Colored Pencil Trial

The sketch

(reference photos)


The streaking and funny tints on the left are due to scanning problems. The only work I've done on it is on the figure and background on the right. I wanted to scan it right after I laid down the first light washes of skin color but could not get an acceptable scan at such a low contrast.

The first thing I realized after spending the first few hours putting a wash of Prismacolor cream and then light peach as a base for the skin, was that this is going to take a looooonnnng time! Putting down barely-there layers of color with very sharp pencils is a very time consuming job.

At first I was not going to put in a background, but I quickly found out why Ann Kullberg recommends that this be the first thing you do. You need this as a sort of reference point. I had moved to several other darker colors on the face when I realized that I would never know how dark this was supposed to get. Another reason to put in a background is that without that contrast I would never be able to convey the sun splashed highlights of the reference photo. To get an idea of what the highlights will look like, look at the back of his neck. The value here is almost the white of the paper and it would not be effective at all if the background were white also. It think it has to remain at this value while I continue to add color to the rest of the face and arms. Right??..Right??


I gave up trying to scan the whole image and concentrated on the newly worked areas that show the greatest contrast. I worked on the face and arms of the other figure now, getting it to what I judge will be about 80% of the finished intensity. I only have the preliminary layers of colors on the hair. He has dark brown hair so it will have to be darkened much more but with bright highlights.

I probably won't work the background any more than it is now, that way the more intense color of the figures will draw the eye.

So now you know what I spent my memorial day Sunday doing!


I got a much better scan now that everything is darker. I have slowly built up layers of colors on the faces and hair. Also, I think it helped that I finally broke down last weekend and bought myself the 120 pencil set of Prismacolors. Now I can actually use the colors that Ann Kullberg suggests for the skintones. My main thoughts as I've worked this drawing have been, darker, darker, more color, more intensity, more layers, etc. I think all this singlemindedness is beginning to show some results.


I had some trouble deciding on the color of the clothing, but once decided I tried to work for a dark rich red on Blair's shirt. After many coats of varied dark and bright shades of red I was really getting frustrated because I couldn't get a smoooth, even covering. I mixed tuscan red, dark umber, even indigo in the shadowed area to try to get a rich dark red, but had no luck. I finally remembered that I had bought a few prisma colorless blender pencils a while ago which are supposed to help to merge the layers of colors and smooth down the tooth of the paper. Applying this blender on top of all the other layers really worked. I left some areas unworked to show the difference. Working with moderate pressure over the layered areas the color instantly intensified and was easily spread to cover all the white bits of paper showing through.

At this point I can see what I still have to work on. I think the background has to be darkened and faded softly off the ends of the paper. Jim's shirt has to be colored in deeply. Hopefully it will be easier now with the colorless blender. Maybe some work still on their hair, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think the next phase will be the final one.

Final Version

I did my best to darken the colors on the figures, especially on the shadows on the shirts but it just got to the point where the paper wouldn't accept anymore color.This paper was Crescent illustration board with a hot press surface and though the colors went on very smoothly, it seemed that I could only lay down a few layers before I started to get a bad case of wax bloom. I look forward to trying other papers, especially Stonehenge.

I ended up lightening the background on the bottom right to keep it more in tune with the rest of the background and also to let the figures have the most intense colors. Hopefully this helps to make them jump out while the background recedes. I definitely enjoyed working on this piece and I learned a lot, but I'm also very glad to finally have finished it. I'm ready for the next project!

Page updated: 7/9/00