This is the first page in a series taking you through a coloured pencil landscape drawing step by step, created by Peter back in 2010. It features the pretty English village of Allerford on the North Coast of Somerset.
It was Peter's first online course, after teaching via e-mail beforehand, and aimed to develop watercolour pencils skills alongside wax pencils.
The following photograph was chosen due to the position of the white building on the right. However, Peter felt there were adjustments to make to better emphasise the bridge and buildings by the ford.
The composition was changed to a more rectangular format by extending the width of the central cottage and inserting a third upstairs window. This in turn moves the lavender bush a little to the right, making it stand out against the dark arch of the bridge. Sometimes it is necessary to make such changes to achieve a more balanced landscape drawing.
Step-by-step instructions will walk you through the actions taken and the thoughts behind them, eventually arriving at a completed drawing. We won't just get to see Peter's efforts, as the last page in the series will highlight 6 drawings of the same subject by Peter's students.
As we are going to use watercolour pencils, a smooth watercolour paper is required for this landscape drawing step by step.
Pick one that is at least 300gsm (140lb) in weight to prevent buckling. Even then, I still suggest you stretch it, which will keep it flat and easier to work on. Examples of suitable brands would include Fabiano 5 (which Peter used), Saunders Waterford HP or Daler Rowney Langford HP (HP stands for hot pressed).
If you use the traced image your picture will measure 10 inches by 7 inches. Remember to leave enough spare paper around the edges for mounting and framing.
You can download the outline drawing here, if you don't want to draw it out yourself. The outline has already been reversed so that you only have to trace over the lines once, turn it over and go over them again to transfer the image to your paper.
Instead of using a graphite pencil, which may show through your washes, try tracing over the lines with suitably coloured watercolour pencils.
Use a firm tool, such as the back of a teaspoon, or a crafter's bone folder, to rub over the outline when transferring your pencil lines to the paper. You don't have to be rigidly follow the previous pencil marks this way.
However, don't press down too hard, or you could leave a groove in your watercolour paper. Pigment would flood into this when adding water, forming a dark line.
Having transferred my drawn image to the working surface I make any necessary corrections.
Once this has been done, I can start to work building up colour as a foundation. This colour will be traditional watercolour, but the pigment will be derived from the pencils. I am doing it this way to demonstrate how to establish colour to get strong dry pencil layers later in the picture.
Any reliable brand will do of watercolour pencils will work, but I suggest you stay clear of the highly pigmented brands like Derwent Inktense and Caran d’Ache Museum aquarelles, as the colour will be too strong.
I am using Steadtler karat aquarelles as I know they can produce the thin washes I need. It is better to put down three very thin washes rather than a single heavy one.
I picked six basic colours to provide the base layers for my drawing. LET ME EMPHASISE HERE that exact colour matching is not vital. Your wax pencils will provide all the correction you need and get you to the exact shade later on.
I have chosen the following colours...
I may not need all of these, but they look like a useful set of colours. You could substitute an ochre for the olive green if you don't have that colour.
I have used an inexpensive, small (No 5), watercolour brush with a good point. I need to get into corners accurately, but using a brush that holds a lot of liquid colour is not important.
You can see from the photo of the white plate, that I scraped the shavings on to a damp surface. That saves you from coughing and blowing all the fine shavings everywhere !
This gives me my ‘paint box’ and where the colours meet they mix themselves into a range of other tints.
You can see how it is possible to pick up some suitable colour and then water it down in a separate dish which you have beside you to hold a thin wash of the selected shade.
I have mixed some green and show the mix and the effect of the thin wash on my sample paper.
With both the working surface and the reference upside down, I can work the top tree area with an exact edge along the tops of the buildings.
I was careful to cut around the chimney pots but missed that area of light ground in the corner of the main chimney, the roof and the trees and painted it green. Those trees have now ‘spread’ a little but it doesn’t matter.
You will see that I have painted beyond the edges of the drawing. This gives me some flexibility for the future if I need to make the picture slightly larger.
I can now build up darker layers of colour by adding more thin washes over the tree area. This is a good area to practice on as you can’t really go wrong.
Successive images show how the colour builds and how I introduce a lighter green by mixing in the olive green as we get nearer the front of the picture.
I have added a little of the dark grey into the wash for the final areas of tree shadow. Make sure you keep some areas of light green for the sunlit treetops among the forest.
