How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

Today, I’d like to show you how to draw leather with colored pencils. The project for this tutorial was drawn on gray paper, which gave me a head start on establishing values.

But this method of drawing will work on any color of paper. Yes, even white!

How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

Pencils: Prismacolor Premier

Paper: Canson Mi-Teintes 98lb pastel paper, Steel Grey. (If you use Mi-Teintes, make sure to use the back, which is much smoother and more suitable for colored pencils.)

Step 1: Add basic colors to begin developing values.

Begin drawing the leather by working on an isolated piece, as I did here, or by layering each color over all parts of the bridle. I tend to work section by section, but either way works.

Ordinarily, it’s best to begin with lighter colors, but since we’re working on a medium gray paper, you can begin with darker values first.

Use a sharp pencils and light pressure to layer Dark Brown over the middle and dark values. Start with the darkest area first, then put a second layer over that area plus the middle values. Work around the two bright highlights at the top and bottom of the leather strap (also known as the headstall.)

Next, layer Mediterranean Blue with light pressure between the lightest area and the darkest value, then layer White over the lightest area at the top of the headstall.

Also layer White over the highlight near the bottom of the strap. To warm up the color, layer Spanish Orange over the browns.

How to Draw Leather - Step 1

Step 2: Layer colors again to create saturation and color depth.

The texture of Canson Mi-Teintes paper helps establish the “feel” of the leather without much effort. The appearance of color on the paper gives the leather a finished appearance after only one round of color. For some kinds of leather, that would be appropriate.

This leather is very smooth, though. Almost polished in appearance. So add a couple more layers of Dark Brown alternating with White in the lighter areas along the side of the head.

Mix Dark Brown and Indigo Blue over the top of the head. Use slightly heavier pressure to create smooth color, but don’t burnish.

At the top of the head, darken the shadow with Indigo Blue, then punch up the reflected light highlight with a little bit of White.

Also layer White over the lower part of the strap and burnish the brightest part of the highlight with White.

How to Draw Leather - Step 2

Step 3: Fine-tune highlights, shadows, and reflected light.

Next, I fine-tuned the headstall by re-enforcing the reflected light with a stroke or two of Cool Grey 20% and adding a form shadow on the back edge of the strap with Indigo Blue.

How to Draw Leather - Step 3

Step 4:

Continue drawing the leather parts of the bridle and reins by using Sienna Brown as the base color, and mixing Dark Brown and Indigo Blue in the shadows and darker areas.

Draw the lighter middle values by mixing Goldenrod and Sienna Brown, then add highlights with a mix of White and Powder Blue.

Use light pressure and circular strokes for the first layers of color in each strap. Add additional layers with medium pressure and the highlights with heavy pressure.

The primary goal is filling in all of the paper holes, so after the colors are established, continue layering with a variety of strokes, gradually increasing pressure with each layer.

Add touches of Black in some of the darker shadows.

Step 5: Add detailing.

To give the bridle an extra look of realism, use a light and dark color to add shadows and highlights around the holes in the straps, the stitching in some of the straps, and on and around the restraints holding the ends of the straps. A stroke or two in most of these areas makes a big difference.

Step 6: Draw the reins using the same colors and layering process.

Finish the reins in the same way and using the same colors.

How to Draw Leather - Step 6

This illustration shows the finished bridle.

That’s How to Draw Leather with Colored Pencils

At least, that’s how I draw leather.

Drawing leather doesn’t have to be complicated. If you follow the steps described here, you can draw even the most complex bridle or harness. Take your time, keep your pencils sharp, and work from one strap to the next.

This tutorial is excerpted from the Portrait of a Black Horse tutorial. The tutorial covers drawing the horse and bridle, ribbons, and metal.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Under and Over Drawings

Last week, I defined some of the basic terms relating to colored pencils and drawing paper. This week, I want to continue that discussion with more basic colored pencil terms, but this time, lets talk about method and technique terms.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Before we go any further, let me assure you there is no “right way” to draw. The methods and techniques I’m about to describe are just a few of those that are available to artists.

Some of the technique terms apply to colored pencils no matter what methods you use. Some of them are applicable only to specific methods or techniques.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Method

Let’s begin with the broader subject of drawing methods. The following definitions are very basic. For more information on any of them, read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

Direct Drawing Method

When you use what I call the direct drawing method, you begin with the same colors you end with. There is no clear difference between the first layers of color and the final layers except perhaps in the vibrancy of the colors, and the level of detail.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Direct Drawing Method

This is the most common drawing method.

It’s also the most intuitive. It’s natural to begin drawing a tree with greens and browns, after all. That’s the way I started drawings (and paintings) when I first started doing art.

Complementary Under Drawing Method

With the complementary under drawing method, you start drawing with colors that are on the opposite side of the color wheel from the final colors. The complementary under drawing for an orange is going to be blue.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms - Color Wheel

The complementary method is excellent for landscape drawings because the complementary under drawing automatically keeps the greens from getting to bright.

Umber Under Drawing Method

The umber under drawing method begins with an under drawing that’s brown, like those old-fashioned sepia-tone photographs. Values and details are developed in brown no matter what color the subject is.

The shade of brown can vary from subject to subject. You can choose a warm brown such as Prismacolor Light Umber (my preference) or a cooler brown such as Dark Umber or Sepia.

You can also mix browns, using a combination of light and dark browns or warm and cool browns to create more interest and contrast in the under drawing.

But with this method of drawing, the under drawing is always only shades of brown.

Monochromatic Under Drawing Method

One method I haven’t mentioned here, but that I have talked about elsewhere is the monochromatic method. With this method, you create an under drawing in a single color or, sometimes, with a single color family. For example, you might choose to draw an Indigo Blue under drawing.

The reason I’ve not described this method further is that I haven’t used it in years. Why? Because the colors I most often choose for a monochromatic under drawing are either earth tones  or complementary colors.

I tried Indigo Blue once and didn’t care for the result. Most other colors don’t result in the look I want for my work, so this method has fallen out of favor.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Monochromatic Method

But that’s no reason for you not to try it. The fact is, it may suit your choice of subject and your drawing style beautifully!

Combining Methods

There are other methods of drawing, and you can combine elements of these methods in a single drawing. For example, I’ve used an umber under drawing for the trees in a landscape, but drawn everything else using the direct method.

As mentioned previously, there is no right way to draw. Every artist needs to find the method or methods that work best for them.

