not to hear. Practice and experience.

Lots of both.

But there are few basic principles that may help you make those decisions more easily.

How to Decide the Order of Colors

I once read about an oil painter who used only seven or eight colors and mixed everything else. Obviously, his techniques won’t work with colored pencils, but his method of deciding which colors to mix, what colors to start with, and adjusting colors as he painted can be applied to colored pencils.

The following tips are based on personal experience and the oil painter’s methods.

Study the Colors in Your Reference Photo

The first step is to study the color of whatever you’re drawing. What’s the main color and to what color family does it belong?

This horse, for example, is yellow-gold in overall color. The color family is brown tending toward yellow or golden.

This color family provides the foundation colors for this portrait. The main color family provides the foundation colors for whatever you want to draw.

So determine the main color family for your drawing. Not every color will be appropriate, but identifying the main color family will ultimately help you decide the order in which you apply colors.

Start with a Base Color

The base color comes from the main color family.

The base color should be a medium-light or lighter value. Ideally, as close to the color of the highlights as you can get. If you have to use a color darker than the highlights in your subject, work around the highlights.

This is the first color you’ll put on paper, and it’s also one of the colors you’ll use most often. Set it aside.

This is the base color for Portrait of a Palomino Filly (read the full tutorial.) The paper is a light eggshell color just a little darker than the highlights, so I chose a base color that was a little darker than the paper. This color was used throughout the completion of the drawing.

Choosing the Next Color

After you’ve layered the base color, compare your drawing to your reference. Chances are excellent the base color isn’t exactly the same as the colors in the photo.

So what color do you need to add to make the color on the paper more like the color in the reference photo?

For my horse portrait, I decided the base color needed to be warmed up, so I chose a warm, light-value color that was about the same color as the highlights, and layered that over the horse.

After I finished that layer, I compared drawing and photo again, and chose a reddish earth tone to add more color and value.

The color selection process continued that way until I’d used five or six colors, then I began layering them over and over.

Do the same thing with your work. Compare your drawing and reference photo after you’ve layered each color. Decide how your drawing differs from the reference, and what color you need to use to make the drawing more like the reference.

Keep making those decisions layer by layer, color by color, until you finish.

How to Decide the Order of Colors when Layering
The final color or colors are adjustment colors. They add value (darken dark values) or tint the colors already on the paper. Sometimes they do both.

That’s the Easiest Way I Know to Decide the Order of Colors

Don’t fret too much over deciding what order you should apply colors. You will make mistakes. That’s part of the learning process. Be bold and courageous! Learn from those mistakes.

Catherine says she spends a lot of time testing colors before using them on a drawing. That’s a good idea and a lot of artists swear by it. It’s a good way to gain the experience necessary to know instinctively what colors to use when.

The other option—the one I used when I began—was simple trial and error. Mostly error, sometimes (or so it seemed.)

But knowledge acquired by experience often sticks with me more quickly and longer than what I see or hear by example.

Image by husnil khawatim from Pixabay

My Advice for Deciding the Order of Color Application

Don’t worry too much about getting the order of color application correct right from the start. Unless you’re a highly analytical artist (yes, there are some of those,) it will be more frustrating than helpful to try to plan so carefully. You’re far more likely to frustrate yourself into not drawing at all. At least that’s what happens when I try to plan too far ahead.

The fact of the matter is that one layer of color could totally upset all those carefully laid plans.

So work one color at a time. Do those test swatches if they help you, but don’t try to swatch out the entire drawing before you start drawing.

Instead, choose the base color and put that on the paper.

Then compare what you’ve drawn with your reference photo to decide on the next color. Keep track of the colors you use and the order in which you use them if you like, but work step by step through the drawing until it’s finished.

I guarantee you’ll have more fun drawing and finish more drawings that way.

Unless you are an analytical sort of artist!

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How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing

The umber under drawing has been finished, the first glazes of color are in place, and you’ve begun to deepen color and create richness. You’ve even fixed a big mistake. Now comes the moment of truth: knowing how to finish a colored pencil drawing.

That may seem like a silly thing to consider, but stop and think about it. How do you know when a drawing is finished?

