Comparing Colored Pencil Methods

Comparing Colored Pencil Methods

Today’s post is all about comparing colored pencil methods.

Choosing between colored pencil 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 differ widely.

So how do you know which method is best for you?

Why Comparing Colored Pencil Methods is Important

As universal as drawing with colored pencils seems, 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: How you like to put color on the paper.

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!

That’s why it’s important to know the basics of various colored pencil drawing methods. If nothing else, you can rule out those methods that don’t appeal to you at all!

Understanding Drawing 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 layers 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.

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

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

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 Methods

To keep the discussion brief, I’m limiting it to the methods I use most often: Complementary, direct, 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

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, I’ve circled two complements; red and green. If you wanted to draw something green using this method of drawing, you’d begin by drawing the under drawing in shades of red.

The drawing, Green Pastures, was drawn over a complementary under drawing. The illustration below shows the finished under drawing (top) and the finished drawing.

Local color (the finished colors) were glazed over the under drawing.

comparing colored pencil methods

Tips for Using the Complementary Drawing Method

Take careful note of the local colors of your subject. A blue-green object requires a different complement (red-orange) than a yellow-green object (red-blue). The more precisely you identify the local colors and their complements, the better this method works.

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

This piece also began with a complementary under drawing, with different colors for each area.

comparing colored pencil methods

Download my free color wheel template and make your own color wheel. Instructions are included.

Direct Color Drawing Method

Direct drawing is probably the most popular method of drawing with colored pencils because 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 layering until you finish the drawing.

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

comparing colored pencil methods

With this method, you develop detail and value—just as you do with the other methods. But you also make 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.

Tips for Using the Direct Drawing Method

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

Build color and value slowly. It’s easier to increase vibrant color and strong values than it is to decrease it.

Expect to mix 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 combined several shades of yellow- and red-browns.

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.

With this method, I always start with a medium-value earth tone such as Prismacolor Light Umber. I develop the values, shapes, and many details using this color.

I layer color over the finished under drawing.

This is a horse portrait using an umber under drawing.

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 for All Colored Pencil Methods

There is no easy way to categorize drawing methods. The methods I described above are not isolated. You can combine various aspects of them as you like, so they’re more like points on a line.

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.

How to Start a Miniature Horse Drawing

Today, I want to show you how to start a miniature horse drawing. That is, a miniature drawing of a horse.

The original drawing is an ACEO, 3-1/2 inches wide by 2-1/2 inches tall.

Officially, it also falls into the miniature art category. I’m not certain ACEOs are as popular as they once were, but they’re a great way to practice a new method or technique. If you like finishing artwork quickly with colored pencil, ACEOs are perfect for that, as well.

A Bit about ACEOs

ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals, also known as Art Trading Cards (ATCs) because they are the size of a typical trading card.

Size is the only qualification. Artwork must be 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2.

ACEO/ATCs can be created with any medium on any support, and in any style. They can be originals or reproductions. I’ve used oils, colored pencils, ballpoint pen, graphite, and acrylics to make landscape, abstract, and equine-theme ACEOs.

ACEO horse painting in oils.

I like the size because I can use scrap pieces of paper, canvas or other material to paint or draw on. Another benefit is being able to toss a drawing that doesn’t work.

And that makes ACEOs ideal for trying new materials, new mediums, new techniques, or new subjects.

Colored Pencils and Miniature Art

Colored pencils are ideal for miniature art. Their size and shape make them a natural for producing detail in miniature and the size of miniature art is perfect for colored pencil.

Colored pencils are my favorite medium because they allow a high-degree of detail and I can complete some ACEO-sized pieces in an hour or less.

Now, time for the tutorial!

How to Start a Miniature Horse Drawing

This is my reference. I did a lot of composing with the camera, but also began work by cropping the digital image to the proportions of an ACEO.

Start a miniature horse drawing reference photo.

To transfer the line drawing, I coated the back with a graphite pencil. The soft lead I used required some cleanup afterward, but I got a nice, crisp drawing without leaving impressions on the paper. At this size, that’s a plus.

By the way, I’m drawing on Rising Stonehenge 90lb paper in white. You can use your favorite white paper as long as it’s not too toothy.

This week, I’ll show you how to do the umber under drawing, then follow up with the color glazes next week.

