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Mastering Pencil Grip and Control
Writing Handheld (Tripod Grip)
This grip resembles how you hold a pencil or pen while writing, with only the tip of the pencil touching the paper. It's ideal for drawing contour lines and intricate details, offering precise control. To enhance control, rest your hand on a separate piece of paper or a tissue to prevent smudging.
In the overhand grip, you use the side of the pencil lead and hold the pencil almost parallel to the paper. This grip is suitable for coloring larger areas quickly, but avoid applying heavy pressure. It's useful for creating specific textures and for situations where vivid colors are not required. For the best results, use this grip when standing and move your arm from the shoulder.
Extended Tripod Grip
Similar to the tripod grip used for writing but with a slightly higher grip on the pencil. This grip allows for longer lines in a single stroke, making it excellent for drawing extended features.
The underhand pencil grip, similar to the extended tripod grip, but involves turning your hand with the palm facing up. This grip is especially effective for drawing hair due to its relaxed nature.
Pivot for Movement: To move the hand holding the pencil effectively, use one of three pivot points: drawing from the wrist, drawing from the elbow, and drawing from the shoulder. Practicing all three methods helps train the relevant muscles and improve your drawing skills. Experiment with drawing various shapes and lines to develop your technique in just a few days of practice.
Understanding Pencil Lines
- Start by using any colored pencil, drawing lines towards the highlight of the curl. Apply strong pressure at the darkest area and release it towards the end of the lines.
- Repeat this on the opposite side, pressing firmly and gradually releasing the pressure as you approach the previously drawn area. Leave some space in between for larger and shinier curls or less for tiny curls.
- Add shadowed hair using a darker shade, pressing hard at the beginning and releasing pressure as you move towards the highlight.
- Finish by re-emphasizing the highlight with a white pencil and draw towards the darker areas. Add random hairs with a white pencil or any other bright-colored pencil for a shiny, curly lock of hair.
Crosshatching is a method used to create various textures, such as fabric patterns. It involves applying parallel pencil strokes closely together in one direction and then adding lines at a 90-degree angle to the previous set.
This technique is suitable for objects like hats. I recommend practicing these strokes on a separate piece of paper first.
Stippling involves creating shadows and highlights by using dots. Artists often use this technique to create intricate artwork. To create shadows, dots are placed closer together, and for highlights, they are spaced further apart.
Stippling is particularly useful when you want to achieve a textured look and work gradually without making mistakes.
Scribbling entails drawing lines freely and randomly to cover an area. Scribbling typically refers to the early, uncontrolled, and random marks made by young children as they develop their fine motor skills.
Scribbles can be simple, chaotic, and lack a deliberate structure. This technique is excellent for creating various textures and allows for a relaxed and spontaneous approach to drawing.
The circulism technique involves creating textures by applying overlapping circles, as illustrated in the left image.
This example serves to provide a better understanding of how to draw the lines. In practical application, we must make the circles much closer to each other and repetitively layer them until we achieve a consistent texture.
Now, let's repeatedly draw circles on top of one another. The final result, as depicted in the right image, demonstrates how this technique allows us to fully cover the paper. When applied with firm pressure, it can create a perfectly even texture.
Circulism is especially valuable for rendering human skin and similar textures. The proffessional artists frequently use this method and highly recommend it as a means of applying lines to achieve a uniform texture with no visible strokes. The smoother and tighter the circles, the more seamless the coverage.
Understanding color theory is crucial when working with colored pencils, especially when you need to mix colors to achieve the right shades. There are countless hues required for your artwork, so knowing how to create new colors with a limited set of colored pencils is very important.
Three essential terms play a significant role in color mixing for your drawings: hue, saturation, and value.
Hue refers to the name of a color, such as red, green, purple, and so on.
There are three primary colors: yellow, red, and blue, which cannot be created by mixing other colors. Every other color results from combining these three primary colors with each other, along with additional colors, black, white, and various shades of grey.
Then, there are the secondary colors. Combining yellow and red results in orange. Red and blue make purple, while blue and yellow make green.
Mixing a primary color with a secondary color creates tertiary colors. Yellow and orange make yellow-orange, orange and red make red-orange, red and purple make red-purple, purple and blue make blue-purple, blue and green make blue-green, and green and yellow make yellow-green.
