A huge part of giving your drawings a realistic effect is choosing the right color for a particular spot of the drawing. You can get away with a certain amount of estimation, but for the most part, realism lays in the colors. For those born with the artistic eye this comes naturally, whereas others can use a little extra help until they can learn to recognize colors on there own. In this post, I’m going to show you a few simple steps to decode colors and choose the right pencil accordingly.

If I were to ask any random person what color this donut is, they’d likely think, “Well, it’s a chocolate donut, so, brown?” because that’s what their brain tells them.

I would tell this random person to take a second look. What color is it?

They would be surprised to know that I used a brown pencil for the details and shadows, but the main color of this donut is not a brown pencil.

So, how do you know to use red and not plain old brown?

When you are looking at your reference image, try to break it up into parts. separate the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. If you’re looking at the image on a device, crop the image. If you’re looking at a piece of paper, cut it into pieces if you can or cover the other areas with pieces of paper.

Let’s look at this swatch of color from the donut…

Now, take a moment to analyze the color you see. What undertone does it give off? You might notice this color has some warmth to it, giving off a burgundy feel. So you know automatically the typical almost grey-like browns pencils are not going to cut it. You’ll need to look to your red pencils.

If you don’t have a fancy set of many colors to choose from, mixing whatever red pencil you have with whatever brown pencil should cut it. just keep layering until you get the right balance between the two.

If you have many to choose from, look to your deeper reds and see if you find a match. If you have a set of Prismacolors, you’ll likely own the Tuscan Red pencil.

This pencil is more red in real life, but after applying it to your drawing you may still feel it’s still not quite warm enough. If so, mixing a classic red into it will give it the vibrancy it needs.

This technique of eliminating can be applied to any drawing. Let’s review:

  1. Isolate the section of the drawing you are trying to figure out
  2. Analyze the color and determine it’s undertones
  3. Look to your pencils and see if you can find an exact or close enough match. If you cannot find one, see which colors can be mixed to create the desired effect.
  4. Layer in an extra color if necessary. Keep layering lightly until the right balance is achieved

Download the checklist below to give this method a try and let me know how it goes!

Related: How to Make Your Colored Pencil Drawing Look Silky Smooth

1 thought on “Knowing Which Color to Use for a Drawing | Colored Pencil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *