Coloursoft Pencils Step by Step of the Ilfracombe View by Judith Heilbronn-Crown

What You Will Need:

  • Coloursoft pencils –  Lime Green, White, Dove Grey, Steel Grey, Light Blue, Dark Green, Seaweed, Light Green, Cream, Indigo, Pine, Turquoise, White Grey, Mid Grey, Pale Peach, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Lichen Green, Dark Brown, Persian Grey, Grey Lavender, Mid Green, Black

If you don’t have Seaweed, you can use a very light layer of Lichen Green, followed by a light layer of Black followed by Dark Green. The Dark Green by itself would be too vivid, I think.

  • Surface – UART Dark 400 [available at Jackson’s Art Supplies and the SAA] (or any black paper you have)
  • Cutting board
  • Stanley or Craft Knife
  • Sellotape/Scotch Tape (as an eraser)
  • Board the same size as the surface, and clips to hold it in place
  • Paper for printing image, and thin paper to keep work surface clean
  • Tracing Paper
Original photograph Judith took

The first thing I did was to make the photograph lighter on the computer so that I could see the tree structure as it had been too dark for me to work out which branches were connected or in front of others. I then needed to be able to transfer it to the UART Dark 400 sanded paper. If you don’t have this, you could use any black paper you have at home, but the results will not be as rich.

If you already have a method that you find successful for transferring onto black papers, you can work from the outline given, or you can make a stencil which is what I did. If making a stencil, you have to make sure the bits do not connect but will come out separately, and then adjust the drawing if needed. Cut out with a Stanley knife or craft knife on a cutting board.

With the stencil clipped on the black paper, I went over the areas very lightly with just a hint of colour. White in the sky, Lime Green over the very light leaves, and in the light lines where the grass meets the tree, and where the light grass meets the dark grass, and Light Grey in the lines where different branches overlap on the tree and on the house. Once all the lines are very lightly in, and the sky and brightest leaves very lightly shaded, remove the stencil.

Outline is traced onto the black paper

Cover the lower half of the drawing with thin paper such as tracing paper or glassine, and also the right hand side (if you are right handed) so that your hand can rest without smudging.

Go over the sky area in the left side firmly with White, making sure that coverage is even. After this you can go over lightly and evenly with the Light Blue to give a hint of blue. You can put the thin paper over areas you have worked on.

The house is a very light layer of Dark Brown plus a heavy layer of White Grey, and this is all that is needed over the lightest walls. The roof also has a heavy layer of Steel Grey over these. For the shady walls I added Dark Brown over the other layers in horizontal lines. With a sharp Black pencil, I did the shadows under the roof and the dark of the windows, doors and tiny details. The little steeple is White with the fine details with a sharp Black pencil. The wall to the right hand side of the building needs a bit of Light Peach.

The light leaves are Light Green, White, and a little Pale Blue, with Lime Green. Work lightly and build up layers of each colour and repeat until satisfied. A little extra Lemon Yellow on top will brighten the colours. The edges of most of these leaves have strong edges, so take care with these.

When I had used the stencil, the sizes of the leaves were smaller than I wanted, so I studied the photograph and tried to make them the correct shape and size. I gradually added the medium and darker leaves, but this is partly done from my imagination, rather than exactly following every line. A leafy impression is more important than accuracy, so providing the light leaves are done as accurately as you can, the rest will give an impression of reality.

The medium colour leaves are Pine, Dark Green and Yellow Lemon. Put the colours down in that order, but vary the pressure slightly so the leaves will not all be exactly the same. Press lightly with the darker greens so that they are will not be too dark when the yellow is added. The shadows on the lightest leaves, and some of the leaves around them will use these colours. There are sharp outlines to some of the leaves, and this can be done by lightening towards the edge, and by adding a little Black to the leaves behind to emphasise these edges, but the only hard edges are the ones where light suddenly meets dark.

The darkest leaves are Seaweed and Dark Green, done very lightly, or with some Deep Cadmium added. Note the alternative combination for Seaweed in the colour list if you don’t have it. Black will occasionally be useful in making leaves appear more three dimensional by putting shadow behind the edges.

I did the sky on the right hand side, keeping the tracing paper in place on the lower half to protect it.

