How to Draw Plants in Colored Pencil

How to Draw Plants in Colored Pencil

Today’s Q&A Wednesday post includes a mini tutorial on how to draw plants. Here’s the reader’s question to get us started.

Hi, Carrie,

I’ve been wanting to draw some bear cubs I saw playing in a meadow with their mom.  I just can’t figure out how to do this meadow, with all the clover and daisy flowers interspersed. I was working on the little bear, and just sort of gave up because I didn’t know how to do a good job with the plants.

Do you have any advice?  I am getting a lot out of the tutorials, but haven’t seen anything that addressed this problem.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Pam

How to Draw Plants in Colored Pencil

I want to thank Pam, who gave me permission to use her reference photo and drawing to illustrate this post. So let’s begin by taking a look at both.

This is the photograph Pam took and is using for a reference.

Here’s Pam’s drawing so far.

Pam has already made a couple of wise decisions.

First, she cropped the reference photo to focus on the bear cub. By doing so, she removed a lot of area at the top and bottom of the composition.

Secondly, she started the process of developing those background greens by layering a base green over everything but the cub and the flowers.

So kudos to Pam for getting off to a good start.

As frustrated as she is, what I think Pam really needs is a little encouragement. She’s done a good job starting the flowers around the bear cub, so she doesn’t really need advice about how to draw plants.

But let me make a couple of suggestions that will help Pam finish this piece.

How to Draw Plants in Colored Pencil

In studying Pam’s photo and drawing, it’s easy to see she’s trying to solve two problems. How should she draw the background, and how should she draw the foreground?

Yes, both areas have the same flowers and grass in them. But in order to make the drawing look right, the two areas need to be drawn differently.

The Background

Drawing the background is fairly easy. There isn’t much detail. Your mind tells you there’s a lot because it knows the same flowers and plants are in the background that are in the foreground. The foreground plants look difficult, so the background has got to be difficult, too. Right?

But look at just the background. There really isn’t very much there. Just shades of green and dots of white.

So begin by putting down a base layer of green with a couple of light-medium-value yellowish greens. Pam can continue with the green she started applying in the drawing.

Layer that as smoothly as possible with light pressure, a reasonably sharp pencil, and whatever strokes give you smooth color. But don’t worry about filling every paper hole.

Next, layer a one or two medium-dark value greens over the same area. Use the same pressure.

When you have enough color on the paper, warm up a piece of mounting putty by rolling it between your hands. Then shape it like this or roll a small piece into a ball.

How to Draw Plants

Press the mounting putty onto the background here and there to lift color and create light spots. Those light spots should look like blurry, light-colored flowers.

If you make too many, fill in some of them again. If they don’t look light enough, add a little bit of very light color to them. Don’t add white. That might make them too bright!

My Test Sample

The left side shows two warm, light greens layered one over the other. The right side shows two additional, slightly darker colors layered over them. Then I added more layers of one of the lighter colors.

After that, I used mounting putty to lift color randomly. This is the result.

I discovered you don’t need much of a point on the mounting putty. Using a small piece rolled into a ball also works.

Another discovery was using a small “edge” of mounting putty to make elliptical shapes. Flowers are seen from different angles in nature, so don’t make them all round in your art.

This test is on Bristol paper and is nowhere near finished, but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

If I were doing this for a “real drawing” instead of a test sample, I’d do a few layers of greens, then lift color, then do a few more layers and lift more color. That would create greater variety in the blurred shapes, and result in a more natural appearance.

The Foreground

Here’s the reference photo cropped to show the foreground. I confess that looking just at this gives me pause, too. I can certainly understand Pam’s difficulties!

How to Draw Plants

But is it really that difficult to draw?

Remember, the focus is on the bear cub. The meadow is the “stage” for the bear cub. Unless hyper-realism is your goal, these parts of the composition should not be as crisp and clear as the bear cub.

And look at that crop above. Even in the photograph, the flowers in the foreground are also blurry in appearance.

What does that mean? Drawing them in sharp focus makes more work than is necessary.

Don’t forget that Pam has already made a very good start in this area. She doesn’t have that much more work to do. (That’s why I think Pam really needs a little encouragement and direction.)

So here’s what I’d do.