I’ve finished enough drawings and paintings in over forty years to know it’s not always easy to know when something is finished. It’s not like putting the last stitch into a quilt, or the last dash of salt into a recipe. There always seems to be something else you could do.

Something that could be improved upon.

Sometimes it comes down to simply not knowing what to do next. I’ve been there more than once!

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing

Sooner or later, every piece of art must be finished, if only to make room on the easel or drawing table for the next piece.

This is the final post in this tutorial, so it’s reasonable to discuss some of the things I did to bring the drawing to completion.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing

Add Final Color

I worked throughout the horse with a layer each of Dark Brown, Black Cherry and, in the darker areas, Black applied primarily over the shadows and darkest areas. There was enough color on the surface that I had to use heavier pressure. Not quite burnishing, but getting close.

After that, I altered the shape of the off side eye, adding a little bulk to it and correcting the contour.

I also finished or nearly finished the near eye with heavy layers of Indigo Blue and Black over the eye ball, a highlighting with Sky Blue Light*, which I also applied to the rim of the lower eye lid. Darker colors were used around the eye and in the cast shadow below the eye.

For the reflected light in the shadow around the eye, I used Slate Gray. A few additional eye lashes were stroked in with Verithin White.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - Finishing the Color

Final Colors on the Bridle

Beginning with the headstall, I finished the bridle strap by strap. Most of the colors were colors used in drawing the horse’s hair—Dark Brown, Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Goldenrod or Yellow Ochre.

I tweaked the parts of the horse adjacent to the straps I worked on, adjusting edges, adding darker or lighter values as needed.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - Finishing the Bridle

Adding Details

I burnished the loose strap with Sand and added a few accents with White, Sky Blue Light*, and Dark Umber, mostly to emphasize or create stitching. I also added additional detail to the buckle with the same colors.

Next, I added details to the shadow around the eye. The eye and that shadow are the focal areas of the composition, so getting them finished goes a long way toward making the drawing look finished.

I began differentiating between reflected light and shadow within the shadow, using Dark Umber to bring out the shadows and Slate Gray to create faint reflected light. Next, I used Sky Blue Light* and heavy pressure with short, curving strokes to create the look of hair in the stronger reflected light in front of the eye. I then glazed middle values with Sienna Brown and Yellow Ochre.

I then applied Dark Umber and Black in successive layers to the shadow on the forehead and down the bridge of the nose. Dark Umber was stroked into the middle values between the front of the head and the shadow around the eye in a pattern that duplicated the look of hair. I did the same thing further down the face, but worked around the lighter value areas. The further I moved away from the eye, the less pressure I used.

When I finished with Dark Umber, I glazed Sienna Brown over most of the lower head and Yellow Ochre over the parts that were more golden in color.

I also altered the shape of the highlight curving across the forelock, still trying to reduce the look of a peaked skull. Then I added black to separate and define hair masses.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - Adding Details

Final Adjustments

After I’d finished, I reviewed the drawing, looking for things that needed to adjusted, corrected, emphasized or subdued. There wasn’t much.

I glazed Dark Brown over parts of the face and under the eye and in the orbital groove. Then I glazed Dark Brown lightly over the top of the strap behind the ears, and the top of the neck.

Then I used Verithin White to draw in a few more eye lashes and Prismacolor White to add highlights to the hardware.

At that point, I sprayed the drawing with workable fixative and set it aside for one last review.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - Final Adjustments

After The Pencil Work

The drawing part of the process was essentially finished at this point, but I still wasn’t satisfied. The biggest reason was the disparity between the forelock in front of the ears and the top of the neck behind the ears. They just did not line up properly.

But there was only one way to resolve that problem. Cropping the composition.

Before cutting the paper, though, I placed a couple of working mats over the drawing to test scaled down versions. Only one option appealed to me. A square crop.

I don’t use square compositions very often because they’re awkward with horses. Part of the difficulty is that they’re pretty static. A square painting automatically generates a sense of stillness and quiet. Most paintings do not benefit from such an impression.

But what about a drawing of a dozing horse?

I went to the computer and cropped the image to a square composition. Here’s the result.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - A Square Composition

Of course, once you start down that road, you can try any number of possible compositions.