The Umber Under Drawing

I chose to start with an umber under drawing because that’s the best way I’ve found to get the shadows, values and details right.

Working without color is also a little bit faster.

The Background

I chose Prismacolor Verithin Dark Umber because that line of pencil has a thinner, harder lead. It covers paper well without filling the tooth. It’s also easier to erase and correct than softer pencils. You can use Prismacolor Premier Dark Umber, or any similar medium-value brown.

Layer color unevenly over the background. The background will be blurry green, so don’t put the same amount of Dark Umber over every part of it. One option is to leave the background lighter around the horse’s head, and darker along the edges, but you can try other backgrounds, too.

Use hatching and cross-hatching strokes and layering to create variations in values.

Since I was creating my own background, I drew a random pattern of light and dark areas, but kept the background around the horse’s head and especially around the ears, light to accent the horse.

The Horse

I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t save the highlights, I tend to work right over them. It’s impossible to recover nice, clean highlights once you’ve shaded over them if you’re using traditional drawing methods.

So the first step to drawing the horse is lightly outlining some of the more prominent highlights (outlines are still visible on the shoulder.)

Use directional strokes that follow the contours of the head and neck everywhere except the eye.

For the eye, use circular strokes to fill in the shape as completely as possible. Work around the lashes and use only a few layers around the lower edge of the eyeball, where there will be reflected light, while adding more layers to darken the rest of the eye.

Start a miniature horse drawing.

Except in the eye, use light pressure. When drawing the eye, begin with light pressure and work up to medium light pressure.

Other Notes

Since this piece is so small, there isn’t much room for fine details. Don’t fret too much over all the details you see in the reference photo.

I used a dry fine point ballpoint pen to impress my signature into the paper before starting to draw. Even with a single color applied with two or three light layers, the signature is quite clear. You don’t have to sign your art, or you can use a light Verithin (or other pencil.)

This is an ideal way to sign small format or miniature drawings, especially if you lay down a lot of color and don’t use solvents. When you use a solvent, the signature will be filled in to some extent, but may still be visible.

You may need a couple of rounds of shading the background and/or the horse to finish the umber under drawing. The key thing to remember is to make sure there is a clear distinction between the horse and the background. If the horse doesn’t stand out at the under drawing stage, it probably won’t stand out even after adding color. Contrast is important. Make sure the dark values are dark enough and the light values are light enough.

Now You Know how to Start a Miniature Horse Drawing

If you like, practice on a few more. Or do this one again and save the best one for next week.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try this method on other subjects. Just remember to have fun!

Next week, we’ll finish with color glazing.

Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Today, I want to talk about glazing color over an umber under drawing.

The umber under drawing method is one of my favorite drawing methods. I first started using it with oil paints, but it works just as well with colored pencils.

It’s good for animals, landscapes, and most subjects.

Some of you have asked about the umber under drawing method in general, so I thought it was time to share a tutorial.

This one features a horse in a landscape. I’ve finished (or nearly finished) everything but the horse. The horse is still at the umber under drawing stage, and I’ll show you how to glaze color over it.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 10

Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Glazing color over an umber under drawing involves two steps: establishing the base colors and details, and developing color and value ranges. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you get the best results by following these two basic steps.

The final step with every drawing is reviewing it as a whole and making whatever adjustments to color, value, and detail may become apparent.

NOTE: This is an older drawing. I used some fugitive (fading) colors that I no longer use. Those colors are marked with an asterisk (*). You can use those colors if you wish, or find lightfast replacements.

Step 1: Establishing Base Colors and Details

I used four colors for the base layers. Yellow Ochre in the lighter mid-tones, Pumpkin Orange* in the mid-tones, Dark Umber in the shadows, and Cloud Blue* in the reflected highlights. It isn’t always necessary to use more than one base color. But choosing base colors that represent the final color helps establish contrast and color variations more quickly.

I applied each color with light pressure and a sharp pencil. Wherever possible, I stroked in the direction of hair growth. When that wasn’t possible, I worked around the contours of the horse’s body.

Adding Color to Umber Under 1rawing Step 11

TIP: The base color is the foundation for everything else. Use small strokes placed close together or the side of a well-sharpened pencil to create smooth, even color.

You want smooth color and even application, so use sharp pencils and light pressure. Add more layers in areas where you need darker values. Work around the highlights as much as possible to avoid losing them.

