Category Archives: Tutorials

Colouring a Red Rose -Beginners Colour pencil tutorial

In my last post I talked about how to draw the outlines for this piece; today we are going to add the colour. In my previous tutorials, I covered how to apply the pencil to the paper and how to smoothly blend your colours. In today’s tutorial, we are going to focus on building a nice deep color saturation with some darker colours, including black, by continually building light layers of colour.

Once again, here is the reference photo we will be using:

and a traceable line drawing if you just want to get to the fun stuff.

I used my polychromos in the colours:

  • Deep Scarlett
  • Dark Red
  • Walnut Brown
  • Black
  • Chrome Oxide Green
  • Earth Green Yellowish
  • Fuchsia (optional)

For prismacolors I used:

  • Permanent Red
  • Crimson Red
  • Tuscan Red (dark and warm it makes a decent substitute for Walnut Brown in this piece)
  • Black
  • Olive Green
  • Lime Peel
  • Process Red (optional)

I have used odorless mineral spirits (OMS) to blend my colour pencils in this tutorial, and used  a 3/10 oval, and a 1/8 oval taklon brushes to blend.

I used an A5 piece of Arches Hot press in my video demo, and fabriano accademia for my practice runs, which are extremes of an expensive and a budget paper!  When choosing your paper, look for a nice sturdy paper with a slight tooth to the surface.

Once you have you line drawing on your paper it’s time to start the colouring!


Step 1.

Have a good long look at the reference photo and try to identify the darkest ares of the rose. These are mostly seen in places where the petals are curling in and casting shadows towards the centre of the rose. The petals on roses are often tightly packed and you can often identify some really nice dark shadows even on a lighter coloured flower. In this photo the rose is quite a simple shape, so the darkest areas are easy to identify. Lay down a light layer of Walnut Brown (or Tuscan Red) in these areas.

Step 2.

Now that you have identified the darkest areas, it is time to look for the lightest ones. Unlike my previous tutorials, where we coloured in small circles, today we are going to add a little texture to the solid red by lightly colouring in the direction of the veins of the petals.  Look closely at each petal before colouring, you will notice that the direction of these veins changes on each petal, and they help show the roundness and fullness of the rose.  Using these as a guide, use your lightest red to colour the lightest areas of the rose.

Step 3.

Colour the remaining area of the rose with your dark red pencil. Once again, applying your pencil in the direction of the petal textures. Colour over the top of your Brown/Tuscan Red areas, these colours will blend together to create a really nice deep red colour.

Step 4.

It is time to blend our pencils for the first time. Dip your brush in the OMS, then remove the excess on a piece of scrap paper until the brush is mostly dry. Start blending your pencil, being careful not to accidentally spread that dark red onto the surrounding white paper, as it will be impossible to remove! The smaller brush comes in very handy for those tight spots. We want to take every opportunity to build upon the texture of those petals, so wherever possible, blend your pencil in the direction of the petal veins. Paying close attention to these textures will really prevet your drawing from looking flat when we are finished.

When you are happy that you have blended the entire surface, allow the OMS to dry completely.

Step 5.

With the first layer down, we have established where our lightest and darkest areas are in the drawing, but the coverage is still very patchy and light. We will fix that by adding additional layers of colour. Start by adding another layer of dark brown to the deepest shadows.

Step 6.

Use the dark red pencil to cover the mid tones, once again, going over the brown areas to create a deep rich shadow colour. Remember to work in the direction of the veins wherever you see them.

Step 7. 

Use the lightest red over most of the rose (except for the very darkest areas) this will help to bring all the colours together and help the rose look like it is just gradients of a single colour. Make sure you are still only colouring in light layers at this point, while it looks like there is a lot of pigment going down onto the paper in the video at this point, it is just because the pigments are starting to build up on the page. The point of this tutorial is to build our depth of colour slowly and we really don’t want to be pressing hard at any point of this piece.

Step 8. 

Using a very dry brush, we will be blending out the pencil again. Remember that as the colour builds up on the surface of the paper, the drier our brush needs to be. A wet brush will start to lift colour off the paper, which is the opposite of what we want to see. Once you are satisfied with the blending allow the thinners to dry before moving onto the next step.

Step 9 (optional)

At this point we can take a moment to add a little touch of that pinky tone to the base of the center petal. It is a small detail, but adding some different tones to the piece can help add to the realism and interest of the drawing. Adding some slightly different tones to our rose along with adding  the petal texture will help this piece be more life-like and less flat and solid.

Step 10. 

With our colours building up nicely, we can start to add a little touch of black to our shadows. I have held off from adding the black until this point. because I didn’t want to overshadow that vibrant red by mixing it with a straight black. Black itself can be too dominating to most colours to use directly as a shadow colour, so I used the Walnut Brown (or Tuscan Red) as a bridge between or red and black. The shadows of this rose however are very dark, so we can add just a little hint of black in the deepest shadows to add contrast to our rose. Be sparing, but brave in this step! If you feel you have put down too much black, you should have enough pigment on your paper to be able to lift off some of the colour with your brush wet with OMS. Usually you don’t want to lift colour off your page, but occasionally it can be a helpful trick if you have gone too far and need to take pigment back off. As long as you haven’t squashed the tooth of your paper, you can always wait for the thinner to dry and re-build any colour lifted off later. 

