Drawing With Colored Pencils

938 White

1067 Cool Grey 90%

1067 Cool Grey 90%

1058 Warm Grey 90%

1058 Warm Grey 90%

1076 French Grey 90%

1076 French Grey 90%

LEE'S LESSONS

It is important to understand the traits of warm and cool colors. Warm colors are often used to reflect light off of subjects and appear to come forward. Cool colors are often used in shadows and appear to recede.

Study finished art and note how the artist uses warm and cool colors to create the piece's light source and center of interest.

Greyed Lavender Substitute Color Pencil

Bouncing and Reflecting Colors

Not only can the use of color change the way something looks, color can actually bounce around and attach itself to objects. This Baltimore Oriole likes to come and drink the nectar we put in our hummingbird feeder. In this drawing, I captured the bright red color of the feeder reflecting the brilliant yellow color of the bird.

Look around you and see if you can see color bouncing and reflecting off objects and surfaces in your home.

There are two basic techniques that you'll need to know for working with Prismacolor colored pencils: layering and burnishing. Choose your approach depending on the subject matter you are attempting to capture, or the look or texture you're trying to evoke.

In many cases, a drawing will require you to combine techniques. Analyze the variety of surfaces in your piece and decide whether to use layering, burnishing or both to create them. Burnishing can be very useful for shiny objects or for fixing a flat background. If you are near the completion of a layered project and you feel something is missing, burnish the background to make your subject matter pop from the page.

Baltimore Oriole on a Hummingbird Feeder

Stonehenge paper 8" x 10" (20cm x 25cm)

Bouncing and Reflecting Colors

Not only can the use of color change the way something looks, color can actually bounce around and attach itself to objects. This Baltimore Oriole likes to come and drink the nectar we put in our hummingbird feeder. In this drawing, I captured the bright red color of the feeder reflecting the brilliant yellow color of the bird.

Look around you and see if you can see color bouncing and reflecting off objects and surfaces in your home.

Colors Used

Canary Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Orange, Poppy Red, Carmine Red, Crimson Red, Light Umber, Cool Grey 30%, Yellow Chartreuse, Chartreuse, Apple Green, Black, White putting pencil to paper

Yellow Poppies Drawing

Sometimes it is not easy to decide whether to layer or burnish. The good thing is, if you begin with layering, you can always choose to deepen your tones and burnish an area if it doesn't turn out the way you want. In most cases, a drawing will require both techniques, since the surfaces of people, places and things are all so different.

These butterflies are drawn using two entirely different techniques, and each one has a unique look.

Layered Butterfly

This approach shows off the powdery look of the blue morpho butterfly. You can see the texture of the paper coming through, helping the colors look less filled in.

Colors Used

Dark Brown, Dark Umber, Black Raspberry, Poppy Red, Seashell Pink, Greyed Lavender, Peacock Blue, Copenhagen Blue, Black, White

Drawing Peacock Colored Pencil

Burnished Butterfly

This monarch butterfly is much more vivid in color, and the powdery nature of the wings is not as evident. Burnishing makes the colors brighter and more intense. To make it stand out even further, I chose to fully develop the background with bright colors.

Colors Used

Canary Yellow, Terra Cotta, Raspberry, Light Peach, Sand, Lavender, Process Red, Aquamarine, Grass Green, Violet Blue, Periwinkle, Black, White layering

All colored pencil drawings begin with layering. It is done by applying the pencil with light layers, keeping a sharp point on the pencil at all times. The hallmark look of layering is when the texture of the paper shows through the pencil, giving it a somewhat grainy appearance. With the layering technique, you will also be able to see your pencil strokes, giving your works a more hand-drawn appearance.

Always remember, it requires patience to build the tones. Hurrying with colored pencil will create an unevenness in the application and ruin the look of your drawing. Do not overlap too many different colors, or they will build up and become opaque.

Step 1

Lightly draw two spherical stones on your drawing paper with a mechanical pencil.

Blueprint Paper Texture Step

Step 2

With Sandbar Brown and a sharp point, add some color to the stones. This is their undertone. With Cool Grey 70%, create the shadow edges to make the stones appear round (see more instruction on spheres on page 28). Make sure to leave the small area of reflected light showing along the edges. Use a light touch when applying the colored pencil, and allow the paper texture to show through. Do not build up the tones too heavily.

With Cool Grey 70% and Black, create the cast shadow beneath the stones.

Step 3

Add a small amount of Sand over the other colors to darken the stones. Add some of this color below the cast shadow as well. Practice creating this soft, layered look on other types of objects.

Colors Used

Sandbar Brown, Sand, Cool Grey 70%, Black

Colored Pencil Layering Light DarkOverlapping Images With Colored Pencil

Layering Requires Patience

Using the layering technique requires patience, especially to create deep tones, but it's well worth it for these results. This portrait of Mel "Tice" Theisen was created on ivory-toned mat board with just two tones.

Colors Used

Dark Brown, Black

Colored Pencil Drawings Grass

Layering in Color

When layering in color, make sure you don't overlap the colors to the point that they become opaque. Again, you should see the graininess of the paper showing through the colored pencil.