Step 2: Glazing Color over the Base Layers

Over the base colors, I layered Slate Gray in the light areas and Black in the shadows of the muzzle and black areas. I applied color with tiny, circular strokes to the muzzle and directional strokes in the forelock.

Next, I worked on the legs and muzzle with Black and Slate Blue, darkening values and drawing detail.

Mineral Orange, Dark Umber, and Red Ochre were used in the body, neck and head.

(Red Ochre is not a Prismacolor color.)

For this round of color, I continued working throughout the horse with light pressure and sharp pencils.

TIP: At some phases of a drawing, you can spend a couple of hours working without appearing to make much progress. Be patient! Your work will be rewarded if you stick with it!

Add More Color Layers

I layered Mineral Orange, Sienna Brown, and Burnt Umber over the body, legs, and neck, then added Black to the legs and darkest shadows of the body. I shaded reflected light on the under sides of the belly, chest, and legs with Limepeel*.

Next, I added Orange* throughout the horse, shading over some of the highlights that had been protected up to that point while working around others. I used reading glasses for the work so the work was slightly out of focus. That helped me avoid getting too detailed too quickly. I also applied color mostly with the side of the pencil.

Then I layered Sienna Brown and Henna over the brown parts of the horse following the contours of the horse. Except for the smaller areas or tighter details, I used the side of the pencils.

The browns were getting a little too bold, so I toned them down with a layer of Peacock Green, which I also used on the black areas.

To darken the blacks and darker shadows, I next used medium pressure to apply Copenhagen Blue*, then glazed Henna over all of the horse except the blacks.

Step 3: Developing Depth of Color

At this point, my goal shifted to building up color and value toward a finish.

I layered Tuscan Red* over all of the horse but the brightest highlights and the reflected light areas, followed by Ultramarine* on the legs and in the darker shadows in the head and body. Over almost all of the horse, I layered Dark Brown, then Bruynzeel Full Color** Permanent Orange over all of the browns

**The Full Color line of Bruynzeel pencils is no longer available. I’ve read that the Design line is the same basic pencil and that the colors are the same, but I have yet to give them a try.

I applied all colors with medium length, parallel strokes except in the tighter, smaller areas or when I needed to create a directional pattern.

The Legs

Next, I used Black, Blue Slate*, Powder Blue, White, and Limepeel* (in that order) to draw the legs. First, I layered Black over all four legs.

Then I singled out the flexed front leg and concentrated on that. I alternated among the colors and, when the leg was nearly complete, began working the grass and fence, so I could adjust edges.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 17

When I finished that leg, I worked on the off side hind leg using the same method. In that manner, I worked from leg to leg until they were all finished.

Still More Color Layers

When I finished the legs, I started on the body, again, layering Bruynzeel Permanent Orange** over all of the body, neck, and head except the reflected lights and brightest highlights. I worked into some of the highlights I’d previously worked around, but only very lightly. I used the side of the pencil and stroked in several different directions to get even color.

Then I used True Blue* and the side of the pencil to layer color into the reflected highlights along the back, top of the neck, and rump, as well as on the off side of the shoulder and the front leg. I followed that by layering the same color throughout the body to gray and darken the orange.

When I finished, I used Dark Brown to deepen the shadows on the chest and neck.

By the time I finished, the paper was losing tooth and burnishing the drawing or spraying it with fixative were possibilities.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 18

TIP: I try never to make a decision like this without giving myself time to consider options. You can’t unburnish a drawing. Nor can you remove fixative, so it’s better not to rush these decisions.

Final Detailing

When I reviewed the drawing later, I decided against using fixative at least long enough to try burnishing.

Detailing began with the muzzle, where I used Dark Brown and Black to darken values, then burnished with White. I worked up into the head, brightening highlights and darkening darks as I went, adjusting edges and shapes, and burnishing area by area. I finished the head and ears, then worked down the neck toward the shoulders.

TIP: With larger drawings, it can be better to work section by section when doing final details. This method produces a sharper, clearer image more quickly. It also looks like you’re making faster progress as more and more surface was covered. That can be a major encouragement!

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 19

The final layers on the neck, shoulders, chest, body, and rump were Bruynzeel Permanent Orange**, Sienna Brown, Dark Brown, Dark Green, Deco Blue*, Tuscan Red*, and Cream.

