How To Choose & Mix Colours | Drawing White Fur


Hi guys and welcome to this week’s video,
today I’ll be giving my top 10 tips on how to choose and mix colours accurately when
drawing. As I share my advice and techniques, I’ll
be showing you the footage of one of the pet portrait commissions I completed late last
year of a dog with white fur- I thought this subject would be a good match for today’s
topic as white fur can be quite difficult to render. So without any further ado… My first piece of advice is something I like
to mention a lot- swatch out your colours! Test out your colours when you get a new set
of supplies- it will give you a great first impression of what colours you have available
to use and also help you to become acquainted with their properties. Try not to rely on the colour of the barrel
or end-cap of a pencil, or packaging or swatch charts provided as they’re often inaccurate. As I work, I have my swatch charts handy,
so I can quickly browse through different sets and brands to find the closest colour
match. I’ll look at the colour name or number written
down next to the swatch, and because I have my swatch chart and pencils in the same order,
it’s pretty quick to find the colours in the pencil tin. Moreover, a swatch chart can be a really convenient
tool for comparing colour. Hold up your swatch chart to your reference
and use your chart to get a better understanding of the colour of your subject matter. I mostly use coloured pencils for my artwork-
and the piece I’m working on here is completed in this medium- so although I’ll be using
coloured pencil as an example, most of my advice in this video can be applied to other
mediums too! So I like to make sure that I have a swatch
chart of all of my coloured pencils on the type of paper that I use the most. Different surfaces can result in different
effects of your pencils, and can even make your pencils appear to have different levels
of vibrancy or pigmentation. Additionally, your pencils may appear different
when applied to papers of differing colour, so it’s worth testing out your colours beforehand
if you’re starting a project on a coloured paper different to that of your swatch chart. Tip number two builds upon the first piece
of advice, try creating practice mixes before you apply them to the piece you’re working
on. See which colours mix together to get the
closest match- play around with the way you layer these colours and try surprising mixes
to see if there’s an unexpected way to get to a similar result. Again, you can hold your mixes up against
your reference to compare. Piece of advice number three- A simple way
to use technology as a tool for colour selection is to have your reference photo open in a
simple photo editor- for instance Microsoft paint- and use the colour selector or eye-dropper
to select an area where you’re finding it difficult to read colour. Colour can often be difficult to judge owing
to an effect called colour constancy, where our brain adjusts the way we view something
depending on how we perceive the light of the surroundings. The infamous Blue and Black or White and Gold
Dress photo is a good example of this, where colour can be experienced in two very different
ways just based on how we perceive light. Anyway, being able to remove the colour from
its source and swatch it digitally can be a great way to isolate and understand the
colour more. I’ll leave a link to a photo example of
this technique in the description box below. I used this method a few times during the
completion of this piece as I found it difficult to detect some of the nuanced colours in the
shadow areas on the dog. This technique helped me pick some more vibrant
colours to use instead of just choosing a grey tone, which would’ve resulted in a
flat and lifeless looking shadow. As a side note, I try to avoid using grey
on its own altogether and always try to either create my own greys by mixing desaturated
colours together, or use pale colours to tone a grey to make it more interesting. Onto the fourth tip! Something that can be difficult to judge when
using colour is the colour’s value- that is how light or dark it is- compared to the
other colours in a piece. A great way to help me judge value as I work
is to start off with an extra version of my reference that I’ve put in greyscale. You can also take well-lit photographs of
your work in progress, and edit the photograph to also be black and white so you can then
more easily compare the values in your work compared to the values in your reference photo. In addition to this, you can also use a tool
called a value finder, which is essentially just a numbered scale of different grey tones
which you can hold up to an area of your black and white image, to help better judge the
darkness of the area. As you work on your piece, you can use your
value finder to compare to see if you’re approaching the same level of darkness. You can buy value finders, make your own from
scratch or even print one off. I’ll leave a link in the description box
to a printable one I’ve found online. Piece of advice number 5 is to work light
to dark. This is something that is especially important
when working with coloured pencils or other transparent media- albeit less important for
opaque mediums, or mediums that can tolerate essentially limitless layers. But in many instances, it is really difficult
to lighten up a dark and intense colour, and often applying a lot of a pale colour over
the top of a darker one will make a dull and muddy-looking colour. So as you saw when I started my primary layers
of this piece, I began with a pale blue- in fact it may have appeared almost white on
screen for you. I also used a few other very pale colours
from the Derwent Drawing pencil range to map in my initial colours. This was to apply a base to cover the dark
blue of the paper, and a light colour that I could then easily adjust with more layering. As I worked, I began introducing bolder colour
and darker shades to build up the form and add detail. In this case, I was adding more saturated-
brighter colours- such as blues and pinks- to add subtle variation in the fur that would
blend into those lighter layers underneath. Tip number six is to consider the end result
when choosing the colours you start with as a base. As you see with the fur, I start off generally
by laying down a fairly plain looking base colour, which I then adjust by lightly glazing
in more saturated colours to add variation. The colours that are glazed over the top mix
into the base layer and the edge is taken off of their intensity. This order works fine for a result that isn’t
destined to be bright or pure. However, if I wanted to render a highly saturated
object- for example the red tag on this dog’s collar- I need to start off by applying layers
of a bright and saturated colour, otherwise the colour won’t appear as pure. Once the bright layers are down, I add colours
over the top of it to desaturate it in areas to shade, highlight and depict form. My seventh piece of advice is to try breaking
