How to Draw Gold in Three Steps

Today, I want to show you how to draw gold.

My subject is the gold cap on a Christmas ornament, but you can draw any type of reflective gold object using this method.

In fact, you can draw any reflective object using this method.

How to Draw Gold in Three Steps

How to Draw Gold in Three Steps

The method is a three-step method starting with an under drawing and finishing up with detailing.

I used Bristol vellum paper because of its smoothness and ability to take color. This three-step method is also suitable for other papers, but the more tooth in the paper, the more layers you need to get full, rich color.

One other note on materials. I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils for the first two steps, then switched to Prismacolor Soft Core for the final step.

Polychromos pencils are oil-based, so they’re harder than Prismacolor. They do lay down smooth color on Bristol, but you have to work slowly and carefully.

Prismacolor are wax-based and are much softer. That makes them ideal for the final layers, for burnishing, and for filling in the last paper holes.

NOTE: You can get the same results with any artist grade colored pencils.

Now, for the tutorial.

Step 1: The Under Drawing

The under drawing is not the local color of the gold cap. It’s not gold or even yellow; it’s all the colors reflected in the gold. You have to look deep to see the other colors in each area. Those are the colors for the under drawing.

Use a very sharp Burnt Sienna pencil and light pressure to shade the darker reflections.

Since reflections are usually hard-edged, it’s a good idea to outline each shape then shade it. Since there’s a lot of detail in this area, it’s also a good idea to work slowly. Spend more time studying the reference photo than drawing.

Smooth color is key, so use whatever stroke works best in allowing you to draw smooth color. Add layers to get darker shadows and use only one or two layers in the lighter shadows. Fade Burnt Sienna into the white of the paper where the edges are softer.

The shadows around the bottom of the gold cap should also be under drawn with Burnt Sienna.

The next color is Scarlet red. Layer red in two or more light layers on the left side of the gold cap. Lightly outline the shapes, then lightly fill them in. Use more layers to increase the value and saturation.

Finally, light layer Cream over the remaining parts of the gold cap. Work around the white highlights! Once again, draw the smoothest possible color.

Step 2: Glazing Color

Darken the shadows with Walnut Brown. Use medium or medium-heavy pressure with a very sharp pencil to draw smooth color.

Add gold reflections with Cream and the red reflections with Scarlet Red. Blunt pencils are ideal for this. Use heavy pressure, but don’t burnish.

Then glaze Scarlet Red over the parts of the gold cap that reflect red. Layer Cream over the rest. Work around the bright white highlight.

Step 3: Detailing

Burnish the gold cap with Poppy Red in the areas that reflect red, and with Dark Umber in the areas that reflect a brownish color.

Then burnish both red and brownish reflections with Yellow Ochre.

Also burnish the yellow parts of the gold cap with Yellow Ochre, working around the bright highlights.

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils

Today, I want to show you something fun and helpful: How to draw a sunset sky with watercolor pencils.

Here’s the good news. It’s not as difficult as it may seem (at least not the way I did it!)

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils

I used Derwent Watercolour Pencils on Stonehenge 98lb drawing paper in white. I’ll tell you up front that Stonehenge handles water well, but you MUST tape it to a rigid support so it dries flat again.

The sample drawing for this tutorial was 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches in size, so it was difficult to tape down. I set an empty drink bottle on the paper while it was drying and that kept the paper flat, but I do not recommend this method. The bottle I used was very lightweight and clean, so it didn’t leave marks on the paper.

One other note. I didn’t use a reference photo for this piece. Since it’s small (3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches, ) I painted the sky from memory, then drew the branches from life. You can create your own piece the same way, or form a reference photo.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Layer colors on the paper from light to dark.

Use light-medium pressure to layer color on the paper. Create even color layers with whatever method works best for you. I used the sides of well-sharpened pencils to layer each color.

Begin with the lightest color and work through the colors of the prism into the darkest color you want to use.

I used Deep Cadmium, Orange Chrome, Deep Vermilion, Crimson Lake, Imperial Purple, and Prussian Blue. All you really need is yellow, orange, red, purple, and blue so the gradations between colors are smooth and natural looking.

If you want a lighter, brighter sky, skip the purple and blue.

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils Step 1

Step 2: Activate with water.

Blend colors with water. Work from light to dark and stroke across the paper horizontally.

Use a large, soft brush, and try to stroke only once across the paper. The more you stroke over each area, the more likely you’ll end up with streaks. The streaks in this illustration happened because I got too fussy.

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils Step 2

You’ll notice two things immediately when using watercolor pencils. The blended color is darker than the dry color. Derwent’s pencils are very pigmented, so they produce excellent color.

The other thing you’ll notice in this sample is the streakiness in the darker colors. That’s my fault. I used a small brush to blend and didn’t blend fast enough to produce smooth color (in addition to going over the paper too many times!)

At this stage of the process, that’s not a major concern, but it’s still best to avoid whenever possible.

Step 3: Continue to layer and blend with water until you have the color saturation you want.

Continue to add color and activate with water until you have the color and saturation you want.

I did two more rounds of layering and blending. Each round was essentially the same as those described above. Same colors in the same areas, though I faded each color a little more into the adjacent colors.

For the second round, I layered Deep Vermilion over the top third of the sky, then added Orange Chrome over the top two-thirds. Finally, I layered Deep Cadmium over the entire piece. That unified the colors and toned down the blues and purples, which got too dark. I used medium pressure or slightly heavier to put a lot of pigment on the paper.

Then I washed the whole thing with water and a large soft brush to blend the colors.

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils Step 3

Step 4: Draw the basic branch shapes.

Draw the silhouetted trees dry, using watercolor pencils the same way you’d use traditional colored pencils. Use dark colors. I used black and a dark brown mixed to give the branches a warmth that black alone wouldn’t provide.

