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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the third step I focus on the face and add warmer colors (yellows and pinks) in the middle tones.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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. 🙂
“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.