Page Four


Before we get started back on the masterwork, I would like to go through some basic principles of developing a picture with a bank of trees and look at the techniques involved.  For the purpose of the tutorial, I have picked up a piece of Fabriano 5 watercolour paper and worked a small area of underpainting using the same wash colour that we used on the main picture.

You will see that I have shown some areas of more intense colour

in bands with edges which will represent the sunlit tops of the

forward trees against the shadows of trees behind.

This is the sort of surface you should have in your sample,

but don’t worry if you haven’t !

If you have had problems with your wash

There is an alternative approach for doing trees which uses

watercolour pencil and a damp brush.

I will now go through that process from white paper

using a collection of greens and some browns etc from the

Caran d’Ache Supracolor box.

First we start with white paper, a good mid range green

and a random scribble stroke which wanders about with no

apparent purpose

We need to build up layers of appropriate colour to get to the

same sort of image as the under-wash sample above.

The key thing here is the  fact that there is a good range of colour

and also that there is good coverage of the paper


Allerford 3

Taking a small springy watercolour brush - damp, not wet, - we can scribble on the pigment surface with the brush and blend and develop those scribbles into a more cohesive surface while still maintaining those areas of darkness.

This is the springboard for the dry colour which in this case came from Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils using the same scribble strokes.  Notice how I have used the sepia dry pencil to define those forward tree tops catching the light.

Working in more colour and a variety of strokes, we get more of the appearance of a bank of trees.

This could be developed further

If we now go back and look at our under-wash, we can look at the different process involved in using entirely dry point pencil over the wash coloured paper

In this first scan you can see that I have used a mid green

that pretty well approximates to the green of the trees.

This is essential as a base as we need to ensure that

the overall finish is in this colour area.The colour wash on the paper ensures that there is no white paper showing.

The actual colour selected is Grass Green

In this second scan, you will see that I have added some light Olive green to warm the overall colour up in some areas  around the ‘tree tops’  and also enhanced some shadow areas using Olive black.  Once more you can see how the insertion of the shadow gives the appearance of light on forward tree tops.

You may wish to make a mark on the very edge of your paper when you do this to remind yourself where the sun is - It is very helpful to get all your shadows going the same way !

At the moment this sample has just the three layers of colour.

Adding more layers of dry pencil colour steadily builds up the layers and increases the depth to bring the tones nearer the percentage level we require to match the reference

You will see how this method tends to enable you to keep some areas of lightness, which the purely watercolour pencil may lose.

It is useful to ‘test the water’ in this way, on a piece of scrap paper to  build up your technique before diving into the Allerford image itself.


We will have a go at the actual picture

Firstly, - if you have any residual graphite pencil lines or marks in your picture, I suggest you erase them.  The ideal is to avoid black graphite grinning through the layers of Coloured Pencil.  You should have enough detail in the wash picture to ensure that correct Position, Proportion and Perspective are set out by the wash layer.  Detail is not a problem as this can be included by reference with the original photo as we work.

We will start on the bank of trees across the upper centre area of the picture

I have sorted out  8 colours from my full box of Pablos.  If you are using Polychromos or another brand, just look out the nearest equivalent.  I have laid them out in the order |I will use them.  I am not certain at this stage that I will need them all and I may need to look out another one or two depending on how things go.  If you are working from a smaller box, you will probably have a smaller selection of greens, but not to worry.

The colours I have selected, in the order I will use them, are Grass Green 220    Light Olive  245     Moss Green 225

                                          Olive black  019   Spring Green 470    Sepia  407    Charcoal Grey  409 and Spruce Green  239

You will see that I do not include a black.

If I use black at all, it will be only in the final stages

Starting along the top edge of the trees, I build up an initial set of scribbles with grass green.  

I work from left to right across the paper and will work down in bands - just as the layers of trees appear in closely set bands of colour.   

I leave gaps so that the later colours can get a better grip on to dry untouched (with wax CP) paper and build that mottled surface I require.

I can then go across again and add  a second and third layer with the light olive green and the moss green.