Step 11.

The piece is almost done. At this point go over your colours once more to make sure the paper is completely covered. Add the Walnut Brown to the shadows, then add more of the darkest red and top it off with a final few layers of the lightest red. At this point you should have a lovely strong red colour and some nice dark shadows on your paper. And its all been done with nice light layers.

Once you feel like you have a good amount of colour down, blend the rose with OMS for the last time.
(If you reach this point and you still don’t feel like you have a strong enough coverage, feel free to add more layers, as long as you have kept a light hand, you should be able to keep adding layers of pencil until you reach a nice saturation.)

Step 12.

While you wait for the rose to dry. Add a layer of your lightest green to the entire stem and leaf section of the rose, once again following the direction of any textures you can see on the stem. Then you can add some of the darkest green in the areas of shadow, such as, under the leaves, where one of the leaves are curling over and down the right hand side of the stem. Look closely at the reference photo to find these shadows. Finally you can add a touch of Walnut Brown or Tuscan Red ( remember that red and green are complimentary colours, so they will blend to a darker and less saturated colour, perfect for a shadow!) to the very darkest shadow on the stem.

Step 13.

Blend out the stem with OMS on the smaller brush, some of those tight little curls may be a little tricky, so take your time! Luckily the green pencils don’t seem to spread as easily as the red, so you are at less risk of accidentally pushing them too far outside the area you want to see them. Allow the thinners to dry.

Step 14.

Repeat the colouring process with the stem. Even though this is a much lighter colour that the red of the rose, the stem should have the same saturation of colour as the rose, so you will need to add multiple layers in this area too. Go over the stem in the same manner as step 12, and blend once again.

Step 15.

The final touches! Using your dark red pencil, carefully add a few of the veins on the surface of the petals. You have been following their shape throughout this piece, so a few light lines should finish this off nicely. Be careful to only add these lines very lightly, they will look too artificial if you press down to hard. Just use a light touch.

Then, if you wish you can use your dark red to add a little red to the tips of the rose leaves and use your darkest green to add in a few of the little spurs on those leaves as well. And your all done!!

I hope you find this tutorial helpful and you give this a go!! If you do I would love to see how you go! feel free to tag me on Instagram or post to my Facebook page. You guys have done some wonderful work with the pear and mango tutorials, I am sure I will see some beautiful roses too.





How I draw a Rose – Preparing the Line work for a Colour Pencil Piece

Recently I have been working on a new beginners colour pencil tutorial featuring a simple red rose. ( It should be really fun!) As I was drawing up the outlines it occurred to me that this is a much more complicated shape than the pear and mango tutorials that I have already created, and it may be a little tricky for beginners who do not wish to trace the base image.

So here is my attempt at teaching you how to draw a very simple rose. This tutorial has been a little tricky to create, as I have never really considered my “methods” when I am drawing. So I have spent the last week drawing, and re-drawing this rose to break my process down as simply as possible. No doubt there are better tutorials out there, but this is how I approach drawing a simple rose. Hopefully It helps you too!


  • a sketchbook – I use a cheap, student grade sketchbook from the local newsagent, nothing fancy
  • A soft graphite pencil. I like to use an 8b which is very soft. I like to be able to really move the graphite around on the paper, but this may be a little too soft and messy for some, a 4 or 6b will certainly do the trick
  • A kneadable eraser.
  • A blending stump or tortillion  (or the tip of you finger will do in a pinch, just don’t blend graphite with fingers for “finished” pieces as the oils in your fingers will case you issues)
  • Tracing paper. ( or kitchen wrapping paper – Its see through, cheap and it works!) to get a clean tracing of your final image ready to be used on your final paper.

Reference photo

Here is the reference image for our rose, A very simple rose, with only a few petals and only a few curls… you can do this!!

Step 1.

The first step is to define the size of the rose we wish to draw. Sometimes when drawing, it can be very easy to find one area getting much larger or smaller than intended, or perhaps you start at the wrong place on your paper, meaning you run out of space later. I find it helpful to lay down a circle to define the area in which I intend to work. In this case I have circled the area I want the petals to fill.

Step 2. 

I Find the center structure of the rose and start there. In nearly every rose, there is an area in the center of the flower which is more densely packed than the petals around the outside. I always start with this piece, as I find that I can use this core area as a good place mark against which I can measure the rest of the flower.

In this photo, the tightly coiled core makes up the majority of the rose. This makes for a much simpler drawing.






But no matter how complicated, or how many petals, I always look to draw that central structure first


Using the circle as a guide I start drawing in the shape of the center petals. I draw these lines in a very light, sketchy manner. I am using a very dark, soft pencil, and If I press too hard, I may create lines which I cannot erase easily. Much like when using colour pencil, a light hand it best!!