But understanding the basic differences and characteristics of each method helps you make better decisions.

Technique

Under Drawing/Under Painting

The first layers of color you put on a drawing are called the under drawing or under painting. No matter what method you use, these layers are the foundation of the artwork.

The colors you use for the under drawing are determined by the method you use, as described above.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Under and Over Drawings

This sample shows a complementary under drawing.

Over Drawing/Over Painting

The over drawing or over painting refers to all the layers of color you put over the under drawing. Some of the methods I use have very distinct beginnings and endings. Others do not.

Layering

Layering is the process of layering one color over another, or adding multiple layers of the same color. You can use light, medium, or heavy pressure to add color. You can also use sharp or blunted pencils, and hold them vertically, horizontally, or somewhere in between.

Glazing

Glazing is the same as layering, except that the layers are thinner, so that the colors that are under the new layer are still clearly visible. The term comes from oil painting, a medium in which you can thin paint so it’s very transparent, almost like laying a piece of colored plastic over a painting to tint the colors.

Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so almost every layer you put on a drawing is technically a glaze. But when you glaze a color onto a drawing or painting, you use very light pressure, and barely add any color at all. I usually glaze with the side of a pencil held horizontal to the paper.

Pressure

Pressure is the amount of force you put on the paper with the pencil. It’s often measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being the lightest pressure and ten the heaviest. Burnishing is the heaviest pressure you can use. It’s most used at the end of the process.

When you glaze a color, you’ll most likely be using a pressure of one or two.

Blending

When an artist uses a wet medium such as oils, acrylics or watercolors, they mix two or more colors together to get a new color.

Colored pencils are a dry medium, so they can’t be mixed the same way. Instead, colored pencil artists create new colors by layering one color over another color on the paper. Since colored pencils are not opaque, every color influences every other color in some way.

This is called blending, and there are different ways to do it.

Dry Blending

Layering is one method of blending and it’s the method most artists use because it requires no additional tools or smelly solvents. I drew the sample above with multiple layers of yellow and blue. The green results from alternating layers of each of the other colors.

Other methods of dry blending include rubbing a drawing with paper towel or tissue, or using a colorless blender.

Burnishing is another form of dry blending in which you use very heavy pressure to “grind” layers of color together. You can use either colored pencils or a colorless blender to burnish.

Solvent Blending

Solvent blending is a method of blending in which you use a solvent or paint thinner such as odorless mineral spirits to break down the binder. Once the binder is dissolved, pigments mix and blend more like paint.

Solvent blending is often faster than dry blending or blending by layering, but it also requires some caution, due to fumes. It also requires drying time.

Conclusion

There are, of course, even more basic colored pencil terms to learn, but they can wait for another post.

It may seem confusing now, but once you understand each of these terms and how they apply to colored pencil art, you have a great foundation. Most other art terms—and colored pencil terms—build on these basic terms.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Paper

Let’s talk about basic colored pencil terms today.

A lot of readers are new to this blog, or new to colored pencils, or both. Whichever category you fall into, welcome! Welcome to the blog and welcome to colored pencils!

If you haven’t already, you’re going to hear a lot of terms that make no sense. That’s my bad. I’ve been doing colored pencils so long, I tend to forget what it was like when I first got started!

I also know there are a lot of budding artists out there who already love the medium, but are confused by the jargon.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners
So today, I want to go back to square one and define some of those confusing-but-basic colored pencil terms.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained

To make things less confusing, I’ve arranged terms into four separate categories. We’ll begin with the two most basic: Pencils and Paper!

Basic Pencil Terms

The following terms apply to your colored pencils no matter what brand you prefer or the quality of pencils in your pencil box.

Wax-Based

All colored pencils are made by grinding pigment, then mixing it with a binder. The binder allows the pigment to be formed into the core of the pencil, holds it together while you use the pencil, and allows the pigment to lay down smoothly on the paper.

Wax-based pencils like Prismacolor and Caran d’Ache Luminance utilize a binder that’s mostly wax.

Wax-based pencils generally lay down more smoothly, and are softer. They also tend to break more easily if you press too hard with them.

They’re great for laying down lots of color quickly, but can be more of a challenge in drawing details.

Wax bloom can also be a problem, especially with dark colors.

Wax-based pencils are the most popular and the most widely available.

Oil-Based

Oil-based pencils have a binder that’s mostly oil, often vegetable oil. They do contain some wax, but not usually much. Faber-Castell Polychromos and Rembrandt Lyra are oil-based pencils.

Oil-based pencils are harder and sometimes more brittle feeling than wax-based pencils. That makes them great for detailed work. Smooth layers of color are possible, but aren’t usually as easy to achieve. They hold a point much longer, too.

Wax bloom is not usually a problem with oil-based pencils, even if you tend to use heavier pressure when drawing.

Wax Bloom

When you draw, you leave color on the paper, but you also leave binder. The harder you press on the paper with the pencil, the more color and binder you leave on the paper.

Wax binder eventually rises to the surface of the color layers, giving them a foggy, misty, or gray appearance. This is normal with all colors, though it’s more obvious on darker colors.

The cloudy right half of this sample is wax bloom. The left side shows the natural color after the wax bloom has been removed.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Wax Bloom

Wax bloom is easily removed by wiping a drawing with clean tissue and light pressure. It can be prevented by sealing a finished drawing with final finish; preferably one designed for colored pencil work such as Brush & Pencil’s Final Fixative.

Framing under glass will not prevent wax bloom.

Grades of Pencils

Colored pencils are manufactured in three grades: Scholar, Student, and Artist. Scholar-grade pencils the least expensive and poorest quality. Artist-grade pencils are the highest quality, so are usually more expensive.

Artist grade pencils have a higher ratio of pigment to binder, so they produce better color and results with less effort. They’re often more fade resistant.

Scholar grade pencils have more binder and less filler, so the color they produce may be weak or pale.

You can make great art with any grade of pencils, but will generally get the best results with higher quality pencils.

Lightfastness

A pencil is lightfast if it doesn’t fade over time.

If a color fades over time, it’s also referred to as fugitive. The color “runs away and hides” if exposed to light. Sometimes it may disappear altogether, and sometimes very quickly.

Pencils are rated differently in the US than in Europe and other parts of the world, but all brands are tested in some form, and many companies provide color charts that include lightfast ratings.