Then use a very small, round brush (I used a sable) to activate the color. Stroke in the direction the branches grow. From the base up.

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils Step 4

You don’t need to keep the edges crisp or blend the colors uniformly. Having softer edges in places, and having some areas more brown and others blacker gives the branches a sense of movement.

Step 5: Add smaller branches.

With a very sharp pencil, add the smaller branches. If you’re drawing from life, observe the growth patterns and draw them as accurately as you can. Don’t worry about getting every branch and twig in exactly the right place. Instead, focus on the general shapes and patterns.

How to Draw a Sunset Sky with Watercolor Pencils Step 5

You can activate a few of these smaller branches with water if you wish. I didn’t because I lack brushes small enough for that type of detail. I also wanted the bolder look of dry pencil over wet.


I used Derwent Watercolour pencils for this work, but I’m sure you can do the same thing with any artist quality watercolor pencil.

It was a lot of fun to layer dry color over wet, to paint in broad washes, and with more deliberation. It was quite a learning experience.

One thing you can’t do is put watercolor pencils over wax-based or oil-based traditional pencils, then activate them with water.

Well, I guess you could if you really wanted to, but the watercolor will not stick to the wax or oil for very long.

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.


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!

Draw Clouds in Colored Pencil Ebook

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper

Let’s take a look at something that scares the wits out of a lot of us: How to sketch a composition directly on paper. (And no, I don’t mean a preliminary sketch on any old sheet of paper: I mean sketching on good drawing paper!)

I know it’s scary, because it was years before I started doing it.

Want to know the truth? I didn’t start sketching directly on good drawing paper until I started doing landscapes a year or two ago, and I’ve been an artist for fifty years!

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper

Landscapes are ideal subjects to begin with because you don’t need to get every detail correct in order to draw an accurate representation.

I’m using sanded art paper for this tutorial because it’s so easy to remove color and make changes. The goal is to reach the point at which you don’t need to make changes to your sketch, but it’s nice to have that option.

Don’t worry! If this is the first time you’ve ever sketched directly on good drawing paper, it’s not that difficult. Just focus on the big shapes and don’t worry about getting everything exactly right! If it looks too difficult, do a couple of practice sketches first. That’s always a good way to improve drawing skills, anyway, so the time will not be wasted.

I also recommend starting small. This project is 6 inches by 8 inches. Large enough to give you plenty of wiggle room, but small enough to keep it from being too intimidating.

And choose a relatively simple landscape to begin with.

Step 1: Draw compositional guidelines by dividing the paper into thirds horizontally and vertically.

Divide the paper into thirds, as shown below. You can also divide the long side into thirds if you wish. I didn’t because this composition is so horizontal, but in hindsight, I could have saved myself a little time by dividing the long sides into thirds, too.

TIP: Most landscape drawings are best if they are divided roughly into thirds. A composition that’s divided into thirds is generally more interesting that one that’s divided into halves, especially if the halves are nearly equal. If, for example, the horizon line is right in the middle of the drawing, the composition may look more like two compositions cobbled together, than one unified composition.

This illustration shows my paper with the short sides divided into thirds.

You don’t need to draw lines all the way across the paper (though you can if you want to.) Marks along the edges are sufficient. If you taped your paper to a rigid support, mark the tape and not the drawing.

If you do draw lines on the paper, draw them lightly and with a color that fits the final color scheme, so the lines disappear into the drawing.

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper Step 1

NOTE: The red lines shown above were added to point out the marks I made on my paper. I didn’t draw lines all the way across the paper, though you may if that helps you.

Step 2: Decide where the horizon line should be.

The horizon line is the line between the land and sky. It should be at or near the the top mark you made in Step 1.

Use a light touch, and keep the strokes loose. Your lines should be dark enough to see through a couple of layers of color, but not so dark that it’s difficult to cover them.

It also doesn’t matter what color you use to sketch, so long as it fits into the color scheme of the drawing. I used a gray-green because that’s the of the most distant hills. It’s also a good base color for the rest of the greens.

I could also have used a sky color had I wanted to.

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper Step 2

Step 3: Draw the big shapes first.

Draw the large shapes that make up the “thirds” of the drawing. The horizon line marks the sky and the lower line, which swoops down in the center, defines the foreground.

While it is a good idea to divide your composition into thirds, it’s not absolutely vital that the thirds be precise or equal. As you can see in this illustration, the horizon line peeks over the red line that marks the top third of my drawing.

It also dips below the line. Most of it is below the line.

The same holds true for the sloping line at the bottom.

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper Step 3

The rule of thirds—and most other art rules—are only guidelines. Follow them strictly every time and all your drawings may begin to look the same. Like all art rules, the rule of thirds is a good place to begin and a good guideline, but there are times when a subject benefits from ignoring or adjusting the guidelines.

Step 4: Add more details and begin drawing smaller shapes.

Draw the rest of the details within the larger shapes using slightly lighter than normal handwriting pressure.

You can either draw from the background forward, or start in the foreground and work back. I usually work from both directions, though it can be easier to draw foreground shapes first. If you do, the shapes and lines behind them can be drawn around them.

Whichever way you draw the landscape, remember it’s not necessary to draw a  lot of detail. The basic shapes and placement of trees and hills are sufficient to provide guidelines for layering color.

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper Step 4

Step 5: Add any additional details

Finish the line drawing by adding any other details that may be necessary. Some of the final details I added were the small tree right of the three trees near the center, and a few lightly sketched lines indicating the slope of the hill below and to the left of those trees.

This is also a good time to make changes to the composition if that becomes necessary. For example, after I finished the line drawing, I realized the composition in the photo is too static. The horizontal lines are well placed, with the horizon about 2/3 of the way up the composition, and the trees a little bit below that.

But the pair of small trees in closest to the foreground are too much in the center, so I added a third tree to the grouping, and placed it to the left of the original two. I also thought about placing other, rounder trees either further to the left or the right, but decided against that for the time being.