This one eliminates more of the neck and focuses the attention more completely on the horse’s face. It also resolves the problem of the forelock and neck.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - A Square Composition 2

Or even this very tight composition.

How to Finish a Colored Pencil Drawing - A Square Composition 3

Of course, the tighter the crop, the smaller the actual drawing becomes.

Conclusion

In the end, I left it the way it was. That gave me the option of framing it large or small.

I can hear some of you saying I could have discovered all of this before putting colored pencil to paper. Yes, I could have. That’s one reason I now urge students and readers to take their time over the design phase. It would have been much easier—and quicker—to have know from the start these square crops would be been so pleasing. I could have started with such a composition and saved a lot of drawing time!

Alas, we all live and learn, don’t we?

Admit it. That’s one of the things that makes making art such a never-ending challenge!

*Sky Blue Light is not a lightfast color, and is no longer on my palette. I use Powder Blue or a combination of True Blue and White as a substitute.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil

My last post on this project ended with a decision that necessitated damage control. A lot of it! Bad for me, but good for you because I decided to show you how to fix a BIG mistake in colored pencil.

So we’ll take a break from the regular tutorial, so you can see how I fixed the self-inflicted problems.

Let’s begin with the problem.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil

The Problem

As you will recall, I decided to remove the nose band on the blue halter for compositional reasons. You can read about that here. Below is the end result.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - The Mistake

The composition seemed much improved, but I couldn’t let well enough alone. The process went so well that I decided to remove the rest of the halter.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil

Step 1: Hiding Unwanted Elements

I began by layering Verithin Goldenrod, Pumpkin Orange, Terra Cotta, Peacock Green, Indigo Blue, Dark Brown, Orange*, and Tuscan Red* over the areas I wanted to conceal. I applied one layer of each color in the order listed over the cheek strap.

Then I used Verithin pencils because they have harder leads and are excellent ‘blending’ tools.

Next, I layered colors in random order, gradually darkening the area until it blended in with the rest of the horse.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - Step 1

The work went very well, but a couple of potential problems were revealed. Namely, the cast shadow across the cheek and the apparent ‘deformity’ at the place where the cheek and neck meet. I hadn’t taken those things into account and wasn’t sure how best to deal with it. Since it was the end of the drawing session, anyway, I decided to sleep on the problem.

TIP: Be prepared for unexpected problems whenever you try to correct a mistake. Also be ready to press on. Very few mistakes are drawing killers.

Step 2: Removing Color with Sticky Stuff

Anyone who has used colored pencils for any length of time knows it’s next to impossible to cover dark colors with light colors. You can alter the darkness of the darks by glazing a lighter color over it, but you cannot cover it.

So the first step in correcting the shadows was lifting color from most of the halter with sticky stuff. I hoped to get most of the color removed but soon found that some of the colors had stained the paper.

I also discovered that using sticky stuff wasn’t the best choice. It did remove color well, but it left the paper surface the slightest bit slick and made further color application problematic. It would have been much better to have removed color with tape (very carefully) or with an eraser. The best course of action would probably have been an electric eraser and a very light touch.

But the decision was made and the work done. This is what I ended up with.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - Step 2

Read 2 Neat Tricks for Erasing or “Lifting” Color from Colored Pencil Drawings on EmptyEasel.

Here’s a closer look.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - Step 2 Detail

Step 3: Adding Color

I attempted to replace the cast shadow across the cheek and redraw the throatlatch (the strap that goes under the throat,) then outlined the cast shadow. I had to move the cast shadow a couple of times before it looked correct.

My intention was to layer color with Verithin pencils, but the paper was so slick that Verithin pencils made very little impact. Reluctantly, I switched to Prismacolor. Beginning with Dark Brown, Indigo Blue and Dark Green, I darkened the cast shadow and layered Goldenrod over the cheek and top of the neck.

Then I layered Dark Brown, Dark Green, Indigo Blue and Black Cherry over the area that was once the cheek strap in an effort to more completely blend remaining edges.