Colors Used

Poppy Red, Crimson Red, Tuscan Red, Blue Violet, Indigo Blue, Limepeel, Grass Green, Dark Green, Yellow Chartreuse, Yellow Ochre, Dark Brown, Canary Yellow, Orange, Light Aqua, Aquamarine, Black, White burnishing

When you burnish, you apply colored pencil heavily with a firm pressure that makes the pigment totally cover the paper surface. Because of the wax content of Prismacolor pencils, the pigment goes on with a creamy feel, and the colors become very opaque with the heavy pressure. This can make the colored pencil mimic the look of oil painting, with bright colors and a shiny impression. Many of the subjects I used to paint in oils I now do in colored pencil with similar results.

When you burnish layers of pencil, the colors mix together like paint instead of remaining independent. The texture or grain of the paper is flattened by the pencil pressure, and the pigment and wax of the pencil fill it in completely. When practicing this technique, use pencils with a bit duller point to balance out the heavy pressure of application.

Sphere Colored Pencils

Step 1

Lightly draw the cherries' shapes with a mechanical pencil. With a light touch and Carmine Red, layer the undertone of the cherries. Draw in the shadow edges of the cherries with Crimson Lake. (Refer to the sphere exercise on page 28 more instruction.) Add a hint of the cast shadow below them with Black.

Step 2

Using the same colors as in step 1, reapply the colors using a heavier touch. Use enough pressure that the colors completely fill in the paper and it is no longer visible.

Start with Carmine Red, the undertone of the cherries. Be sure to leave the light area of the highlight open. Deepen the color of the shadows and curves with Crimson Lake. Deepen the color of the shadow edges with Dark Purple. Be sure to allow an edge of reflected light to still show through. Just like the sphere exercise, this makes them look more rounded.

With Black and a sharp point, create the left side and base of the cherry stems.

Step 3

Continue deepening your tones using firm pressure so the colors burnish together. With White, fill in the highlight areas to make the surface look shiny. Add Yellow Ochre to the right side of the cherry stems. Add a small amount of Crimson Lake over the Yellow Ochre on the right side as well. This is called reflected color, which is bouncing up from the cherries below.

To complete the drawing, enlarge the cast shadows below the cherries with Black. The direction of the shadows tells us the angle of the light source. Add a small amount of Yellow Ochre to the cast shadow to make it appear more realistic.

Colors Used

Carmine Red, Crimson Lake, Dark Purple, Yellow Ochre, White, Black

Purple Portrait Background Color Pencil

Burnishing in Action

Rich, bright hues, colored background and complementary colors do a lot to help this fantail goldfish stand out, but it's the burnishing that really gives it shine and helps create the texture of the scales.

Burnishing in Action

Rich, bright hues, colored background and complementary colors do a lot to help this fantail goldfish stand out, but it's the burnishing that really gives it shine and helps create the texture of the scales.

Colors Used

Canary Yellow, Orange, Poppy Red, Scarlet Lake, Aquamarine, Parrot Green, True Blue, Denim Blue, Black, White

LEE'S LESSONS

You may notice a milky haze forming on your drawing as you burnish with wax-based colored pencils. The colors will look like they have a filmy coating over them. This is perfectly normal. It is just the wax of the pencil separating from the pigment and rising to the surface. You can buff it a bit with your finger or a tissue and it will go away; however, it will soon return. To correct this problem, it is important to spray your drawing with a fixative when you are finished. This seals the color, and prevents the wax from separating.

Beware, though! Fixative alters the surface of the paper, affecting the way the pencil is applied. Spray your work only when you are entirely finished with it.

value scales/gradation

Regardless of which technique you are using when applying colored pencil, the pressure you apply is the most important part. Learning how to control your pressure to create an even application of tone is crucial to good colored pencil work.

While drawing value scales is not very exciting, it is a very important skill to know. It is the gradual application of tone that makes things look realistic. The drawing below is a great example of soft, subtle tonal changes.

Look at these value scales. You can see the difference the application makes when it comes to how the colored pencil works. Each of these was created with Dark Brown, but the way the color was applied to the paper makes them all look very different.

Drawing Birds With Colored Pencils

Incorrect Gradation

Gradation of tone is essential for good work. This looks choppy and very much like crayon.

This example shows what usually happens when someone is new to colored pencils. The pencil strokes are way too visible and uneven for this to look good.

Correct Gradation

This is an example of a well-executed value scale. This was done with both burnishing and layering using very controlled pencil lines so the tones are even and full. This makes the tone gradual, with the tones gently fading from dark to light with no choppiness. Keep practicing to make your scales look like this. It is simply a matter of getting the "feel" of the pencil. Apply more pressure in the dark areas, and then gradually lighten your touch for the lighter areas.

Suede Board For Colored Pencil
The Surface Can Affect Your Tones

This is also a well-executed gradation using the same color, but on suede board instead. You can see how the texture of the board not only changes the appearance, but seems to change the color as well.

Before you begin any project, test your colors on a scrap of the paper or board you are using to be sure of their appearance.

about color

A good understanding of colors and how they work is essential to drawing. It all begins with the color wheel, which shows how colors relate to one another.

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