colours down into its substituent components. What makes your pencil colour different to
the colour in the reference? Some things you can ask yourself as you work
are: is the colour lighter or darker than the one in the reference? Is it more vibrant and saturated or duller
and less saturated? Is the colour slightly warmer or cooler- is
it more yellow, red or blue? And considering these things will help you
to plan your action to adjust the colour by layering and mixing. So for instance, if the colour needs to be
less saturated, I might use a colour from the opposite side of the colour wheel to tone
it down. If the colour needs to be cooler I’ll mix
in a cooler tone of the same colour, or perhaps use a light layer of blue depending on how
my base colour will interact with it. Three colours I use a lot of in my work for
adjusting colours are the colours ivory- which is a very pale yellow, sky blue, and pale
flesh- which is a light pink. These colours contain white pigment so work
especially well when I’m looking to mix lighter tones. I used these three colours a lot during the
completion of this piece- after all, white is never really just white and grey, so it’s
important to include subtleties in colour in order to make the piece look realistic
and lively. Purer, bright colours- that don’t contain
white pigment- can be used to adjust mid-tones or darker colours as to avoid lightening the
area up. Tip number eight is to be aware of objects
in your reference that might affect the colour of your subject. Paying attention to the environment your subject
finds itself in will make it easier to remember to correctly choose colours for your subject. For example, keep in mind the colour, direction
and strength of the light that’s illuminating your subject. Warm light means cool shadows and vice versa. Strong lighting will result in rich, crisp
shadows. In this piece the lighting is quite diffuse,
but on the slightly warm side, so I used cooler colours in the shadows and warm whites, pure
whites and creams for the highlights. Something else to consider- which is especially
important for white or glossy subject matter- is reflected light. Consider the objects around the subject matter,
use these as indicators for what colours to look for in your subject. For instance, if you’re using a photograph
of a black dog on a bright day, you can expect to use blues in the highlights to reflect
the sky and the light that comes from it. You can contrast those bluish highlights by
using warm browns in the shadows. Considering the reflected light will make
the dog look like it has glossy fur, whereas just using whites and greys in the highlights
may make the dog appear older, or make its fur look dull. Placing strong contrasts next to each other
will make something appear even more reflective. Of course, this is something you will want
to adjust according to your reference and subject matter. Similarly, when I talk about including a variety
of colour, I’m not talking about keeping those bright colours pure and as they are
straight-from-the-pencil – as you can see in this portrait, the colours are lightly
layered amongst the other colours in the dog’s fur, but although subtle, they do make a difference. Another example to consider is when an animal
is sitting on grass. It’s quite common to see reflected green
light under the chin and on the chest of the animal, especially if the animal has light
coloured fur. In this piece I made sure to include more
blue than was present in the reference photo because the background of this piece will
remain this deep blue colour. If the dog had been photographed in front
of a blue background, no doubt will there have been blue light reflected in her fur,
so that’s what I’m trying to capture here to make her look more in context with the
paper- as if she was there all along- rather than just cut and paste onto a blue background. Something else to consider is that the blue
paper will still influence the colours layered on top of it, as the pencils are slightly
transparent, so I don’t need to include much extra blue to give the effect of harmony. My second to last tip is to try to reduce
your assumptions about colour. For instance, a leaf isn’t just green- or
one green hue in different levels of saturation, tint or shade. A leaf may contain blues, pale yellows, browns,
reds even. Really observe your reference and try to name
as many different colours as possible that you see. As I mentioned before, although this dog can
be described as white, she isn’t just shades of white or grey. And before I get onto my final tip, I want
to announce the winners of the giveaway! Congratulations to Emma Devost and Brandon
Sparks, you are the two lucky people who each win a piece of my artwork and an art supply
care package. Contact me as soon as possible via the e-mail
in the description- using the same e-mail you used to sign up to the competition- to
claim your prize. Thank you to everybody who entered- the turn-out
was far greater than I could’ve expected! To those who entered but didn’t win, keep
your eyes peeled for my future videos as it is still possible that there will be a re-draw
if the winners don’t claim their prizes in time. My final tip is to practice and push yourself
out of your comfort zone. Be brave and take risks when you apply colour. I personally found this to be the richest
learning experience. Some experiments won’t work, but the ones
that do will affect the way you see and use colour in your future work. There are exercises you can do to help focus
your practice, and this is something that I love doing if I’m not really in the creative
mood but would feel bad for not spending time doing something arty. One exercise is to swatch out all of your
colours- especially if you have different brands of pencils- and try putting them in
colour order, or try and arrange them in different colour groups or according to other defining
properties. You could also try choosing a colour- say
by using a random colour generator in the internet, or selecting paint sampler cards
at random- and try to replicate that colour by blending and layering your coloured pencils. A really simple one that you can do on the
go, is an app called I Love Hue- Hue as in H-U-E. It’s a zen puzzle game where you have to
organise colour chips in a grid. It may sound tedious, but I really enjoy it! I’m not sponsored- I just found it eye-opening
in terms of seeing and mixing colour. So that summarises my top 10 tips for choosing
and mixing colours. And here’s my finished piece! I loved working on this portrait, she’s
got such a gorgeous expression. I hope you found my tips useful- leave the
video a like if you did! If you have any questions, feel free to leave
them in the comment section down below and I’ll answer it as soon as I can. Don’t forget to subscribe if you’d like
to see more arty videos: advice, tutorials and supply reviews. Thank you very much for watching, hope you
have a lovely week and I’ll see you in the next video!