I then used rubbing alcohol to blend the colors. I used an old toothbrush to apply the alcohol and scrub a little to further blur the remaining edges, then set the drawing aside to dry.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - Step 3

Step 4: Adding Color

Once the alcohol blend dried, I discovered with some disappointment that it, too, had been a poor decision. I was well past regret by this point and thinking about a drastic crop.

Sometimes, though, a drawing gets to the point at which I think I can do no further damage, and that I may as well try one more thing. If the one more thing fails, I can consider a crop. So I picked up a pencil and began another round of color application.

I layered Prismacolor Yellow Ochre, Goldenrod, Mineral Orange, Pumpkin Orange, Dark Umber, Indigo Blue, Tuscan Red*, Sienna Brown, and Black in random order above and below the bridle. My goal at this point was to restore the natural color of the horse’s coat. I hoped to completely conceal the edges of the now absent halter, but didn’t get that far before deciding I’d ruined the drawing.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - Step 4

Step 5: Adding More Color

I expected to see ruin and disaster when I looked at the drawing the next time.

I was disappointed! There was none!

The drawing looked pretty good in person and when I photographed it, the digital image looked good, too.

TIP: Never make major decisions about your artwork when you’re tired, overworked, or frustrated. Give yourself a break—24 hours if you can—and you might find the problem resolves itself.

I needed additional reference materials, so I retrieved photographs of heads, necks, and shoulders to supplement the primary reference photo.

I worked mostly on the cheek, but also all the areas around the bridle and now-absent halter. Each layer improved color, value, and saturation as I corrected remaining problems.

Because I was working over previous work, I used heavier pressure. I was able to get away with lighter pressure on the neck because I hadn’t used the sticky stuff to remove that color.

How to Fix a BIG Mistake in Colored Pencil - Step 5

No More Mistake!

In the end, the drawing looked at least as good as it did before I made that fateful error in judgment. If you look closely, you can see the edges of the side strap, but that will be completely concealed as I finish the drawing. I’ll show you how that worked out in next Tuesday’s tutorial.

If you take anything away from my experience, let it be this:

No matter how bad they look, most mistakes (yes, even in colored pencil drawings) can be corrected with time and patience. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a willingness to try things.

Plenty of sleep helps, too!

For other methods of correcting colored pencil mistakes, read How to Fix Colored Pencil Mistakes by Blending with Rubber Cement Thinner and How to Fix Mistakes Made with Water Soluble Colored Pencils on EmptyEasel.

*Orange and Tuscan Red are fugitive colors. They have a tendency to fade. I didn’t know that when I did this drawing back in 2012. Since then, I’ve removed those colors, and either use similar colors in other brands, or substitute other colors of Prismacolor.

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes

Welcome back to my color glazing tutorial. This is week three and I’ll show you how to deepen color with color glazes.

If you missed the first two parts or would like to review them again, here are the links.

The primary topic is deepening color saturation and building a range of rich browns by continuing to add layers of color. But I’ll also talk about a couple of compositional errors that came to light since the previous post. Let’s get started.

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes

Ordinarily, deepening color saturation with color glazes involves nothing more complex than continuing to add layers. Use the same colors you used in the first glazes, but be prepared to add complementary colors if those colors start to get out of control.

However, as so often happens, I noticed a problem with the drawing after I finished the work described in the previous post.

Step 1

Between the last drawing session and this one, I realized the forelock extends too far upward when compared with the top of the neck behind the ears. Those two areas should look like extensions of one another. They don’t.

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 1


In hind sight, I should probably have cropped the image to remove the problem area. That would have been a simpler, quicker solution. Instead, I tried to redraw it to correct the problem. This was primarily a matter to changing the highlights, and adding shadows to redirect the shapes. I used medium pressure and long, flowing strokes.

Then, rather than fixate on that area, I worked on the eye. I used a sharp pencil with tight, circular strokes and medium-light pressure to darken the shapes on the eyeball. Around the eye, I let the pencil go blunt and applied an even layer of color. Depending each part of the drawing, I used either circular strokes or back-and-forth strokes.

Step 2

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 2

I layered Dark Brown over most of the horse, including the mane and forelock. Only the brightest highlights and the red-gold areas were worked around.