I have enhanced the images so that you can more easily see what I have done. The actual wash levels are much paler than seen here. There are further images below following the progress.
Your aim is to tint the paper and establish the exact position of all the picture elements.
Once this is done, the pencil lines from your original drawing/trace can be carefully removed leaving just the watercolour wash foundation remaining.
Any errors can be corrected as we start with the dry pencil colour.
I suggest you start with your dry colour over the tree area so that you can get a feel for what you are doing.
The basic wash underpainting is complete and we are now going to work on the block of trees in the centre background using dry coloured pencils. I want you to work this with a number of greens and one or two browns/dark greys. The colours I selected were from the Caran d'Ache Pablo box, but any selection of light and dark greens - even from different brands - will work well together.
Once we have a number of 'scribble' layers in place, there should be enough pigment on the page to blend them together with a light even shading at 90 degrees to the first, to make a more even coloured surface.
The next step is then to apply more detail and more fine scribbles using the reference photo as a guide.
Remember that the sun in our photo is coming from the left, so we see lighter areas on the tree tops and darker areas on the base of the trees at the right.
In the photos above you will the beginning stage of building up the dry coloured pencil scribbles. The second photo shows the difference between the blended (top left) and unblended areas. Work the pencil shading in blocks somewhat like the tree shapes to avoid any possibility of straight vertical or horizontal lines becoming apparent.
The detail shots above will give you a better view of this stage of working the trees.
The application of colour may seem to be very rough and ready with many of the scribble lines visible. Don’t worry about this, as layers are added, everything will merge together as we progress. Eventually, when the foreground is completed, the viewer will be concentrating elsewhere and simply take the background trees in as an area of woodland.
Below is the overall view at this point - with more colour still to be added.
With the trees starting to look lifelike (we can add more colour later where necessary), we can move on the the left hand side of the picture and that large building in the foreground.
One thing to watch out for here is the perspective of the dark tiled area of the roof end. There is a vanishing point somewhere on the top edge of the wall on the extreme right of the picture, so all your tile lines should focus on that point. They are not horizontal.
I suggest that you test out the colour choices for the tile effect. Depending on your brand of pencils and the paper you are using you may need to apply some broad lines of white or grey and shade over with a dark brown and possibly then a light shade of black.
The next test will be to look at the choices for the shadowed wall
on the left hand side.
This would appear to need a combination of grey, white and
ochre. While it appears quite light when looked at as part of
the main picture, just look how dark the ochre wall is against the
white of the website page in the photo above.
There are a number of colours in there and a lot depends on whether you work from a printed reference or view the photo on a screen.
Either way there will be a lot of differences in how each one of us sees that colour, and a lot of differences in how our printers and screens show us the colour. I have shared a photo of my test sheet and I suggest you do something similar.
Remember that putting down white first will give you a paler version of the end colour, the order you lay down layers makes a big difference. This is why we test.
As you can see, I have tried a number of colours from the Pablo box, and whilst the right hand sample here (which starts off with an undercoat of Light Beige), looks quite strong and dark against the reference, it looks quite a bit lighter against the printed reference I am working from and I was tempted to go with that one for consistency. The tonal balance is also about right when compared with my trees. I know the colour shown on screen looks more Pink, but remember I am working from a printed reference.
My final choice of colours needed to have a higher proportion of warm grey in it so that the left hand building framed the sunlit building across the stream in the centre.
If you are using other brands of coloured pencils, then use my suggestions as a guide, but do your own sampling to make sure
your colour combinations are likely to work.
The photograph we are using only shows part of the left hand roof, but as we left bare paper around our traced image we can extend this. Take a black pencil and mark in the continuation of the roof edge. Also use this pencil to mark in the bottom of each row of tiles. Note that these lines are NOT HORIZONTAL, but at an angle.
Next use the light grey pencil to note some light areas - rectangles in
between the lines - but make sure that the vertical edges are on a
slope. Look at my example on the left. I didn’t quite get those
bottom tile lines right. Not to worry, they can be corrected.
Now fill in with layers of shading - I used bistre next and then black on top. The effect is to enhance the black lines where there was black pencil at the base. The lighter tiles where the grey was underneath will shine through. Do keep your layers thin - better two thin than one thick.
