Water Soluble Colored Pencils 8 Articles

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for reader feedback on future articles. One of the subjects suggested was a few demonstrations on water soluble colored pencils. What a great idea!

So today’s post is a collection of eight must-read articles on this topic.

Some of them are right here on this blog. EmptyEasel published the others. Wherever they appeared, they’re all the step-by-step demos you’ve told me are so helpful.

water soluble colored pencils

8 Must Read Articles about Water Soluble Colored Pencils

From the archives

How to Start a Drawing with Watercolor Pencils

I wanted to learn what I could do with these water-based pencils. This article is the first of two parts and describes how I used watercolor pencils to create the background and under paint the horse.

water soluble colored pencils

How to Finish a Drawing Started with Watercolor Pencils

This is the follow up to the previous article. See how I completed the under painting, then used traditional pencils to finish this small study.

From EmptyEasel

How to Draw a Sunrise Landscape with Watercolor Pencils – Part 1

One of my favorite things about colored pencils is their versatility. Traditional wax-based pencils and water soluble pencils can be combined for a wide array of stunning effects. In this post, I show you what I did and how it turned out.

water soluble colored pencils

Drawing a Sunrise with Watercolor Pencils – Part 2

I used a combination of pencils and methods including water soluble Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle, traditional Faber-Castell Art Grip, and Prismacolor Premier. Today I’ll also be using Prismacolor Verithin pencils.

How to Start a Drawing with Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are great for under painting a drawing. In this tutorial, I show you how I started this portrait with watercolor pencils. The tutorial also contains tips for preparing watercolor paper for this type of work.

Using Dry Colored Pencils over a Watercolor Pencil Drawing

I started this drawing using brushes and a homemade “palette” of colors drawn with the watercolor pencils. If you haven’t read the first article yet, I encourage you to click the link above and then come back here to finish reading about the process.

water soluble colored pencils

Blending Tips & Brushing Techniques for Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils look and handle like traditional colored pencils, but they dissolve and blend in water. In this article, I share favorite brushing tips and techniques for creating just the right result.

How to Fix Mistakes Made with Water Soluble Colored Pencils

As much as I love working with colored pencil, the medium can be unforgiving. When I was first learning the craft, any serious mistake meant the end of a painting—just tear it up, throw it away, and start over. (A lot of images ended up in the circular file under my desk back then.)

Fortunately, over the years I’ve discovered a number of techniques for repairing mistakes. In this post, I share one way to correct mistakes with watercolor pencils.

There are my Recommended Articles on Water Soluble Colored Pencils

I hope you enjoy them!

3 Tips for Drawing Reflective Objects

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive concerns drawing reflective objects. Water. Glass, Chrome. Metal. Eyes. So today, I want to share three tips to help you draw reflections of all kinds.

No matter what you draw, if you want to create an accurate likeness, you MUST be able to accurately see the object and re-create what you see. Shape, mass, value, and color are all important aspects of this process.

But you also need to be aware of the object’s surface texture. You don’t draw a long-haired cat the same way you draw a stone or water or metal. The surface texture always affects the way light appears on your subject. It should also affect the way you draw each type of surface.

One of the more difficult surfaces to get right is a reflective surface.

3 Tips for Drawing Reflective Objects

No matter what type of reflective object you want to draw, it’s important to remember three basic principles.

  1. Reflective objects reveal what is around them
  2. Edges between colors and values are usually crisp
  3. Draw the colors that appear in the object, not necessarily the color of the object itself.

Let’s take a closer look as each of these.

Reflective objects reveal what is around them.

No matter what medium you use, whenever you draw a reflective surface, it’s important to remember that you’re also drawing whatever happens to be around the reflective object.

Take a look at this headlamp. It’s pretty evenly divided into two sections. The lower half is dark, the upper half is bright.

Drawing Reflective Objects Classic Headlamp

The lower surface of the headlamp reflects the fender beneath it. The fender is dark, so the reflection on the headlamp is also dark. It also shows the same color.

The upper portion of the headlamp also reflects its environment. But instead of reflecting one thing, it shows many. The sky and clouds. A building or two. A narrow sliver of street.

Look at the narrow end of the lamp and the chrome trim around the front of the car. The lamp reflects the chrome trim and what appears in it. The chrome trim reflects the lamp and its reflections.

If you had a large enough image, you could see reflections of reflections of reflections ad infinitum. That’s one of the things that makes drawing or painting reflections so difficult!