First, I’d stroke some highlights into the stems and leaves with a very light yellow, cream, or light, warm gray.

Then I’d layer the lightest green Pam has used so far over all of the middle ground and foreground. Use light pressure and sharp pencils with whatever stroke works best. A lot of artists recommend circular strokes, but I also get good results with carefully applied directional strokes. Work around the flowers and the bear, but glaze green over everything else.

Then continue developing the plants that have already been drawn. Darken the shadows, work on the highlights, and pay attention to the edges. Use light pressure and sharp pencils.

The shadows don’t need to be real dark, so alternate the darker green with one of the lighter greens you already used.

Finally, finish the flowers by working on their shadows and highlights.

A Word of Caution

Don’t get too detailed with these parts of the drawing. They should look real, but they shouldn’t draw attention away from the bear cub.

To make sure they don’t, do most of the detailing described above around the bear cub. As you move away from the bear cub, soften the details and don’t add as many.

If the foreground looks too busy after you’ve finished, glaze one of the base greens over it to soften the edges.

There’s One Way to Draw Plants

There are two keys to remember when it comes to deciding how to draw plants in a composition like this.

First, study the reference photo. How do the plants look? Are they in sharp focus or are they blurred? How much detail to do you really see?

Second, decide how you want to draw the scene, and determine how much of the detail you need to draw to get the look you want. In most cases, draw only as much detail as necessary to create the look you want.

Pam made a good start on this by cropping her reference photo first. That left a lot fewer plants to draw.

Now all she needs to do is layer color and add just enough detailing to finish the scene.

Watercolor Pencil Landscape for Beginners

Watercolor Pencil Landscape for Beginners

Announcing my first new tutorial for 2021. Watercolor Pencil Landscape for Beginners.

Landscapes are one of the most difficult subjects for many artists to capture. They have been for me. There’s simply so many possibilities in every scene, that an artist can quickly become overwhelmed.

I didn’t start doing serious landscapes until after I started using colored pencils. My skills have improved over the years, but one thing remains the same.

It still takes a long time to finish a landscape! Especially a big one.

So I started looking for other ways to draw and that’s how I discovered the usefulness of watercolor pencils.

Watercolor Pencil Landscape for Beginners

And that led to this tutorial.

Watercolor Pencil Landscape for Beginners

In this tutorial, I share some of the lessons I learned about combining water and traditional colored pencils.

You’ll learn how to start your landscape with watercolor pencils, using them wet and dry.

Then you’ll see how to layer traditional colored pencils over the under painting. I’ll show you how to create the illusion of distance and draw trees that look like trees.

The tutorial includes a full supply list, a color chart so you can match colors if you don’t have Prismacolor pencils, and a line drawing. It also includes a full-size reference photo!

A page from the tutorial. Click on this image to buy your copy.

Are You Ready for Something Fun?

If you’re ready to dive into watercolor pencils, I hope you’ll give this tutorial a try. It’s written so you can do this project, then follow the same steps for your own landscape.

Or for most other projects you want to try.

And if you’re just looking for a new project to draw, then why not give this tutorial a try?

Click here to buy your copy of the Watercolor Pencil Landscape for Beginner’s tutorial.

Realistic Landscape Greens with Colored Pencils

I’ve been drawing landscapes with colored pencils for almost as long as I’ve been using colored pencils. One of the most difficult things to get right in a landscape are the green colors. So today, I want to show you one way to draw realistic landscape greens.

Learn how to draw realistic landscape greens.

There are several ways to draw landscapes with greens that don’t look washed out or garish. One of my favorite methods is to start with an umber under drawing. That’s because earth tones naturally tone down other colors.

But most artists prefer to go straight for the color. I confess. I often do that, too, because color is just so much fun!

So let’s take a look at how I use that method to draw landscapes.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Using Direct Color

When you draw with a direct color under drawing, you begin drawing with pretty much the same colors you finish with. You simply begin with lighter versions of the final colors, or start with lighter pressure.

You build color through a series of layers and either increase the pressure or mix in other colors. Sometimes both.

While it’s quite likely you’ll include earth tones and complementary colors to keep the greens looking natural, you won’t use them by themselves at any part of the drawing process.

