Category: Colored pencil techniques

How to draw a portrait in colored pencil and mixed media_veronica winters artist

How to draw a portrait in colored pencil and mixed media

How to draw a portrait in colored pencil

This post introduces you to some experimental techniques drawing in colored pencil and more. Here you’ll see how you can combine colored pencil with other art supplies, such as gold or silver marker, acetate-like paper and permanent markers. I’m not explaining the basics of the anatomy drawing here, rather I show my trial and error process in drawing portraits in mixed media. In my experience, I’ve learned that it’s very important to find the right paper for your specific colored pencils. The same professional-grade colored pencils work differently on various papers. I find that if I use Prismacolor Premier colored pencils (that are very soft), they work best on the Stonehenge paper pads, while harder colored pencils do better on a rougher surface. Below I explain what materials I’ve used drawing portraits and with what results.

Artistically, I wanted to depart from expected and accepted realism and to draw a portrait that is playful and well designed. Every drawing has its movement and a color scheme that I plan out beforehand. Those who draw in colored pencil know how long and laborious the process is when a 9×12″ drawing takes up to 40 hours to complete. So planning is very important to success of the finished drawing. I usually draw from my own pictures and rarely take someone else’s references because as an artist I have a vision of capturing the light and color usually absent in phone snapshots. The best investment I’ve made into my tools is the camera with excellent lens. I have Nikon D500 that captures an amazing range of color and tone. A lot of times I draw in colored pencil to develop my artistic ideas that I can take to oil painting.

How to make a mixed media portrait

colored pencil drawing
Christina, 9×12″ colored pencil drawing, mixed media

In this drawing I aimed at putting all the attention to the face of the person by juxtaposing fully-rendered features with the flatness of space in the hoodie and the background. The earring repeats the pattern in the background “connecting” the model to her surroundings.

Materials: Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils, Koh-I-Noor Bristol Vellum Paper, Winsor & Newton white pigment marker, Painters gold metallic marker, Grumbacher final fixative for dry media.

how to draw in colored pencil using faber-castell polychromos colored pencils

These colored pencils are not as soft as Prismacolor Premier, but a lot more durable and lightfast, and therefore Polychromos are becoming my favorite colored pencils. They do require a specific type of paper to work on I’m yet to find, so what I’m showing here was quite a struggle in layering the colors because these colored pencils tend to glide off the smooth page but can produce incredible detail in a small area. In the drawing of Christina the face and hair have at least 6 layers of color that may not show as such. I kept layering the color to deepen the values as much as I could.

Once I layered the background colors I wanted to lighten them up a bit and to blend them more. So I applied the white pigment of the W&N marker using its chisel tip. It’s a very soft white and thus instead of using it for the highlights, I used it for blending parts of the drawing. The white space for the hoodie has no white marker, rather shows the paper’s original color.

The earring is drawn with the Painters gold metallic marker and some colored pencil. It does reflect some gold once you see this drawing in person. Metallic accents don’t reproduce in photography and scanning of the drawings.

how to draw a portrait in colored pencil
Christina, 9×12″ colored pencil portrait, detail

The trick to drawing anything is to keep the overall form correct and often symmetrical (here it’s the anatomical features of the person), while shading the image to create a variety of values you see in the reference. Usually students don’t push their tones far enough to create enough contrast in the drawing. In portrait drawing you also need to pay attention to subtle shifts in tone, general color and color temperature (warm/cool) in skin tones. These shifts in color and tone in the skin are not as drastic as in other parts of the person (hair and clothing) on average unless the light is dramatic.

How to draw a portrait in colored pencil and permanent markers

colored pencil drawing, figurative painting veronica winters
Invisible I, 9×12″ colored pencil drawing, private collection

Materials: Prismacolor Premier colored pencils, Winsor & Newton pigment markers, W&N pigment marker heavy weight paper, Grumbacher final fixative for dry media.

This W&N pigment marker heavy weight paper is designed specifically for the W&N markers. It doesn’t bleed through and its smooth surface is very good for colored pencil drawing in general. But you have to get used to it too because layering feels different than on other drawing papers. In this drawing Invisible I I went back and forth shading in colored pencils and markers, creating the first layer with the markers and then layering colored pencils on top, blending them with the markers and layering again. I didn’t use the markers drawing the skin tones. The hair, however, have layers of markers only. I find that these markers don’t layer evenly and I have to shade with colored pencils over them a lot. The main reason for me to try layering with the markers is the speed of covering the background space. Colored pencil is a very time-consuming medium and shading with the markers speeds it up by a lot. Because of their uneven layering, however, I have to shade with the colored pencil over them. What I really like about the Winsor & Newton pigment markers is their projected lightfastness of 100 years… If your materials are not lightfast, they tend to fade off the page quite quickly. Various pigments have different lightfastness rating and you may see some pigments fade much faster than the others.

The W&N heavy weight paper is much better for colored pencil drawing than their lightweight paper. The lightweight paper is just too smooth and too thin to accept the colored pencil. That’s why don’t buy it unless you plan on drawing with the markers only. It’s great for drawing with the markers exclusively.

W&N markers and paper

In my next drawing you see the initial layer done in the markers only that shows how unfinished it looks without colored pencil shading over them. So using the markers helps me to cover the surface quickly, but the refinement is achieved through regular colored pencil layering.

how to make a mixed media portrait

This is the first layer.

colored pencil drawing, figurative painting veronica winters
Invisible II, concept drawing, 9×12″ colored pencil and W&N markers on paper

And here you can see how the surface of the drawing changes by applying white colored pencil over the blue marker. Whenever you want to lighten up the surface with the colored pencil, use Prismacolor Premier white pencil because it’s the softest colored pencil that does the job. You have to use maximum pencil pressure to blend the colors well.


how to make a mixed media portrait
Motherhood, 9×12″ mixed media drawing

In this drawing I’ve departed from straight representation the most. I used a reference snapshot that didn’t have much information for drawing (the light fell flat and the colors seemed off. There was no sense of direct light source. That’s why the photo itself was difficult to draw from). Yet, I really wanted to capture the essence of Motherhood and I think this picture of Veronica and her children has this warmth and idyllic beauty I got so attracted to.

I often think of motherhood. I’ve met women so desperate to have a child they went through surgeries and procedures to become a mother. I’ve seen mothers who sacrificed everything they could for their children. But I also see women who are selfish complainers that can’t think beyond their own life and refrain from giving love to their children. Obviously, they were ignored as children themselves, but as adults we are responsible for our own actions. This drawing is dedicated to all women who go above and beyond themselves regardless and despite their challenges, raising their children.
“Motherhood” is playful and fun because of the pattern with blue butterflies and pink peonies with lotuses I layered over the original image. I took a picture of this pattern on my trip to Japan. I’m more and more interested in the simplification of form and I think the Japanese art is masterful at that. I took main elements from the pattern to create the flow of flowers and butterflies between the figures. In the family photo children play with the necklace, not the flower. To continue with the pattern I used the gold pen outlines for the figures as well as the flowers.

Materials: Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils, Koh-I-Noor Bristol Vellum Paper, Winsor & Newton pigment markers, Painters gold metallic marker, Grumbacher final fixative for dry media.

Technically, layering was very difficult because I found that Ploychromos don’t “stick” to the surface of bristol papers. Therefore despite my efforts at multiple layering, the shading seems not quite complete. I always spray my drawings with the fixative to prevent fading and smudging. I strongly recommend the Grumbacher fixatives because they spray evenly and even out the surface beautifully. Cheap sprays don’t get rid of pencil bloom and spray unevenly.


How to draw a portrait in pencil and colored pencil

The silent one, romantic pencil drawing by Veronica Winters
The Silent One, 9×12″, graphite pencil drawing, private collection

Materials: Tombow graphite pencils, 4-6B, 2H, Koh-I-Noor Bristol Vellum Paper, Prismacolor Premier bronze metallic colored pencil, Grumbacher final fixative for dry media.

In this drawing I shaded the figure to completion first because graphite smudges and it’s important not to smudge it over the colored pencil areas to keep the color clean. Once the figure was complete, I sprayed the drawing lightly, let it dry, and used metallic colored pencil to draw the leaf design to create the movement. The fixative prevented the smudging. I sprayed it one more time once the drawing was complete. For graphite work, I usually shade the darks with soft pencils (4-6B) but switch to the hard ones to develop the skin tones (2H). The only eraser I use is the kneeded eraser. It leaves no residue and lifts out the highlights beautifully.  If I need to get into tiny details and to erase there, I absolutely love the Tombow  Mono eraser that I order on Amazon from a store in Japan.

Tombow eraser

koh-i-noor drawing paper review

Koh-I-Noor drawing papers are my favorites now! Their surface and thickness is perfect for pencil and colored pencil drawing! The pages also have the unique in&out design, allowing me to put my drawings back into the pad if I need to. I absolutely love the paper’s high quality surface that let’s me color effortlessly, especially when using soft colored pencils.


Attention! My brand new Colored Pencil Manual art book will be coming out this summer with Dover Publications! I’m also working on a complete video course for beginners in colored pencil drawing. The course may release much earlier than summer. It will be available for download from my site. Please subscribe to my list to stay in touch!

How to make a mixed media portrait using dura-lar paper, colored pencils and markers

This is the most experimental drawing for me in terms of its surface. I wanted to create more depth in the drawing and therefore played with the paper’s surface changing it to acetate-like paper. Here I’m showing my experiments in how to draw portraits step by step.

Materials: Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils, Dura-Lar Paper, Painters gold metallic marker, a scalpel/ X-Acto knife/ scissors for paper cutting, Grumbacher final fixative for dry media.

how to make a mixed media portrait using duralar
how to make a mixed media portrait using duralar paper | model Veronica P.

Dura-Lar is a .0005 matte and archival film that’s translucent and non-tearing. This is the acetate-like paper that’s quite transparent and therefore needs some backing to show the drawing in full. Either white or color acid-free backing is necessary to begin drawing because you can’t really see the colors unless you put something underneath your artwork. In the first image you can see how translucent it is where both white paper and brown paper show through. I didn’t use white pencil to draw the highlights, rather they show as white because of my white paper placed underneath the drawing.

In the second image at the top you see me layer basic anatomy structure and a hair pattern. I use Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils to draw the image. Because this paper is very smooth, it basically accepts a couple of color layers, making it difficult to create subtle transitions in tones. I’ve tried to use Prismacolors with this paper before, which are much softer pencils and have found it even harder to create subtle transitions in color and tone. However, the very effect of transparency can be explored a lot more, in my opinion. It’s possible to place different backgrounds and photographs underneath the drawn image, creating a different sense of depth and realism.

In the third image at the bottom you see me layer as much color as possible. I must say that I was interested in drawing the hair more than the face.

In the last image you see the second layer of this transparent paper placed over the portrait drawing. I tried to cut this paper with a scalpel but found that it was really hard and small scissors worked much better, cutting out the shapes. Paper cutting turned out to be a very laborious process just like the drawing on such smooth surface, resulting in much struggle to finish the work. I connected all three pieces of paper with the archival, double-sided tape in the corners.

acetate like polyester film


Bloom, three-layer drawing, 9×12″ colored pencil and gold pen

Once again I’ve played with the Japanese pattern I saw on my trip. I think the best way to frame such artwork would be a floater frame where the image floats in the middle sandwiched between the two layers of glass as opposed to framing with a mat.

What do you think? Have you tried these materials and techniques? Let me know! Feel free to share this post on Facebook and Twitter.

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how to draw step by step

Khaleesi Drawing from Game of Thrones

Khaleesi Drawing from Game of Thrones


There is something about the character that attracts you when you watch a movie. I think it happens because you find part of yourself present in that person. Sometimes it’s not obvious and you need to search deep inside to find the connection. Khaleesi has fragile beauty of course, but she also grows to become a fierce and powerful woman.🌟🌟🌟

Drawing is an essential building block to any representational art form. Pencil drawing is something I practice as much as I can because it improves and informs me of shapes, colors and composition applied to colored pencil and oil painting.

Step by Step drawing

Khaleesi drawing step by step drawing_Emilia Clarke

In this photo you see how I began my pencil drawing by blocking in the darks and leaving out spaces for the lights. Both lights and darks become the two extremes between which I create a range of tones at a later stage. I also work on the eyes in the first step to make sure they line up and rotate at the right diagonal.

Drawing Paper

koh-i-noor drawing paper review

I’m amazed by the quality of this paper.  It’s quickly becoming my favorite because Koh-I-Noor in & out pages are thick, smooth, and versatile. I love how easy it is to layer both graphite and colored pencil on it that hardly needs any blending! Also, I can place my drawings back into the pad for a beautiful presentation. I’ve drawn on Koh-I-Noor Bristol vellum, Bristol smooth, Colored Pencil and Black Drawing drawing papers so far. All of them are fantastic! While Koh-I-Noor Black Drawing has thin pages, the rest of them are thick, and all are smooth with a different degree of light texture present to grab the pencil. Give it a try!

emilia clarke as khaleesi from game of thrones
Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi from Game of Thrones | graphite on Koh-I-Noor Bristol vellum drawing paper

Once I’m done blocking in the values and I have developed a range of tones, I work on textures. In this drawing of Khaleesi you see the texture of clothing that I’ve done via rubbings. I placed a pumice stone under my paper and shaded over it with a soft pencil where the clothing should be. This rubbing gave me the initial texture I worked around in pencil to develop it further.

I also use the kneaded eraser a lot to make soft lift outs, to create subtle edges, and to clean up without leaving grease and residue on paper.

To make texture in the jewelry on Khaleesi’s neck, I used some magic tape. I placed it over the shaded area, made short strokes on the tape with a ballpoint pen and lifted it out to reveal this unique texture.


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How to draw hair in colored pencil and markers

If you work in colored pencil, you know how long it takes to complete one drawing. To speed up the process many artists use the watercolor pencils, neocolor crayons, or markers. If you feel open to some experimentation drawing hair and underpainting your backgrounds, using permanent markers may become your thing. It’s my first time to use the markers and I’m sure I’ll make more posts as soon as I complete more drawings with them. Below you’ll find my drawing process step-by-step.


Step-by-step portrait drawing in colored pencil and permanent markers

Step 1

I sketch out the face using HB pencil on Strathmore drawing medium paper. This paper has a very slight texture that becomes somewhat problematic later. If you want to try out this technique, draw on Stonehenge paper or Bristol papers that are smoother and thicker.

Step 2

My pigment markers include just a few colors. Therefore I didn’t use black or brown on the hair. Instead I used a combination of sap green and red to get the darkest hue possible in the beginning. Usually, wax-based black colored pencil gives a lot of wax bloom and therefore underpainting the darks in markers is a good idea.

I also use yellow to fill in the background.

Underpainting with markers

Here you can see how crazy these colors look. Because it’s just an underpainting, I’m not worried about the fine details, but I watch for major patterns and waves happening in the hair.

Winsor & Newton permanent markers and sakura pen

Step 3

Once pigment markers are dry, I work in colored pencil over it. The underpainting gives me new, surprising color combinations. This is the step where I understand that smoother paper would work better with this drawing simply because layering over the markers in colored pencil still reveals paper’s texture, which I thought would be eliminated by the markers’ pigments.

When I’m done filling in the hair, I blend with the colorless pencil blender, and create the highlights with  some fly aways, using the Sakura Pen-touch marker that has a thin, sharp point.

I fill in the face in colored pencil only.

Step 4

In my final step I spray the fixative lightly, let it dry, and adjust minor things, like edges and details. A light coat of spray fixes the paper and allows me to work on areas that become too waxy and don’t accept pigment anymore.

portrait drawing in colored pencil
Italian girl, colored pencil and markers on paper, 9×12″

As you can see my end result is not hyper-realistic but very colorful. I’m pretty sure if I underpaint in black or brown marker, it would give me great image as well.




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Step-by-step drawing: 3 graphite pencil techniques that work

Drawing is so fundamental to artist’s skill, we can hardly skip it, working in the realist tradition. Here I’d like to share several basic tools and techniques I use, drawing portraits in graphite pencil. I must note that these techniques are applicable to any kind of pencil/charcoal drawing, and these steps and tools are universal across any subject you pick to draw. In the end of this post I share my inspiration behind the drawing and a short video illustrating the steps. Let’s dive in!

#1 Use paper stumps with care

step by step drawing

I begin shading the image by placing the darkest darks on paper. You can compare this method to drawing from shadows to light. Here I draw on the Strathmore Bristol smooth paper that’s super smooth and thick. Because it accepts a limited number of layers, I need to be more mindful how dark I’ve got to go in the first step of shading. (Strathmore drawing paper, medium has a slight texture that’s more forgiving for general drawing techniques in pencil and colored pencil because it accepts more layers).

Paper stumps help artists blend the graphite and charcoal.

Once I’m done massing out the shapes in a soft, 4B graphite pencil, I use the blending stumps to blend large areas, such as the background and the hair. I’m mindful of the pencil pressure as well as of the stroke direction. It’s important to blend in the “right” direction and not to overwork the surface.

Blending with paper stumps unifies the surface, blending everything to a medium gray tone. Therefore, I strengthen the darkest areas immediately after that. Various sizes of paper stumps give me the precision I need blending the graphite.

Never use these paper stumps for colored pencil work! They will ruin the surface.

#2 Use kneaded eraser and the Tombow Mono Zero eraser

how to draw people

In the second step, I usually pull out the highlights with the kneaded eraser. Any brand of kneaded eraser works.  This type of eraser has dual benefit of lifting out the pigment without any residue and creating soft edges around the highlights, which look natural and give a realistic effect of soft light.

What’s to lift out? The lightest lights you see in your picture. I often lift out a bit more than I need to come back to it with finer shading over the lightest parts of my image to create subtle tonal transitions.

General’s kneaded eraser

Tombow Mono zero eraser is a great eraser that lifts out tiny details, such as thin strands of hair or tiny highlights in the pearls. This eraser also works great in colored pencil drawings when I try to erase hard to reach, very small areas in my work. I buy these on Amazon, and it takes about a month to arrive home from Japan! So if you decide to give it a try, order two or three at once, you won’t regret it!

Tombow eraser

#3 Shade in graphite in layers, erase and repeat

Kat with a shell, graphite pencil on paper, 9×12 inches

This step consists of several steps that’s simply a repetition of my actions. I layer the graphite by erasing, enhancing the dark values, and refining details. I develop my picture further with every new layer.

I work on subtle transitions with harder pencils, especially if it’s a skin tone. I usually shade with 2-4H gently transitioning from mid. tone to light. While I’m doing this, I pay attention to values to turn the form.


how to draw people
Drawing detail

Value scale

Every color has its own value scale going from the darkest dark to white. Because some colors are darker than the others naturally, they have a wider value range as opposed to the light colors. (Think of ultramarine as a dark color and yellow as a light one). Why do you need to know that?
You control your values at all times as you draw or paint to have a range of tones that makes your image look three-dimensional. Usually, students complete their drawing with a very limited range of tones. That’s why everything looks “just grey” or “too flat.”
Convert your color image into a black-and-white picture on your computer, and you’ll understand how dark the shadows should be, or how light your lights really are. Then step back and compare your drawing to that picture.

Drawing detail: hands with a shell

I finish working on my piece with a final fixative, spraying my drawing outdoors. I strongly recommend using professional-grade varnish, like the Grumbacher matte final fixative for dry media. It gives a very nice and even finish to my artwork that’s impossible to achieve with cheaper brands like Krylon.

Final fixative for dry media

My inspiration

Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus, 1486, Uffizi gallery, Florence

My pictorial inspiration for my drawing comes from the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus. His shallow treatment of background space and the romantic figure of Venus coming out of the sea influenced me to create my goddess of the ocean. I worked on clothing and poses with a model to complete a fun photo shoot on the beach in Naples, Florida. The completed drawing is a study that I will later take to my oil painting.

You can read about the Botticelli’s artwork here.


Here you’ll find a 40-sec. video as a summary of the step-by-step drawing described above.


How often do you draw in pencil? What’s you creative challenge? Let me know what you’d like to learn from me.

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Check out the step-by-step demonstrations here.
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6 drawing mistakes & how to fix them fast!