The result isn’t yet as dark as I would like, but I am using Pablo, a medium oil based pencil - not a soft one. At the end of the process when I am tidying up and bringing up the contrasts, I may go to either a Prismacolor, Luminance or Coloursoft black which will be softer and give a more intense dark where it is really needed.
I have decided to incorporate a little more warmth into the mixture. The touch has been quite light, but in each overall colour layer there have been approximately 3 coverings of the paper. I started with light grey, then added apricot which, surprisingly, gave a quite accurate mix with the grey underneath. This was followed by green ochre and a further colour layer of apricot.
The final colour layer (so far) was light beige and that was followed by a burnishing layer of white. That is five colours and a burnish and approximately 3 coverings to each colour layer. The result is shown with the windows, the roadside weeds and the shadow on the road.
I am not sure about those windows! I think that upstairs window ledge should be more horizontal.
The windows don’t look very convincing at the moment and they are right in the foreground, so I think we may have to rely on the fact that once the rest of the picture is completed, they eye will be too busy looking elsewhere!
If not, I will have to look at them again in the final tidy up
That completes the left hand side so far.
Remember that all the work we are doing at the moment is the foundation of the painting.
Once the picture is all done, we can look at it overall and then sharpen up some areas, darken some and strengthen the colour in others so that we get the viewers to look where we want them to. At the moment the picture has a focal point by the arches of the bridge. We may need to tinker with the work we have done to point eyes that way.
We will next have a look at the right-hand side building, where the first decision is whether to leave it white or to ‘paint’ it cream to balance the picture better. At the moment, the eye goes first to that white wall and it then has to be diverted to look at the ford and the bridge. We need to do some cautious Town and Country Planning.
Here we are starting on the roof area of the right hand house. The first step was to apply English Red in a row of little circles along the roof peak and then fill in the top edge with the same colour. The green of the trees was then in-filled to bring the green right up to the red and get rid of any white paper.
Red and green are complementary colours (opposite on the colour wheel) so they spark off a vibration when they meet and attract the eye.
Below the top line of English Red I have added a line of Apricot - a paler light brick colour - to represent the paler line of tiles at the top.
Next was to tidy up that black and white timbered fascia with a dark
grey and Ivory black - with very sharp points - and a small ruler to
ensure the edges were correct and crisp.
So let us now look at those roof tiles.
They are in the sunshine, so although they are generally grey in colour they are warm in tone and there is very little shadow - apart from those vents at the top edge.
This suggests that we will need white as a base (to keep the tones light that we put on top). We will most probably be working with grey, green and brown. We already have an underpainting of grey so the touch of the pencil point will need to be light, as we don’t want to get too dark to take away from the darkness of the shadowed woodwork which will be the main contrast.
When putting down your white base layer, don’t forget to keep the direction of shading in line with the way the roof
runs - i.e. horizontal, and vertical at a slight angle - reflecting the fall of the roof as we see it. You will see very little
difference in the colour of the surface and you may need to look at the paper against the light to be sure that you
have an even coat of white pigment.
I used Moss Green and Blue Jeans over the white base coat on the roof tiles and marked them out with a very sharp Cocoa coloured pencil.
There are 16 rows of tiles on that roof so the spacing can be done as described briefly below - half, half and half again (and then divided by two). I actually burnished with white to even out the general colour and get the tile edge lines to sit back.
I then used an eraser to lift out small areas
where tiles showed up lighter and applied
Mouse Grey to some areas to darken
I am now looking again at the right hand side building.
We have completed the roof tiles and it remains to work down from the roof edge, completing the building and the end garden wall as we go. Watch out for those tree branches against the roof and end house wall and make sure you leave space to fill in the greens later.
I have started on the shadow under the window and under the roof gutter. These are light blue in colour, but I have started off with a light under layer of Steel Grey to ensure the blue doesn’t go down too bright in colour. Don’t forget that if you are dealing with very light colours, to shade even lighter and put down two coats of colour - the second at right angles to the first so that the finish is as even as possible. I have kept the initial shading as light as possible as I need to be able to compare the tones of the surrounding elements.
When a subject is in full sun, the colours will be warm and shadows cool. There can be a problem assessing how contrasts work within the sunlit surface (those shadows against the bright white wall).