28 Responses

  1. Marion Wigzell

    March 7, 2018 10:04 am

    Beautiful portrait of a gorgeous dog. Claudia can I ask you how you first got started with pet portraiture? Also, what size do you normally render a coloured pencil portrait in? Thanks Marion 🙂

  2. Sharon Nolfi

    March 7, 2018 10:16 am

    Beautiful portrait of the dog. Thanks for sharing your tips for drawing white fur – they are very helpful. How many hours total did you work on this piece?

  3. 02tia

    March 7, 2018 10:21 am

    Thank you Claudia for these nice tips I can’t wait to try them 🙂 This is a very beautiful portrait btw 💕

  4. K Gibson

    March 7, 2018 3:34 pm

    Very interesting and good tips! I may have to rewatch a couple times to really remember them 🙂

  5. Patrick Fischer

    March 7, 2018 5:40 pm

    Great 🐕 portrait,your skills are amazing,and congratulations to the winners,this was an awesome givaway🍻

  6. Sabine Leppanen

    March 7, 2018 5:52 pm

    You just keep getting better. I'm doing a cat with shades of white and grey fur and finding it challenging (I always do, lol). Interesting to hear your thoughts on using grey as that is an issue I am dealing with. The greys can look ashy or dirty and I’ve done a lot of erasing. The French greys (Prismacolor and Luminance) are working for my cat, though. I have a bluish background (top layer is Luminance Payne’s Grey), too, so will try to add some to the fur. I didn't know that warm light casts a cool shadow. I don't like the very yellow shadow in my reference so am trying to figure that out.
    Congratulations to the winners of your draw! And, look! Almost another thousand!

  7. Barb Bell

    March 7, 2018 6:16 pm

    Thank you for these excellent tips, each one is particularly helpful for me. I have a white cat I want to draw correctly!

  8. ChuckyJesus drawingart lover Duarte

    April 20, 2018 9:07 pm

    Awwww so beautiful dog 🐕 it reminds me of my dog that I had her name was patches she had a Black spot on her eye and she look just like this beautiful dog u are a amazing artist 🎨✍🎭💕 u are a amazing beautiful human being with a great big gorgeous Hart💖 my dear friend blessings👼🙏❤🐻🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗 ✨🌟✨🌟✨🌟✨🌟✨🌟✨🌟✨🌟✨🌟✨

  9. Marjan Mrak

    June 13, 2018 9:27 am

    A work of art this portrait is.
    If may I ask: what pencil sharper are you using for sharpening Faber-Castell's pastel pencils?

  10. Lynn Rushton

    July 29, 2018 11:08 pm

    Aww I love this! I recently lost my staffie so it was lovely to watch this vid 😍 great advice too👍

  11. ChristineD

    January 16, 2019 7:44 am

    As always these are great tips! Thanks for sharing 🙂 that’s the one thing that can’t really be taught (which color do you see) I’ll be downloading that app for sure! The portrait turned out beeeeeautiful!


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