The more complex the subject, the more complex the reflections. So pay close attention to the colors, values, and shapes in your object.

Automotive Chrome

Edges are usually crisp

Another thing to keep in mind when drawing reflective objects is that the edges of the highlights are usually sharp and well-defined.

In the illustration above, the direct highlights are small points of light. They’re actually reflections of the sun. The cleaner and smoother the reflective surface, the sharper the edges on the highlights.

Shadows may also have sharp edges, especially if they’re also part reflection.

The smoother the reflective surface, the sharper those edges appear. Even the edges between middle values and dark values are crisp and clean.

Don’t draw the color of the reflective surface; draw the colors around it.

Finally, remember that the best way to draw silver is by drawing the colors that appear in it. In both of the previous illustrations in this article, the automotive chrome is silver—your eye and your mind tell you the chrome is silver—but if you really look at them, you’ll see they’re actually blue, white, and whatever other colors appear in the environment around them.

The same is true if you’re drawing a red, shiny ball or water. Your drawing looks best when you pay attention to the colors that appear in or on the object. The water in this image looks like water even though most of it is various browns and yellows.

It’s even possible to draw a scene without actually drawing the scene. How? By drawing it as it appears in reflections!

The Key to Drawing Reflective Surfaces

The key to accurately drawing reflective surfaces is treating them more like abstract images.

Let the shapes of light, reflection, and color do the work and you’ll have a much more realistic drawing than if you try to draw what you think the object should look like.

Further Reading

For other factors to consider, read  4 Rules to Drawing Reflective Objects on EmptyEasel here.

How to Use a RED Under Drawing to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens with Colored Pencil

How to Draw a Landscape Green that Looks Real - Complementary Under Drawing

Today, let’s look at a second method that seems counter-intuitive at first, but produces great results: Using a red under drawing to draw realistic landscape greens.

Yes. Red!

Using any shade of red to draw any shade of green is known as a complementary under drawing. When you use a complementary under drawing, you choose colors for the under drawing that are opposite the color wheel from the local (final) color you want to draw.

On this color wheel, the primary color red is opposite the secondary color green. As you move to the right from green to blue green, the complement moves in the opposite direction to red-orange.

If you have a completed color wheel such as this, it’s easy to determine which colors are complementary. Get a free blank color wheel and make your own color wheel. Of course, you can also purchase printed color wheels, but making one with your pencils is the best way to not only find the best complementary colors, but to see how your colors mix, since no two brands are the same in pigmentation or quality.

color-wheel

How to Use a Red Under Drawing

Drawing an under drawing with a complementary color is pretty much the same as for any other type of under drawing. Begin by selecting the red or reds that best complement the greens in the landscape. In the drawing below, I chose poppy red as the main color because it was the best complement. But I also used terra cotta in some parts of the trees because that was the best complement for those areas.

Landscape Complementary Under Drawing 1

In the grassy field, orange was the best complement.

Whatever color I used, I used strokes to help define each area. Cross-hatching, circular, and squiggly strokes in the trees and short, vertical strokes in the grass.

Darker values were drawn by using multiple layers. I didn’t want to get too dark at this stage, so I used light to medium-light pressure throughout. That made it necessary to add several layers in the darkest places.

Landscape Complementary Under Drawing 3

I added Tuscan red in the darkest values.

Note that the darkest darks and sharpest contrasts in and around the large tree. That’s because the large tree is the center of interest in this drawing. The strongest value contrasts and sharpest details are in or near the center of interest.

Landscape Complementary Under Drawing 4

Another Example

A complementary under drawing works with any subject. One of my favorite horse drawings is Green Pastures, which was developed with a complementary under drawing.

Here’s the complementary under drawing…

Green Pastures - Complementary Under Drawing

…and here’s the finished drawing.

Green Pastures Finished Drawing

The level of detail you include in your under drawing is up to you. For Green Pastures, I developed a lot of detail in the horse and left the landscape less detailed because the horse was the center of interest.

In the landscape drawing below, the large tree and its cast shadow were more developed at the under drawing phase than any other part of the drawing because it is the center of interest.

In either case, when the under drawing is finished, complete the drawing by layering color over the under drawing. This part of the process is the same no matter what type of under drawing you use.

Landscape Complementary Under Drawing 5

Interested in learning more?