As I work, I try to imagine the other side of that shape which is hidden underneath the overlaying petal. Thinking about how this rose is constructed helps me to better understand the shapes I am seeing.

This also allows me to draw in the next petal more accurately, as the second petal lays over the top of this core petal and will follow its shape pretty closely. You can draw this is if you wish and erase it later, but personally I find too many guide lines distracting.


Step 3.

Keeping that underlying structure in mind, I then draw the first petal wrapping the flower. I make soft sketchy lines so that i can easily erase and/or smudge out any lines that go astray.

I continuously check with my reference photo, and compare to what I have on my page. Some things you may need to keep an eye on are: is the top of you petal tall enough in comparison to  the top of the center petal ? does the petal wrap over enough of the center petal? Are your curves correct with a nice rounded curve to the inner side of the petal, and a reasonably gentle curve to the outside?

Keep comparing and checking, you will be surprised how much information your brain will *think* it sees and if you don’t take the time to look and compare, you will find you have drawn some very different shapes!

Step 4.

Drawing in the first outer petal. I start by drawing the basic rectangular like shape of the outside of the petal.

Then I study the values on the petal and draw myself a guide line for where the petal goes from the shadowed area into a much lighter one. This change of value will be very important when colouring or shading to show the 3 dimensional shape of the petal, so I want to make sure I have it down to guide me.

Lastly I draw in the curve of the underside of the petal

Step 5.

Next I draw in the larger petal to the left. Using the circle as a guide to how large this petal needs to be. Once again, I draw in a small guide line to show me where the petal curves at the very top. While I am drawing these petals, I am ignoring any of the smaller details, such as bumps and ridges along the edge. I want to get the placement of these petals down first before I worry about adding the details.


Step 6 .

I then draw in the somewhat misshapen petal between the outer petal and the core petal. Much of this petal quite heavily shadowed, so It can be a little tricky to see the details. Just take your time and keep checking your work against the reference photo.

I then draw in the stem and leaves at the base of the rose. I did not like the way the leaf on the right covered up my flower, nor how long it extends away from the rose, so in my version I have left out one of the curls in the leaf and shortened it overall

 Step 7.

I start my shading by finding the darkest areas of the rose. In this drawing they are closest to the central structure and underneath the misshapen petal. I find shading much easier if I define my darkest values first. The super soft 8b pencil means that this will blend out very easily, and I will have to deepen these shadows further as I work


Step 8.

I work on adding shading to the rest of the rose. This is almost always where I find all my mistakes- when the shadows don’t fit as they should, I know my line work is wrong!! I study my reference photo and using a blending stump and a kneadable eraser, I add the rest of my values to the rose.

I Use my blending stump to smooth out the transitions between areas of light and dark, and my eraser to pull graphite back off areas that need to be lighter. Take your time and really look at that reference! Where is the light hitting the most? which areas are in the deepest shadow? Are there areas which blend together in the darkness? Is there a shadow under the curl of a petal? Studying values like this can be very surprising, and you may find highlights and shadows in places you never expected.

This gives me an excellent opportunity to study the lights and darks (or more correctly, the values) in my rose, before I start with my colour pencils.

Sometimes when drawing in these changes in value you will see where the line work is incorrect and this is a good time to make any final changes to the overall shape of those petals. The soft pencil and sketchbook paper generally make the graphite very easy to move around at this point, so as long as you don’t press to hard with your pencil, you can shade and blend and erase until you get it looking right. If you are find it difficult to see the values, you may find it easier to switch the reference photo to black and white.

I have added in a couple of lines to show myself the direction of the veins on the petals and how they wrap around the flower. As this is a guideline, and not a finished graphite drawing, I can add in any details that I feel may help me when creating the final colour pencil drawing. This is a road map! so feel free to make notes however you wish!!


Step 9.

I add shading to the leaves at the base. You can see it this point I have also changed the direction of that left hand leaf, as I feel it was sticking out at an awkward angle.





Step 10.

The final touches! Now that I am happy with the overall shape, I go over the edges of my petals, adding in any of those small bumps and imperfections that I deliberately ignored earlier. I find that If you try to draw in those details first it is very easy to misjudge the overall shape of the object you are drawing.  It is much easier to get an accurate drawing when you get the major shapes in first and THEN add the small details.


Step 11.

When I am happy with my drawing, I use tracing paper ( or kitchen paper) to trace over the outlines of the piece. This gives me a nice clean drawing that I can transfer onto my rather precious water-color paper, ready for me to begin the colouring process!

Creating my line drawing in this manner allows me the freedom to make mistakes and make any changes that I wish long before I ever set pencil onto my delicate ( and rather expensive) water-colour paper. All of my mistakes have been made and erased without damaging the tooth of that fancy paper with my eraser or stray graphite lines, and I can start my final work with a nice, clean slate.

Perhaps because I was a graphite and charcoal artist long before I picked up the colour pencils, I find that having already made a small tonal study like this  can help greatly when it comes time to colour, as sometimes determining changes in value can be difficult in when working in colour.

I hope this helps! Of course I will be providing a traceable line drawing in my next tutorial, where we bring this rose to life with colour pencil but I encourage you to give drawing it yourself a try! Much like the mango and the pear, all roses are different, and yours doesn’t have to be perfect! (I can assure you mine isn’t!! ) I would love to see what you can do!







Mounting my colour pencil drawings to a board

I love my colour pencils dearly, they are now easily my favorite medium to work with… but they have one glaring failure! No matter how good the work is, generally it is created on flimsy, easy to damage paper. I hate the thought of putting in hours of work, to then have to worry about the chance of creases or tears in my hard work! I also think this fragility really holds colour pencil artworks from being taken very seriously by potential collectors.

Over the past few months I have had many discussions with local art shops and framers about the best method of mounting my colour pencil pieces to board, to give my work stability and a much longer life expectancy!!

If you are interested in trying this out, the following is a run through of my method so far

Note: this method can be used to mount paper BEFORE creating the artwork!! you will just have to be extra careful not to accidentally get any of the gel on the working surface of the paper.

*** WARNING!!!!**** This is a fiddly process and it does have the potential to ruin the artwork you wish to mount!! I HIGHLY, HIGHLY!!! recommend practicing the process a few times on less valuable pieces before attempting to mount something precious!!


    • A sturdy archival board – I have been using picture matting board from a local framer, as it is sturdy but still lightweight. However, you could use a much firmer surface like Ampersand clayboard, ( or for Aussies  ) or wooden boards or for Aussies ( please note, amazon associate links are for your visual reference, there are many other brands selling similar products and it’s always worth shopping around!). Whatever you choose should be archival as it would be a terrible shame to damage your piece instead of protecting it! It will help if the board you choose is slightly smaller than the artwork. You will get a better finish if you can  trim the artwork to be completely flush to the board
    • An Archival binder gel.  I use Atelier heavy gel (gloss) (  or for Aussies attach my drawing to the board. It is an acrylic medium that creates an extremely strong bond when dry.
    • The artwork you wish to mount
    • A brush
    • A brayer (optional) or for Aussies  to roll your artwork down onto the board. A brayer will give you a nice smooth, even rolling action to press the artwork down onto the board. This would be very useful with larger artworks
    • A sharp blade to trim any excess
    • Wax paper 
    • A flat, heavy weight to press your work down overnight


Step 1.  Clean your surfaces!

Ensure that your work surface, hands, brush, brayer, the board, and the artwork are free from dust and debris. The mounting process must be done quite quickly and can be a little nerve racking… Should you find a hair or crumb stuck somewhere it doesn’t belong during the process, you will find it difficult to keep the process flowing. And any particles that get trapped between your artwork and the board will be there forever!!! It is worth taking the time to clean and inspect everything so you don’t run into trouble later

Step 2. Protect your surface

I use a layer of wax paper under my board while I apply the gel. This stops excess gel from getting on my work surface, so I don’t accidentally “glue” my artwork to the table

Step 3. Apply the gel

Using a wide soft brush, apply the gel to the board. Ensure that the gel covers the board completely to the edges and is in a nice even layer. The Heavy gel is an impasto medium and will hold any peaks or clumps when it dries, so take the time to smooth it out so no clumps form under your artwork. When you are happy with your coverage, it is worth taking the time to clean up any excess gel from the side of your board, removing the protective wax paper and cleaning any gel off your hands. Taking the time to clean the excess off will ensure you accidentally get the gel on your work or stick your work to the work surface!

Step 4. Attach the artwork.

Take a deep breath! take a moment to visualise how you will place the artwork on the board and how you want things to line up. Bend your artwork slightly and allow the middle of the piece to make contact to the board first, then lay the piece down LIGHTLY onto the board. getting that middle section down first will prevent any air bubbles from forming underneath your piece. The gel grabs quickly, So only lay your piece down lightly, and quickly make any final adjustments to the position of your work. This is where having your artwork slightly larger than the board is incredibly helpful!!! It is better to have a slight overhang that you can cut off later than to have an exact fit that can be difficult to line up under time pressure!! (like I did in the video!)

Step 5. Smoothing the piece down!

Once you are completely satisfied with the position of your piece on the board. Add another layer of wax paper on top of your artwork. This will protect your piece from accidental smudging. Use the brayer or a flat hand, to smooth the artwork down onto the board, working from the middle out towards the edges and ensuring you get a good bond on the edges. keep smoothing it out until you are satisfied that the piece is completely bonded to the board. Now is a good time to clean up the edges of any excess gel that may have been squeezed out in the smoothing process. and cleaning excess gel off your work surface.

Step 6. Weighting down and drying.

The gel forms a bond very quickly, and the piece should already be firmly attached to the board. But as the gel is wet, the paper and thinner matting boards can bend as the gel dries. So at this point, using wax paper to protect your work, lay some flat, heavy weights down to ensure the artwork remains flat as it dries. Allow to dry overnight.

Step 7. Trimming the excess

When everything is completely dry you may take a very sharp blade and trim off any paper hanging over the side of the board. This will give a nice flush finish to the mounting process. I recommend doing this with the artwork facing down on a smooth clean surface, and using the edge of the board to guide the blade.