Saturation, sometimes called chroma, refers to the colorfulness or intensity of colors, indicating how rich and vivid a color appears. High saturation signifies that the color is very vibrant, while lower saturation indicates that the color lacks pigments and may appear washed out. It's important to note that adding gray to a color effectively neutralizes it.
Value indicates the darkness or brightness of a color and can also be referred to as brightness or lightness. Colors can look significantly different with varying values, and this is particularly crucial when working with colored pencils to achieve a smooth gradient, a fundamental aspect of realistic drawing.
Any hue can be darkened by adding black, a technique known as shading, or lightened by adding white, known as tinting. Our instructor often creates colors for drawings by starting with a base hue, such as mid-toned green, and then adds shadows and highlights. This approach allows for adjustment of the value of the colored pencil, without necessarily adding black to decrease its value. For instance, you can darken the color by layering dark green over the mid-tone or lighten it by applying light green.
Even when you have the largest set of colored pencils, you can't always find a perfect match for the color you need. So, you have to mix the colored pencils to layer them over each other.
The most crucial aspect of mixing colors is the order in which you apply them. The first layer will dominate and influence the final color, as well as your ability to build up additional layers. For instance, if you want to blend very different colors, such as Lime Peel with Orange, you will achieve entirely different results depending on the order of application. In the image below, the swatches are displayed. On the left side, Orange was initially applied, followed by a layer of Lime Peel. On the right side, Lime Peel was used as the first layer, with Orange applied as the second layer.
In a second example, when Dark Brown is applied as the initial layer, it becomes nearly impossible to erase it, even with the use of an X-Acto knife, because the dark brown pencil completely saturates the paper fibers. In the following image, two swatches are displayed. The swatch on the left side consists solely of dark brown, and an attempt was made to erase it with an X-Acto knife. However, for the swatch on the right side, Cream was applied as the first layer, and Dark Brown was drawn over it.
Notice the significant difference between the two swatches, with Dark Brown appearing much lighter when applied as a second layer over a very light pencil like Cream. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the order in which colored pencils are applied. As shown, Dark Brown could be easily removed entirely with an X-Acto knife, making Cream clearly visible once again. Even using a nail can achieve this. This feature is particularly beneficial for beginners working with colored pencils, as it allows for correction and prevents overly dark colors. Applying the Cream color first ensures it saturates and fills the paper fibers, and the choice of the initial pencil will always influence subsequent layers.
Sometimes, we need to mix colors differently, such as when creating a smooth gradient (which we'll discuss in more detail later) between two distinct colors. In the following image, you can observe the seamless gradient between red and orange.
On the left side, Crimson Red is used, applying heavy pressure that gradually decreases as the drawing progresses towards the right side. On the right side, the artist begins with Orange, also using firm pressure and working towards the red, overlapping the red-colored pencil. Subsequently, Crimson Red is picked up again to fill in areas with a distinct edge until the transition between the red and the orange becomes imperceptible. Achieving this seamless gradient is essential for realistic drawings and requires practice.
Sometimes, colors may appear overly vibrant, and a less saturated shade is needed. In such cases, color intensity can be subdued by layering with grey-colored pencils. When a grey pencil is introduced, the initial color becomes less vivid, a process known as color neutralization, as previously mentioned. In the following example, Red Crimson swatches are displayed. The right side features pure Red Crimson, while on the left swatch, Warm Grey 30% is layered over it. Observe how the right swatch appears less vibrant compared to the left swatch.
To alter the value of a color, it must be made either darker or lighter. Our art instructor frequently begins by applying the primary color first, then adding shadows and highlights to create dimension and avoid a flat appearance.
For this example, three swatches were created using Crimson Red. The middle swatch, which remains unaltered, serves as the base color. On the left side, Tuscan Red is applied to darken the Crimson Red. Tuscan Red resembles a dark red. You might wonder why we didn't use Tuscan Red alone for the swatch on the left side. This is because it would reveal the distinction between the two colors. The same principle applies to the swatch on the right side; Pink, for instance, could be used. However, a white colored pencil was employed to lighten it and create a higher value of Crimson Red.