This drawing, The Sentinel, was created for a series of articles written for EmptyEasel.com. I’ve described the process in step-by-step detail in a series of three articles on EmptyEasel. Follow the links below to read the articles.

How to Draw a Complementary Underpainting for your Green Landscape

How to Add Rich, Vibrant Color on Top of Your Colored Pencil Underpainting

Finishing Up a Traditional Colored Pencil Landscape Painting

You can also download a free copy of Colored Pencils: The Complementary Method Step by Step.

Read more about colored pencil drawing methods.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet

How to Draw the Legs and Feet of Horses Step 2

Knowing how to draw horse legs and feet accurately is as important as drawing an accurate likeness of the horse’s head. Especially if you’re a portrait artist. Why?

BA horse’s feet are nearly as distinctive to each horse as human fingerprints are to each person. Bone structure, body type, and genetics all play a role in the shape of the natural hoof, how it strikes the ground, and it’s position throughout the stride.

In other words, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all foot for the artist who is interested in painting individual horses.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet

A Personal Story

For the longest time, all my horses appeared in tall grass or water or were painted or drawn in poses that didn’t require feet. I hated drawing feet because I could never get them right.

But practice really does make better, and over the years, skills at drawing feet improved. Hoofs are now among my favorite horse parts to draw

Hopefully, this tutorial will help you find the same enjoyment in producing a solid, believable foot.

Let’s go!

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet

Drawings are developed through a series of stages beginning with a full-size grid drawn or printed on drawing paper. I try to make the squares as large as possible and still retain the ability to capture finer details.

Step 1-3: Getting the basic shapes on paper.

In the illustration above, we’re looking at the third step in the drawing process. The grid was printed on drawing paper and the first stage of the drawing was done in Verithin Non Photo Blue pencil. That shade of blue doesn’t photograph very well, but it’s ideal for the first phase of drawing because it’s easy to erase and easy to work over. At the blue stage, my goal is placing the large shapes in the correct sizes and positions on the paper.

For the next step, I used Prismacolor Vermilion Red/Pale Vermilion to begin fine-tuning the lines. I worked throughout the drawing, reshaping and re-positioning as necessary.

Step 4: Making corrections as needed.

The flexed front leg is one step beyond. I stopped using the reference photo with the grid and relied more on the enlarged (11×14) original photo at this stage.

I’m still correcting the line drawing, but I’ve also begun establishing shape and contour by adding value. I keep the values light even at this stage, because I am still drawing.

But I had drawn this foot in profile based on what I could see in the gridded 8×10 photo, and when I looked at the enlargement, I realized the foot is actually tipped outward so the shoe and a bit of the sole of the foot is visible. That required redrawing that area.

I also noticed that the shin boot doesn’t cover the fetlock on the outside, so I had to correct that area. To keep the lines and shapes in correct order, I added the shading.

The image below gives you a better idea of how the leg took shape through the first four phases of drawing.

Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Detail

NOTE: I haven’t bothered to erase previous lines. The drawing is built on each phase of work and unless there’s a major error, no erasing is done until the final version.

Step 5: Refining the drawing and adding details.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Step 2


Once the drawing is in place on the paper, the process becomes a matter of refining the shapes and adding detail, one layer after another.

I defined the details in the two extended feet. The shoes have been drawn and I’ve added shading to the hooves to give them mass and shape.

I also shaded the fetlocks on both legs and, although you can’t see it, I shaded into the upper legs. As in the previous step, pressure is kept light and the color layer is thin and light enough to be erasable.

Step 6: Adding darker values to further define the legs and feet.

In this step, I started adding darker values. Technically, I’m still drawing, but because the lines between highlights and shadows can get confusing, shading helps establish those edges more clearly.

Take note that the hooves are unique shapes. The two front hooves are very similar shapes, but the angle of the foot changes the shape.

The back foot is not the same shape. This horse has a blockier back hoof. Because this is a portrait of a specific horse, I’m taking special care to draw each part the way it appears in the reference photograph.

Step 7: Transferring the drawing to fresh paper.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Step 4

When the original drawing is as finished as I can make it, it’s time to lay a fresh sheet of tracing paper over the drawing and make a new one.

This will be the drawing I photograph for the client if they get an electronic proof, so it needs to be as clean and crisp as possible. If they’re getting a full-size physical drawing, this will be the second to last step. The client drawing will be the final step.

The photo above shows the front legs and the cast shadow drawn on the new sheet of paper. I work through each area carefully, making sure the line is crisp and dark enough to photograph. Accuracy is of major concern so even at this point, I continue to compare the drawing and the reference photograph. I take measurements if necessary, and erase and make changes as I go.

How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet - Detail of Final Drawing

Because this is a pretty intense part of the process, I tend to work in short sessions. I work standing up, so my legs and back need frequent breaks. So do my eyes. It’s better to work in shorter sessions than to push through a long session and risk getting impatient. Mistakes happen in moments of impatience. It’s best to avoid them.

No drawing is ever complete until the painting is finished. Tweaking continues until the signature is in place.

But a good drawing provides a clear road map for the painting. With a paid portrait, it also gives the client an idea of the composition of their portrait.

Muscle Hill

Now that You’ve Seen How to Draw Horse Legs and Feet…

You can draw any horse portrait with confidence.

The finished portrait for this tutorial was an oil painting, but this drawing method is a good way to start any project in any two-dimensional medium.

It’s also a great way to improve your skills at drawing any horse.

Or any other subject, for that matter.

What Is Reflected Light? How Does It Affect Art?

Reflected Light on Books

When you’re talking about drawing or painting, reflected light is light that bounces off something else and strikes something else.

The most noticeable light is direct light, whether from an artificial source or a natural source. But that’s not the only type of light.

Inanimate Objects

Here are a few reference books. A natural light source (the sun) in an outdoor setting, illuminates the books and their surroundings.

Reflected light and inanimate objects.

The light source is from the upper right and almost directly to the right of the books, so if you could see highlights, you’d see them on the front covers.

The Merck Manual is getting the most direct light, but since the brightest light is on a side that isn’t visible, you can’t see the brightest highlights anywhere but along the edge where the spine curves around to meet the front cover.

But there is plenty of reflected light.

Examples of Reflected Light

Take a look at the edges of the pages on the top most book lying on its side immediately to the right of the Merck Manual. Light is bouncing off the cover of the Merck Manual onto that edge. The two books are close enough to each other and the light is intense enough that not only does it light the edges of the pages; it tints them red.

If the light source is strong enough and the object off which light is being reflected is close enough to the object onto which light is being reflected, the second object reflects color as well as light.

Now look at the other side of the Merck Manual. See the strip of light on the left side of the spine? That is light bouncing onto the Merck Manual after striking the middle book. It’s much dimmer than the reflected light on the horizontal books because the source light is less intense. The two surfaces are also further apart.

The angle between the two books is also different. They are closer together at the top than at the bottom, so the reflected light on the Merck Manual is strongest at the top (where the two books are closest together) and fades away completely at the bottom (where the books are furthest apart).

The bricks are also illuminated by reflected light from two directions: Red-tinted light from the cover of the Merck Manual and orange-tinted light from below off the orange book.

Horses and Other Animals

Reflected light affects more than smooth or shiny objects. It affects all subjects, animate and inanimate. Take a look at this photo, for example.

Reflected light and animate objects.

This horse is well lighted, with strong sunlight from the upper right of the image. The cast shadow is directly beneath the horse and stretches out behind. The shadows are all exactly where you expect them to be.

But note that his belly and the downward facing planes of the chest are light. The darkest part of the shadows is not on those surfaces but partway up the horse’s side and chest.

The light areas light bouncing off the sandy ground and illuminating the underside of the horse. The affect is especially noticeable because the primary light source is very strong, the horse’s coat is smooth, and the ground is flat, bare, and reflective.

If the horse was also wet, the reflected light would be more noticeable.

If the primary light source was dimmer (as in a cloudy day or indoor light), if the horse had longer hair, or if the ground was covered with grass or mud, there would be less reflected light on the horse’s undersides.

Also take a look at the top slope of the horse’s rump. Note that it’s well lighted even though that part of the horse doesn’t face directly toward the light source. Compare it to the shadow on the ground.

The light across the top of the rump is another form of reflected light. This time, the light being reflected is from the sky, hence the bluish tint.

 The Basics of Reflected Light

Not drawing or painting reflected light won’t make your art bad. I painted portraits for years without understanding this aspect of light and lighting.

But a good understanding of how reflected light functions and knowing how to draw or paint it will make the subjects you paint or draw look more three-dimensional. It is a valuable addition in your art toolbox no matter what your preferred subject.