Watercolor Pencils/Water Soluble Pencils

These are watercolors in pencil form. Many artists consider them to be colored pencils, others don’t. Since many colored pencil manufacturers also produce watercolor pencils, I tend to think of them as colored pencils that just happen to dissolve in water.

Instead of a wax- or oil-based binder, they use a binder that dissolves in water. You can draw with them dry and mix them with other colored pencils.

You can also draw with them dry, then wet blend them with water, or paint with them by dampening the pigment with water and using a brush.

Paper

The following terms apply to drawing papers of all types.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Paper

Support

The surface you draw on. For colored pencils, that’s usually paper, but colored pencils can also be used on wood, pastel papers, mylar and other similar films, and mat board, just to name a few.

Some paper manufacturing companies also produces papers mounted to a rigid support. The drawing surface is still paper, but the support itself is rigid. Many sanded art papers are available as sheets and boards, for example.

Tooth

Tooth refers to the surface texture of papers. The toothier a paper is, the more texture it has. Sand paper has more tooth than inkjet paper.

Tooth is important to the colored pencil artist because of the way colored pencil lays down on different types of paper. In most cases and for most methods of drawing with colored pencils, smoother papers are better.

However, there sanded art papers are one notable exception. The grittiness of sanded art papers would seem to make them unsuitable for colored pencils, but many artists actually prefer them to traditional drawing papers.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Tooth

Weight

The weight of the paper refers to the thickness. A 98lb paper is thinner than a 140lb paper. Paper is measured this way because the “weight” is what a standard ream of a particular paper weighs. A ream is 500 sheets, so a ream of 98lb paper weighs 98 pounds.

The actual process is quite complicated, since the weights assigned to papers are assigned based on the standard size for each type of paper, and the type of paper (bond paper, card stock, etc.)

All you really need to keep in mind is that the higher the pound weight, the thicker the paper is most likely to be.

This is important because you don’t want to use a drawing paper that’s too thin (light weight.)

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Paper Weights

Most pads of drawing paper include clear labeling on the weight of the paper (see above.) Most full sheets are also labeled, though the information may be more difficult to locate.

Conclusion

Those are our basic colored pencil terms defined for today. There are a lot more terms relating to both pencils and papers, so if you encounter a term you don’t understand, send me an email and ask about it.

Next week, we’ll talk about some basic colored pencil terms concerning drawing methods and techniques.

How to Draw Clouds with Colored Pencil

Two of the more popular posts here are How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds in graphite, and How to Draw a Clear Sky with Colored Pencil. Today, we’ll combine those two subjects with a tutorial showing you how to draw clouds with colored pencil.

In a blue sky, of course!

How to Draw Clouds with Colored Pencil

About the Demonstration Art

The sample study was painted on Canson Mi-Teintes 98lb paper, Azure. If you use Canson Mi-Teintes, make sure to use the smooth side. You can use the front if you wish, but the texture will be more difficult to work with and finishing will take longer.

My cloud study is quite small, 4″ x 2.75″, and is a Drawing of the Week. I used a combination of layering and solvent blending, along with the direct method.

It was also the first time I’d used Canson Mi-Teintes‘ Azure paper, which is a very soft, light shade of blue.

How to Draw Clouds with Colored Pencil

Step 1: Lightly outline the clouds and land and shade the sky.

Use very light pressure to outline the clouds and the horizon. You can use the same color for both, or use a medium blue to outline the clouds and medium gray-green to outline the horizon.

Keep the edges somewhat soft since clouds very rarely have crisp edges.

TIP: Use at least two shades of blue, one medium and one light. The colors you choose should reflect the color of the sky you’re drawing, since skies are not the same shade of blue everywhere.

Next, shade the sky with the same blue you used to outline the clouds. Use light pressure and the stroke that gives you the most even color. Start at the top with a sharp pencil and layer color about three-quarters of the way down the sky. Work carefully around the clouds.

Follow that with a lighter value blue. Start at the top again, but this time, layer blue all the way to the horizon.

If you’re using a very light blue, start at the horizon and layer that upward to a little past the halfway mark.

Use light pressure with all the colors and do at least two layers of each, rotating through the colors as you work. You want smooth gradations in color and value.

How to Draw Clouds Step 1

Step 2: Lift a few more clouds with mounting putty.

Use mounting putty to lift a little color from the sky to create thin, wispy clouds if you wish.

Shape the putty into small shapes, press it lightly against the paper, then reshape it. If you don’t, you may end up with a pattern of lifted color that’s too regular in shape to look like clouds.

How to Draw Clouds Step 2

Step 3: Blend with odorless mineral spirits or other art solvent.

You can use a brush (the most common way.) Dip the brush into a little solvent, then “paint” it over the color. The solvent dissolves the color and allows the different shades of blue to mix almost like paint.

I used a cotton swab instead of a brush. In the blue at the top, I tapped the color repeatedly with the end of the swab. Too many times, as it turned out, because I began lifting color (as you can see below.)

In the rest of the sky, I rolled the side of the cotton along the sky in horizontal strokes. Once to moisten the color, then again to blend it.

If you lifted color to create light, wispy clouds, work around them unless you want to reshape them by blending into them. Don’t wet them completely.

How to Draw Clouds Step 3

TIP: If you need to soften edges, blend over them as shown around the clouds around the center patch of blue sky, and in the clouds leading toward the upper, right corner.

Step 4: Continue layering and blending until the blue sky is finished.

Layer color and blend with solvent, until the sky is finished to your satisfaction.

If you need to, you can also do the final blend with a colorless blender.

How to Draw Clouds Step 4

Step 5: Draw the landscape using the same methods.

Draw the landscape using the same layering and blending method. The landscape is really the stage for the main subject, the clouds, so you don’t need to put a lot of detail into it.

Since this tutorial is about the clouds and not the land, I’ll show the first round of color, and the finished landscape.

How to Draw Clouds Step 5

I did three or four rounds of layering color and blending with solvent to reach this point (below.) The landscape isn’t completely finished, but I’ll do the clouds before making any changes to either the sky or the landscape.

How to Draw Clouds Step 6

Step 6: Shade the dark values in the clouds

Carefully sketch in and shade the darkest values in the clouds with a medium value blue-gray color. Use a sharp pencil and put down multiple layers to create a variety of values.

Pay close attention to the overlap of clouds. Each set of clouds is different, so don’t rush, and don’t draw generic clouds.

How to Draw Clouds Step 7

After you’ve put three or four layers of color into the shadows and darker middle values, blend with solvent.