How to Sketch a Composition Directly on Paper Step 5

NOTE: This where my drawing would have benefited had I divided the paper into thirds along the long sides. That just shows you that you should always be learning as an artist!


And that’s how I sketch a composition directly on paper.

If you don’t feel comfortable making a line drawing directly on sanded art paper, that’s okay! It took me a while to get comfortable beginning a drawing this way. Make a few practice drawings to familiarize yourself with the composition. You may also want to try rearranging the parts of the landscape a little while you’re at it.

When you’re ready, put your drawing on the sanded paper.

And remember, if you don’t like the sketch once you’ve drawn it, it’s very easy to remove and start over. Sanded art paper is very forgiving that way. So take your courage in hand, and start sketching!

How to Draw Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil

Today, I want to show you in eight easy steps how to draw autumn grass with colored pencil.

It’s winter, you say? That’s okay. The grass is still brown—if you can see it under the snow—so this method works for dried up winter grass, too!

And it’s a great exercise for drawing any type of grass at any time of year.

How to Draw Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil

About this Project

The original artwork is 5×7 inches and is a study for a larger landscape. The paper is white Bristol 146lb with a regular surface. You can use any type of paper for this exercise.

The reference photo I used (not shown), was used for the basic shapes only. I didn’t want to duplicate the shapes of the grass—I just wanted to draw the “feel” of dry autumn grass.

Don’t worry about drawing every leaf or blade of grass unless you’re doing hyper-realistic drawings. Instead, select a few well-defined groups of grass, and draw them as accurately (not exactly) as you can. Then fill in other shapes around them.

How to Draw Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil

 Step 1: Establish the basic clumps of grass

Use a light or middle value color to begin shaping clumps of grass, and shadows. Use long, directional strokes starting at the bottom of the page and sweeping upward. Vary the length, width, and shape of the strokes. The longer the grass you’re drawing, the more variety there should be in your strokes.

Once the basic shapes are drawn, you can either use additional layers or a slightly darker color for shadows.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 1

Step 2: Add middle values to the basic shapes

Use slightly blunted pencils and medium pressure to continue adding color and value to the grasses. Draw with the same type of strokes, but don’t draw over every stroke, so that new strokes overlap the first step.

Keep in mind that you want to maintain a random appearance, while still drawing the overall sense of wind moving through tall grass.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 2

Step 3: Darken values and add a few faint greens

Darken shadows, and add a few faint greens (if there are any.) Keep the shadows toward the base of the grass, since those areas receive the least amount of light.

Also, if the grass you’re drawing has heads of any type, draw them with short, directional strokes that mimic what you see in your reference photo. Use two colors, one light and one dark, to draw shadows, but keep the shadows subtle.

Use very short, vertical strokes and light or very light pressure to add background grass with the same colors you’ve already used. Concentrate color at the bottom and reduce color and value toward the horizon.

Also make sure to shorten your strokes as you draw into the background. In my illustration, I drew very short strokes because I wanted that grass to look a long way away.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 3

Step 4: Continue darkening values and add details

Darken some of the shadows and add additional blades of grass and shadows with a very sharp pencil or a brand of pencil that’s harder. I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils for this step because they are thinner and harder than Prismacolor Soft Core. They also hold a point very well, so are ideal for detail.

Whatever pencils you use, draw slowly and deliberately, and weave a pattern of intersecting grass stems and leaves.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 4

Step 5: Continue adding details

Continue developing the grass with more layer of color, overlapping new and old layers to thicken the grass.

If you want to add a sky, start layering in blues with a very light shade of blue and very light pressure. Draw even color either with tiny, circular strokes, or short horizontal strokes.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 5

Step 6:  More detail to the grass, and more color to the sky

Layer blue over the sky with horizontal layers. You can use the first color of blue and darken it by adding another layer, or you can use a slightly darker blue.

Darken the shadows at the base of the grass. If you want really dark shadows, mix a dark brown with a dark blue or dark green. Two of those colors (or all three of them) make a more natural looking shadow color than any of them alone.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 6

Step 7: Fine-tune the details

Finish the sky by layering two or three shades of blue over that area. Remember to draw even layers of color, and to keep the color darkest at the top of the paper. Apply color with sharp pencils and medium pressure, then blend lightly with a colorless blender if necessary.

You can also use a solvent such as odorless mineral spirits if you wish.

Also add sky colors to the grasses with slightly heavier pressure. Don’t over do this. You want just enough blues to show highlights, but not so many that your grass starts looking blue.

Darken the shadows if necessary.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil - Step 7

Step 8: Finishing the drawing

Burnish the background hill with a colorless blender.

Then add accents with quick, light strokes and very sharp pencils. For warm colored accents, use light earth tones such as cream or very light brown. For  cooler accents, try white, a very light blue or a combination.

Cool or warm grays are also wonderful accent colors if used sparingly. The French Greys from Prismacolor are especially useful.

Colored Pencil Demo #7 Autumn Grass


As you can see, drawing autumn grass—or grass of any season—need not scare you off. And tall grass itself can become the subject of a drawing if carefully drawn. With a low-angle point-of-view and a suitable background, tall grasses make excellent subjects for studies or finished pieces.

They also make excellent accents for larger compositions, such as the drawing Rainy Day on Mustang Ridge, upon which this study is based.

How to Draw Summer Grass

In today’s tutorial, I want to show you my favorite way to draw grass. I’ll show you step-by-step how to draw summer grass using the direct method of drawing, and blending by layering to create lush, green grass.

How to Draw Summer Grass

I’m excerpting this tutorial from the new in-depth tutorial from Ann Kullberg,  Grazing Horses.

The drawing is on Bristol vellum, and I used Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils, but you can use any type of paper and any brand of pencils. The color names will differ, but you can easily match colors brand-to-brand by using online color charts.