When I finished adding color, I blended with rubbing alcohol applied with a cotton swab. Rubbing alcohol “melted” the wax binder enough for the colors to blend slightly. It also restores some of the paper tooth, so after the paper is dry, I can add more color if necessary.

When I finished, I set the drawing aside for a few days, so I could review it with a fresh eye.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 20

There was nothing more to do when I reviewed it later. Finished!

That Concludes this Quick Lesson on Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the umber under drawing method is useful for many subjects. That includes another favorite subject, landscapes. You can read a full landscape tutorial right here.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

It would be nice to say that every step of every drawing goes smoothly; that I never have to go back and correct an umber under drawing (or any other phase of a drawing.) That an eraser never touches my drawings.

The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. You know what?

Almost every drawing has a few minor missteps. After all, I’m not perfect and make no claim to be.

Little missteps are easy enough to correct just by adding more layers.

But what happens when you make a big mistake?

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

I’m no stranger to big mistakes. You probably aren’t either. That’s why you’re still reading, right?

But a few years back, I discovered an almost fatal mistake with a large piece (16 x 20 inches.) A problem big enough to require removing a portion of the drawing and doing it over.

So, just in case you’ve made big mistakes, here’s what I did to correct my umber under drawing.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

The first thing I did was open the digital reference image and enlarge it enough to see the details that were either not visible in the smaller printed photo or were hidden under the lines of the grid drawn over the image. I worked directly from the computer.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing Reference

I don’t like erasing my work any better than any other artist does, so the first thing I tried to do was correct the problem by adding color and covering up the mistake. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work. I’d have to lift color and start over.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 1
Adding color didn’t help cover the errors in the line drawing.

How to Lift Color

To remove color, I used something called Handi-Tak.

Handi-Tak is a low-tack adhesive product created for hanging posters. Brand names include Blu-Tack, Poster Tack, and by many other names. The common name is mounting putty.

See products at Dick Blick.

Mounting putty is very pliable. Pieces can be broken off the larger piece and worked between your fingers or in your hand. It’s just sticky enough to pick up color when you press it against the paper.

It’s also a self-cleaning product, which means that as you work it in your fingers, the color it lifted off the paper is absorbed into the substance and disappears.

Mounting putty can be rolled into a ball or shaped into points and used to lift color off colored pencil drawings without tearing, scuffing or damaging the paper.

I prefer mounting putty for lifting colored pencil because it doesn’t damage the paper surface and it can be pinched or rolled into sharp edges or points for lifting color in small areas.

Other options are transparent tape, a click eraser, or an electric eraser.

Read more about lifting color on EmptyEasel

What I Did

I warmed the mounting putty by working it in my fingers for a few minutes. Then I pressed it repeatedly against the areas I wanted to lift and rolled it forward while maintaining pressure. Each time, it lifted a little more color.

Another method involves pressing the mounting putty against the paper and turning it. You can also use a blotting motion in which you simply press the mounting putty against the paper and lift it again without any secondary motion.

After every two or three applications, I worked the color out of the mounting putty again. Several cycles of this removed most of the color, allowing me to pinch or press the mounting putty into smaller shapes and fine-tune the amount of color lifted in specific areas.

TIP: It’s next to impossible to lift every bit of color from paper when you’re using wax-based colored pencils. Using a combination of methods and tools can remove most color, but be careful of damaging the surface of your paper in the process.

When I finished lifting color, the head looked like this.

It’s not a pretty sight, but sometimes the best way to cover a mistake is to first remove as much of it as you can. Even if you’re quite a ways into the drawing process.

Redrawing the Image

After that, it was a slow, careful process of applying color and lifting color until I got the head correct.

I began redrawing the features of the horse’s face with Prismacolor Light Umber using the enlarged digital image for reference. I redrew the off side eye and that side of the face, which was the original problem area. That led to redrawing the muzzle and mouth and in doing that work, I also saw some mistakes in the jaw and neck. I corrected all of those areas.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 4
Often making corrections in one area reveals problems in adjacent areas. Take your time and fix as many of those problems as you can.

I also started developing values as I worked.

Corrections took about forty-five minutes, and it seemed at first like I was going backward faster than I was going forward.

But the end result was a much better drawing. It was even a little bit further ahead of where I started in spite of the initial backward steps.