I started with a sharp pencil in the areas that show the most detail (around the eye). As the pencil became steadily more dull, I worked into the areas further and further from the center of interest. In all areas, pressure was light, and I held the pencil in a vertical position. I used directional strokes only the detail areas.

When I finished with color application, I impressed a few flyaway hairs into the mane and forelock with a stylus. I also added a few eye lashes.

Step 3

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 3

Next, I layered Dark Green over the darkest shadows and middle tones with medium pressure to darken the dark areas and produce a deeper, richer brown. But I also glazed Dark Green into some of the lighter middle values to keep the earth tones from getting too bright.

To give my eye and mind a rest from earth tones, I stroked Dark Green into the mane and forelock, and over some of the shadows on the blue halter.

Step 4

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 4

I stroked Black into the eye, forelock, and mane with heavy pressure, then glazed Black into the area around the eye with medium pressure. The purpose was to establish those areas as centers of interest, and s et them apart from the browns.

Step 5

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 5

I used medium pressure and the side of the pencil to apply Tuscan Red to most of the shadows and darker mid-tones. The smaller areas or places that needed sharper detail were worked on with the point of the pencil kept as sharp as possible.

Next, I applied Sienna Brown with directional strokes with a sharp pencil or circular or back-and-forth strokes applied with a blunt or flat-ended pencil. There was some overlap between Sienna Brown and Tuscan Red, but Sienna Brown was used primarily in those places that were lighter in value or more red or gold in color.

Step 6

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 6


After a good deal of deliberation and a vain attempt to remove the nose band digitally just to see how it looked, I decided to remove the nose band on the drawing.

I lifted as much color as possible with a click eraser. Not much had been done with that area, so I was able to remove most of the color. Then I softened the edge, brushed away the crumbs, and began applying color.

I used the same colors I used in the beginning, going all the way back to Verithin Goldenrod, which I applied over most of the area.

Layers of Pumpkin Orange, Terra Cotta, Peacock Green, Indigo Blue, Light Cerulean Blue, and Dark Brown followed. When I layered each of those colors, I alternated Pumpkin Orange and Peacock Green until the halter had nearly disappeared.

Step 7

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 7


I continued alternating layers of Terra Cotta, Dark Brown, Indigo Blue, and Goldenrod to develop the brown and cover the nose band.

I applied most of the color with medium-light pressure, and the side of a sharp pencil. But I also added details with directional strokes and very sharp pencils.

Step 8

How to Deepen Color with Color Glazes - Step 8

To conclude this phase, I glazed Goldenrod over most of the face, even in the darker brown areas.

Then I worked on the forelock, alternately applying Black and lifting color with the click eraser. I wanted to separate hair masses, and bring some semblance of order to this part of the drawing.

Conclusion

The problem of the halter nose band appears to be resolved. The forelock? Not at all. I love long hair and the play of light and shadow, but the angles remain troublesome.

I will have to find a solution to that problem or the drawing will not succeed. That will be our topic next week. I hope you’ll join me to see how I fixed a BIG mistake!

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Last week, I showed you how to draw the umber under drawing for a horse portrait. When work concluded, the under drawing had been pushed as far as  I cared to push it. The next step is color, so this week I’ll show you how to glaze color over an umber under drawing.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

The first step is always an overall review. Before moving forward, it’s important to make sure the previous work is just the way you want it. I reviewed the drawing in search of areas that needed work. I made a few adjustments and the under drawing was complete.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Finished Under Drawing

Starting With Color

I once read a comment from a prominent artist whose advice for beginning work each day struck note. Always start with something you can’t mess up.

It’s a lot easier done with oils than colored pencils, but I often employ that advice in my work. That’s why I began color glazes by glazing blue on the halter. It seemed like the least likely place to cause trouble if I made a mistake!

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Blue Halter 1
I used two shades of blue—one light and one dark. The light blue was layered over every part of the halter. The dark blue was used to darken the shadows.

Next, I layered the dark blue into the eye, forelock and mane, and all the darker shadows.

By the way, I continued using Prismacolor Verithin pencils to preserve the tooth of the Stonehenge paper.

Glazing Coat Colors

Now the the first color is on the paper, it’s time to get serious. For the rest of this post, we’ll focus on developing the colors in the horse’s hair.