Step 7: Layer the same blue, a medium gray, and a lighter gray-blue into the shadows and darker values.

Darken the shadows and darker middle values with alternating layers of the same blue you used in Step 6, plus a medium gray, and a gray-blue lighter than the previous blue.

Focus your attention on the shadows, but also layer the two shades of blue into the middle values.

Very lightly layer the lighter blue into the lighter middle values.

How to Draw Clouds Step 8

Step 8: Blend with solvent, and pull dissolved color into the lighter parts of the clouds.

Blend with solvent. Blot the brush before touching the paper to remove excess solvent.

Begin blending in the darkest areas. Observe the edges of those shapes carefully, especially where they overlap lighter areas.

Also pull color from the darker middle values into the lighter middle values to create even lighter middle values. Work around the white areas. They will be the highlights in the clouds, so you need to preserve them.

How to Draw Clouds Step 9

Step 9: Continue layering and blending until you get the color, values, and saturation you want.

Since this small piece was a study and a Drawing of the Week, I didn’t push the details. The finished study, below, represents two more rounds of layering color and blending with solvent.

I finished by burnishing the clouds with a light blue Prismacolor pencil. Prismacolor because they’re wax-based, and good for burnishing. Light blue to unify the values in the clouds and because the color was just the right touch for the hint of shadow in the brightest part of the clouds.

How to Draw Clouds Finished

As already mentioned, this is only a color study, so isn’t as detailed as a larger painting.

But it is enough to tell me this type of painting is not only fun to do, but worth expanding into a larger, more complex piece.

Conclusion

Learning how to draw clouds is a challenging, but satisfying process. You’ll have an endless variety of subjects, even with the same cloud, since they change so quickly.

It’s also an excellent way to improve your powers of observation, and you ability to sketch and draw quickly.

In other words, it’s well worth the time!

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper

This week’s Tuesday Tutorial is the final tutorial in this series. We’ll be finishing a landscape on sanded paper.

The focus for today is drawing the center of interest, but I’ll also touch on the final stages of the drawing.

In case you missed them, links to the previous posts in this series are below.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil (on EmptyEasel).

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper

Now for this week’s tutorial.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper

Drawing the Center of Interest

Step 1: Block in the basic shadows within the tree.

The trees that are the center of interest are closer than any of the other trees, and they’re also more lacy in appearance, so use squiggly or stippling strokes (or a combination) to draw the shadows with Olive Green.

Also “sketch” in the trunks.

Make sure to leave lots of openings in this layer of color. Some of it will be the background showing through the tree when the tree is finished. Other parts will be highlights in the tree.

Work over the background as well as within the tree itself.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 1

Step 2: Darken the shadows within the tree.

Next, dot Marine Green into the shadows of the tree, and also around the edges, overlapping the background on the shadowed side of the tree.

Use medium pressure or slightly heavier, and a blunt pencil held in a more vertical position.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 2

Step 3: Add the middle values.

Add another layer of Olive Green over all of the trees, including the shadows.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 3

Step 4: Add a lighter color in the lighter middle values and highlights.

Layer Jasmine over every part of the trees except the shadows to lighten the green. Use a sharp pencil with medium pressure or lighter, and a squiggly or stippling stroke (or whatever stroke works best for you.)

Don’t layer Jasmine over everything. Leave Olive Green showing through some areas to create more subtle variations in color and value.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 4

Step 5: Darken the shadows.

Add a few darker accents to these trees with a mix of Olive Green, Marine Green, and Indigo Blue.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 5

TIP: If the foreground trees get too dark, lighten them by lifting color or adding more Jasmine (or other lighter color.) You may also darken the background trees.

Step 6: Begin adjusting color and value in the foreground hills.

Layer Sepia very lightly over the shadows in the hill with medium pressure and horizontal oval-shaped strokes.

Follow up with Jade Green, also applied with small, horizontal ovals and medium pressure. Shade all of the shadow and work into the lighted hilltop slightly to soften that edge.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 6

Step 7: Tone down the greens with an earth tone.

Tone the base greens with a layer of Sepia. Use short horizontal strokes in the more distant hills and vertical, grass-like strokes in the foreground.

Next, add a layer of Chartreuse, then Olive Green. Layer a little further out of the shadows and into the highlights with each color to create middle values. Don’t put every color in every place so to create variations of color and value.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 8

Step 8: Dry blend with a stiff brush.

Next, dry blend the colors with a stiff bristle brush. Stroke in the same direction as you applied color, over the contours of the hill. You can scrub a little bit if you wish.

The sanded art paper will take heavy pressure and you don’t need to worry about removing color by blending with heavy pressure. If you want very smooth, blended edges, then blend with heavy pressure.

If you want to preserve some of the edges, blend with lighter pressure.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 9

Step 9: Repeat steps 6 – 8 on the rest of the foreground.

Repeat the process for each of the hills. Continue adding color, then dry blending until each part of the foreground looks the way you want it. Work from background forward, from the tree line to the bottom of the drawing.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 10

Step 10: Draw tall grass in the extreme foreground.

Before drawing tall grass all the way across the front hill, add or finish any trees that the taller blades of grass will overlap.

Then use long, directional strokes to draw tall grass, overlapping the hills in the back. Use a variety of greens, dark blues, and dark browns. I used Prismacolor Verithin Olive Green, and Dark Umber for most of the tall grass, and added strokes of Indigo Blue in the darkest shadows on the left.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 11

My favorite way to draw tall grass.

Use different shades of green, dark blue, and dark brown to draw layer after layer of overlapping, directional strokes, as I’ve done on the left of the illustration below.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 12

A faster way to draw tall grass.

Begin by shading a base of green over the paper. Dry blend that color, then apply more color and repeat the blending until the base color is the way you want it.

Then use curving, directional strokes to add enough detail to make the area look like grass.

Both methods work very well.

Step 11: Final review and adjustments.

At this stage in the process, the look of your landscape becomes a matter of personal preference. I like to get as realistic a drawing as possible, but you may want a less detailed landscape. There is no right or wrong way to finish your drawing. Work on each area to your satisfaction.

You will also want to set the drawing aside over night when you think it’s finished. This will allow you to review the drawing with a fresh eye the next day, and you’ll be better able to see what adjustments need to be made.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 13

Is it finished or isn’t it?

After letting the drawing sit a couple of days, I reviewed it again and decided all it needed was the usual final-round touchups.