In other words, the under drawing will look like a faded version of the final, full color drawing.

How does that look in practice? Here’s a step-by-step.

How to Use a Direct Color Under Drawing

As with any other method of drawing, the first step is creating the patterns of lights and darks in the composition. You also begin developing the most basic details at this stage.

The Base Layer

For this illustration, I glazed a medium green over all of the trees using open, diagonal strokes to establish the base color.

Next, I drew the form shadows (on the trees) and the cast shadows (between the trees) with the same color. But I increased pressure a little, and used slightly smaller strokes, which I placed closer together.

The results are the same as with the other methods, but the drawing is already showing the finished colors. Green.

The Middle Layers

Next, I layered a light dull-ish yellow over the trees, followed by a couple of layers of a yellowish-green. Those colors provided the warm yellow tint necessary to create the appearance of late afternoon sun slanting across the landscape.

I followed that with another layer or two of the original color into the shadows on each side of each tree. Then I glazed a light-value, yellowish earth tone over all of each of the trees.

After a few more layers alternating between those colors, I burnished with a very cool, light blue in the lightest areas. Then I added a little dark green or dark brown in the shadows, and then burnished with the colorless blender.

Once the basic values were in place, I continued layering all the colors over the trees. Layer by layer, I developed colors, values, and details.

I finished by layering medium green, dark blue, and dark brown into the shadows, alternating between the colors to create a range of values within the shadows.

Finishing the Trees

I finished work on these trees by burnishing in a couple of rounds.

For the first round, I used different colors for each area: Light, cool blue in the lightest areas and dark green in the darkest areas.

I used a colorless blender for the second round of burnishing, and I burnished all parts of each tree.

To burnish, I used heavy pressure, sharp to slightly blunted pencils with a variety of strokes to achieve the look I wanted for each tree.

This is what these trees look like finished.

The final drawing with realistic landscape greens

You Can Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

It takes some thought and patience, but once you master the process, it makes perfect sense.

When you use the direct color method, all you’re doing is developing color along with values and details layer-by-layer.

It’s more difficult to determine where the under drawing ends and the final drawing begins when you use direct color, but it is no less effective than using an umber under drawing or a complementary under drawing.

One note to those who will ask. I didn’t name colors in this step-by-step because the specific colors don’t matter all that much. You can use any combination of yellow-greens, medium and dark greens, earth tones and blues to duplicate the results I showed you here.

You can see the finished drawing, Afternoon Graze, here.

1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Is there a sure-fire way to draw realistic landscape greens most of the time?

Short answer, yes.

The question is, what’s the best solution for you?

I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself, but I can share with you the method that helps me draw landscapes that look like landscapes, no matter what shades of green, what time of year, or what the lighting conditions.

1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Landscape greens can be the most difficult colors to get right in any medium. Most of us have drawn landscapes in which the greens are too soft and muted or are way too bold and artificial.

My Favorite Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Over the years, I’ve used several methods to draw landscapes. My favorite method to draw realistic landscape greens is beginning with an umber under drawing, then glazing color.

The first few layers of color you put on the paper are called the under drawing. An under drawing can be a single color, two or three colors, a limited palette, or lighter shades of the final colors.

When the under drawing is in earth tones, it’s called an umber under drawing. You can use any earth tone, but the best choices are generally medium-value, neutral colors like Prismacolor Light Umber or Polychromos Nougat or Raw Umber. Once I discovered umber under drawing, my landscapes began to look like they were supposed to look.

Learn how the umber under drawing method compares to other colored pencil drawing methods.

Step 1: How to Begin an Umber Under Drawing

The process is simple. Develop your landscape first in all earth tones. Choose one or two browns—three at most—and draw the entire landscape with those colors.

I prefer Prismacolor Light or Dark Umber, usually use just Light Umber. It’s possible to get a nice value range with Light Umber simply by adding layers. The more layers, the darker the value.

You don’t want to get too dark too quickly, and you also want to avoid developing details too quickly, so draw the under drawing with several layers applied with light pressure.

You can also use a tinted paper, as I did with the drawing below. The paper is Rising Stonehenge in a very light tan color. The color of the paper provided the lightest values for the drawing.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 1
Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to begin shading values. Start with the shadows, then gradually darken values and add middle values layer by layer.

