Do you want your drawings and paintings to have more form? Are trying to make things 3 dimensional and for some reason they keep coming out flat? There can be many reasons this is happening. Understanding surface contour, how light hits the form, what the surface texture is and how you mix color can all effect how your final work will appear. One common  mistake I find artists make is how they begin their drawings. Here are some things to think about:

  • When you start your drawing, is the outline sketchy with lots of  chaotic lines?
  • Is it really dark and outlined looking much like a coloring book?
  • Is the line continual, crisp, graceful and the same value as the object you are rending?

The answer to the first 2 questions should be, “No!” The last question should be “YES!!!” I begin my drawings often on tracing paper. I spend a lot of time working on the composition and often use multiple layers to get all the elements exactly where I want them in a composition. Once I get the composition set, I then transfer the drawing onto my good paper. I then redraw the entire composition to make sure it flows and all the lines make sense before I do anything else. Sometimes this process takes longer than doing the actual finished work. 

This is the basic outline for this drawing. Which is too dark for the subject matter. After transferring it to good paper, I used the kneaded eraser to lift up the lines to match the tonal values better.

This is the final rendering in pencil. I made sure my outlines were light where they should be and dark where the forms are darker. This creates sharp crisp images making the outline become an edge.

After I am satisfied with the composition, I access the overall tonality of the pencil line. If my drawing falls into the first 2 categories I realize I must do something before I go any further. This is one of the most important steps. It involves one of my favorite tools…… THE KNEADED ERASER! I use all over the composition and gently press and lift the lines so they are lighter. I want to be able to see them and I can always make them darker but starting with them lighter will help me to get rid of the heavy or sketchy outline. 


The kneaded eraser works best when it is soft and pliable. Every time I lift some graphite with it, I gentle pull it apart and fold the “dirty” part into the middle and keep doing it until the graphite disappears. This is what I call “kneading”. The eraser should pull apart easily. If you neglect the eraser and rub it on the surface it will collect graphite and just turn black and will not pull apart.


So what about color?

The same principles go for color also only when I use colored pencil I actually change the color of the pencil as the form turns. For instance the same composition look at each object. On the lighter side I use a lighter color and then as the from turns into shadow I use a darker color. Look at the outline in this still life and you will see how I change the color of the outline to correspond to the color of the objects as well as how the color shifts when it is in shadow.

Variation in color helps to create form in colored pencil.

The results are vibrant color with crisp edges and no outlines!

I hope you find this useful! Starting out with a good foundational drawing is the best way to get the results you are looking for. Remember you want crisp clean, defined edges and not outlines!  If you are having difficulty with your work try one of my online classes coming up April 1st.  I always recommend my Foundation Drawing class first but there are 3 other offerings.

Got questions? Please feel free to post them here. I am always interested in ways to help you ……Draw the BEAUTY of NATURE!