To make life easier, I need to work any areas of sharper contrast around the sunlit section and that means completing both the trees that are seen to the left of the wall, and also the tree and wall to the right below the roof.
It will be necessary to bring all these areas ‘up to speed’
together once the initial layers are in place.
From the image above, you will see the small tree area at the left side of the house has been completed with scribble strokes in a selection of greens, being careful to outline the house wall with a straight edge using mid green, and you will also see that I have left a clear area for the bar which the sign is hung from. It is dark in the reference, but I think it will look better white. I have added a final burnish of a yellow green on top of those trees to keep them lighter than the bank of trees behind.
Moving on to the tree against the house wall, I have applied loose scribbles in three very pale greens - the palest I have.
I need to keep this area light even when I later add in
shadow greens so my first layers are the lightest colours.
I will remove any surplus layout pencil marks as soon as I
have the main body of green in place, as you will see I
have done with the upper window surround. Before I do
any more with the tree, I will put some of the base work
into the garden wall and identify the shadows under the
Working next on the garden wall, I put in the shadows with a light warm grey (don’t get too hung up on exactly which grey, you will be using a variety of colours on this wall and you just need to look at colours as steps in a progression). Using a slightly darker grey, I added some scribble lines working in perspective across the wall in rows.
I added small areas of apricot and ochre very lightly to show up the different stone colours and built up more and more little shadow areas using the picture reference as a general guide. I then worked a series of random scribble lines into the tree using first of all a green just a shade darker than the underpainting, and then added cross scribbles with other light greens and yellow greens.
Then I added the tree shadows and intensified the wall shadows to match. Now I have to complete the window boxes and the foliage alongside the house wall base.
This detail photo is much enlarged but it will
give you a better idea of the build up of colour
and you can see how the other random colour
elements have been included as well as the tree
It is a question of giving the IMPRESSION of wall
and foliage rather than the exact detail, leaf by
leaf and stone by stone.
I have now worked away at some of these fiddly details - see photo (right). You will note that I have completed the window boxes and the three pots outside The Packhorse - the right hand house. (I have also filled in the name on the sign board - the building is let as holiday apartments).
Shadows make everything
sing. The shadows give form to the pots, show
that the window boxes stick out from the wall
and give form to foliage. I have faintly brought
some detail into the thatched cottage in the
background. Not too much detail and tonal
strength as I don’t want it to come forward to far.
A little bit of road edge has been sketched in
and I think that will do for the moment.
Here on the left, I show the same area completed at this point by one of the group who was originally working along with this tutorial. You can see how her colours are quite different and she had some problems with the wall, which were resolved by looking again at the perspective of the stonework. It just goes to show how a different hand and a different brand of pencils with a slightly different colour selection can make a lot of difference - NOT WRONG, JUST DIFFERENT.
The next step for me is to look at that large
central building, and I will start from over on the
left and work across the roof space first. The
colour scheme for that building will need a range
of natural reds and I may have to dip into the
Polychromos box, but we will see how we go.
Your colour printing of the reference may not show the true colours of the red brick involved in the centre building of this scene. I suggest that you check your print with this image below and choose a selection of natural reds that will go with this brickwork.
In the Pablo colour range, I have some useful reds like Dark Carmine, Bordeaux Red, Mahogany, English Red
and Venetian Red. The darker ones will be needed for small areas of tiles. I will also need cool and warm
Greys, Sepia, Slate Grey and Cream. It may well be that other colours will be identified as we go.
In the Polychromos box we have several colours that may prove useful
You may find it useful at this point to have a PDF of the centre building to be able to check on detail.
First of all some close attention to what we are about to tackle. The roof has 13 rows of tiles (and a top capping row) so I reckon we would need to draw in at least 10 rows if we were to actually draw them in. If you squint with your eyes as you look at the reference, you will see that the tiles appear to be in vertical rows - it is harder to see the horizontal lines. This is because the sun is from the left and the ridged tiles show more shadow that way.
Our emphasis therefore needs to be to draw the vertical lines when we mark out the tiles. BUT Like most
building artwork, we are not going to draw in every brick or tile, merely give the impression of the surface.
To get a feel for the size of those tiles, there are 10 vertical rows between each of the upper gable windows! No
way will you get 10 lines of tiles drawn in that space on your picture even with a very sharp pencil !
