Adding colour to drawings is often a nerve wracking experience. Limiting our colour options helps us to be creative without being overwhelmed with all the wonderful colours to choose from. My favourite coloured tools are watercolour pencils – Faber Castell – Albrecht Durer and Derwent – Inktense pencils are fantastic artist quality and my preference. You can buy them individually or in different sized sets.
A basic kit of cool and warm primaries (more on that soon) plus a few extra is all you need. I often use only Indigo, ultramarine, a dark crimson, cad red and cad yellow or raw sienna (although I did sneak in a grey green in the sketch below)
All my recommended do’s and don’ts of the Space & Time post apply to working in colour as well. However there is something else that is crucial to remember when working with colour.
Colour does not replace tonal variation.
Many drawers forget about shapes of tone and replace them with shapes of colour regardless of what the tone is. Colour provides an additional layer of interest on a work that should stand up tonally as a well balanced composition even without colour. When you see a boring watercolour painting it is likely so because the artist has not paid attention to the darks and lights.
Ok ok…. I’ll jump down off my favourite soap box…. back to sketching in colour. Some tips regarding using watercolour pencils. This is not an exhaustive list so I hope you find your own techniques as well (and share them)
- Experiment, experiment and experiment some more.
- Mix colours to see what you come up with.
- Choose a blue and yellow along with or instead of a green.
- The marks you make will remain even once you wet them.
- Draw with your watercolor pencils (not graphite first) and mix and match as your eyes, mood and artistic license suggest.
- Don’t worry about getting the colour exactly right. As sketchers we are capturing impressions and playing with colour to enhance and enrich our work.
- Draw with the pencils then wet and spread the marks you’ve made with the brush.
- Take some colour off the tip of the pencil with your wet brush and paint with the pigment or even wet the tip of the pencil and draw with that to get a rich textural line.
- Using a travel water-brush (as seen above) makes watercolour pencil sketching easier.
- Although watercolour pencils will work on drawing cartridge, it is preferable to work on heavier cartridge paper or watercolour paper as some paper will not stand up to too much wetting.