Color Pencil Lesson One from Home School Arts

       I suggest that you complete the basic drawing lessons in pencil and pen & ink prior to using the color pencil lessons. This is just a suggestion and not a requirement for use of this or any other lessons.

The color pencils used in this lesson are:
  • #937 Tuscan Red
  • #901 Indigo Blue
  • #908 Dark Green
  • #931 Purple
  • #938 White
  • #935 Black
       When using the color pencil all the same basic line and drawing techniques that are used with pencil or pen & ink techniques are still used. However the results are dramatically different in that with color pencil you can add subtle changes in your composition through the use of color that you can't get with a monotone media. Cross-hatching, stippling, scumbling and doodling can create a variety of changes that will draw you into the composition. They will also create an illusion of depth that can be very dramatic compared to monotone media. Although I use a variety of color pencil brands I will be using the Sanford Berol Prismacolor line of color pencil and will list the name and number for your convenience. You can use any brand that you want just make sure that they are artist quality pencils so that you will have a consistency in color and material composition.

       As I mentioned before using the color pencil while performing your other pencil techniques can produce some very dramatic effects. My favorite darks are accomplished with Tuscan Red #937 and Indigo Blue #901. Differing the pressure and adding layers as necessary will produce very different results with only two pencils. From a very effective black through a nice warm brown shadow, this combination is invaluable.

       Now lets look at Dark Green #908 and Purple #931 for yet another black combination. We can see the difference in the two blacks; one looks warmer and the other conveys a cooler feeling. Yes I said feeling; emotion plays a large part in drawing and painting. It is a way of communication that will stir the heart just like some music and poetry does. We will talk more about color theory in the color theory lesson.

       Please do not use the black or white pencil for any other reason then to change the value of the color you are using. I will go into the reasons for this in a later lesson. The only exception would be for changing the value of another color. In other words to create a tint of a specific color or combination of colors use white as an under or over color. Or use black to create a tone or to darken or mute the color. In the following illustrations you will see the use of White #938 to create the tint of the color located on the top left of the illustration and Black #935 to create the tone on the bottom right of the illustration.


       The surface you work on will also change the look and mood of your work. The color of the surface can enhance the work being done in that it can create an overall consistency in the illustration. If I were doing a portrait of a friend I might decide to use a surface that is light brown or beige to help with the middle tones of the illustration.

       The following are some doodles I have done while looking for an inspiration or while doing something else. I always keep different pieces of paper or board around my drawing table for doodling while I'm on the phone or when I'm "vegging" out watching TV. As you can see by the doodle boards below you can achieve great looking and rich colors in your drawings and set a great mood while doing it. For example the lighthouse would be a very different illustration if it were done on a white substrate. The mood would not be as suspenseful. In the following pages of this lesson and in your assignments we will discuss different papers and how they effect your drawings.


     Look at the reflected light from the moon onto the lighthouse, the sailboat in the distance and the water. I used straight lines to illustrate the beam from the lighthouse (artistic license) and added a small sailboat in the distance. The texture of the mat board adds to the lonely yet ethereal effect of the piece. The work you see is the actual size of the doodle as are the other doodles used on this page.

       I used many different colors in these doodles and frankly I don't remember what they were. You can see how the mind wonders while doodling, the point is that you can create some good concept drawings when you really aren't thinking about your subject matter that you may use in later work.

       Some of the questions you may ask yourself before you begin are:

  • What texture or tooth on the paper will best suit this illustration?
  • How do I want my work to look?
  • Do I want a smooth looking work?
  • Do I want a rough look to the illustration?
  • Do I want the paper to have a colored surface?
  • Do I want archival type paper or do I an inexpensive paper just to practice on and later discard?
       Paper and drawing boards come in many forms and weights. Bristol Board, Clay Board, Gesso Board, Vellum and Canson Mi-Tientes are all very good drawing surfaces along with hot pressed and cold pressed water color papers. They are of archival quality and will last a long time without yellowing or decay. They are also very expensive and should be used for work that is well planned and that you want to keep or sell. If you want paper to practice and learn on then you can use almost anything. For colored surfaces I would suggest construction paper and for white surfaces I would suggest a ream of inexpensive bond paper, newsprint, a sketchpad or notebook.

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