And you’re done!!!

Your gorgeous colour pencil work is now firmly supported by a solid surface, and worrying about creases and tears is no longer a major problem! With a nice solid board you can now take this a step further and varnish your piece for another layer of protection and to even out the sheen of the image. ( I will explain how I do this in my next blog!)





Making hundreds of colours from only 12 pencils

When you start using colour pencils as a medium, those giant, rainbow coloured packs of 120 pencils can seem like a must-have item…

until you see the price tag!!

I don’t know about you, but it sure is hard to justify spending such a huge amount of money on a medium you are not yet familiar with. Colour pencils can be a tricky medium to master, they take a lot of time and practice and at first you don’t even know if you will enjoy the process!

We can start practicing with colour pencils without destroying our bank balance though. The first option is to start off with student grade pencils. These can be a great introduction to the medium, and I started my own collection of pencils with a $17 set of Monte Marte colour pencils. Unfortunately, Student grade pencils are just not as pigmented, can blend unevenly or unpredictably,  and are not as lightfast as the artist grade pencils. Most serious art students will find they “grow out” of these sets very quickly.

The second beginners option can be to go whole hog and start off with the artist grade pencils… just not the whole collection! Most brands offer sets starting with as few as 12 pencils, which is a much more affordable option, especially if you can get a good sale price or manage to wrangle them as a gift!! *wink wink santa claus!!* 

To a beginner artist, it may seem that 12 pencils could not possibly be enough, but I assure you it can be. Colour pencils are just like paint, they can be mixed and blended to create endless combinations, the only difference is with the pencils we mix our colours directly on the paper instead of on the palette. Let me show you how many combinations we can create with just a basic 12 pencil set.

Here are some links to purchase the packs I have used for these charts.

polychromos 12 pack: or for Aussies
prismacolor 12 pack: or for the  Aussies

Polychromos 12 pack

In this grid I have blended each of the Polychromos pencils. Each square is a 50-50 mix of each pencil.

  • White
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Dark Cadmium Orange
  • Deep Scarlet Red
  • Magenta
  • Light Ultramarine
  • Pthalo Blue
  • Emerald Green
  • Light Green
  • Burnt Ochre
  • Walnut brown
  • Black




Prismacolor 12 pack

This grid shows the same 50-50 blend of the 12 pack Prismacolor premier pencils

  • White
  • Canary Yellow
  • Orange
  • Crimson Red
  • Violet
  • Violet Blue
  • True blue
  • Emerald Green
  • Apple Green
  • Sienna Brown
  • Dark Brown
  • Black



The colours in these charts are just the very tip of the iceberg! These are the colours than can be achieved by simple 50-50 blending of each colour, and doesn’t even start to take into account all the blends than can be created in different ratios or by adding a 3rd or 4th pencil to each blend. The possibilities are endless… which can be a little bit daunting.

Generally when I am mixing my pencils I choose the colour closest to my goal as possible, then use the colours I have available to warm up, or cool down, Lift or desaturate the colour as necessary. A lot of this is done through trial and error, so I find it is always best to have a piece of scrap paper on hand as I work, to test out how the colours will mix together before I use them together on the final product. Luckily the more experience you have, the easier it becomes to predict how the colours will react together. Unfortunately for the beginner there is no “recipe” book I can give you to create the colours you wish to achieve. The list of possible hues is endless, and most colours can be achieved by combining pencils in more than one way! Learning to mix your own colours Is best achieved through experimentation and practice, lots and lots of practice.




Beginners color pencil tutorial. Blending colors on a Mango

Here is another tutorial for beginner colour pencil artists. I have chosen this mango, as the shape is very easy to draw and the different colours will give us a chance to practice blending our pencils together to get a smooth gradient.

Reference Picture 

I used Polychromos pencils:

  • White
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Pompeian red
  • Indian red
  • May green
  • Green gold
  • Cinnamon
  • Payne’s grey
  • Cold grey III

Equivalent Prismacolor pencils,  (I find them to be a little more difficult to control with the solvent, they will spread VERY easily…  but will give a slightly more vibrant result.)

  • White
  • Canary yellow
  • Carmine red ( makes the blush a little more pink, but quite pretty)
  • Henna
  • Lime peel
  • Artichoke
  • Nectar
  • Warm grey 90%
  • Cool grey 30%

I used Arches Hot pressed watercolour paper for this example, however this is quite extravagant. My favorite budget-friendly paper is Fabriano accademia paper. I like a sturdy paper with a medium tooth for colour pencil work.

Step 1. Transfer the image to your paper.  If you feel confident, you can use a light graphite pencil to draw out the outline directly onto your paper, but be careful not to erase too heavily! We need to take care of the paper surface and excessive erasing can damage the tooth of the paper, or leave unsightly marks. Extra care needs to be taken to keep the graphite outline very light along the top of the mango, as it will show through the yellow in the final product.

This is quite a simple shape to draw out. I have provided a line drawing to trace if you wish, but there are many varieties and shapes in fruit and perfection is not required!