Step 2: Develop Detail & Values

Use a variety of strokes to mimic each element of the landscape. Short vertical strokes with a sharp pencil for grass, stippling (dotted) or circular strokes with a sharp to slightly blunt pencil for trees (use a sharper pencil in trees close to the foreground and a blunter pencil for more distant trees), and the sides of the pencil to lay down even color in the distance.

Define the center of interest early by drawing the darkest shapes near the center of interest or in the foreground and keeping other parts of the drawing more subdued.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 2
Keep the darkest values and sharpest details in and around the center of interest (the tree on the left.)

Step 3: Finishing the Umber Under Drawing

You can make the under drawing as detailed as you like. When I draw horses, I generally draw a more detailed under drawing, because I want the under drawing to look like a finished drawing on its own.

But with landscapes, I develop just enough light and shadow to define the landscape elements and to begin depicting the sense of space (pictorial depth or aerial perspective).

Glaze color over the finished under drawing layer by layer with light pressure. Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so the umber under drawing tones down the greens you glaze over it. Even if you appear to totally cover all of the under drawing, its influence is still present.

draw realistic landscape greens
Spring 2012, 4×6 Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

Want to See How I Drew Realistic Landscape Greens Step-by-Step?

I drew this landscape as a demonstration piece for EmptyEasel.com. To see the full, step-by-step demonstration on EmptyEasel.

How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Underpainting

Color Glazing a Landscape Painting with Colored Pencils

It Doesn’t Have to be Difficult to Draw Landscapes

If landscape art has always appealed to you but you’ve not known where to begin, then let me encourage you. It’s not as difficult (or scary) to draw landscapes as you might think.

In fact, when mastering landscape drawing eluded me, I was dong it the hard way.

Maybe you are, too.

It Doesn't Have to be Difficult to Draw Landscapes

I know what you’re thinking! All those trees and hills. A sky. Maybe water. It’s impossible to master! That’s what I used to think.

Then I made a couple of discoveries that made landscapes one of my favorite things to draw.

And one of the easiest!

Here’s why.

Three Basic Tips to Draw Landscapes

There are a lot of complex sounding things to remember when drawing landscapes. Most of them only look complex, but I’ll save them for another post. Instead, let me share three tips that will help you draw better landscapes almost immediately.

You Don’t Have to Draw Everything

Just looking at a beautiful landscape can be intimidating. Especially if you’re in a wide open place like the desert or the Flint Hills. There’s so much to take in.

There’s also a lot to draw.

But you don’t need to draw everything to draw a believable landscape. Focus on one thing in the landscape.

Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s the reference on which August Morning in Kansas is based.

It looks simple enough, but there are several possible smaller compositions within the scene.

The group of trees on the left are one possibility. It’s simple and straight forward, but there’s also good light and “space.”

Draw Landscapes - Composition 1

The group of trees at center right are another possibility. It’s not quite as simple, but it also shows good detail in the main trees.

Draw Landscapes - Composition 2

Finally, a composition that focuses on space rather than trees. There’s a tree in the foreground (far right,) more trees in the middle ground (left,) and trees in the background.

Draw Landscapes - Composition 3

August Morning in Kansas was based on the second crop, but I like the third one, too. It’s worth trying to capture on paper at some point.

Draw Landscapes - August Morning in Kansas

Simplify Wherever Possible

You don’t have to draw every leaf or every blade of grass everywhere in the drawing. If you do, you’ll not only frustrate yourself to no end, you’ll end up with a drawing that’s highly detailed, but flat.

Details should always be saved for the center of interest in any art piece, but especially in landscapes.

Here’s a closeup look at the distant trees on the left side of August Morning. Although they look detailed when you see the entire composition, there isn’t much detail. Just splotches of color with a lot of paper showing through.

They look like you’d expect trees to look if they were far away on a hazy day.

Here’s a look at the space between the main trees and the trees on the right side of the composition. The dark green trees are closer than the trees on the far left, but they’re also deep in shadow, so there’s next to no detail. I used more intense color to make the shapes look closer, and suggested detail with subtle variations in value.