I emphasized the tall grass in the foreground, then deepened the shadows in the trees, added some low scrub brush on the hills.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 14

Conclusion

Those are the steps for finishing a landscape on sanded paper, and that’s the conclusion of this series.

Drawing on sanded art paper is almost like learning a new medium. It’s close enough to using colored pencils on regular drawing paper to provide a relatively easy transition.

But it’s enough different to give you a challenge and make you stretch your skills.

It’s well worth the effort to master though, and I’m looking forward to doing many more landscapes on sanded art paper. Maybe even painting some portraits on it!

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Welcome back to this Tuesday Tutorial on drawing a landscape on sanded art paper. We’re passed the halfway point now. Today, I’ll show you how to draw grassy hills.

Links to the previous posts in this series are below.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil (on EmptyEasel).

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

Now for this week’s tutorial.

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Ordinarily, when I speak of drawing grass, I’m talking about grass that looks tall and is full of detail. Tall grass, waving in the wind.

But for this drawing, the entire composition is far enough removed that there isn’t much detail even in the foreground. You can, of course, add details if you wish, but our focus for this post is on how to draw grassy hills that are not up close. There will be some detail, but perhaps not what you’re used to seeing in my tutorials.

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Step 1: Rough in the darkest shadows.

There are several hills in the middle and foreground of this composition, but the lighting is such that not all of the shapes are very well-defined. Emphasize those shapes in order to break up the foreground, but don’t add a lot of color or get bogged down in detail.

Sharpen your pencil so that there’s a good amount of pigment core showing. Hold your pencil a little further back along the pencil (if the pencil is long enough), and hold it so that it’s nearly level with the paper, as shown below.

Use light pressure and “slide” the pencil across the surface of the paper. Stroke along the contours of each hill. One or two strokes should be sufficient (unless you have an extremely light touch, as I do.) Keep the strokes loose and sketchy. All you need to do right now is establish the shadows and the suggest the shapes of the hills.

How to Draw Grassy Hills - Use the Side of the Pencil

Add shadows throughout the foreground.

Don’t forget the shadow under the small group of trees in front.

TIP: It’s not necessary to get the hills exact. You want the shapes to break up the foreground and provide a visual path that leads to the small group of trees at the center of interest. Feel free to change the shapes or positions of the hills to suit your own vision for the drawing.

How to Draw Grassy Hills with the shadows shaded.

Step 2: Glaze the hills with base color.

I chose Yellow Ochre for the first color on the foreground because I didn’t have a Prismacolor color that was close to the colors in the reference photograph. So I compared each of my greens. Chartreuse was the closest green, but it was way too bright.

So I looked through the earth tones, and realized Yellow Ochre was a good companion color for Chartreuse.

Since green is the dominant color, I layered Yellow Ochre first.

If you have a green that’s a better match than either of these two colors, use it. If you want to try different colors than I’ve suggested, that’s acceptable, too.

Layer color lightly over each hill. Draw the hills individually, and stroke along the contours of the hills. Use light pressure and it’s okay to use a blunted pencil.

A Word about Pencil Strokes

You have two options for strokes.

The first option is to hold the pencil in normal writing position and apply short, directional strokes along the curve of each hill, as shown here.

East of Camp Creek 49

You can also use the side of the pencil (as shown in the previous step.) You’ll still stroke along the contours of the hills, but will cover more of the paper with each stroke, and will also get smoother coverage, as shown below.

East of Camp Creek 50

The first stroke gives you more control and is best for working around the small group of trees in front. It also lays down color a little more heavily.

But the second stroke is faster and produces more even color. The paper shows through it more. If you’re using a single color (instead of mixing colors as I am,) you may benefit by having paper show through. It will add visual interest and help tone down whatever green you use.

It’s also acceptable to combine the strokes, or to use any other stroke that helps you produce the look you want.

Next, smooth out the color by dry blending with a stiff, bristle brush. Use medium pressure and stroke along the curves of the hills. Use short strokes and overlap strokes to smooth out the color.

Step 3: Dry blend pigment dust into the color layer.

Drawing on sanded paper produces pigment dust. You can either brush it off the drawing with a drafting brush or other soft brush, or you can work it into the paper and use the pigment.

East of Camp Creek 51

And this is the foreground with the first color applied and dry blended.

East of Camp Creek 52

If we were drawing a fall scene, all we’d need to do is deepen shadows, add details, and maybe a few highlights. That’s one reason I prefer dry blending to solvent blending for drawings like this. It gives the landscape a more natural feel, especially when working on sanded paper.

Step 4: Layer green over the base color.

Layer Chartreuse over the foreground using light-medium to medium pressure. Keep your strokes close together and short in the background. As you work toward the bottom of the drawing, use longer, more open strokes if you wish, or continue to use small, less open strokes.

In the front (at the bottom,) I switched to directional strokes that mimic the look of grass, but that’s a personal preference. If you don’t want to use this type of stroke, continue with the even layering.

If you do use “grass-like” strokes, keep your pencil sharp. Leave lots of open space (with paper and the previous colors showing through.)

How to Draw Grassy Hills - Layer green over the base color.

Next, darken the shadow on the hill immediately in front of the trees with Olive Green. Use a blunt pencil and short, horizontal strokes.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Darken the shadows8

You can blend this layer if you wish. That was my intention when I drew it, but I liked the way it looked unblended, so I left it alone.

There are plenty of details on the side of this hill in the reference photo. Stones and rocks. Clumps of grass and other things. Leave those details for later. For now, it’s easier to lay down all the color, and concentrate on values. The details can be added later.

Step 5: Continue darkening shadows and developing color.

Work through the rest of the drawing with Olive Green, darkening shadows and reshaping them as necessary. Again, don’t fuss over details. Work toward getting the color and value the way you want it first.

Feel free to try different types of strokes. I tried drawing directional, grass-like strokes with Olive Green in the lower right corner. While that’s a favorite stroke, it didn’t accomplish very much.

So I used the side of the pencil to lay down more even color along the contours of the foreground slope.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Continue darkening shadows.

Step 6: Add a warm, neutral color to keep the greens from getting too bright.

Next, use Cream to lighten and warm the green in the hill immediately in front of the trees. You can use either a sharp or blunt pencil. Use medium pressure or slightly heavier, and careful stroking to create even color. Don’t burnish just yet.

If the edge of the shadow is too abrupt, blend the edge slightly, but don’t work too much into the shadow with Cream, or the shadow will become too light.