As I’ve been teaching drawing since 2004, I came to understanding what mistakes every art student makes on his/her path. Today I’d like to list the most common mistakes and to provide you with the solution to each of them.

  1. I have crooked lines that make my drawing look uneven.

Fix: Work on the perfection of your drawing by checking the “anatomy” of your shapes in a mirror for possible mistakes. When you look at your image in the mirror, your mind reads the information differently, allowing you to see the mistakes. The same happens when you look at your artwork upside down.

Look at your artwork upside down or in a mirror to catch the mistakes.
Look at your artwork upside down or in a mirror to catch the mistakes.
  1. My drawing lacks clarity.

Fix: Always shade right to the edge of your outline without leaving the uneven, white spaces. When we shade we have the tendency to lose the edge. As a result our drawing falls apart by becoming uniformly soft, lacking focus and definition. While not everything should be defined or outlined, most students have a problem of not “connecting” the numerous lines (in other words, making the shading even).

So, outline the edge with the line of the correct value (tone) and shade right to that edge to restore the original outline.

This video illustrates the concept:

The black lines show you where the unevenness of shading happens, creating the ‘broken’ lines that destroy the sense of the form. Shadows must look uniform without any white spots present in between your lines!
  1. My drawing looks messy.

When we sketch out the lines graphite tends to smear all over the place. It’s important to keep the drawing clean to give a nice impression of a finished work even if it’s not finished. While it sounds obvious, you won’t believe how many students make messy drawings!

If you draw in colored pencil, it’s vital to keep all the graphite pencil marks super light and avoid smudging as much as possible.

Fix: the kneaded eraser is your best bet! It doesn’t leave any residue on paper and erases softly.

4. The objects in my drawing escape or fall off the page.

Start your sketch with the envelope where you mark the top, bottom and sides of your objects. Then draw inside those markings without “leaving” the envelope.

This sketch shows how to start drawing correctly by sketching out the "boundaries" of the object first, and then breaking them down to smaller shapes.
This sketch shows how to start drawing correctly by sketching out the “boundaries” of the object first, and then breaking them down into smaller shapes.


5. I focus on drawing the contour so hard, but it never looks right when I’m done.

Fix: always make directional lines first, and position your shape over that line. This technique gives you the right rotation & position of your subjects in space.

This is a page taken from the ‘Creative Techniques’ art book that illustrates the concept of subjects’ rotation in space. The line in the center gives the direction to the object, or places it in space correctly. Then you simply draw the object over it.

6. I don’t know where to start shading.

Fix: start shading from your darkest shadows! Then continue to your mid tones and finish up with the lightest shading around the highlights.

This is another page from the book that shows you this concept. You block in the darkest areas first, and then erase the highlights and make tonal transitions.
This is another page from the book that shows you this concept. You block in the darkest areas first, erase the highlights, and make additional tonal transitions.

Hope it helps! And now you can go and create your masterpiece following these tips. 😁

portrait drawing in pencil
Believing that the impossible is possible, graphite on paper, 11×14″


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Step by step drawing tutorials can be found here.


How to use the artist’s color wheel

how to use the artist's color wheel

Color theory seems overwhelming at first, and I find it hard to remember all of the definitions at once. This visual tool is a must-have for all realist artists because it’s visual and makes it easy to reference colors and to make color choices!

In this video I explain how to use the artist’s color wheel to understand color theory and how to apply it to your artistic process.

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here:
Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here:
how to blend colored pencils with solvents

How to blend colored pencils with a solvent

In this 1-minute video I show the basics of colored pencil blending with Gamsol. You can substitute Gamsol for another solvent like Turpenoid Natural.

You must have wax-based colored pencils like Prismacolor Premier or Luminance for this technique to work.

It works well on dark to medium colors. I use a different technique for blending the lights. 🙂

Stay kind,



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how to draw a portrait in colored pencil

How to draw a person in colored pencil step by step

Here you’ll find the information how to draw a person in colored pencil step by step. Over the years I’ve drawn various subjects, but drawing people is becoming my passion. I love to draw stories and emotions though the human form. Before we start, please consider the following drawing tips that will help you find, or set up the subject for your project.

