The Colored Pencil Course: Value and The Underpainting

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Lesson Discussion

  1. In the example, dark brown was used as the under painting color. Is dark brown always used for the under painting color? If not, how do you know which color to use?


  2. Hi Chris!

    The color you choose for an underpainting will affect the color temperature of the finished drawing/painting. A warm Dark Umber was chosen for this reason. For a cooler base, Indigo Blue may be nice.

  3. I just bought my membership yesterday, and I am loving it. I already had Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils, and I wanted to learn the techniques to produce a beautiful drawing. Everything layered just great, and my paint thinner worked liked it should. I done this on Strathmore Sketch paper. I have Bristol paper, but I didnt want to use it just in case I messed up. Now I wished I had done it on Bristol paper, but I am very happy with the results. Thank you Matt!

  4. Hello! I bought my membership some days ago. Some questions – I have Koh-I-Noor Polycolours, Derwent Coloursoft and Artist. Which ones are best to use to follow lessons and workshops? Tried with Koh-I-Noor and Canson XL Sketch – the result was fine.

  5. Hello Matt, thank you so much for a great lesson. I have always heard about underpainting but never really understood it, this has been a great eye opener.

  6. I was trying to buy some watercolor pencils from my “real life” art teacher about a year back but he didn’t have any. Instead, he told me to use my Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils (which I bought for a class; I’m assuming they are wax-based) and said that I could “make them work like watercolor pencils” with a nylon brush and rubbing alcohol that’s over 80% alcohol. Basically, it’s your Turpeniod trick. Just passing on a tip.

    • Hi Patricia,

      The same process would not produce similar results with watercolor pencils. The burnishing works because of the binder in the colored pencils, which is different from the binder found in watercolor pencils.

  7. Thanks this is very helpful. For the individual with the Koi-Nor polychrome pencils they are oil based like the Faber-Castell but at a lower price point. I have had issues with Prismacolore quality in recent years and have stopped using them

  8. Thank you Matt for another very informative lesson.
    Donna – I too have found the quality of the Prismacolor has deteriorated so much that I won’t buy them any more. You can’t create a colored pencil piece if you can’t sharpen the pencils.

  9. Questions about the thinner… What is the best way to clean a brush that has Terpenoid in the bristles? (Soap and water?) Should we be careful about cleaning between applications to very different areas of color? Will dipping back into my little jar transport a lot of pigment to the jar? (I’m using a 1 oz jar for the thinner.)

    Thanks very much. Enjoying color pencils for the first time in my life.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      You can clean the brush with soap and water just as you normally would. Sometimes, dissolved color can still stay on the brush so wiping the brush with a paper towel between applications is not a bad idea. “Re-dipping” shouldn’t contaminate the thinner.

  10. Great Lesson . . . I am new to colored pencils but I have done underpainting with watercolors. The process seemed to produce exceptional results. I had the same question about the thinner. I have Prismacolor and they worked fine but I have recently invested in a few of the Polychromos and they seemed to work much better especially with the thinner. Their price is a bit more, but they seem to be worth it.

  11. Morning Matt, The 3 apples had a great time working in the underpainting, first time used a paper stock a bit to course second time a charm, turpenoid went well. Will use this approach in my next illustration “LIKE” the technique. Thanks again for the detail instructions.gerry@bequiadesign biz. …moving positively forward.

  12. Hi Mat purchased my course to day very impressed and looking forward to getting started. I have used oil paint for some time but only started using pencils reciently and find them very therapeutic.

  13. Whoa…I thought cp was a light to dark layering sequence. How did you manage to put the lighter apple colors over that brown(darker)underpainting? I thought the only surface to allow light over dark was the suaided matt board.Please clarify. I am teaching cp and this is a total surprize. Thanks,

    • Hi Georgia,

      There are many ways colored pencils can be applied. Some folks prefer dealing with the values right from the start. You will never be able to layer pure white over dark applications, but you can preserve these areas in the early stages of the drawing and address the areas that you know will be dark. In this module, the lighter areas are preserved during the underpainting process.

  14. Can’t wait to try this one! Does it matter if I am using a combo of pencils…Prismacolor, Faber-Castelli and Royal? I could feel the difference in application when I was laying down Prismacolor on the pepper lesson, but I’m wondering if the different binders (wax vs. oil) will affect the burnishing.

  15. hi Matt, excellent art work (and excellent tuition by the way) I know this is a method that takes a lot of time, but when we say a lot how long do we mean. For example, how long would it take you to create the same picture from start to finish if you didn’t have to make the video at the same time. sorry if someone already asked this.

  16. Hi Matt,

    I bought the membership last week and I am totally loving this. Thanks for your wonderful presentation 🙂

    I always could draw/sketch anything using a pencil, however, when it comes to coloring and shading, I find it very challenging and frustrating to create the illusion of form. I tried the apples yesterday and it came out alright. I think I need a lot of practice.

    I’d love to learn to color animals, birds and landscapes. What kind of papers should I choose? Any recommendations please.

    Looking forward for the courses.

    • Hi Anish,

      Thanks! I would suggest toned papers for sure – but white also works if you want the background to be white. You’ll need to experiment to find the surface texture that works best for you. Some folks like smoother surfaces like Bristol, while others prefer heavier textures like pastel paper.

  17. I am beginning to use color pencils and I keep discovering new varieties. At first I thought there were only watercolor color pencils, then, as I watch the videos I come to understand that there are several kinds. Still so much to learn. Thank you, the videos are great.