Finally, here’s a look at the grassy meadow in the foreground. I reduced the detail here to nothing but changes in color and value to keep the attention on the center of interest.

Interestingly enough, this was the easiest part! I layered colors, then used a stiff bristle brush to blend the pigment dust into the grit of the paper. The result was smooth transitions and a blurred foreground.

Use Pencil Strokes to Create Detail

It really does matter how you put color on paper. The more your pencil strokes blend together, the less detailed they look.

Look at these light green strokes. They’re short, they follow the direction of foliage growth and some of them are sort of squiggly.

Most of them also are hard-edged. They’re not blurry. Maybe they don’t look like much in this up close view of the drawing but when you look at the entire drawing, they look like branches and leaves catching the light.

I used a blunted pencil and short, quick strokes to make these marks.

Here’s those distant trees again. To draw these, I moved a blunt pencil back and forth across the paper with medium pressure or lighter. You can’t see individual strokes, only shaded color.

The transitions from one color to another and from one value to another are also soft and blurry. Smooth color and soft transitions in color and value all convey the look of distance.

Finally, here’s a look at part of the sky. Since the drawing is on sanded art paper, it was difficult to completely fill in the tooth of the paper. But that’s okay. The scene was supposed to look hazy, and the paper holes contributed to that look.

But I drew smooth color in the sky by using very dull pencils and the sides of pencils to lay down lots of color without leaving visible pencil strokes. The resultimg color looks very smooth compared to the slightly more details distant trees and the more detailed trees at the center of interest.

Have I whetted your appetite to draw landscapes?

Does all this sound good, but you need a little more convincing? How about a book of tutorials featuring nothing but landscapes?

DRAW Landscapes Book

DRAW Landscapes in Colored Pencil is a collection of 26 landscape tutorials by 26 different artists.

My contribution to this wonderful new landscape drawing book is based on the drawing I used for this post, August Morning in Kansas.

DRAW Landscapes is available from Ann Kullberg*in print, as a PDF download, and in digital format.

It’s the perfect motivation to try your hand at landscape drawing.

*Affiliate link.

Umber Under Painting Landscape Tutorial

This week, I’m taking a break from the usual Tuesday Tutorial to announce a new, full-length umber under painting landscape tutorial.

Umber Under Painting Tutorial – Cloudy Landscape shows you step-by-step how to paint a landscape on Stonehenge paper, using colored pencils and the umber under painting method.

Umber Under Painting Landscape TutorialOne of the most popular full-length tutorials on this blog has been the Umber Under Drawing Tutorial featuring a dark horse as the subject. It’s been a long time coming, but now you can see the same method used to paint a landscape.

Umber Under Painting Landscape Tutorial

See how I painted a landscape on colored paper from the initial sketch to the finishing touches.

The tutorial includes tips on composing your landscape, picking colors, and painting the umber under painting.

Umber Under Painting Landscape Tutorial - Umber Under Painting

You’ll also see in detail how to choose colors, layer color over the finished under painting, how to lift color if necessary, and how to blend with odorless mineral spirits.

Umber Under Painting Landscape Tutorial - Color Glaze 1

Even if you don’t enjoy drawing or painting landscapes, I hope you’ll enjoy this free tutorial, and maybe even pick up a few tips along the way!

Umber Under Painting Landscape Tutorial - Color Glaze 2

Read the new tutorial, Umber Under Painting Method Tutorial – Cloudy Landscape.

Read Umber Under Drawing Tutorial – Dark Horse.

NOTE on TERMINOLOGY

Colored pencil pieces can be called either drawings or paintings. Many non-artists think of any work on paper as a drawing unless the medium is fluid, such as watercolor.

Many artists also consider any work in colored pencil a “drawing,” while others consider their colored pencil works as paintings.

In the past, I called my colored pencil works drawings to set them apart from my oil paintings. I put the same amount of time and effort into both mediums, and the results were similar. Terminology was one easy way to distinguish between the mediums for students and buyers.

Since I’m no longer using oils, I’m referring to pieces such as this one as paintings. I’ll be updating old posts, articles, and tutorials accordingly.

What you call your colored pencil pieces is a matter of personal preference. Either way is correct, so long as you’re consistent.

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.