Step 2. Use the white pencil to lightly colour the area of highlight. While I am not looking for a brilliant white highlight this time, it can be helpful to protect this area a little, and this layer of white will mean we will be able to lift any colour that we may decide is too dark later on.

Step 3. Very lightly plot your lines for where you wish the colours to blend. You can change the size and shape of this area if you wish, but I recommend using the reference photo and trying to get as close as possible for practice. Once you have a clear idea where you wish you colours to be,  lightly start colouring the yellow area of the mango with the cadmium yellow pencil. When you get to the boundaries where the colours are to blend together, allow the yellow to drift slightly into the next colour area, this will be where our pencils will mix together.

Step 4. Next we will add our first layers of the Pompeian red to the blushed area. Start by working at the edge of the fruit and work towards the yellow. As you reach the transition, lightly colour the red pencil over the top of the existing yellow pencil. Remember to keep your hand very light; if you are pressing to hard it will be difficult to get a nice soft blend. Small light circular movements are best to allow you to fade one colour into another effectively.  When you are happy with coverage of the red pencil, you can go back over the blended are again with the cadmium yellow to blend even further.

Step 5. With the blushed end of the mango coloured, you can now move on to the greenish tip of the mango. Use the may green pencil in the same manner as you did with the red, blending the green slightly into the yellow and bring some of that yellow back over the green to let the pencils blend seamlessly together

Step 6. At this point you can add more areas of reds or greens if you wish, however I caution you not to allow the red and the green to touch or blend at any point on the mango. The red and the green are complimentary colours , which means that blending between these hues will create a darker, muddy color, which is not the goal for this brightly coloured piece!

Step 7. You should now have a reasonably solid coverage of pencil on your paper. While you will still be able to see small areas of white showing through, the overall coverage of the mango should be fairly even. Now it is time to use the Odorless mineral spirits. Use a soft brush, and blot most of the thinners off your brush before starting to blend, make small circular motions to push the pigment into the pits of the paper. **Warning!!** The yellow will be very easy to accidentally stain with red or green at this point, so be careful to clean off your brush before blending each area! Move slowly and soon you should have a nice solid base for your piece. Allow the thinners to dry completely before moving on the next layer.

Step 8. With the base colours established we can start applying some shadows to the fruit. Using the green gold pencil, add a light layer across the bottom of the mango. It is important to look closely at the reference image at this point as changes to the shape of this shadow can drastically change the overall form of the fruit. When you are happy with the placement of this main shadow, you can move on to adding the Indian red to the blushed area of the fruit. This will be darkest along the base and along the crease in the fruit.

Step 9. At this point, add a little bit of the cinnamon pencil along the inside crease of the fruit. This is a small step, but it makes a big difference to the overall look of the piece. This little touch of reflected light really helps to bring the shape to life!

Step 10. When you are satisfied with the form and coverage of the shadows, add another layer of each of the base colours (cad yellow, Pompeian red and may green)  to the whole piece, and blend out, using only a very small amount of thinners on your brush.

Step 11. While waiting for the thinners to dry, you can move on to the stem and shadow on the table. The stem is very simply completed by drawing a few darker lines using the Payne’s grey pencil and colouring over the top with the green gold. The stem takes surprisingly little work, needing only just a hint of detail to come together. Before drawing in the main shadow take time again to study the reference photo. Carefully add a strong area of Payne’s grey just underneath the fruit where it touches the table. Then use the cold grey III and with a feather light touch, add the rest of the shadow as it fades out to the white. Blend this area carefully with Odorless thinners on a dry brush.

Step 12. Now is a good time to step back and asses how your piece looks to you. Are there any areas of shadow that need darkening? Is there any area colour you would like to see stronger or more blended? Go over the whole piece again, adding your base and shadow colours, making any adjustments you feel necessary. These last layers should make your piece completely solid and bring the whole thing together.

Step 13. Before blending out these last layers, take the time to add a few marks or blemishes with your Payne’s grey pencil.  Only tiny dots of the pencil are necessary here, but they add just an extra element of realism to the drawing. Try to keep these blemishes as random as you can; it can be easy to accidental create unintentional patterns, so pay attention as you work.

Step 14. The last step is to take your brush and lightly blend the blemishes into the top layers of colour, just knocking them back slightly so they are not too stark against the bright fruit. I cannot stress enough how little thinner needs to be on your brush to achieve this, just the softest touch will be enough to do the job.

Finally! Assess your piece. Check shadows and sharpen a few  blemishes. Now is the time to step back a little and look for ways in which you think your piece can be improved. When you feel you have done all you can, you’re all done!









Beginner’s Colour Pencil Tutorial – Pear

This is an excellent project for a beginner colour pencil artist. The simple shape is very forgiving,  and the shading and texture does not need to be perfect to make a good-looking final product.  This drawing only uses 7 pencils and uses odorless mineral spirit to blend.

Reference Photo.