Let's see this theory in practice in a real drawing of the gecko. In the image below, you can see four stages of the coloring process: coloring the whole area evenly with Apple Green, shadowing the darker parts with Dark Green, creating the highlights with a white colored pencil, and adding details. See whole tutorial.
Now, let's explore one approach to mixing colors for human skin, a crucial skill for those interested in drawing portraits. Many individuals are eager to learn which color pencils to use for skin, how to blend colors, create a smooth skin texture, and which tools to use for blending colored pencils.
The answer, however, is quite intricate due to the diversity of skin tones. A single portrait requires a wide range of values and often involves different hues within the same portrait because various facial features demand distinct colors. Trying to create skin tones by mixing primary, secondary, and tertiary colors can be a challenging task. To render lifelike skin, you would typically need to introduce light gray (or a combination of a significant amount of white and a smaller amount of black) into orange or yellow. Fortunately, artist-grade colored pencils, such as Prismacolor Premier, offer a variety of colors like beige, peach, and pink that can be blended to accurately depict human skin.
A Smooth Gradient
A smooth gradient is the most important in creating a realistic style of drawings. Once you learn to create a smooth gradient, you will be able to draw anything with photorealism. A smooth gradient is what turns a two-dimensional drawing into a three-dimensional one because it imparts a rounded shape to the objects.
Practicing Smooth Gradient
Let's practice creating a smooth gradient in a simple way by coloring a plant. This exercise will help you improve your skills.
To begin, create the main outlines randomly, as demonstrated in the next image. There's no need to draw any specific type of plant; you can use your imagination, so the shape is not a critical factor. Start by sketching it using Dark Green Prismacolor Premier.
Let's create highlights where the leaves bend somewhere in the middle of their length. We can use Grass Green for this purpose. Start by drawing lines from one end towards the mid-area of the leaf. Gradually lift the pencil's tip off the paper as you finish each stroke, applying light pressure at the end of the stroke. This way, each line will gradually disappear into the white color of the paper, and together they will create a smooth gradient between the green and white. Finish drawing the line wherever you want the highlight of the leaf to be. So, press very hard at the beginning of each stroke and release the pressure as you finish, applying quick, confident strokes.
Now, let's create highlights from the other side of the leaf. Begin at the top of the leaf, applying firm pressure, and gradually reduce the pressure as you slightly lift the pencil off the paper. You can refer to the next image to observe the desired effect. As you can see, it already appears bent and even has a shine, but our work isn't complete yet.
Apply the same technique to each leaf on the entire plant. Begin on both ends, pressing firmly and gradually reducing the pressure as you approach the middle of the leaf. Throughout this process, continue to use Grass Green, or if you prefer, you can opt for other green pencils like Spring Green or Parrot Green, which work well for coloring plants. By following these steps, you'll notice how the plant acquires a three-dimensional shape and no longer appears flat.
In this step, we will color the highlights to ensure they don't remain white. To achieve this, you can use Grey Green Light. Apply it over the lighter parts (the ends of the strokes) of the Grass Green. Press firmly to blend these colors together. The objective here is to make the edge between the Grass Green and the Grey Green Light vanish, so keep blending until the edges become invisible. If some of the highlights are a bit brighter, it means that they are more illuminated than the others, so it's not a problem. However, we can always darken them or lighten them as we need. If you go over it with a white pencil and press very hard, you will be able to lighten up the area. If you can still see the edge between the highlight and the Grass Green, simply pick up the Grass Green again and darken the areas to make the edge between the two colors invisible.
Now, let's create shaded areas or modify the value of Grass Green at both the top and "roots" of the leaves by darkening them with a Dark Green colored pencil. This will add a rounder shape and depth to the leaves in the image. Additionally, it's essential to create cast shadows over the underlying leaves, so press firmly with the Dark Green pencil. The shaded regions should gradually blend into the Grass Green color. To achieve this, apply the same technique: start with strong pressure when drawing lines at the two ends and reduce the pressure as you draw strokes toward the highlight. Repeat this process for each leaf.
In the image below, you can observe the result on the right, comparing it to the graphic on the left created with a single color without varying the pressure. This demonstrates the power of a smooth gradient – our drawing on the right appears three-dimensional with shape, in contrast to the flat, two-dimensional image on the left.