Before you start drawing

  • Pick the person to draw that will keep you interested and motivated to take your artwork to the finish line.
  • Always consider and study the lighting on your model. Most colored pencil artists work from pictures. Learn to take good pictures as your reference material. To begin you may look at portrait photography online to understand how the light changes the form.
  • Keep track of some professional artists working in the field, and study their artwork for composition, design, and the use of a color.
  • If you just start out pick the image with a face looking straight at you. Eliminate the head’s rotation for now that complicates things.

Step by step demonstration

I had a photo shoot with my model, positioning her under a single light to give me definite shadows.

In this demonstration I use a very light grey, smooth, printmaking paper, the surface of which is similar to Stonehenge paper pad. I also draw with the Prismacolor Premier colored pencils and Luminance. I use Gamsol solvent with a synthetic brush and Caran d’Ache full blender for blending.

how to draw a person step by step


  1. I work on the outline of my drawing on a sketch paper, and then transfer it to my high-quality drawing paper. It’s crucial to get the anatomy right at this step. Therefore I take my time and check for mistakes by looking at my drawing in the mirror. I keep fixing the outlines until the portrait looks good to me. Next I create the underpainting by working from dark to light in one dominant color that I see in my photo. Here I use dark brown to complete the initial shading. I focus on shadows only to block them in with the consistency needed to develop a sense of light and shade.
  2. In the second step I carefully introduce the second color and slightly overlap it over the first one to create softer transition into the light.
  3. In the third step I focus on the face and add warmer colors (yellows and pinks) in the middle tones.
  4. In this step I throw the same colors I’ve used in the face into her neck, arms and even hair. This is important to do for color unity, so that everything ties together visually. This is the main reason why I work from general to specific, and don’t draw one area from start to finish, ignoring the rest of the picture.
  5. I introduce the blues and lilacs into her shirt that creates a play between the warm skin tones and cool hues of the clothing. As usual I work from dark to light, so I shade the darkest folds first, then add the middle tones and finish up with the lights. Please see below how I approach drawing highlights on colored paper.
  6. In my last step I work on the background that compliments my subject. Here I’ve experimented quite a bit. I added silver acrylic paint to paint the seahorses, so they change their color slightly, depending on the viewer’s position to the drawing. I din’t use any Gamsol on the face because it would make the darks appear too harsh. I fixed the drawing with a final fixative for dry media, spraying it twice outside.

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Blending & background:


There are two basic colored pencil blending techniques. One requires blending with a solvent and another with a colorless blender that looks like a pencil. Sometimes one technique is better than the other. While the solvent dissolves the pigment and moves it around fast, making the color look darker and blended, some colors may look too harsh after the application. The pencil full blender ( I recommend the one by Caran d’Ache) blends all the colors equally, but the process is very time-consuming especially if you work large, and requires a very heavy pencil application to achieve even blending.


Background is important. Never draw your subject without considering the color and value of the background behind it as the background determines contrast and edges. You must have enough color on the page to do the blending with Gamsol. Otherwise, there is not enough pigment to dissolve the colors. Be conservative in your application, and never allow your solvent to run like water. Use a small brush to have a controlled application. Let the first layer dry completely.

In my drawing I painted the seahorses with the acrylic paint after the blending. You need to have a good brush for this that keeps a fine point. I didn’t use any water to spread the paint around, but used it for cleaning up the brush periodically, because the acrylic paints dry super fast.

In my second layer I shaded with the same colors with a much heavier pencil pressure.

In my third layer I added light grays and blues to make softer transitions and to achieve a different effect of “soft fuzziness”. I also shaded with grays to neutralize the brightness of the colors so that the background doesn’t “compete” with the figure.

Drawing of white fabric and highlights:

I use pure white colored pencil only over some previously applied color underneath it, reason being white by itself is a cool, dull color that needs a punch. I shade with white with the heaviest pencil pressure over the previously applied light color. I consider the color temperature of the highlight (warm or cool) as well.

What tutorial would you like to see on my website? Post your comments below. 🙂

Listening to the voice within, 15×20 inches, lightfast colored pencils on paper

“Finding the voice within” is the artwork about understanding and trusting yourself to navigate in this world. It’s inspired by the healing energy and colors of the ocean that’s symbolized in the female form.


