Category Archives: Tutorials

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 light fast 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 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: http://amzn.to/2CGAUxN
prismacolor 12 pack: http://amzn.to/2BC6ttg

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.

 

 

 

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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 PaintMyPhoto.com . http://pmp-art.com/steve-lyddon/gallery/104842/crow 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.