How to Correct an Umber Under Drawing 5
The corrected drawing. Much better than what I started with!

These corrections not only allowed me to finish the umber under drawing, but set the stage for the color glazes that followed.

It Is Possible to Correct an Umber Under Drawing

Or any drawing, for that matter. The key is not to panic or despair when you discover the mistake. Don’t leap to any hasty solutions either.

Take your time. Assess the amount of damage, decide the best way to correct it, and then proceed carefully. Nine times out of ten, that plan will make it possible to finish the drawing successfully!

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method

Today, I want to talk about using the umber under drawing method. This method of drawing is just one of many, and works for any type of subject. I use it most often for landscape drawing, but I hope you’ll find useful information here even if you’ve never drawn a landscape, or don’t want to!

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method

Why You Should Use any Under Drawing Method

The first question most people ask (about art or any other subject) is why.

Why that subject instead or another?

Why did you choose those colors?

Why do an under drawing when you draw over it anyway?

You get the idea!

With most aspects of art, the answers are personal. That applies to drawing methods, too. You can use any drawing method you prefer. You can even use a different method for every drawing or based on you mood when you draw.

But no matter what method you use, you begin with an under drawing of some kind. Why? Because in reality, an under drawing is simply the first layers of color you put on the paper.

So the real question becomes, why use a special kind of under drawing?

Most artists start with under drawings to achieve a certain effect. Most colored pencils are translucent, so every color you put on paper influences every other color. (That’s also why it’s so difficult to cover up mistakes.)

The type of under drawing (umber, complementary, monochromatic) affects the look of the finished artwork.

Subject can also be a determining factor. Landscapes benefit from complementary colors and earth tones, if only to tone down the greens.

Atmospheric drawings benefit from monochromatic under drawings that help create the mood or atmosphere the artist wants to create.

There are other reasons, too. For more in-depth answers to this question, read Why Do Every Layer if You Draw Over Them Anyway?.

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method?

Answers to this question vary from artist to artist, but here are the biggest reasons I prefer umber under drawings.

1—I do a lot of landscape drawings. For many years, I struggled with greens that were unnaturally bright. The only way to tone down those greens is by adding their compliments. Usually reds, oranges, and earth tones.

You can, of course, add those colors at any time in the process—and I often do. But an umber under drawing has rescued many a drawing. So many that this drawing method has become my favorite.

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method - Late Spring in the Flint Hills

2—An umber under drawing is ideal for drawing animals of almost every stripe. It also works for many other subjects.

3—It’s a lot easier for me to work out shapes, values, and details if I’m not also making decisions about colors. When I begin with local colors or with a complementary under drawing, I have to make color choices from the start.

With an umber under drawing, the choice is already made. One light brown, and one dark brown. Sometimes, I even limit myself to one or the other.

4–Quite simply, I like earth tones. There is so much variation in earth tones that I’ve often considered doing sepia studies in nothing but earth tones.

Or those lovely French greys in the Prismacolor line.

So when it comes to choosing under drawing colors, it’s natural to reach for a brown of some kind!

That’s Why I Use the Umber Under Drawing Method

The umber under drawing method isn’t the only method I use, but it is my favorite method.

Want to see how it works in practice? Read my umber under drawing tutorial featuring a dark horse on this blog. For a landscape tutorial, read my first ever series on Both contain step-by-step illustrations and instructions.

Then give it a try if you’ve never used it before. It may become your new favorite drawing method!

Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Paper

Let’s talk about basic colored pencil terms today.

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

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

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

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

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained

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

Basic Pencil Terms

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Wax Bloom

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

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

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

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Wax Bloom

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

Framing under glass will not prevent wax bloom.

Grades of Pencils

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Watercolor Pencils/Water Soluble Pencils

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

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

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


The following terms apply to drawing papers of all types.

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Paper


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

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


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

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

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

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Tooth


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

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

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

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

Basic Colored Pencil Terms Explained Paper Weights

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


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

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

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

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

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing

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

Starting With Color

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

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

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Blue Halter 1

I used two shades of blue—one light and one dark. The light blue was layered over every part of the halter. The dark blue was used to darken the shadows.