For the tree trunks, in the lightest areas, I used very light layers of Dove Grey, Pale Peach, Ivory and a touch of Seaweed. Other colours that can be used in the trunks and branches are the Grey Lavender, Ochre, Lichen Green, Cream, and White Grey. You can be adventurous if you like and use hints of purple (not listed in the colours used). The most important thing is to note the light areas, and that there are also areas that will need some of the Black pencil as the UART surface is dark grey rather than pure black. Later I added Dark Brown and Persian Grey to enhance the richness of the colours in the darker areas.

Adding in the trees

The sea is Turquoise, done with light pressure, then White, and repeat this, building up pressure until it is smooth. I added a bit of Persian Grey to the sea later as I decided that it needed toning down. Remember that the first layers go on easiest and that final layers do not “take” as easily.

The hillside by the house is a layer of Cream, followed by light layers of Seaweed and Light Green. The lighter parts have less Seaweed, and the darker parts will have a lighter layer of cream and heavier Seaweed. The embankment between the road and the hillside is Light Peach.

Adding in the hillside

Noting the lines where light grass joins the shadows, above that there are areas of flowers. Sometimes a little Lemon Yellow is enough, but a light layer of White under the yellow gives a brighter colour. Take a sharp pencil and holding it upwards twiddle it around and you will get a strong dot of that colour. Obviously the pencil will wear down as you work, so will frequently need sharpening again, but I don’t mind working with them a little blunt as they last longer that way. Vary the pressure of the yellow, and occasionally Cadmium Yellow (over the White) will make a bit of variety. There are areas that are almost solid white/yellow and areas that only have a few flowers and are mostly grass.

The light grasses are first Light Green followed by Cream and then occasional small touches of indigo. It is best to work in short vertical lines, and make sure that the areas between individual and groups of flowers are coloured. Hints of the dark surface can show through as it make the grass look more grassy. 

Adding in the flowers

Note that if you have tiny specks of light colour on the areas that need to be dark, you can take Scotch tape (the removable type is best) and gently touch it to these areas. It will remove loose particles. Areas that need erasing on the UART surface can be done with this method too, pressing on mistakes more firmly.

The dark grasses were done with a base of Seaweed followed by Dark Green and Pine, varying so that the grass is a bit varied. Add small fine lines of Light Green at various angles slightly off vertical to give hints of individual blades, and lighten the dark grasses. If you have Yellow Green this will probably work very well too, but use it lightly so that it is not too bright. You just need hints of it. A little Acid Yellow will give highlights in the dark grasses where the sun is shining through the branches. Note in this illustration you can see the original lines of green at the edge of the branches. These need to be removed by going over them with a little Black or a bark colour.

If you don’t have Seaweed, use a light layer of Lichen with a very light layer of Black. The Dark Green is too bright. Unfortunately I do not have a Lincoln Green, but this might work even better. The purpose is to tone down the brighter greens. For the darker areas, if you would like to make it a little lighter, you could occasionally use Dark Brown very lightly with a layer of Mid Green above it, or use a mixture of the Dark and the Mid Greens, using short vertical strokes to give texture to the grass. You can experiment on a scrap of the UART Dark to see what you would prefer.

Check the leaves are finished all over the tree.

Check the leaves are the colours you want

Check for details that need to be adjusted and make sure that the building looks right, as it is the main focal point that the eye is drawn to, through the branches.

Check if any details need adjusting

Near the base of the tree there is the area that is catching the sunlight. I added a little more Pale Peach to this with a harder line at the top right, fading out into Dove Grey over a Little Dark Brown. I checked the other areas of the trunk to see if they look right. Make sure that they do not become too light. Darken with Black under where branches cross, in the most shadowy areas and where contrast is needed. Look at the final illustration to see the details in the branches and trunks.

Final piece

Artist’s note: If you are using a different black surface, such as Stonehenge or the St Cuthbert’s Somerset Velvet, you may find that you would prefer to use a Derwent Watercolour Chinese White (used dry) as the base layer for light areas instead of the Coloursoft as it is slightly more opaque. Also, interestingly, if you spray the black papers lightly with fixative, workable if you have it, before you use any colour, it seems to stop the colours fading into the paper and they will be a little more intense. Before using the pencils it strengthens the tooth but don’t spray fixative after colour is laid down!

Thank you to Judith Heilbronn-Crown for this very information blog. We would love to see what you can produce. Attempt Judith’s picture or take inspiration from Judith’s process and create your own scene.

Judith is a member of the UKCPS and you can find her on Facebook here.

Purchase your own Coloursoft pencils here.