The process begins with establishing two or three main colors. This subject has dark browns, reddish browns, and a few areas that are golden in color, so a single brown is not going to work. In fact, you’ll need at least three groups of browns—one for each of the colors mentioned above. There will be some overlap, of course, but there should also be some very distinct variations.

The Colors I Used

For the base colors, I chose Goldenrod for the golden areas, Sienna Brown for the reddish-brown areas, and Dark Brown for the darker browns.

I added Pumpkin Orange to the Goldenrod in the golden browns, Pumpkin Orange and Terra Cotta in the reddish brown areas, and Indigo Blue and Peacock Green in the dark browns.

The Glazing Method I Used

I layered each color into the appropriate areas, using light pressure and directional strokes. For smaller areas, such as between the straps, I used the tips of well-sharpened pencils. For the broader areas, I used the sides of the pencils.

While there is variation in color, there are no hard edges between those variations, so I applied colors so that there was overlapping. For example, whenever I layered Pumpkin Orange into a golden brown area, I also layered it into the reddish brown or dark brown areas that were adjacent to the area I was working on. That kept the gradations between colors smooth and natural looking.

To make sure they looked like hair, I used short directional strokes to accent some of the changes in value and color. Those few details were all that were necessary to create the illusion of short hair. I didn’t have to draw every single hair!

The Process Step-by Step

Step 1

Basic colors are glazed over the umber under drawing. While I used some directional strokes to begin developing the look of hair, the primary goal was getting even glazes of color in the right places.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 1

Step 2

Once the first color was on the paper, I continued developing color by layering some of the secondary colors as needed in each areas. For the most part, I added them in the form and cast shadow areas.

I did also start drawing the long hair of the forelock and mane as a means of rewarding myself for some of the more detailed work.

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 2

TIP

Find ways to work on your drawing that allows you to relax eye and hand and still make progress!

Step 3

I began working on the neck. It’s part of the drawing that is still part of the horse, but services as background. Or maybe backdrop would be a better way to put it. It needs to have some detail, but not as much as the face, the halter or the bridle.

The work shown in this illustration represents several layers of the basic and secondary colors—Sienna Brown and Dark Brown with the shadows darkened with Peacock Green and Indigo Blue (both used sparingly.)

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 3
I also used Dark Brown, Indigo Blue and Black to reshape the major hair masses, and add a lot of flying hair to help break up the negative space. I did a similar thing with the mane, changing the top edge of the mane so it was higher and a little more bulky.

Step 4

Still using the same colors, I began developing color and value in the smaller parts of the horse visible between the straps of the halter and bridle.

By the way, it was at this point that I switched from Prismacolor Verithin pencils to Prismacolor Premier pencils. I could still add layers with the harder Verithin pencils, but work was progressing too slowly.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 4

Step 5

As the number of layers increase, so does the amount of pigment on the paper. It become necessary to increase the pressure I put on the pencil, but I do so gradually.

In some of the darker areas, I’ve reached medium pressure, but I’m still also using light pressure wherever possible.

TIP:

It’s almost always better to draw dark values by layering and blending instead of  using heavy pressure.

No matter what pressure I use, I use directional strokes for he hair, and small circular strokes in the eye and leather.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 5
Work on the bridle began with medium-heavy pressure and a blunt point along the shaded edges of the head stall, then a lighter layer of Dark Brown into the shadows and the darker area of the headstall and throat latch. My goal in these areas was to begin  reducing the emphasis on the leather straps where they either pass behind other design elements or where they exit the composition.

Step 6

Most of the basic colors are now in place, so it as time to begin darkening the darkest shadows. I used Indigo Blue in the darkest parts of the neck, forehead, around the eye, and in and around the ear. I used a very sharp pencil and directional strokes to simulate hair growth.

A layer of Indigo Blue was applied in the darker brown areas of the horse, with fairly open strokes to keep the brown from going too blue. I finished with Indigo Blue by stroking color into some of the darker areas of the forelock.

I then used a sharp pencil and directional strokes to apply Goldenrod to the golden areas around the ear and eye and the lower part of the face near the nose band. With Sienna Brown, I overlapped shadows and middle tones.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 6

Step 7

After a second layer of Goldenrod and Sienna Brown over the golden brown and reddish brown areas, I layered both colors into the leather bridle straps, and the eye.