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

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

Glazing Coat Colors

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

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

The Colors I Used

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

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

The Glazing Method I Used

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

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

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

The Process Step-by Step

Step 1

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

Step 2

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

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

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

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

Step 3

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

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

I also used Dark Brown, Indigo Blue and Black to reshape the major hair masses, and add a lot of flying hair to help break up the negative space. I did a similar thing with the mane, changing the top edge of the mane so it was higher and a little more bulky.

Step 4

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

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 4

By the way, it was at this point that I switched from Prismacolor Verithin pencils to Prismacolor Premier pencils. I could still add layers with the harder Verithin pencils, but work was progressing too slowly.

Step 5

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

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


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

No matter what pressure I use, I use directional strokes for he hair, and small circular strokes in the eye and leather.

Work on the bridle began with medium-heavy pressure and a blunt point along the shaded edges of the head stall, then a lighter layer of Dark Brown into the shadows and the darker area of the headstall and throat latch. My goal in these areas was to begin  reducing the emphasis on the leather straps where they either pass behind other design elements or where they exit the composition.

Step 6

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

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

How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Drawing - Coat Colors 6

I then used a sharp pencil and directional strokes to apply Goldenrod to the golden areas around the ear and eye and the lower part of the face near the nose band. With Sienna Brown, I overlapped shadows and middle tones.

Step 7

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

I balanced those colors by adding black to the forelock, and darkest shadows. This increased the contrast between lights and darks and give the drawing more depth.

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

How to Draw a Horse’s Face in Colored Pencil

How to Draw a Horse's Face

This series will show you how to draw a horse’s face in colored pencil using the umber under drawing method.

It is a long demonstration, but it covers the process start to finish, includes changes and, problem solving. All, good things to share.

How to Draw a Horse's Face

About the Subject

Here’s the reference photo.

How to Draw a Horse's Face - The Reference Photo

The level of detail is the sort of thing I love drawing. The crop is up-close-and-personal. There’s lots of detail. And, it’s a horse! It even has good lighting.

About the Drawing

I’m using 90 pound Stonehenge drawing paper in Pearl Grey with the colored pencil variation of the Classical painting technique, the Flemish method. I’ll also be using Prismacolor Verithin and Premier pencils, unless otherwise noted. You can use this method for any subject, on any good drawing paper, and using the pencils of your choice. The results may vary.

Read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

How to Draw a Horse’s Face in Colored Pencil

There was a drawing already in existence for an 11×14 oil painting that never got off the ground, so all I had to do was transfer the drawing to paper, clean it up a little bit, then assemble the working mat, and it was ready to go. This is the transferred drawing.

How to draw a horse's face

I used studio-made transfer paper to transfer the drawing. Soft graphite layered with heavy pressure over a piece of 8.5×11 typing paper. I’ve been using this type of transfer paper for years because it’s easy to recharge, it’s a lot cleaner than some commercially produced transfer papers, I can make any size sheet I wish. Of course, it’s also inexpensive.

Because the drawing was so complicated, I took my time transferring it. The details need to be as complete as possible from the beginning when I’m working with colored pencils, so I transferred highlights and shadows, as well as all the major shapes. Taking a couple of working sessions to do the transfer was worth the time and reduces the risk of agonizing over missed details late in the process.

The working mat assembly is a combination of two layers of mat board and a layer or two of corrugated cardboard. I cut each piece and the drawing paper to the outside dimension of the mat. Then the layers are placed together and bound to a mat with binder clips. It makes for a solid, stable, and lightweight working surface that protects the paper and serves very well as a ‘laptop’ drawing table.

Blocking in the Dark Values

The color I’ve chosen is Dark Brown and I’m starting with Verithin pencils because of their harder lead. I can impress lines with Verithin pencils, they are great for tiny details and small spaces, and they also erase more easily than Prismacolor Premier pencils. They don’t lay down color as quickly, though, so patience is required.

For the first couple of layers, I focused on placing the darkest shadows and establishing a sense of three dimensional mass to the line drawing. I began with the eye, which is typical in a project like this, but most of my attention was with the complicated arrangement of buckles and belts on the nylon halter and leather bridle.

For fun, I drew some long hair with several layers of long, flowing strokes applied with medium light pressure.

Adding Middle Values

Detail work continued on the leather straps. Again using the Verithin Dark Brown, I added stitching. Rather than just add the marks, I used heavy pressure and pressed them into the paper. Subsequent layers should gradually create the look of dark stitching in the leather.