I used a long stroke to draw along the slope of the hill that faced the light source (the sun) most directly. Beginning with medium pressure at the right edge of the paper, I drew along the hill to the crest, and decreased pressure while stroking so that I was using very light pressure at the end of the stroke (the crest of the hill.) Although the hill is not very tall and doesn’t have much of a peak, there is still a point where it starts curving away from the sun. I wanted the color to “fade away” in this area.

Finish all the slopes that face the sun this way, but make sure to keep the emphasis around the center of interest. Keep the brightest brights around the trees in the center, and fade them gradually as they move toward the edges of the drawing.

How to Draw Grassy Hills 11

Step 7: To dry blend or not to dry blend.

The next step depends on whether or not you want to dry blend the hills. If you don’t skip this step.

If you do, use a stiff bristle brush to blend the colors together. Use horizontal strokes that follow the slopes of the hills to smooth out the color. Start with the lightest areas and blend them first, then move to the next darkest areas. Finish with the darkest areas.

This is important! If you work from dark to light, you will add unwanted dark colors to the highlights. While that’s not a disaster if it happens, it is an unnecessary irritation.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Dry blending

Conclusion

The end is drawing near on this tutorial. All that remains is drawing the center of interest (those unfinished trees,) and finishing the drawing.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

This week’s Tuesday Tutorial is the fourth tutorial in this series. Our topic today? Fixing a colored pencil mistake on sanded paper.

If you missed the first three parts of this tutorial, you can read them at the following links.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

EmptyEasel also published part of this tutorial. You can read How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil here.

Now for this week’s tutorial.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

It happens all the time. Your piece is progressing nicely, then all of a sudden, you discover a mistake. It could be the wrong color, a value that got too dark, or a drawing error.

Whatever the mistake, your latest masterpiece suddenly looks like a disaster in the making.

That happened to me with this project. I thought I was within days of completing it when I realized I needed to undo something.

What was the problem?

I didn’t like the color of the hills behind the trees. Even after I finished the sky, they just didn’t look right. I knew which colors were working best for the greener hills, but none of them provided a realistic transition between the dark gray and green hills.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - The Mistake

This was what I’d consider a fatal error. That is, if I didn’t fix it, the landscape was certain to fail.

The question was, what was the best way to fix the problem?

Step 1: Remove as much color as possible.

The obvious first step is to remove as much color as possible. Ordinarily, this is the most difficult part of the process. Once you’ve put colored pencil on paper, removing it can be a serious challenge.

But I was working on sanded art paper, and one of the best things about sanded art paper is that it’s usually pretty easy to remove color. If you haven’t blended with solvent or put a fixative over color, it can be removed almost entirely.

Even if you burnished it. And the best part is that all you need is sticky stuff.

“Sticky stuff” is a generic term for a reusable adhesive substance often used to hang posters. It’s inexpensive, reusable, and self-cleaning. Popular names are Handi-Tak and Poster Tack. It’s also known as mounting putty.

For larger areas, roll a section of sticky stuff into a ball, and use it like a stamp. Turn it a little between each “press” so you put clean sticky stuff on the paper.

To remove color from a small area, shape the sticky stuff into the shape you need. It can be shaped into a wedge or a pencil-like point.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Lift Color

I shaped sticky stuff into an elongated cylinder, which I then pressed against the paper, turning it after each stroke.

TIP: When the sticky stuff is full of color, knead it enough to absorb the color, then repeat the process until you remove as much color as necessary.

As you can see, I was able to remove almost all of the color in the dark gray and green hills. The areas blended with solvent did not lift as well as dry color, but it was lightened enough to allow me to layer fresh color over it.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Lifted Color

Step 2: Restore outlines.

When you remove color this way, you will remove outlines too, and possibly the original line drawing.

So the next step is outlining the shapes again.

I made no attempt to reproduce the original outlines, but instead drew them while referring to my reference photograph. I didn’t outline the hills again, but if you need to restore interior shapes, this is a good time to do it.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Outlining Trees

Step 3: Layer new color over the hills.

Now continue with the drawing. You needn’t prepare the paper surface for new color. Sanded art paper is very durable and removing color will prepare the surface to accept new color.

Layer Warm Grey 20% into the hills immediately in front of the most distant hills. Use light-medium pressure (slightly less than normal handwriting pressure) to draw a smooth color layer.

Next, layer Warm Grey 10% over all the area where color was removed. Use medium pressure and directional strokes following the slopes of the hills. Follow up with a layer of the same color, but with cross hatching strokes. Draw as smooth a layer of color as possible.

Follow that up with Jade Green layered over all of the hills immediately behind the outlined trees.

Add Chartreuse and Cream to make the closer hills warmer and greener. If they get too warm, glaze them with Warm Grey 10%.

Step 4: Add small accents to help accurately judge color and value.

If it helps define the different hills in this area, add a few trees as I did. Use Marine Green, light pressure, and squiggly strokes to shade a few trees in the distance. These shapes should be flat in appearance, with very little variation in value, because they’re so far away they show very little detail or value.

I also added the shadows in the row of trees so I’d have a point of comparison for the background.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Adding Trees

Conclusion

And that’s it! As you can see, it’s difficult to tell there was a problem with the background hills. Fixing mistakes on sanded art paper is remarkably easy even with colored pencils.

The next step in the process was drawing the trees. You can read How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil on EmptyEasel.

In the next post, we’ll tackle the foreground.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

Welcome to Part 3 in this tutorial. The first post in the series showed you how to draw a gray sky, and the second post described how I made adjustments to the sky after beginning to draw the landscape. This week I’ll show you how to begin to draw far distance on sanded art paper.

The drawing for this tutorial was drawn on sanded art paper, but most of the methods can be used on most other drawing papers and supports.

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

The first two steps are a quick recap from last week’s post.

Step 1: Establish the horizon line before doing anything else.

The best way to establish the horizon is to lightly draw it. Use the color you plan to use for shading the shapes. In this illustration, I’ve outlined three hills and shaded one of them. At this point, they’re flat color. No variations, no shadows.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 1

Step 2: Shade the horizon shapes with a base color.

Shade the shapes on the horizon with a base color.

The base color should be a medium value color that you will then draw light and dark values over. Once you’ve chosen a base color, layer it evenly over the distant background, without getting too bogged down in detail. If you do draw variations in value, keep them soft and vague and draw them by adding layers, not pressure.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 2

Step 3: Add color to the hills in front of the most distant hills.