No, the approach is to put down a set of background layers of colour to get the feel of the roof, and then add
some fine grey or umber lines later. Don’t forget to leave those leaded areas either side of the gable tops (they
show light on the reference).
I have started off shading in with horizontal strokes on ‘patches’ of colour using the light ‘Venetian Red’ from Pablo and the darker ‘Dark Carmine’. I will steadily build up the pattern using three of four colours, remembering that later I will be adding the rows of shadow, and the colours I lay down will have to form straight edged blocks to fit with the tile rows. I have also put in the detail of the shadowed ‘edges’ around the windows and the top and bottom of the roof, so that I can see where I am going with the shading. I have used Umber for this.
I have left the big chimney stack for now until I get some practice in on the rest of the brickwork. This feature is
central to the picture and it needs to be ‘right’. Incidentally, there is another high chimney stack on the left
hand end of this roof which would have been just visible above the left hand ‘black’ roof if we had been working
to a correct reference for the three gable windows. You would have to know the view very well to spot it is
missing, though. don’t propose to add it now!
The next step has been to make sure the tops of the light coloured lead strips on the gables are all level, by running a ruler across the six light areas. I have then put in some slightly off-vertical shading in line with the lines of tiles as we see them.
Note that perspective applies here too, with the lines straight
in front of us vertical and the ones either side sloping. This will
give us the effect of the sloping tiles when we complete the
roof artwork. I have levelled up the bottom of the roof and
also re-aligned the shadows around the windows.
The shading looks a bit rough and ready at the moment but it
will all sort itself out as the further colour layers go down.
More layers of colour, and we can start to see a smoothing out of the overall tints but at the same time we are keeping that sloping effect of the roof. I am now able to square off some of the shading to fit in with the way the tiles look in the reference.
Using Bistre (a cool grey/brown) I am able to refine some of
the shadow edges. Those gable windows are not equally sized
from the underpainting and it is annoying me, but I really need
to finish the roof a bit more before I wander off into further
areas. I will just tidy up the shadows either side of the white
windows to ensure the window spaces all look the same, and
then finish the roof.
Having evened out the shapes of the windows, I have now added some more light colour shading, to the roof itself, and then added the tile shadow lines with a charcoal grey.
I have done them freehand, very lightly, and even then, they are too strong, but a further layer of colour on top will set them back. I have burnished the whole roof area with Bluish Pale Pablo coloured pencil - a very useful colour for blending back colour into the mid or background.
I will need to bring up the shadows a shade darker, but this can follow on once the walls and windows are completed. The next step will be the three gable windows.
These need to be completed carefully with a straight edge to
make sure that window panes are aligned. I usually use a
second pencil for this type of task, to act as a small ruler. The
pencil shape enables me to see exactly where the pencil point
is touching the paper.
There are 6 panes in each of the upstairs windows.
A tip here, is to carefully draw in the three left hand lines
(allowing for the curtain) as shown and then add the 6 top and
base lines. That gives us the best approach for getting the 4
corners of the 3 panes level with each other.
We can then add the rest of the lines and complete the darker areas. Note that some of the white curtains are in shadow and some in sun , and at least two of the windows are open. I am going to leave the left hand windows shut. I have used a Slate Grey coloured pencil for this but darkened the centre areas with a line of Ivory Black.
I have then used a battery eraser to carefully clean up the
white outside edges of each window (as seen in the detail
image above). In fact I can see a little more work may be
needed but I will look at that when I do the overall tidy up at
Let us now have a look at how we will show the wall stonework.
The sandstone of the wall to the left is much redder than the older stonework to the right.
I have chosen Bordeaux Red (Pablo) for this section of wall and I have scanned the artwork in mid flow of working it. (right). The selection of the first colour is a little bit arbitrary, as I am able to modify the colour later and warm up the cold red/brown with a warmer shade.
This later layer of English Red has partly blended in the gaps
so that the mortar is less obvious, and a final burnish over the
whole lot will further blend the layers together.
Don’t get too wound up over getting exactly the right colour for your start. I originally intended to chose two colours that will work together as first layer for each of the left and right hand ends of the building, and a further two colours that will work with them to build up the colour.
HOWEVER, second thoughts take me to another option which
was worth a try.
