Recent years have seen colored pencils taken up by an increasing number of artists, and work created with colored pencil sits in elite private collections and museums. Whether you’re a seasoned colored pencil artist or someone looking to dip their toe into these waters for the first time, Drawing magazine and Artist’s Network have what you need to get the most out of your colored pencil drawings.
To start you off on the right path, we want to share four tips offered by the artists featured in Colored Pencil Essentials 3, covering subjects such as layering colors, drawing water and how to light a colored pencil still life. And for more insightful tips on colored pencils, be sure to check out the other downloads in this series: Colored Pencil Essentials and Colored Pencil Essentials 2.
1. Dress in Layers
An advantage of colored pencils is that the colors are premixed and consistent; the accompanying disadvantage is that it can be difficult to find a pencil of the exact color you need. Other colors are achieved through layering, placing one color over another until the result comes as close as possible to the desired color and value.
The challenge, then, is to know the effect that layering particular colors will produce. To get to that point it helps to know some broad principles of color layering.
- Layering complementary colors darkens both colors and reduces their intensity.
- Pressing harder intensifies a hue but does not darken it.
- You can darken a color by layering its next-darkest neighbor over it, for instance, purple over red. Use dark brown or dark blue before black, and avoid leaving black as the top layer of any color.
- To lighten a color, layer over it with a lighter hue of the same color before resorting to white.
- To intensify a color, blend it using a tortillon or stump.
- Burnishing any color with white will make it lighter, shinier, cooler and hazier.
2. Brushes for Blending
My method of blending with the brush (using no solvents) dramatically brightens and intensifies the colors. I recommend practicing this technique on something small and working up to larger pieces. This method does require a rather heavy application of colored pencil pigment. If there isn’t enough pigment for the brush to move around, nothing much will happen. When a considerable amount has been applied, the brush is able to pick up just enough to fill in the tooth of the paper.
–Linda Lucas Hardy
3. Drawing Water
In order to draw water, I look at all the components going into the composition, I look at the water, and I look for some kind of pattern to develop. Once I’ve placed the composition with graphite pencil, it becomes easier to “tag” water and apply the color that I see. And water is colorless, so you have to interpret it. Sometimes it’s based on nothing more than mood.
–Erwin P. Lewandowksi
4. Lighten the Mood
When using artificial lighting, you need your light to come from the side, even if it’s backlighting. You can’t shoot right into the light bulb. Another trick is to get very close to that lighting, even if your shot then isn’t perfectly focused. That’s OK—it’s just a reference.
BONUS Tip: How to Draw Feathers
Check out this quick demonstration from Mark Menendez to discover how to draw feathers in under five minutes using colored pencils.
If you want more colored pencil instruction from Mark, check out his video Colored Pencil Techniques: Color, Value, Form, streaming on ArtistsNetwork.tv. In this video workshop, Mark walks you through five demonstrations on how to get great results from your colored pencils, including how to draw a tropical bird, establish the colors of white in a still life, tips on how light and shadow creates the form, how to paint water lilies and more!