These are some of the tutorials available for download. They teach the basics of color theory, layering and blending in colored pencil.






how to draw a portrait in colored pencil

Portrait drawing in colored pencil: as love grows within



In this post I show my basic process of drawing a portrait. While I prefer painting from life, a lot of times it’s not possible. So, I take pictures of a model and then draw from my monitor or a picture. I often add additional elements to my drawing that are not photographed. Here you see me place orchids to the right. Usually, I create drawings as my studies. Some of them become paintings in the future.

Colored Pencil Drawing step-by-step:

Colored Pencil Drawing step-by-step
Step 1

how to draw a portrait

In the beginning I focus on blocking in the shadows, using dark brown and sienna brown.


Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here:
how to draw a portrait
Step 2

Here I add color for the middle tones.

how to draw a portrait

Tip: In my experience, drawing larger is actually faster than drawing small. Since colored pencil is a very slow medium, we tend to draw small. But I figured that I spent more time shading the 9×12″ pieces, had less detail and experienced more problems working small. So I increased the size of this drawing to 15″ x 22″ and it made a big difference for me. I didn’t have to force and cramp every detail in there, yet it looks complete.

 As love grows within, 15x22" lightfast prismacolors and luminance on printmaking paper
As love grows within, 14×20 inches, lightfast colored pencils on paper

About this artwork

Love is  a complex feeling that begins with self-love and self-care. Love moves and helps us grow. Sometimes it’s hard to find love:  it can be as elusive and fragile as these beautiful orchids, but thus we are blessed to see the beautiful things in daring places where others may see nothing at all.

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On my website you can find several step-by-step colored pencil demonstrations and art books available in a digital and print format. 


the best colored pencils

The best professional colored pencils and graphite pencils for artists


Would you like to know what makes a big difference in your drawing? Yep, you guessed it, it’s the colored pencils you use! Ditch your Crayola and pick one of the brands listed here. You won’t be disappointed. And to make sure of that, here is a short video explaining you the difference between a good pencil and a bad one.

The video


What makes the professional colored pencils different?

  • lightfastness
  • lead’s softness
  • durability (breakage of its core)

Brands worth your buck:



  • The absolute best are Swiss made Caran d’Ache Luminance. They have the best lightfastness rating, the strongest core and the softest lead to produce professional colored pencil drawings. They are the most expensive ones too, sold at $4 per pencil.
  • Prismacolor Premier colored pencils have a very soft core and nice coverage, but not all of them are lightfast. You should download their lightfastness chart to see the rating of every pencil they have. LF-1 and LF-2 are good to go, but avoid using pencils with the # III and # IV ratings. They fade from your page within 2 years. Literally.
  • Swiss made, Pablo colored pencils is a cheaper alternative to the Luminance manufactured by the same company. These have a very strong core that resists breakage, but they are not as soft and don’t have as much pigment as other pencils listed here. These are great for developing details in my work. The lightfastness star rating is written on them.
  • Coming from Germany, The Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils are different from the brands mentioned above, because they don’t have the wax in them and behave more like soft pastels when you start blending them. Therefore, solvents don’t work on them as well as on wax-based colored pencils. They have a very strong lead with the lightfastness rating written on every pencil.


 Some of the tutorials available for download:

how to draw reflections


What makes the professional graphite pencils stand out from the rest?

  • High quality of the lead
  • Resistance to breakage
  • Consistent coverage
  • Various degrees of softness and hardness. (9H is the hardest pencil for the lightest shading, and 9B is the softest pencil for the creation of the darkest values).

The best graphite pencils:

  • Coming from Japan, the Tombow Mono graphite pencils are the top of the line for professional drawing.
  • The Cretacolor Monolith woodless pencils
  • Prismacolor ebony graphite pencils are great for beginners in art that don’t need to sacrifice quality over the money spent on art supplies.
  • The Faber-Castell 9000 graphite pencils

Of course, there are many more brands and pencils. Instead of buying a box, buy them separately at a local store or online. Work with them and then invest into the professional box of colored pencils you like best! 🙂