How to Draw Summer Grass

Step 1

I like to establish pictorial depth (the illusion of distance) as soon as possible by using stroke quality, stroke, and value.

In the foreground, strokes are darker, longer and more varied. In the middle distance, strokes are shorter, lighter in value, and more uniform. Use circular or very short directional strokes in the far distance.

Since most of my work uses the umber under drawing method, Light Umber is the color I usually begin with.

Outline major shapes first. The shadows don’t need to be outlined; simply draw them with directional strokes.

Then shade the shadows with light pressure and very sharp pencils. It’s better to draw value layer by layer than to use heavier pressure, especially with a smooth paper like Bristol.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 01

Step 2

Glaze Sand over the grass. Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to apply vertical strokes; longest strokes in the foreground and getting shorter as you work into the middle distance. Overlap strokes to avoid creating unwanted edges because once they appear, they’re difficult to conceal.

Next glaze Chartreuse over the same areas, using the same strokes and light pressure with a very sharp pencil.

Darken the darker values in the tall grass by layering Marine Green into the shadows around the horses and into some middle values. Again, use light pressure and overlapping, directional strokes.

You should not be able to see individual strokes as clearly in the background as in the foreground. Using directional strokes around the edges between values is enough to suggest the look of grass.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 02

Step 3

Next, layer Chartreuse into some of the lighter middle values. Use the same type of stroke you used for the darker colors, but don’t cover every area of dark color with Chartreuse and add Chartreuse in some areas where there are no darker values.

Take your time. Colored pencil is a naturally slow medium. It takes less time to work carefully and get the drawing right the first time, than to have to cover or correct a mistake made because you were in too much of a hurry.

But don’t beat yourself up if you get careless. I’ve been using colored pencil for nearly twenty years and still have to make myself take a break. Step away from your work when you find yourself rushing or getting careless. You won’t regret it!

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 03

Step 4

Layer Olive Green over almost all of the meadow. Work around the brightest highlights. Use a combination of closely spaced vertical strokes and circular strokes with light to medium light pressure. Remember: Longer strokes in the foreground; shorter strokes in the background!

Use medium pressure and circular strokes to darken the shadows and darker middle values with Olive Green.

Next, layer Peacock Green over the meadow, starting at the bottom with directional strokes and medium-light to medium pressure.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 04

Step 5

Layer Jasmine over the meadow with light-medium pressure. Use whatever stroke allows you to get even coverage (I used a combination of circular strokes and closely-spaced vertical strokes.)

Follow that with a layer of Olive Green over all of the meadow except the area immediately in front of the horses. Next, add a variety of short, vertical strokes to create the look of grass. Make sure to keep your pencil sharp, vary the length of the strokes (longer in front, shorter in back), and also vary the amount and direction of curve.

TIP: Don’t try to draw every blade of grass. That will drive you to distraction in no time! Instead, draw tufts of grass by varying the pattern of lights and darks. Also draw the most detail in the foreground, and in the edges between distinct colors or values.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 05

Step 6

In the area immediately in front of the horses, stroke in clumps of grass with curving, fan-shaped strokes. Use sharp pencils and light pressure. You don’t want dark marks, but you do want them dark enough to show. The detail below shows the sort of stroke I use.

How to Draw Summer Grass Fan Shaped Strokes

Don’t cover every bit of paper with these clumps. Also put the darkest marks on the shadowed side of each clump of grass, either by pressing a little harder on the pencil, or by placing strokes closer together.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 06

Step 7

I glazed alternating layers of Jasmine and Olive Green over the meadow to finish drawing the grass and to warm up the green.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 07

Step 8

Darken the foreground with a layer of Dark Green applied with medium to heavy pressure. Alternate between directional, vertical strokes to mimic grass and tight, circular strokes for even coverage.

Follow up with a layer of Dark Brown applied in the same way over the same areas, then add Indigo Blue and another layer of Dark Green.

Keep the darkest areas at the bottom of the drawing and gradually lighten values as you move upward in the composition.

Darken the cast shadows from the horses if necessary.

How to Draw Summer Grass Step 08


I’ve also described how to draw more detailed autumn grass. That tutorial shows you how to draw tall, more detailed grass. That method will also work if you want to draw summer grass that’s tall.

This tutorial is excerpted from the Grazing Horses In-Depth Tutorial from Ann Kullberg. The kit also describes step-by-step how to draw the horses, and the background.

How to Draw Complex Flowers Part 2

In the previous post, I began a tutorial showing you how to draw complex flowers. The subject is a detail of hydrangea flowers and that post describes how to draw the basic colors, values, and just a few details.

Today, we’ll finish the tutorial.

SPOILER ALERT: Due to the complexity of the drawing and some behind-the-scenes goings on, I was not able to finish the entire drawing. That wasn’t a surprise. I did finish the flower I started drawing in the previous post.

How to Draw Complex Flowers Part 2

This is my reference photo. Thank yous to Loraine for taking the photo, and giving me permission to use it.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Reference Photo

This is the drawing at the end of the previous post, which concluded with step 6 in the process.

As you can see, the basic values have been drawn. The darkest values are established and I’ll use those as a benchmark against which to compare the rest of the values.

I’m continuing the step numbering from the first post, so the first step in this post will be Step 7.

How to Draw Complex Flowers Part 2

Step 7: Adding Darker Values Around the Flower

To make the flower show up better, add darker shapes around it. In this illustration, I’ve added the dark wedge shape to the lower right of the main flower. This darker value helps reveal the highlighted edge of the adjacent petals.

I alternated layers of Faber-Castell Polychromos Violet and Purple Violet with Prismacolor Indigo Blue, all applied with medium pressure. I then applied Faber-Castell Pink Madder Lake with heavier pressure, and burnished with Prismacolor Light Blush.

TIP: It’s okay to simplify some of these background shapes to keep the main flower the center of interest. Those darker areas also provide a resting place for the eye.

Step 8: Finishing the Flower Petal-by-Petal

I confess that at this point, I wasn’t sure how best to proceed. It didn’t look like it would take much to finish the flower, but what was the next step? In the end, I took my own advice and began finishing one petal at a time.

To build color saturation, I blended Polychromos Violet, Purple Violet, Light Ultramarine, and Rose Madder Lake, plus Prismacolor Indigo Blue (only in the darkest values), Light Blush, and White. Colors were applied with medium to medium heavy pressure and alternating layers depending on the color and value of each area.

I finished by burnishing with Light Blush over all parts of each petal except the brightest highlights.

Finally, I burnished the brighter areas with White.

The two outside petals have been completed. The darker petal just inside them has new layers of Indigo Blue in the darkest areas, and Violet in all of the shadows.

I also added another part of the background to show off the flower.

TIP: Blend various colors from different brands of pencils to get the most exact color options possible. I’m using wax-based Prismacolor with oil-based Polychromos pencils for this project.

Step 9: Finishing the Rest of the Flower

Continue finishing the flower petal-by-petal.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Step 9

Step 10: Solvent Blend

While the flower itself was looking pretty good, I wasn’t at all happy with the color. It was much too purple. The deeper shadows gave it a lot of depth, but it was simply not the right color.

In most cases, that’s not going to matter. No one needs to know that your reference photo shows a pinkish-lavender flower, but your drawing is pinkish-purple. After all, there are darker purple hydrangeas.

But I wanted to try a color correction, to see what happened and to show you how to do one.

I blended the flower with turpentine (you can use odorless mineral spirits if you prefer, or you can skip the solvent blend altogether.) I’d burnished my flower so much, the turpentine didn’t do much, so if you think there’s a possibility you might want to do a solvent blend, don’t burnish.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Step 10

Step 11: Burnishing with Pink

After the paper dried completely, I burnished the entire flower—shadows and all—with Polychromos Dark Flesh.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Step 11

Dark Flesh might seem like an odd color to choose, but after laying a selection of pencils against my printed reference photo, it proved to be the best choice.

I also  burnished some of the brighter highlights with White, and layered Dark Flesh over a couple of the nearby flowers for context.

Step 11: Time to Review

When you’ve finished the drawing, take a break from it. I like to let my projects sit overnight, then I review them and look for any adjustments that need to be made.

In the case of a project like this, continue finishing the entire drawing flower by flower until it’s completely finished. Then give yourself a day off before you review it.

A Couple of Tips in Closing

Don’t use two reference photos! At least, don’t use two forms of your reference photo.

I worked from a digital form and print form of the reference. The digital form shows the colors in the reference at the beginning of this post. The printed copy was more pink. I matched the colors with the printed reference and got pretty close. But the colors were way off when compared to the digital image. So chose one and stick with it!

Don’t fret over the details. I confess that I got bogged down with details a time or two and got careless in color selection. Don’t let that happen to you.

A Final Word

Overall, I’m pleased with the way the flower turned out but for one thing. I didn’t do a very good job of color matching. Other than that, the results are satisfactory… for a first-time floral drawing!

Will I finish the drawing? Probably not as a finished piece of art, but I will be working on it again as part of a review of Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press paper. That means lots of experimenting and learning. Stay tuned for that.

Do I regret the effort?

Not at all. I learn more from mistakes and miscues than from doing everything right. For example, I’ve learned that soft, luminous color requires soft, luminous shadows too. I didn’t do that right this time.

Hopefully, you’ll do better!

How to Draw Complex Flowers Part 1

In a previous post, I shared four tips on choosing reference photos for flowers. I promised in that post to show you how to draw complex flowers. That’s what this post is all about.

I originally intended to do a single post for the tutorial, but it quickly became more like an ebook than a blog post, so I’ll be dividing it up into two posts.

How to Draw Complex Flowers Part 1

Loraine, who asked the question that began this series, was also kind enough to provide a selection of photos of hydrangeas from her own garden. Here’s the one I’ll be using for this tutorial.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Reference Photo

I cropped the image to focus on this bunch of blossoms because it limits the amount of flower to draw. The “empty” space at the bottom allows room for a few words if the art is to be used for a card. If not, it provides a resting place for the eye.

Tips for Getting Started

Before I begin the tutorial, let me suggest some ways to speed up the drawing process.

Use Colored Paper

If you have colored paper, that’s a great way to save time on a drawing. For a subject like this, use a light blue or lavender paper. Either of those colors will provide a good base color for both the flower and the leaves, and yet be light enough to provide for eye-catching highlights.

I’m using Stonehenge Aqua 140 hot press watercolor paper in white.

Consider a Wet Medium

If all you have is watercolor paper—or if that’s what you prefer using—consider toning the paper with washes of wet color. You can use either watercolor or water soluble colored pencils (my preference would be water soluble colored pencils.) The advantage to this method is that you can tone each area to suit the drawing. Blue or lavender for the flowers, and green or even an earth tone for the leaves.

Why an earth tone on the leaves? That will provide a complementary under drawing for the greens and keep them from getting too bright. You could also do a complementary under drawing on the flowers, but this color is so soft, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Remember to work around the brightest highlights on the flower if you choose to use a wet medium.

Start Small

No matter what type of composition you choose, there will be a lot of detail to draw. You’ll make faster progress on a small drawing, and will be less likely to become overwhelmed.

Smaller drawings also keep you from getting bogged down in details. If you’re like me, that’s a big plus with a new subject!

How small is small? My drawing is 5×7.

How to Draw Complex Flowers

Step 1: The Line Drawing

A good line drawing is going to be your best tool for drawing a subject like this, so take your time.

