How to do a Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape

How to do a Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape

Today’s tutorial is a step-by-step tutorial showing how to draw a water soluble under drawing for a landscape drawing.

How to do a Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape

It’s also a follow up (of sorts) on my review of Stonehenge 140lb hot press watercolor paper. For that review, I used the front of the paper to do several samples, including one with water soluble colored pencil.

Afterward, I thought it might be possible to use the back of the paper, too. Furthermore, I thought it was possible to turn the paper over and use the opposite side if you ruined the front. That was such an appealing idea for a frugal artist like me, that I just had to test the theory.

That’s what this post and next week’s Tuesday Tutorial, are all about!

How to do a Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape

This week, I’ll show you the steps for doing an under drawing in water soluble colored pencil. I tried several different methods and will describe each one, beginning with the sky.

I used Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle Water Soluble pencils. They are not the highest quality water soluble pencils available.

Not all the colors I used are lightfast, either, but this piece is for learning, not for sale, so lightfastness is not an issue.

The Sky – Step 1

Use Light Blue with light pressure and multiple layers to develop color from the top down. Keep your pencil sharp and vary the type and direction of strokes to draw even color.

I used diagonal strokes for the first layer, then used diagonal strokes in the opposite direction to add the second layer. I repeated that process two or three times, adding layers applied with vertical or horizontal strokes to keep the blue even. Where the color seemed a little “rough,” I smoothed it out with circular strokes.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 01

The Sky – Step 2

Add a very light glaze of Delft Blue to the upper corners of the sky. Use light pressure with a very sharp pencil, and closely spaced strokes.

Follow that with several more layers of Light Blue throughout the sky. Keep pressure light and even, strokes closely spaced, and the color as even as you can make it. Activating it with water will blend out a lot of the strokes, but it’s better not to make strokes if you can help it.

Add color all the way to the horizon, but keep it lighter than the blue at the top of the drawing.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 02

The Sky – Step 3

Use a wash brush to activate the color you’ve put on the paper. Dip the brush in clean water and stroke it across the sky.

The larger brush you use, the smoother the blending of color will be. I used a Number 8 round, so had some gradations and variations in the blended color.

If that happens with your drawing, don’t be too disappointed. Let the paper dry and you may find you have a very nice sky. You can always add more dry color over the area, and blend again if you don’t like the results the first time.

Just make sure the paper is completely dry before you draw on it again.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 03

The Background – Step 4

Use Grass Green and Light Blue to shade the distant hills.

Keep your pencils sharp, and use light pressure to draw either circular or directional strokes. I alternated between Grass Green and Light Blue two or three times, then added a glaze or two of Burnt Ochre along with the other two colors to darken the values.

To preserve the shapes of the foreground trees, I outlined them with Permanent Olive Green, using a sharp pencil and a squiggly stroke. I outlined each tree, but didn’t worry about interior detail. I just wanted to place them in the composition so I wouldn’t draw over them.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 04

The Background – Step 5

Dampen the paper with a misting bottle, then used a #0 sable round and a stippling (tapping) stroke to partially blend the color on the hill on the right. I wanted to see how that worked to draw the effect of distance.

I also wanted to avoid smudging the tree outlines or pulling that color into the background if at all possible.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 05

The Middle Hills – Step 6

Glaze Grass Green and Burnt Ochre lightly over the middle hill, then brush water over the same area. I discovered that one brush stroke is all I can do. Additional strokes lift color, probably because the back of the paper (Stonehenge Aqua) is not quite the same as the front. It doesn’t seem to be as absorbent. Dry color goes on just as nicely on the back as on the front, but water lifts it almost completely.

I used a light horizontal stroke in the hills, then used a stippling (tapping) stroke in the distant trees.) In this area, having color lifted turned out to be a good thing. Those trees look almost finished and all I had to do was a couple of layers of Permanent Olive Green, then stipple with water.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 06

The Foreground – Step 7

Wet the foreground with a large, soft brush (I used a #8 sable round) with clean water. Don’t soak the paper, but make sure every part of the foreground is wet.

Then, use the same brush to pick up Grass Green from color you’ve layered heavily on a scrap piece of paper, then stroke it into the wet part of the paper. Use light pressure and a long, horizontal stroke. Start at the bottom so that the darkest color is there and fades into a very light shade of green at the tree line.

Don’t fuss! All you’re doing at this point is laying down a base color for this hill. A little variation from dark (at the bottom) to light (at the tree line) is all you need.

You can use a small round sable to add grass-like shapes at the bottom if you wish, but don’t spend a lot of time on this, either. Then next wash of color will mute it, so it’s usually best to save these details for later in the drawing.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 07

The Trees – Step 8

Dampen a sable round, pick up Permanent Olive Green from the palette, and stipple wet color into the dry paper where the foreground trees are. Don’t cover all of each tree, but instead add only the shadows.

To stipple, hold your brush in a nearly vertical position and lightly tap the paper without actually stroking.

If you have an old brush that doesn’t hold it’s shape very well, that’s an ideal brush for this kind of stippling. Turn the brush in your fingers as you work so that no clear patterns develop. Overlap stippling strokes, too, so that some areas are darker and also so there are patches of white showing through the shadow shapes.

Don’t worry about getting the shapes or placement of the shadows exact. All you want to do is give the trees a little form.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 08

The Foreground – Step 9

Add a very lightly-tinted wash of Burnt Ochre to the foreground. Stroke horizontally from one end of the paper to the other, beginning at the bottom and working upward. If you have to reload your brush, start at the bottom again, so that the darkest values are at the bottom and the lightest values are at the tree line.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 09

The Background – Step 10

Stipple Burnt Ochre into the trees so that some of the color overlaps the green shadows and some is on white paper.

Next, use a small round sable or small wash brush to wash Burnt Ochre over the distant hills.

Before that’s dry, wash Light Blue over the two hills on each side. Don’t work these areas too much or you may remove color. You want to develop the blue-green look of these shapes.

Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape Step 10


Is the under drawing finished at this point? Maybe. Maybe not. My gut reaction is to begin glazing dry color.

Whatever I decide, stop by next Tuesday to see how dry color glazes over this under drawing and with this paper. I hope to see you then!


  1. Nikki Roeder

    Thank you for sharing this tutorial! I am going to try to create this underdrawing by Tuesday. I am brand new to actually painting on a page with watercolor, but I have been researching and playing around with, watercolors, watercolor pencils, gelattos, and stamps. I have read many tips and watched videos. I feel like I am ready to try! I will watch for your follow-up to this video.Wish me luck!!!

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