Follow the same procedure with the next line of hills. If you outline, make sure to outline any small shapes on the hills or that overlap the hills.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 3

Step 4: Shade the last row of hills in the background.

You may need to mix colors to get a good match for these hills. In real life, they’re the same color as the hills further in the background, but they’re so much closer, they appear to be a different color. Mixing colors may be the only way to draw that difference.

For example, I started with Earth Green, but decided that was too dark and too green. None of the other greens were closer, so I layered Warm Grey III over the Earth Green.

Use short, horizontal strokes to layer the first color along the slopes of the hills, then tiny, circular strokes to add the second color. Mixing strokes as well as color, and using small strokes fills in the paper better. That helps this row of hills look more solid and, therefore, a little closer than the hills beyond them.

Use medium-light to medium pressure for both colors.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 4

Step 5: Begin adding color to the greener hills.

As you move closer to the tree line, the shapes become more detailed, so you may want to take a little more time to mark the edges of those shapes. I outlined the slopes of the hills, but also outlined the trees that overlap the hills.

However, I didn’t outline the entire shape of each tree. Instead, as you can see below, I outlined only the overall contour of the tree line.

Do just enough outlining to guide you so you don’t accidentally shade over the trees.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 5

Step 6: Remember to use slightly warmer colors.

Color becomes slightly more green and slightly less gray as you move forward (downward) in the composition, but the change should be very subtle. Color temperature also increases—though very slightly.

Use the same color you used to outline the shapes (I used May Green) and medium-light to medium pressure to shade those shapes.

For the first layer, which should include all of the hills, use long, gently curving horizontal strokes to mimic the contours of the hills. In the places that are a little darker, add another layer using shorter strokes. Work around the trees beyond the hills as well as the trees in front of the hills.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 6

Step 7: Oh-oh!

I saw immediately that the transition between the gray green hills in back and the more yellow hills closer to the front was much too abrupt. After getting May Green into the front hills, I didn’t like the hills in back at all.

This is where it’s important to trust the reference photo. I’d matched the colors in both areas so was pretty sure they were accurate to this point. I just needed to add the second color to the May Green to get the right shades of green and the right values.

So I resisted the urge to “fix” the back hills and instead continued working on the front hills.

Step 8: Tone down the green if necessary.

The color you choose to mix with the green depends in large part upon the colors in your printed reference photo and the green you chose for the previous step. But that’s okay. No two pieces will ever turn out exactly the same, even if you work from the same image and use the same materials. I’ll tell you what I ended up doing and you can make your own choices.

I knew I’d need a color lighter in value and somewhat warmer than Warm Grey III so I opted for Warm Grey II. I started with the hill on the far right, since it’s a little further in the distance than the hills on the left.

Next I tried Ivory on the middle portion.

Finally, I tried Cream on the left.

This illustration shows each of the three colors layered of the respective hills. I’ve created a little bit of surface texture on the left by adding additional layers of May Green over the Cream, but have still kept the level of detail to a minimum.

How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper - Step 7

TIP: Try different colors on portions of the drawing to find the combination that works best. If you don’t want to experiment on your drawing as I did here, keep a scrap of paper handy for sampling colors.

What to Do if You’re Still Not Satisfied with the Color Choices

Warm Grey over May Green was the best of the three color combinations I tried, but none of them satisfied me. I was so unhappy with the way things were turning out that I let the drawing sit idle for a while, hoping looking at it afresh might fix things.

It didn’t.

So in the next post, I’ll show you what I did and how I finally got the hills to turn out right.

Hint: It involved removing most of the color I’d already put on the paper.

Conclusion

If you learn anything from this series, it should be that you may encounter several obstacles along the way. That applies no less when you draw far distance than to any other subject.

But I hope you’ll also learn you don’t need to ditch a drawing, no matter how serious the obstacle looks! Making art is as much about solving problems as drawing, so I hope you’ll join me next week.

Want to take a peek ahead? I described how I drew the trees on EmptyEasel. Read How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil then join me again next week.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

This week’s Tuesday Tutorial picks up where last week’s left off. Last week, we drew a gray sky. This week I’ll show you how to finish a sky in colored pencil, and why that was necessary.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored PencilThe drawing for this tutorial was drawn on sanded art paper, but most of the methods can be used on most other drawing papers and supports.

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils.

When I concluded the previous post in this series, I thought the sky was finished. I was ready to move on to the landscape itself.

So I established the horizon and began shading the distant hills.

But sometimes, an area looks finished until you add color next to it. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it did happen with this drawing.

All of a sudden, I realized the sky wasn’t finished.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Step 1: Lighten the sky with additional color.

Layer a light color over the lower part of the sky. Use the lightest color you used to draw the sky, but if that isn’t light enough, chose a slightly lighter color. Chose a color that matches the previous sky colors in color temperature. I used Ivory to lighten and warm up the sky in the first post, so that’s what I used this time. Had I needed to lighten it further, I would have used a warm color with a lighter value.

Use medium-heavy to heavy pressure (not quite burnishing) to fill in as much of the paper’s tooth as possible.

You can also cross hatch strokes to fill in the paper tooth more completely. Use as many layers as you need or want. I did three, stroking from lower left to upper right with the first layer, and lower right to upper left on the next layer.

The last layer was vertical strokes. For those, I started each stroke at the horizon and stroked upward so the heaviest color was at the horizon and tapered off as I drew upward.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil - Step 1

Step 2: Smooth the colors in the sky with odorless mineral spirits.

The overall result was much more satisfactory, but still not what I wanted, so I decided to use a solvent blend on the sky.

I used a small round sable so I would have more control over where I applied solvent.

I also held the brush in a more upright position, and used a stippling stroke to tap solvent onto the paper. This type of stroke is better than any other type of stroke for blending on sanded paper, because the pigment dissolves quickly and almost completely. It’s far too easy to lift or move pigment, especially if you use horizontal or circular strokes.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil - Step 2a

I worked in a horizontal pattern, starting at one side of the paper, and tapping solvent into the color layer all the way across to the other side. Then I moved up and repeated the process.

This illustration shows the lower half blended with solvent, while the upper half is still dry.

I went over the entire sky this way, then blended it again.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil - Step 2b

It took quite a bit of solvent to get the color to dissolve, but once it did, it dissolved almost completely. The stippling stroke proved beneficial once the color was dissolved, because it didn’t move color around too much.