It didn’t take me very long to discover that the confusion of shapes led to a confused line drawing, so I drew the outlines of each individual flower with a bold line, then added a few interior details with a lighter line.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Line Drawing

I also refrained from drawing out a lot of the interior details. Trying to mark every edge between values and colors would further confuse the issue, so I left them out.

Not only does this produce a clearer line drawing, it will provide a better guide when you begin adding color.

Step 2: Transferring the Line Drawing

My preferred method of transferring a line drawing is with a light box. I mount the line drawing (which is on tracing paper) to the back of the paper, then lay the paper on a light box and carefully trace the drawing onto the front of the drawing paper. This method allows me to use colored pencils for the transfer process, which eliminates the risk of dirtying the paper with either graphite or other transfer mediums.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Transferred Line Drawing

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos Light Magenta to redraw the flowers, and Olive Green Yellowish to redraw the leaves.

Make sure to use light pressure to redraw the line drawing, or you could impress the lines into the paper. Impressed lines can be filled in again, but why create that extra work for yourself?

TIP: Don’t have a light box? Don’t worry! I don’t either. Instead, I use either a large window or the window in the front door as a light box. It works even on a cloudy day!

Step 3: The First Color Layers

Begin adding color with a medium purple (I used Polychromos Violet). Work in one small area at a time, and carefully outline the shape of each shadow with light pressure. Shade each shape layer by layer, using multiple layers (not increased pressure) to draw the darker values.

If you’re working on white paper, work around the highlights, especially at the edges of each petal. You will be able to lift a little color if you need to, but you won’t be able to get all the way back to white paper. Those bright highlights are what will help make your drawing come to life.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - First Color Violet

TIP: The purples and pinks in the Prismacolor line are notoriously bad for fading. If you’re doing craft work or drawing art for cards or similar uses, you can use these colors without worry. But if you’re doing fine art or want your drawings to last, consider using pencils with higher lightfast rated purples and pinks. Polychromos have more lightfast pinks and purples available. That’s why I’m using them for this drawing.

A Note on Pencil Strokes

Ordinarily, I recommend small, overlapping circular strokes for drawing even color unless you’re drawing something like hair or grass. The texture of these flowers is very soft and delicate, so I started with small, overlapping circular strokes in the areas marked with red arrows.

But I wasn’t satisfied with the way those areas looked after a layer or two, so I tried parallel strokes that follow the contour of each petal. Two such areas are marked with blue arrows.

The result was much more satisfactory on the paper I was using. I don’t know if there would be such a marked difference on regular Stonehenge (remember, I’m using Stonehenge Aqua) or Bristol or any other smooth paper.

If you’re in doubt, experiment on a scrap piece of your drawing paper first.

Step 4: Adding Blue

Next, layer a light blue (I used Light Ultramarine) over all of the purple areas, as shown below. Use light pressure and short, careful strokes.

I worked on only one flower from this point on, and recommend you do the same. It’s easier to see progress working from flower to flower, rather than trying to do each step with all the flowers.

It’s less confusing and frustrating, too!

Step 5: Adding Pink

Add the pink shades at the centers of the petals with light pressure and careful strokes. Since the pink appears to “radiate” out from the center of the flower, I used directional strokes beginning at the center.

Step 6: Finishing the Base Color

Finally, I used a combination of Sky Blue and Pink Madder Lake to glaze a base color over all of the lighter values in the flower. Those two colors blended to make a close approximation of the actual colors in the reference photo. Not perfect, but close.

If you have a color that matches better, use that. Whatever color or colors you use, continue to use light pressure.

How to Draw Complex Flowers - Step 6

To finish this step, layer a medium purpose over the darkest shadows on the two petals to the left. I’m still using light pressure and careful, directional strokes to lay down color, but you can see how the accumulation of layers is creating darker values.

Also take note of the added details in the bottom petal. Draw these in very lightly. It’s not important that you get them absolutely correct according to the reference photo. Just add a few to give the flower character.

If your drawing is very small or you’re doing a less realistic rendering, you may not need these details at all.

That’s How to Draw Complex Flowers

I’ll finish this flower in How to Draw Complex Flowers, Part 2.

If you’re following along with your own drawing and you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can do these steps for some or all of the remaining flowers.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky in Colored Pencil

Today I want to show you one way I draw a stormy sky with traditional colored pencil.

The sky sets the tone for landscape art; even in graphite. Get it right, and you have an excellent landscape drawing.

Get it wrong…. Well, lets don’t go there!

Clear skies can be difficult enough, with all those subtle gradations of blue. Add a few clouds and the difficulty increases.

A stormy sky?

The lighting may be dramatic, but is it possible to draw a stormy sky that looks realistic?


How to Draw a Stormy Sky in Colored Pencil

I’m using the direct method of drawing for this demonstration.

I’m also using Prismacolor Thick Lead/Soft Core pencils unless otherwise noted. You should be able to match colors in whatever brand of pencil you prefer if you don’t use Prismacolor.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky in Colored Pencil

Laying a Foundation – Slate Grey

I chose Slate Grey for the foundation color because it’s a cool color (as opposed to a warm color.) It also combines gray with a strong blue tint that’s ideal for dark and stormy skies.

Since my reference photo features a brightly lighted foreground, I wanted a cool color against which I can contrast all that bright, warm, foreground light. Your stormy sky might do better with a warm gray. Try a few colors and don’t be afraid to experiment. Just do most of your experimenting on scrap paper first!

Outline objects that overlap the sky, and then fill in around them using the point of a very sharp pencil and light pressure. In the trees in my sample, I used circular strokes and light to medium pressure to fill in the gaps around the edges of the trees and within the foliage. The strokes are so close together, it’s difficult to see them in this detail, but the type of stroke isn’t as important as getting an even layer of color.

The darker areas around this yellow tree are the result of several layers of Slate Grey. The lighter areas (lower right) are fewer layers. The lightest area has no color at all.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 1 Detail

TIP: Unless your stormy sky is flat gray, it’s important to begin defining values from the beginning.