It demonstrates the power of an under layer to determine the
INSTEAD of working with 4 or 6 colours for the two tones of the wall , we will use the same two/three colours for the whole wall, but lay down a light first layer of either white of Ivory for the right hand side. This results in a substantially lighter result for the right hand side.
In order for this to work well, we need to fill in the darker stones on the corner of the building on the right side first, and make sure that the under-layer of white/ivory is thinner where we want the chimney stones to be darker.
There is quite lot of pressure put into laying down the colours, above, and you can see the much lighter tone in sample 5 on the right from sample 2 on the left, showing the effect of the first white layer.
Keep an eye on the reference and make sure that little things like the house name plate at the front door are left clear, and also that the vertical stones over the door and windows are shown.
I will bring down the shadow areas from the roof overhang later when I do the burnishing of the wall itself. We will be doing the actual bridge later, but see how the colour of the house is very much redder than the very old stonework of the packhorse bridge - that will be mostly umbers and greys.
Note how effective the climbing roses are around the brickwork, they are merely scribbles with one very dark green on top of the original light green underpainting. The dark green in this case was Pablo Olive Black. I may put in one or two roses later.
We are about to move on another step. I have virtually completed the centre house - except for some tidying
up later. This image gives us the story so far. I will have a look at the bridge next.
The next step is to get the major focus point into the picture. The Bridge is where we want the viewer to look first - it will be the area that must attract the most attention. That means that there must be areas there of maximum contrast.
The lavender at the foot of the bridge path will be one focus point and the far archway of the bridge another where the deep shadow meets the bright sunlight on the stone.
I have laid down a light warm grey on the top of the bridge parapet and then applied a layer of scribble Sepia to the shadowed stonework on either side. It could possibly be darker but that can come in the final touches. I left the area white paper for the weeds along the inside path of the bridge and then applied a mixture of ochre and grass green with some shadow from a mid Olive Green to get the weedy effect. I was VERY careful to leave the area on the nearside of the bridge path for the blue lavender to go against the dark shadow of the inside arch.
That inside archway shadow is laid down with a thin layer of ochre (to establish the stone colour) and then a firm layer of Ivory black on top. That first layer of ochre keeps the black from being a ‘dead’ colour and still enables us to get the intense dark. The bushes down to the waterside have also been completed and the shadows punched in with a dark green and black.
The lavender was worked with a light Violet mixed with Sky Blue and the edges cut back in with the Black.
The result puts the bridge firmly in the spotlight and looking around the area, I can see that I will need to do something with that cottage in the background. Whilst the value (tone) of the colours is correct to the reference, it doesn’t look right, it is too light. I can see that I will have to work some more detail into it with subdued shades to sit it back behind the main house and into the background.
I will also need to do some tidying up around the pots on the right hand side where the top of the plants
looks artificial at the moment. In fact everywhere I look there are areas to be enhanced, shadows to be
deepened and edges to be corrected.
Never mind, that’s the interesting bit
Below you will see I have completed the railed off area on the left hand side of the bridge and made sure that I put the shadow lines in first before doing the foliage behind. Green line above - to lose itself in the bushes at the rear and a Sepia line below to show up the shadow.
I have added a couple of grey layers to the thatched roof of the cottage in the background and encouraged it to take a back seat. I have laid down two very light layers on the road - the first one a light cold Grey and the second with Sky Blue.
I have then used a white pencil to blend over the whole road surface. I have worked into those pot
plants on the right hand side patio. I added some weeds under the right hand wall and enhanced the
shadows on the wall and in the tree on the right against the house. I have tickled round with a grey and
a sepia to bring up one or two more shadows.
And here we have my finished version of this landscaper drawing step by step featuring Packhorse Bridge at Allerford, Somerset
I guess you may be wondering about the final results from some of my fellow artists in this original on-line exercise.
The pictures are all different, as you might expect. The pencil brands and papers were different and the coloured pencil skills also differed. I do think they were an excellent collection, though, and well worth another look in this gallery below.
I have included credits in this version of the tutorial,
but if any of the culprits would like their names removed from their artworks below, I will be happy to do
so, but I think you all did an excellent job!
Well done to all of you who sent me your results and also well done to the folk who worked along with us but were too shy to submit their final pictures.
If any of the readers of the Pencil Topics web site
who read this tutorial and work through the picture, wish to submit a scan of their finished work, I will be very happy to include it here.