3 Tips for Drawing More Realistic Animals in Coloured Pencil | Top Tips

Oct 07, 2022
3 Top Tips for Creating Realistic Drawings - Bonny Snowdon Academy

Today, I’m going to give you three top tips that will help you create more realistic drawings with coloured pencils. There are so many tips I could give you, but I want to stick with three that I think are incredibly useful and go an awful long way to creating realism. 


Don’t Go Wild with Your Details

Now, you might be questioning me on this one, because it looks like my drawings are always full of detail, but when you look closely at one of my pieces, you’ll see that there is always a balance between heavily detailed areas and areas with little to no detail at all. A lot of what you see in my portraits is sections that are just colour, just value, just light or dark. You can’t see every single strand of fur. 

When I think about creating realistic animal artwork, I think about creating a drawing that looks like a real animal. If you were to look at a cat or a dog, for example, you don’t see every little bit of hair. You see the light and dark sections of the animal, you see shadows and highlights, you see areas that have almost no details at all and those that are very heavily detailed. 

It’s important to take this into consideration when you’re trying to draw realistic animals. It can be very tempting to go in and draw every little detail your eye lands on, but it isn’t necessary and it takes an awfully long time! Pay attention to the softer areas of your subject as well as the way the values change. It’s the lights and the darks that will add realism to your piece. 


Make Use of a Black Pencil

My second tip is one that I’ve given out quite a lot and it’s one that I really stand by. Use a black coloured pencil in your drawing. A lot of people believe that you shouldn’t use black in your portraits, but I couldn’t disagree more. 

I like to use the Polychromos black most often, as it’s a little more translucent than some of the alternatives, which allows your base layers to shine through, giving you lovely rich shadows that add that all-important sense of realism. 

I always start by layering my coloured pencils and never go straight in with a black pencil. I get a nice build-up of colour before going in over the top and gently starting to add layers of black. It’s important to remember to add black layers slowly, so you can work your way towards a soft and realistic shadow. 


Don’t Outline Your Subject!

Often, when working on a surface that is a very similar colour to the animal they’re drawing, people can be tempted to add an outline around their subject, and this is something I always avoid doing. When I’m drawing an animal, it’s really important to me that there is a connection between the subject and the paper. I want it to look like the two are made for each other, like they’re meant to be. 

I always try to avoid drawing an animal that looks like it has been cut out and stuck onto a background, and this is often the effect you’ll see if you’ve outlined the subject. So, wherever I can, I add in what I like to call “lost edges”, which is where the subject almost disappears off into the background. By adding lighter colours and highlights along the edges of the subject’s features, you’re able to soften the spaces where subject meets surface, and give the impression that the subject is gently fading out into the background, helping you to create a greater sense of realism. 

To see how I put these tips into practice in my own drawings, click on the video at the top of this blog. There, I’ll show you how I’ve applied these tips to my previous portraits, so you can get a better understanding of how to start using them in your own artwork. 

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