Building on the Foundation

In the open sky, use light pressure and horizontal strokes with the side of a well-sharpened pencil. Overlap strokes and use multiple layers to create the lights and dark values that represent breaks in the clouds.

Layer flat color into the trees overlapping the sky. This is the method that works best for me because it gives me a better sense of the landscape than the line drawing.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 1

TIP: Unless the paper is extremely smooth, some texture will appear through the color layers when you use a blunt pencil or the side of the pencil. The lighter the pressure, the more “broken” the resulting color. Make use of the paper texture in the sky, where it helps create the look of clouds with a minimum of work.

Darkening the Sky

Continue layering Slate Grey over the sky, beginning with a sharp pencil and light to medium pressure to work around and within the trees. Outline the outside edges, and the edges of the “sky holes” before filling in the shapes.

At this stage, you can continue working even after the pencil becomes blunt. The broader tip of a blunt pencil covers paper more quickly. It also lets the texture of the paper influence the color. As the pencil grows more blunt, increase pressure slightly to medium pressure.

You can also alternate between horizontal strokes (visible on the right) and vertical strokes (on the left). I layered with horizontal strokes first, then added a layer of vertical strokes, but the order doesn’t matter.

The type of strokes you use is not as important as getting the look you want. Use whatever strokes work best for you and the type of paper you use.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 2 Detail 1

In the illustration below, you can see the outline on the right and the filled in areas on the left.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 2 Detail 2

TIP: Continue developing variations in light and dark values established in the first step. Although you darken the entire sky, there will still be light and dark areas when you finish.

Add Dark Umber

To get an even darker sky, add a dark brown. I like Dark Umber because it’s more neutral than Dark Brown. I also like browns because they create nice, natural looking dark values when mixed with dark blues, dark greens, or dark reds.

Using a sharp pencil and light to medium light pressure, outline the trees overlapping the sky, including the sky holes within each tree with Dark Umber. You may outline the horizon, but don’t have to. That edge should be soft and blurry.

Then layer Dark Umber over the darkest areas of the sky, keeping the pencil as sharp as possible. Around the trees, use directional strokes. In the open sky, alternate between horizontal, vertical, and cross hatching strokes to get the most even coverage possible.

Add more layers for darker values. I actually worked around some of the lightest areas so the cool, blue-gray color wasn’t muted by the brown.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 3

Add Ultramarine

Once again, use a sharp pencil and medium pressure to outline overlapping objects. Then use medium to medium-heavy pressure to lay down color. Vary strokes and layers to continue developing variations in value and color.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 4

Slate Grey & Cool Grey Medium

Continue layering color with sharp pencils and a variety of strokes to add more Slate Grey and Cool Grey.

Then burnish the darkest darks with Cool Grey and the slightly lighter areas with Slate Grey using blunt pencils and overlapping the colors. It may take couple of rounds of burnishing to completely cover the paper in the areas where you want intense dark, such as the left part of the sky and the upper sky.

In this detail, the top portion has been blended with both colors. The lighter, rounded area between the trees still needs to be done and the dark streak through the middle is a single, heavy application of Cool Grey Medium.

Clay Rose & Rosy Beige Accents

The light spots on the horizon have a pinkish tone compared to the darker sky. Layer Clay Rose with medium heavy pressure at the horizon in each place, then follow up with Rosy Beige applied over the Clay Rose and between the Clay Rose and the clouds.

Burnish with White

Burnishing with White is the final step. This step is optional. You can burnish with a light gray or you can skip burnishing altogether, depending on the result you prefer.

This illustration shows that area near the center of the drawing after it was burnished with White.

There is another left of the yellow tree, visible as soft, light color in the illustration below.

Finishing Touches

Once you finish burnishing, let the drawing—and possibly your hand—rest for a while. I usually allow drawing to sit for 24 hours before a final review. Sometimes, I find they are finished when I look at them again.

Sometimes there’s more to do.

I went over this drawing one final time, adjusting color and value to the get right look.


If I were to finish the rest of the landscape, I’d go over the entire composition once more and make any additional adjustments that seem necessary after finishing the landscape.

Once you understand how to draw a stormy sky, you should be able to draw any kind of sky, from a clear blue sky to dark and stormy and everything in between.

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods

Comparing colored pencil drawing methods can be a challenge. For one thing, there are nearly as many methods of drawing with colored pencils as there are artists using colored pencils.

And even though two artists may produce similar styles and types of work, the methods they use may be widely different.

How do you know which method is best for you?

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods - Pencil & Paper

Why Method Matters

As universal as drawing with colored pencils may seem, the method you use depends largely on three things:

  1. The type of work you want to create
  2. Your favorite papers or supports
  3. The pencils themselves

Believe it or not, some methods work better on smooth paper than on rough. Some methods also work best with high-quality pencils, and sometimes, the method that’s best for you is dependent on your artistic temperament.

Choose the wrong method for your tools and personality, and you may very well give up on colored pencils before finishing your second piece.

But find the right method, and you can draw for years and enjoy almost every minute of it!

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods - Primary Colors

Understanding Terms

Before we get started, let me briefly explain terms.

Regardless of the way you draw, you’re likely to work in two basic phases.

The first phase is what I call an under drawing. It’s the first layer or two of color you put on the paper no matter what method of drawing you use. The under drawing may consist of just a couple of layers or it may involve as many as six to ten layers.

The second phase is what I call the over drawing. In this phase, you’re developing the colors, values, and details you established in the first phase.

It doesn’t matter what colors you use in the under drawing. It’s still an under drawing.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be comparing different methods for drawing the under drawing, since the over drawing is fairly consistent no matter which method you prefer.

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods

There is no easy way to categorize drawing methods because the methods I’m about to describe are not isolated one from the others. You can combine various aspects of them as you like, so they’re more like points on a line.