I used Polychromos pencils:

  • May Green
  • Permanent Green Olive
  • Van Dyke Brown
  • Nougat
  • Payne’s grey
  • Warm Grey II
  • White

If you wish to use Prismacolor pencils ( I find them to be a little more difficult to control with the solvent, they will spread VERY easily…  but will give a slightly more vibrant result. )

  • Lime Peel
  • Olive Green
  • Light Umber
  • Sepia
  • Warm Grey 90%
  • Warm Grey 30%
  • White

Step 1.

Transfer the image to your paper.  If you feel confident, you can use a light graphite pencil to draw out the outline directly onto your paper, but be careful not to erase too heavily! We need to take care of the paper surface and excessive erasing can damage the tooth of the paper, or leave unsightly marks.

I like to draw out my pieces on sketchbook paper, then use transfer paper to put my final drawing onto my good paper. However, if you are not as confident in your drawing skills and you just want to get to the good stuff, you can use this line drawing to trace. Whichever method you choose, try to keep your line work as light as possible, so you don’t see the graphite in your final image.

Don’t worry too much about the line drawing. The pear is a simple shape that does not need to be perfectly drawn to create a good finished drawing. All pears are different, no one will know if yours is a little wonky! 


Step 2. Use the white pencil to lightly colour the area of highlight. This will keep your highlight nice and bright , and safe from accidental colouring with your greens.

Step 3. Give the pear a light layer of May Green. With a sharpened pencil and holding the pencil away from the tip, create a light layer over the main area, avoiding the highlighted areas. When complete this area will look patchy and there will be patches of white paper showing through. We will use the thinners to fill in these areas later.

Step 4.  Define the areas of shadow with Permanent Olive green. Following the reference photo carefully, use the darker green pencil to start to define the shadows. The darkest areas are at the base of the pear, and to the right hand side.

Switching a reference photo to B&W can sometimes make it easier to see subtle differences is value and makes identifying these shadowed areas easier.



Step 5. Add the major brown blemishes, especially around the stem.

Step 6Blend colours using Odorless mineral spirits. Use a soft brush, and blot some of the thinners off your brush before starting to blend, make small circular motions to push the pigment into the pits of the paper

Step 7. Add shadow to the base while waiting for the thinners to dry. The lighter area of the shadow is created by using a feather light touch of the light grey pencil on the paper

Step 8 When Thinners are dry, add another layer of the greens all over the pear, this time you can start to blend into the white highlight a little, so it is not too separate from the rest of the pear. The White pencil you used on the first step should protect your highlight from being darkened too much.

Step 9 Blend, but this time using much less thinner on your brush, the brush must be quite dry, as too much thinner now will start to lift colour from your paper!! You only need the slightest bit of moisture in the brush. Since we already covered the paper with a base layer, we only need to move the top layer of pencil, and it takes very little solvent to achieve this.

Step 10. Colour the Lights and shadows on stem, colouring in the direction of the texture of the stem. and blend using thinners

Step 11. Deepen shadows and start to add textures to the skin. Try to keep the small brown blemishes as random as you can; it can be easy to accidental create unintentional patterns, so pay attention as you work. Areas in shadow can be marked with darker spots, highlighted areas should only have very small/light spots.

Step 12. Add a slight halo around your blemishes using the darker green. Then  lightly blend the blemishes into the skin with very dry brush. This is simply to soften the look of the blemishes, so only a very light touch with the brush is needed.

Step 13. Assess your piece. Check shadows and sharpen a few  blemishes. Now is the time to step back a little and look for ways in which you think your piece can be improved. When you feel you have done all you can, You’re all done!!


“Midnight Crow” Tutorial

My goal for this piece was to draw a black bird, using as little black pencil as possible. I wanted to find all the gloss and shimmer in the feathers and draw those brighter colours and leave the black just for the very deepest shadows. 

Materials used:

  • Fabriano Academia 200gsm paper 29x41cm
  • Faber-castell polychromos pencils: Black, Indigo, Prussian blue, Smalt (sky) blue, red-violet, burnt carmine, walnut, cool grey VI, cool grey II and my trusty white Prismacolor.
  • Odourless mineral spirits and a small, soft synthetic brush
  • tiny touch of white gel pen (optional)

My reference photo was from Steve Lyddon at . you do need to be a member to view the photograph as you are required to agree to some terms and conditions of use, however I highly recommend the site.

The process

I never start my drawing directly on my paper, especially where I intend to leave the background naked white. Every little eraser mark and smudge damages the surface of the paper. So I draw out my pieces into a cheap sketchbook first, then when I am happy I will use graphite transfer paper to get the outlines onto my watercolour paper without any mess or mistakes.

The Eye

I always start with the eye. It is the one place in a drawing that I absolutely do not want to make a mistake. If I mess this up I will ditch the whole piece and start again!

crow eye

eye, close up

I picked up my black pencil first and drew in the areas I knew would be the darkest, which in this piece is the lining around the eyes, the join between feathers and beak and the iris of the eye.I then drew in the “sparkle”of the eye with my white to protect the paper from my darker colours.