I balanced those colors by adding black to the forelock, and darkest shadows. This increased the contrast between lights and darks and give the drawing more depth.
How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 7

The darkest values are inside the ring on the halter and the shape at the bottom of the drawing. These two areas are the benchmark against which I’ll measure other values as work continues.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

Colored pencils are an ideal medium for creating a detailed miniature drawing. Their very nature is perfect for small works of art, so if you’re looking for something new, I encourage you to give it a try.

DEFINITION: Miniature artwork is 24 square inches (4×6) or smaller. My demo piece measures 3-1/2″ by 2-1/2″ (commonly known as an art trading card). Miniatures can be much smaller, too.

For more information on miniature art, visit the Miniature Art Society of Florida for national and international definitions. While there, take a look at some absolutely marvelous miniature work in a variety of mediums.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

But how do you draw a miniature drawing? What special methods do you need to know?

My short answer is that whatever method you use for other drawings will work if you want to draw a miniature drawing. The biggest adjustment you’ll have to make is the length of pencil strokes; they need to be smaller!

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil

My subject for this demonstration is a mare and foal, but the method I’m about to describe works for any subject and any size.

The drawing method is a simplified version of the classical method in which I do an under drawing first, then layer color over the under painting.

Step 1: An accurate line drawing

A detailed drawing is a must with any form of miniature art. The composition is so small, it’s difficult to correct drawing errors once you’ve started rendering.

With most wet media, you can still cover up mistakes, but not so with colored pencil. Since details are developed from the very beginning, take the time to make sure your initial line drawing is correct.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - The Line Drawing

Step 2: Block in the under drawing

Use Light Umber and Dark Umber to create a detailed under drawing. Most of the foundation work should be done in Light Umber, but Dark Umber is very handy for adding darks and contrast, especially with these two bays.

Add Yellow Ochre and Dark Umber to the background.

I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils, because they hold a point much longer and have a thinner lead. This allows for more even color application. It is also very helpful in working with such small images and in areas where there is a high level of detail.

Verithin pencils are also ideal for the first layers of work because they’re easier to erase or cover over if you do make a mistake.

Step 3: Add the first color layers with Verithin pencils.

Layer Verithin Goldenrod over all parts of both horses except their manes, the halters, and any other areas that are not brown.

Follow up with Verithin Orange Ochre over all areas but the darkest darks and the brightest highlights.

Keep your pencils sharp and use light pressure.

Work toward getting each layer of color as smooth as possible. With a work this small, that means tiny strokes that overlap. Work around the white markings, the halters, and the highlights on each horse.

Step 4: Add the next color layers.

Continue adding layers of color to achieve the most accurate possible coloring on each horse and the best color saturation. Usually, saturation of color is more difficult than getting accurate color, but they go hand in hand.

Use Verithin Dark Brown and Terra Cotta on the foal, followed by Ultramarine and Black on both horses. Use blue and black in the manes and tail, as well as the muzzles and eyes.

Step 5: Add final details.

You may want to switch to a softer pencil for the final layers. I used Prismacolor Soft Core.

Layer different earth tones such as Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Mineral Orange over the mare’s coat. Next, add accents of Cerulean Blue and White over the top of the backs and rump, and in the highlights of the mare’s mane.

Darken and smooth out the background texture to set it apart from the horses. Alternate layers of Light Peach, Parma Violet, Ultramarine Blue, and  Dark Brown until the background looks the way you want it to look.

To finish the horses, blend each one lightly using Dark Brown and Terra Cotta.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - Finishing the Drawing

That’s How I Draw a Miniature Drawing

That’s not to say it’s the only way, but if this little tutorial gets you interested in trying your hand at miniature drawing, then I’m satisfied.

Miniature drawings can be a fun way to take a break from larger work and still make art. While a miniature drawing is often just as detailed as a larger piece, they can be finished more quickly.

And they’re a great way to try out a new technique AND use up those bits of scrap paper that so often accumulate around the studio.

So I encourage you to give miniature art a try. Who knows? You may like it!

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