I also darkened the eye to bring out the reflected highlight a little and used a Zebra fine point ball point pen (a dried out pen) to impress eyelashes that will be lighted by the sun.

Next, I drew middle tones in the neck, face and ears, and I played with the mane and forelock a little more.

How to draw a horse's face

Darkening Values

Once the main shapes and shadows are established, I darkened all of the shadows and reinforced the stitching on the bridle. I’m still suing Verithin Dark Brown and developing dark values layer by layer using medium light pressure.

For the most part, I work throughout the drawing each day, though I may focus on tack one day and on the horse another.

The purpose at this stage is to bring the umber under drawing as close to looking like a stand-alone drawing as possible. Ideally, the under drawing that could be considered finished artwork in its own right.

I also am working on developing highlights in the under drawing without the use of lighter colors or white. That will allow me to preserve the brightest highlights for addition late in the drawing process, when I can balance highlights and shadows.

The best way to accomplish that is by gradually building dark and mid-tone areas around the highlights. That is part of the reason I begin with the darkest areas first and work toward the light areas.

More Layers, More Detail

I continued to use Verithin Dark Brown, but began laying in color with the tip of the pencil instead of the side. I also began stroking in the direction of hair growth or muscle structure where appropriate. A lot of this work involved going over specific areas multiple times.

The bridge of the nose is a good example. Short, directional strokes applied with a needle-sharp pencil, and a repeating pattern. I didn’t copy each stroke—there’s no need to draw every hair. Instead, I replicated the groups of hair by emphasizing the shadows in the gaps.

The same goes for the outside surface of the ear, the orbital structures around the eye, and the shadows of the forehead on the eye on the far side of the face.

I used the same technique, but with less detail in the jugular groove, throat and cheek. The further from the center of interest (the combination of the eye and buckles) each area is, the less detailed it should be. That reduction in definition is accomplished either by working with an increasingly blunt pencil or by alternating layers of pencil tip work with a layer of work applied with the side of the pencil.

How to draw a horse's face

Darkening the Shadows

To create a wide value range, I continued darkening shadows and developing middle values. The shadow under the ear is a good example. This shadow goes through a variety of values, including reflected light.

That area is also a study in color variation. There are dark browns, golden browns, red browns and golds throughout the shadow and adjacent areas. That’s what makes working the under drawing with a single color so efficient and valuable to this type of work.

The Finished Under Drawing

This is how the drawing looked at the end of the week. It’s really coming together and I’m loving that eye!

How to Draw a Horse's Face - The Finished Under Drawing

It took nine days to finish the umber under drawing, working between one and two hours each of those days. It may seem like wasted time, when nine hours of color work would have produced a much more complete drawing. But it’s not wasted time to me. Discovering how to work out the values without also having to make color choices was a game-changer for me.

So was learning how to use Prismacolor Verithin pencils for the under drawing. I’m still a very careful drawer, but knowing I can erase a mistake lets me be a bit more bold.

Next week, color!

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

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

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

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

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

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

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

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil

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

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

Step 1: An accurate line drawing

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

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

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

Step 2: Block in the under drawing

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

Add Yellow Ochre and Dark Umber to the background.

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

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

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

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

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

Keep your pencils sharp and use light pressure.

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

Step 4: Add the next color layers.

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

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

Step 5: Add final details.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s How I Draw a Miniature Drawing

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

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

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

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

Starting a Colored Pencil Umber Under Drawing

Umber Under Drawing Step 4

Today, I want to show you how I start an umber under drawing on a landscaped drawing with a horse. This process works with any subject and any type of drawing.

The Umber Under Drawing Process in General

Throughout this part of the drawing process, I used Prismacolor Light Umber. I almost always use this color because it’s a medium value color that is fairly neutral. It produces the darkest values necessary, but it’s also light enough to erase fairly well if I make a mistake.

The entire drawing should be built layer by layer to avoid getting too dark too quickly. The larger the drawing—this one is 16×20—the more time it takes. The more tempting it is to develop each area to completion before moving onto the next. For balanced values, it’s best to resist that temptation.

However, with a large work, it will be easier to work in segments. I layered enough color in each area to establish the shapes before moving to the next area. In addition, I developed each area to the same degree before moving to the next step.

TIP: I’m describing the process that works best for me most of the time. While I believe it will work for most of us, I also realize that we’re all different. Take what you can use of this process and adapt to fit your needs and working style. Above all, have fun!

