One of the more frequent questions I’m asked about my work is how do you create that soft blending of your colors from one to another. The best answer to this is PRACTICE! Not what you wanted to hear right? Well, actually there is a technique that I use that is very helpful and with practice, good quality sharp pencils and a keen eye anyone can achieve the same effect. For the purpose of this exercise we’re going to focus on the technique which is the soft blending of colors to create that velvety soft effect so common in flowers.
Battery operated or electric eraser
Soft Hake brush (for lightly brushing eraser residue or pencil dust off your paper)
Clipboard or similar support
Good Pencil sharpener
Stonehenge or similar paper
Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils (I often use a few other brands and they all work interchangeably well together)
Light Yellow Glaze
Light Cadmium Yellow
Dark Cadmium Yellow
Dark Chrome Yellow
Dark Naples Ochre
Dark Cadmium Orange
Light Cadmium Red
Deep Scarlet Red
Light Yellow Glaze
Chrome Oxide Green
If you have Prismacolors, don’t sweat it. There are comparison charts on the web as well that line up colors of different brands that are pretty close. For the purpose of this tutorial it’s not so important to have the colors match exactly so long as you’re close in the values.
Step 1 – Transferring our line drawing
To begin this piece, we’re using this reference photo of a bright yellow flower.
I have provided a line drawing which I have simplified somewhat to transfer to your working paper. You only need to transfer the darkest lines in this exercise as minor details or more details can be added to your own liking.
I would advise not making your drawing any larger than 5 x 7 for this exercise. When transferring your line drawing to the paper, remember if your transfer paper is larger than your working paper, to line up at least one edge so you can see where to line up your drawing where you want it in relation to the edges of the working paper.
DO NOT PRESS HARD or you will imprint the paper. I always use a sharpened, bright colored pencil to trace my line drawing so I can see where I already worked. Once complete, remove the tracing paper and line drawing and using a kneaded eraser go over the image in a tapping motion to remove any excess graphite and to lighten the image. If you find it hard to see your line drawing, which in this case should be very light, you can erase with your electric eraser, small areas of the graphite at a time and draw the lines back in with a light version of the color that will be used in that area (see image next). In this case mostly a light yellow. You can use the light yellow on the leaves as well or if you don’t want to be confused use the Leaf Green very lightly.
TIP: To avoid smudging pencil dust on the background you can tape in your edges using Frog Tape for delicate surfaces (I use this when I’m working on a larger piece and need to have my border masked in.) Otherwise always make sure you keep a clean piece of paper between your hand and the surface of your work.
The petals on this flower are in the mid-tone range of the gray-scale. If you are unfamiliar with the gray-scale or value scale as it is often called, you can check out many articles on the web giving you different ideas on how to understand and utilize the value scale. Understanding values is very important to any artwork. It is the basis of what makes or breaks a piece.
In the case of this photo, I bumped up the values in Photoshop Elements to create more. Even though the original was bright and colorful, once converted to grayscale, it lacked a lot of value range, but that’s another tutorial altogether
Come and follow me as I present the next steps in this tutorial over the coming days.