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods

To keep the discussion brief and clear, I’m limiting it to the four methods I use most often: Complementary, direct, monochromatic, and umber under drawing method. As mentioned above, these names refer to the way I draw the under drawing. Once I have a complete under drawing, the over drawing is pretty much the same from one method to the next.

Complementary Drawing Method

Complements on a Color Wheel

With this method, the under drawing is drawn in colors that are opposite the the color wheel from the final colors of the drawing.

In the color wheel shown here, orange and blue are complementary colors. If you wanted to draw something blue using this method of drawing, you’d begin by drawing the under drawing in shades of orange.

Green Pastures - Complementary Under Drawing

The drawing, Green Pastures, was drawn with a complementary under drawing. This is the finished under drawing. The under drawing looks almost like a finished drawing, but in complementary colors.

Green Pastures Finished Drawing

This is the finished drawing. Local color (the finished colors) were glazed over the under drawing. I needed to draw very little detail because it had already been established in the under drawing.

Tips for Using the Complementary Drawing Method

Take careful note of the local colors of your subject. An object that is blue-green in color will require a different complement (red-orange) than an object that’s yellow-green (red-blue). The more precisely you can identify the local colors and their complements, the better this method works.

For environmental greens, consider using earth tones as the complements, rather than direct complements. A grassy field on a sunny day will benefit from an under drawing in cool browns, for example.

If you’re unsure what colors to use for a complementary under drawing, reverse the colors on your digital photo. You can do this in most photo processing programs. You won’t be able to exactly duplicate the colors, but this “negative” image should give you a good idea where to begin.

Download my free color wheel template and make your own color wheel. Not only will this exercise give you a good feel for how complementary colors relate to one another; you’ll end up with a reference tool you can use for future drawings. Instructions are included.

Direct Color Drawing Method

Direct drawing is probably the most popular method of drawing with colored pencils because it’s where most artists begin. It’s natural. You draw the under drawing with the same colors with which you draw the over drawing. There usually isn’t a moment when you say to yourself, “The under drawing is done.” Instead, you continue to layer color until the drawing is complete.

Fire & Ice Filly Under Drawing

This  illustration shows the under drawing stage of a drawing in which I used the direct method.

With this method, you’re developing detail and creating value—just as you do with the other methods. But you’re also making color choices. The drawing develops at all three levels at the same pace.

The drawing moves without notice from the under drawing phase to the over drawing phase.

Fire & Ice Filly Over Drawing

This illustration shows the finished drawing

The primary differences between the under drawing (above) and the finished drawing is that the colors and values are fully developed. I’ve also added detailing where necessary.

Tips for Using the Direct Drawing Method

Start with light colors and light pressure. You can use lighter values of the local color if you wish, or simply start with very light pressure and increase the amount of pressure you use layer by layer.

Build color and value slowly. It’s easier to increase color saturation and value range than it is to decrease it.

Be prepared to possibly have to mix more colors to get the exact color you want. I didn’t have one color that was an exact match for the palomino color of the horse in this example, so I had to combine several shades of yellow- and red-browns.

Monochromatic Drawing Method

When you use the monochromatic drawing method, you draw an under drawing in a single color (or maybe two), but the color you choose is entirely up to you. You develop the under drawing the same way you do with the complementary method or umber under drawing method.

Morgan in Western Indigo Blue Under Drawing

I have used this method with Indigo Blue, as shown in the under drawing shown at the right. I’ve also used shades of purple and green.

But I don’t use the monochromatic method very often because the colors I choose tend to be either complementary colors or earth tones (browns).

Morgan in Western

The color you use for the under drawing will affect the final look of the drawing.

As you can see with the finished drawing here, the chestnut is quite dark. Some of that darkness is due to the colors I used in the over drawing, but most of it is the result of drawing the under drawing in Indigo Blue.

Tips for Using the Monochromatic Drawing Method

If you like to experiment and want to see how colors influence each other, do a simple drawing with a monochromatic under drawing, but do several versions of the same drawing with different colors as the under drawing.

Chose a color that’s medium value. Use light pressure to draw the lighter values. Increase pressure or number of layers to draw darks.

Consider the local color of the subject when choosing the under drawing color. The horse in this sample was naturally a dark chestnut, so using Indigo Blue helped developed the coat color. Using Indigo Blue for a light gray horse would not have helped at all.

Umber Under Drawing Method

This is my preferred method; the method I use to draw horses, landscapes, and almost anything else I want to draw. That doesn’t make it better than any of the others. It just means it works best for me.

Landscape Umber Under Drawing 2

This method is similar to the monochromatic method in that you use only one color. In this case, however, the color you use is an earth tone—a shade of brown.

The illustration at left was drawn entirely in browns. The landscape elements were developed in detail and value through several layers.

Landscape Study Flint Hills Spring

Once the drawing is complete, color is layered over the drawing.

In this sample, I used several greens to draw the grassy hillsides, and the trees. For the most part, I used the same greens in the foreground as in the background, but used the lighter values from the under drawing to create the illusion of distance.

Tips for Using the Umber Under Drawing Method

Use an earth tone that’s either neutral in color (not too blue or too yellow) or that is the complement of the final color. I use a light umber most of the time, because it’s a light brown that’s still dark enough to draw nice dark values. But it’s a little on the warm side, so if I’m drawing a subject that will feature warm colors in the over drawing, I might switch to a darker shade, which is slightly bluer in color.

General Under Drawing Tips

Begin with light pressure and build value slowly, layer by layer.

Choose middle value colors. The color needs to be dark enough to impact the over drawing, but light enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the over drawing.

Work around the highlights. It’s much easier to preserve the highlights than to restore them.

When drawing landscapes, don’t under draw the sky unless there are clouds. A clear, blue sky should be the purest color in your landscape, so it doesn’t need an under drawing.

Read more about colored pencil drawing methods.