I chose the walnut pencil as the eye colour as I knew the rest of the piece was going to be in mainly cool colours and a wanted there to be a hint of warmth in the eye. I blended the area between the walnut and blue with my prussian blue to reflect the birds overall colour. As this is a very small area (about 1.5cm²), I do this with a sharp pencil and a steady hand

The Head and Neck

Next I move on to the fine feathers on the head and upper neck. With a very light hand, and with strokes that follow the form and size of the feathers,  I start with the sky blue pencil and lightly layout the area of highlight on the top of the head. I then do the same thing with my darkest shade of blue (indigo) to establish the areas in shadow. Once I have plotted the structures of the head with the darks and lights, I use my prussian blue pencil as a mid tone to bring the areas together. bringing the prussian blue down into the indigo to blend.

At this point I use my odourless mineral spirits (OMS) to blend the tones onto the paper. I want to use a fair amount of the spirits at this stage, as i am looking to stain the colours deeper into the paper, and i have not yet established any details that could be lost with too much blending. As I blend, I am conscious to keep blending in the direction of the feathers. This first layer establishes the foundation of the whole piece, so it is worth taking the time to get it right. You can see the difference the OMS makes between pictures 1 and 2 on the image below.

**WARNING!** I found that the prussian blue pencil was very easily soluble in the OMS! A little bit of pencil went a long way and it was very easy to spread the pigment too far into areas i did not want, and my dish containing the OMS was very quickly tinted blue by the pigment.

When the OMS is completely dried. I place another layer of colour using the same technique as the first. Light strokes on the direction and size of the feathers to build up the depth of the colour. When I am satisfied,  I repeat again with the OMS. However this time I blot most of the OMS out of my brush on a piece of paper before touching it to my paper. A saturated brush at this point will start to lift colour off my piece and start to push it into undesired places.

I keep repeating this process of pencil and OMS. When I am happy with the colour saturation, i move onto the last layers , where  I start to add my red-violet pencil in areas where I want to show a glossy colour shift to feathers. I also start to introduce some flecks of my sky blue down into the darker areas to suggest more individuality to the feathers.

The area under the beak is completed in the same manner, but in this area i also use my black pencil to create areas of the deepest shadows.

head feather collage

Showing how I build up layers of colour. Using light strokes, carefully following the direction and size of the feathers in the reference

Back feathers

With the neck area complete I move onto the tiny triangular feathers above the wings. The reference photo  showed a very defined pattern and central ridge on these feathers. I Followed the reference very closely on the placement and direction of these feathers, as the direction changes as they follow the form of the bird. I used my Sky blue pencil to draw the central lines in first. I press quite hard and go over the line with my white prismacolor. This established the pattern of the feathers and also protected that line of paper from my darker colours.  I was then able to build up the colour in those feathers with alternating layers of pencil and OMS. In some shadow areas I add some of the red-violet and burnt carmine to bring in some more shimmer colour. On my final pass on each feather, I draw in a line of shadow along the ridge a and go over the ridge once again with my white to make it pop!

neck feather collage

showing the general form of the back feathers

Wing and Tail Feathers 

The wing and tail feathers of this bird are very well-defined. There are very strong highlights and shadows on the reference pic which made his one of the easier, but most time consuming areas to complete. I study my reference picture  very closely to understand which areas are in shadow and which are reflecting the light. I use my sky blue pencil in the same manner as above to draw in and protect the exposed feather ridges.  I also use my sky blue to plan out the highlighted areas on the left side of the birds and the small highlight on the right above the leg. The lighting on the left hand side of the bird is very bright, so in this area I also put a layer of white and a hint burnt carmine before I set to work with my darker colours.

I go through the wings feathers in sections. Using the same technique of alternating pencil and OMS to build up depth. I am mindful to keep my pencil strokes following the general pattern of the individual strands in the feathers. In the final layers I am using my indigo pencil to strengthen the chevron like pattern in the wing feathers and to create a shadow along the ridge of the feather.

When I am satisfied with the wing feathers, I use my black pencil to draw in the shadows underneath the feathers. These shadows are strongest in the centre of the bird, where the two wings meet, and where the wing feathers overlap the tail feathers. I do this last, as I do not wish to  accidentally spread the black beyond the very darkest shadows with the OMS.

wing feather collage

Showing to progression of the wing feathers, including black shadow.

Leg and foot.

I used my prussian blue pencil to draw in the highlights on the right side of the leg, I then used my indigo and my black pencil to draw in the leg feathers. This was done using short downwards strokes and blended with the OMS.

I use my white  to draw in the highlights on the foot and claws, I then lightly used the black pencil to draw in the shadows. Once I had these landmarked, I used cool grey II and cool grey VI in a somewhat random manner to create the gnarled effect to the skin. instead of using the OMS in this area, I used my White prismacolor as a blender. I strengthened the shadow that I liked with the black pencil, and finished it off sky blue as a highlight on the top of the toes and back claw.

crow foot

leg and foot detail

To complete the piece I use a very light layer cool grey II and VI, sky blue and red-violet to create the shadow under the bird. I decided I wanted a little more brightness to the little white feathers beneath the eye, so I hit them with a few strokes of my white gel pen as a finishing touch.