  18. Hi Matt i just joined yesterday and loving it. Thank you when i was 15ys old, i used to do oil paint but have never had any formal training. i am now 55yrs old and am keen to get back into it. For now i just used standard colour pencils and turned out okay but obviously not prefect. i still have to buy other tools you explained.
    My question is; Is there a way you can view our paintings and comment on it?

  19. Hi Matt
    Having problems finding Turpenoid what can I use in instead we only have a sole art shop and they manly cater for school kids of course I cannot get it send by mail as it is flammable. can I use turpentine instead that I can obtain from the local paint shop or mineral oil any suggestions welcome.

  20. Hi Matt,
    I’m new to colored pencils and am loving the class. I think I am starting to understand shading but my question has to do with the background. Did you apply another layer of pencil after the solvent? Should we make sure that no white or brush strokes are visible? Thanks

    • Hi Dale,

      All videos are presented in High Definition by default. If your internet connection is unstable or slower, you may experience “buffering”. (This is what you are describing.) You can disable High Definition streaming by scrolling over the player and clicking the “HD” icon. This will turn High Definition off and the video will play without buffering.

  21. Hi Matt,

    I tried using a solvent and I was very happy with how it smoothed out the polychromos pencils. Instead of just a turpenoid I used Liquin Fine Detail media as the solvent since I had it. It seemed to work well but I was wondering should there be any reason for concern for using this product instead of just a turpenoid?


  22. I think the reflected highlight areas on the apples should have a red-orange hue, since there is no white light coming from the background.

  23. Hi – I do not know where to buy tuperniod here in Denmark. What can I use instead – can I use an other art medium (glue)or glazing ?

    • Hi Vivi,

      You could also use baby oil. I would not use glue or glazing medium. You need a solvent that breaks down the colored pencil binder.

  24. Hi Matt. Thank you for making this course affordable. So far I am enjoying this course. You have laid out the concepts very well. I can understand and feel that I have some knowledge to try some other pieces myself. I am quite happy with my green apples. At the beginning of this colour pencil course. You showed a tin of 12 faber castells polychromos. May I ask the box of 12 is used throughout this course? I’m looking to buy and do not want to learn that I have to buy more colours later. Also in the same module your picture showed Bristol Smooth Paper. But I read that you prefer vellum. Which should I buy? Thanks very much. Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Actually this is the only module in the course that uses the oil-based colored pencils. The rest of the modules feature the use of Prismacolor Premier pencils which are wax-based. I like both the vellum surface and the smooth surface of Bristol paper. The smooth surface gives you greater control over the details, but limits the number of layers you can apply.

  25. Hi Matt, I’m enjoying the course! You mentioned using deep scarlet red rather than cadmium orange but in the video it seemed to be cadmium orange throughout… when did you change the pigment?
    thank you,
    Orley Kathleen

  26. Love your courses! I wish when you were doing the drawings and talking about patience you would reference how long the drawing takes and give some examples on length of time you spend on a single drawing. I also wish your reference photos were visible in the video, but I understand if they can’t too. Thanks again for such informative videos. You make it easy to understand and enjoyably to watch.

    Sherry 🙂

  27. Understanding that I am a beginner, I am frustrated with the fact that my shading on the apples is not as realistic as in the case of the peppers, which I had down pat.Do you have any advice or tips? Thx

  28. I loved this tutorial, I actually surprised myself how realistic my drawing turned out having only started drawing in August last year and not really doing alot, it is the best drawing I have ever done. I invested in some polychromos early on but have never used them until this tutorial with them being quite expensive and didn’t really want to use them to practice but I am so glad I used them. I am learning so much from your tutorials and my drawing skills are really improving, thank you.

  29. Hi Matt. I am struggling a bit with paint thinners because of the smell. E.g. Zest-it irritates my throat. Is there any really painless alternative?

  30. Hi Matt.

    I’ve been a Member for a few years, and this is the 4th course I’m taking. Now that I’m retired, I hope to complete many more. I once taught a long time ago, and I absolutely love your teaching style. I do have a question regarding how to burnish the background and apples, if using Prismacolor instead of the oil based ones you used. I noticed a couple other comments asking the same question, but did not see any replies. I’d appreciate it if you could get back to me on this question. Thank you!


    • Hi Elaine,

      You can burnish wax-based colored pencils in the same manner or you can use a colorless blender which is like a colored pencil without any pigment. Several manufacturers make them.

    • Hi Patti,

      Both solvents perform in a similar manner, but Turpenoid does not have as strong of an odor as turpentine. This makes Turpenoid a better choice for artists that are sensitive to the strong odor of turpentine.

  31. Can you do an underpainting in graphite and then go over it in colored pencil? Do you have to do anything special to make graphite and colored pencil work together?

  32. Hi Matt…I just completed my apples! My first go round I worked with a 2B graphite pencil in order to get some practice with shading and value without worrying about the color. My second go round I followed your tutorial to the ‘letter’. I’m happy with the results and can see where I need to keep practicing. I learned a lot and found it fascinating to use the walnut brown and get the darker values down first. Very interesting! I will keep moving forward. Thank you for your instruction. I appreciate your talent and the way you teach and explain.

  33. Hi – This is Dorita, David’s wife. Not sure how his name got on your log in.
    Anyway – I’m really enjoying your courses! I’m working to improve my colored pencil techniques, and this course really helps.
    Last Christmas I was trying to draw a poinsettia for the umpteenth time. My husband David) keeps saying that they aren’t red enough. I have 32 red pencils, from cheep dime store and teacher’s grading red up to Derwent and everything in between. Nothing gives me a true red.
    Advice? Is there a particular color or combination of colors that will give me a true red?
    FYI – my husband is a silk dye artist. He too has trouble achieving a good red. And a good black is also hard to get.
    I’d appreciate any advice you can offer.

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