However, solvent did tend to puddle and created small bubbles in some places.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil - Step 2c

The bubbles disappeared as the solvent dried, and the areas where solvent puddled weren’t noticeably different than the rest of the sky.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil - Step 2d

Step 3: Add more color, but use heavier pressure to smooth out the sky.

After the paper dried completely, I used heavy (but not burnishing pressure) to apply Ivory to the lower half of the sky and Cold Grey I to the upper half.

At the top and bottom, I held the pencils in a normal position and used a combination of strokes to cover the paper. In the center portion, I used the sides of the pencils to lay down thinner layers of color.

How to Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil - Step 3

Is the Sky Finished Now?

I don’t know.

I like the faint, horizontal patterns in the sky, but also wanted smoother color. Should I blend again and add more color, or leave the sky alone for now?

I decided to leave it alone for the time being and continue drawing the landscape. Adjustments can always be made later, but it’s difficult to undo something once it’s done.

If you want to push color saturation a little further, continue layering the same colors and blending between layers.

Next week, we’ll go back and finish drawing those most distant hills.

How to Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Today’s tutorial is another sky tutorial. This time, I’ll show you how to draw a gray sky with colored pencils.

This tutorial is a continuation of last week’s post on sketching a composition right on your drawing paper.

How to Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

How to Draw a Gray Sky

The demonstration piece is a 6×8 inch landscape drawn on sanded art paper. If you want to try your hand at a gray sky, but don’t have sanded paper, use the same basic process with any drawing paper.

I’m using Faber-Castell Polychromos, but any brand will have enough grays and other colors to draw a gray sky.

This is my reference photo. It’s one of my own, so you’re welcome to download it if you want to follow along with your own drawing.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Reference

Step 1: Choose the colors that match the colors in your reference photo.

The first step is always figuring out the best colors for your subject. You can do this a number of ways.

Most artists simply “eyeball” their reference and select the most likely colors to use. For example, to draw a blue sky, they grab a handful of blues in a variety of values and start testing them on paper. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to select colors, and it’s a great way to learn what doesn’t work. I choose colors this way for years.

Most photo editing programs include color picking tools (look for the eye dropper icon in the tool box.) Select that tool, then click on any area in a digital reference photo to isolate the color in the tool bar. Find the colored pencil that’s closest to that color (or the colors needed to mix that color,) and you’re good to go.

A third way to select colors is to physically compare the pencils with your subject, as I did for the illustration below. I chose the three pencils I thought were close to the color of the sky and laid them on the reference photo. Obviously, this works only if you have a printed reference photo, but it is a good way to actually see pencil colors and photo colors side-by-side.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 1

TIP: You may have to blend a couple of colors to get an exact match, or you may choose to use a color you have and draw a slightly different color of gray than the reference photo shows. Either method is fine. Reference photos are only places to begin. You don’t need to follow them exactly (unless you’re doing a portrait.)

Step 2: Layer the base color over all of the sky.

Layer the base color (the color that’s closest to all of the grays in the sky) along the horizon using medium pressure and diagonal strokes. I outlined a portion of the horizon, then shaded the color along it. You don’t have to outline first.

Here, the sky is about half finished. The individual “rows” of color are clearly visible. You can also see the direction of the strokes I used. It doesn’t matter so much what type of stroke you use, so use the stroke or strokes that are most comfortable for you and do what you want to do.

Work across the lower part of the sky, then layer color across the middle part, and finish with the top.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 2

Drawing on sanded art paper produces more than just stunning results. It produces pigment dust, as shown below. It can be a nuisance if you happen to rest your hand in it, then smudge it into another part of the drawing (that’s why I recommend using a cover sheet even with small drawings.)

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 2b

But pigment dust is easy enough to dispose of. Use a drafting brush and careful brush it into the waste basket.

There is, however, a better use for pigment dust.

Step 3: Use a stiff brush to dry blend pigment dust into the layer of color.

Colored pencil dust can be blended into the color layers, whether you blend wet or dry. All you need is a stiff bristle brush.

You can use a new brush if you wish, but if you have a couple that are worn down from painting, they work best. Just make sure they’re absolutely clean and completely dry.

These are the brushes I use. The top brush is for solvent blending, the bottom brush is for dry blending.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 3a

They’re both former oil painting brushes, so the bristles are worn quite short. Short enough for me to use them almost like pencils, with either light pressure or heavier pressure.

The bristles don’t bend, either, so I can use the long edge for larger areas or the corner for small areas.

TIP: If you’re not an oil painter and don’t have used brushes lying around, look for short bristled brushes when you go brush shopping. If the bristles are still long, trim the bristles with a scissor or “wear them down” by stroking them along coarse sand paper. They will, of course, wear down naturally as you use them for blending.

Finish layering gray over all of the sky, then blend with a bristle brush. I generally blend in the same direction in which I applied the color, but use the stroke that works best for you. Blend with light to medium-light pressure to avoid creating “bald” spots in the color layer.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 3b

Step 4: Continue layering and blending until the paper is covered.

Continue to layer color and blend until the sky looks as saturated as you want it . Use a combination of strokes and increase the pressure with each layer.

Don’t worry if you can still see variations in the color after all of this. Sanded paper takes a lot of color, so it will take time to fill in all of the tooth.

In this illustration, I’ve blended the first round of color and layered the next ones and I can still see some of the diagonals. I have to remind myself that this is the nature of the paper, and unless I want to burnish the colors, I won’t be able to fill in the paper.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 4

Step 5: Add an accent color if you want to break up the flat gray.

I decided after finishing the sky to add warmer, lighter values near the horizon, to add more interest. The two lightest value grays in the Polychromos line were already on the paper, so I added Ivory, and small, circular strokes along the horizon.

This is what I consider an “enhancement,” so you don’t have to add Ivory if you prefer not to. Even with the first application, however, it gave a little more depth to the sky.

How to Draw a Gray Sky - Step 5

Conclusion

And that’s all there is to it. The landscape I’m drawing shows a very flat, light gray sky. I could have gotten pretty much the same result by drawing on gray paper. In fact, I am doing a similar landscape on gray paper and so far, I’ve done nothing with the sky.

For the sample drawing, I made the sky a little darker, and added lighter color along the horizon.

Is the sky finished? For the time being, yes. I’ll finish the drawing, then go back over the entire piece and make whatever adjustments might be necessary. Including the sky!

Next week, we’ll work on the hills on the horizon.

Would you like a copy of the reference photo so you can work along with me?