The First Umber Layer

Outlining the Major Shapes

After transferring the drawing to Rising Stonehenge paper, I outlined the top rail of the fence.  I added shading with horizontal strokes using very light pressure and a sharp pencil held in normal writing position. The strokes mimicked wood grain and didn’t cover all the area.

I started drawing the background trees with hatching, crosshatching, and other strokes to create a large area of light value. Once that was complete, I layered strokes to vary the values and duplicate the look of distant foliage.

Then I outlined some prominent trunks and worked around those, as well as around the outside edges of the fence.

That corner became the benchmark for the drawing. I compared everything else to that area for type of stroke and value.

Shading within the Outlines

Then, I used loose, vertical strokes to shade the rest of the background trees. I applied most of the color with the side of the pencil to cover larger areas more quickly. Then I used the pencil point to do the detail work around the horse, the fence and in smaller areas.

I also outlined the ears, head, forelock, and mane as I worked the background. That helped me preserve those areas and to begin establishing the horse’s presence. I also did a little shading in those areas, paying special attention to the horse’s eyes and one hoof. That was the fun part with which I rewarded myself toward the end of the drawing session.

Umber Under Drawing Step 2

The Second Umber Under Drawing Layer

Darkening Dark Values

After completing the first umber layer, I added the second layer. Again, I used light umber, light pressure and loose vertical strokes, but I worked over some of the areas I’d worked around last time and worked around some new areas to begin creating the sense of depth and of trees visible deeper within the stand.

Here is a detail of the head and the area around it. Even though there are very few ‘lines’ drawn, the edges are beginning to take shape.

Notice also the vertical shapes in the background. I didn’t outline those, but worked around some of them in both layers and around some of them for one layer. Already, there’s a sense of depth in the background.

Umber Under Drawing Step 2 Detail

Adjusting Edges

I want soft edges where necessary, so that means proceeding carefully and thoughtfully as I continue building value in the background.

Some areas will need to be ‘lined’ in. The mane and forelock, for example. In those areas, I outline each detail area, then fill it in with equal value, but the goal is to create edges without drawing lines.

I see that the ears aren’t the same size in this image. That means the first thing I’ll have to do in the next session is determine whether the off side ear is too large (I think it is) or the near side ear is too small.

Darkening Values Again

I continued darkening the background behind the horse and fence. I carefully outlined each area, then filled in the outlines. For everything else, I applied color in long, broad strokes with medium to light pressure. I don’t want an even color layer, but I wanted to darken it more quickly.

Next, I layered vertical strokes over all of the background, working around tree trunks and other background features. Then I applied looser, more random horizontal strokes to fill the space a little more. When I finished, the area was about as dark as I want to go without working up some of the other areas, too.

The last thing I did for this session was lay a t-square along the bottom of the drawing and use it as a bumper against which to define the bottom edge using Light Umber and very loose vertical strokes to apply the first color in that area.

I also worked on the tail a little bit and on the second hoof, but mostly to bring those two areas out of the background somewhat.

Umber Under Drawing Step 4

I worked on the foliage and grass this afternoon, still using Light Umber, but focused more on smoothing the color and shaping the values.

Correcting an Error in Values

Later I noticed that the left and right sides of the background are not the same value (a common error in working a large piece in short work sessions.) At first, I added color in horizontal strokes in an effort to even up the two sides.

That didn’t work, so I tried lifting color with the click eraser. That didn’t work, so I got out the sticky stuff and dabbled around with that. That lifted color very well if I kept it carefully kneaded. I was able to lift some of the heavy darks just above the top rail in the background on the right and I liked that so well that I repeated the process on the left side. The result was very nice, so I think the first thing I’ll do tomorrow is lift addition color and see if I can create some tree trunks on the right with this method.

The Finished Umber Under Drawing

At least in part.

The background is now as complete as I want to make it without finishing the horse. I worked on the horse a little, but need to finish it to the same level as the background. Only then can I tell if the under drawing is finished.

Umber under drawings are a great way to figure out values and shapes without worrying about color decisions. This method also provides an excellent opportunity to identify and correct errors while they’re still relatively easy to correct.

But it isn’t the only way to start a drawing. For a brief explanation of other ways I’ve started drawings, read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.