This is followed by another layer of the original grass green and  some touches of shadow using the olive black  (below)

You will see I have magnified this second image a little for you so that you can more easily get the idea

Finally I have added a little of the later colours to warm up some areas with the Spring Green and darken some of the deeper shadows with the Sepia and Grey

I have finished off the darker areas with a layer of Spruce Green.

You can see that I have now started on the next bands of colour and will work across the picture as before.

Be aware, as you come down the picture, that you need to get darker, but also need to keep those light tops to the trees just as in the reference photo.  There will be larger and larger areas of shadow, but all these are dappled with light green. So be sure to keep those sparkling areas which read as areas of leaf.  Don’t try to get each band of colour to a finish at this point, merely get the basics in.  We may well need a lot more layers to get the right level and appearance, but it is better to do those later layers when the  whole block of ‘treescape’ is in.

Now let us look at  the overall view now some more pencil has been applied.  

There are various points to make here, and, so that we can easily see what has been happening, I will repeat parts of the above image below with notes. To make life easier for explanations, I have enhanced the scan so that is shows up a little darker than in real life.

REMEMBER - The fact that I have used Pablo pencils is irrelevant, I could equally well have chosen a selection of colours from Polychromos or Coloursoft.  The colour names and numbers below are there as a guide, but if you use similar colours using the chart above, your result should be similar

Firstly you can see that layers of colour from the basic set of pencils have been completed over the top half of the tree area.

I have left the lower middle bit to show off the difference between the worked and the unworked areas.

1/  When applying the first layer of pencil to an area, I have switched

     the first choice from 220 grass green to 245  light olive in some areas

     where I want there to be a lighter tone to the tree tops.

This means that the first colour - whatever it is - takes predominance

and the second layer less so.  As further layers are added to the image,

the result of that switch in first layer can be seen more clearly.

I have also applied more of the darker green (239) over the top of the

Olive Black and Sepia where they need it.

The actual position of the darks and lights is random and is more determined

by the underpainting, than by the reference.  

I do try to get the shapes of the trees in the sunshine, right, though,

2/  Those darker shadowed areas are treated the same with  olive black

      put in as the first layer and the other colours added over the top

3/   Once the full set of layers has been applied, the whole area is

      burnished with the remaining natural light green pencil from the box.

This is the 230, Yellow Green and is laid down with even shading over the

top of all the green layers put down.  Some tutors recommend using a

white pencil to burnish, but I feel that white kills some of the strong vibrancy

and it always needs further work with the original colours on top to regain

the colour depth.  If you are using Polychromos colours, Green Gold is a

good one to burnish with as it is both warming and transparent.

The effect of this is shown in the fact that I have only partly completed

the burnishing and you can see where the merging of the lower layers of colour

has taken place on the left hand side of the image.

4/  As the blending action of the  light green pencil is achieved by using

      exactly the same oil based carrier as the other pencils, there is no

      problem in then going back in and applying further work to define the

s shadows using sepia and olive black.    If you were to use a specialist blending

or burnishing pencil, that might not be so easy.

I will do some further work to the tree area and report back

You may be interested in some of the points raised by the discussion group.

Jenni said:  

Peter, I'm wondering how light a touch I need, and how essential it is to keep a really sharp point?  I think I'm being a bit heavy handed.

I replied : For the trees we are building up areas of colour rather than fine detail, so my pencils are sharp but not kept needle sharp all the time.   The deep shadow areas will need a sharper point and more care to get good edges to demonstrate the bright sunlight elsewhere.  You know when the sunlight is bright - because the shadows are crisp and dark.

I am fairly heavy handed myself and have to make a conscious effort to 'keep light'  I didn't make that effort when doing the trees, but will have to do so when I get to the buildings - which will also need a sharp point all the time.

Jim said :

I am wondering what you suggest we do after the woods; I had an all day session last Thursday and am ready to move on next Thursday when I have a CP session earmarked

I replied :  I am right handed, so I will start on the left hand side and work across.  I have a sheet of Perspex cut in the shape of a fat 'L' and that lies over the area under my hand so that it doesn't transfer grease from the skin.  It also helps when I need to go back over an area and protects the worked surface.  Using that, it is possible to work on virtually any area.

After the left hand building I guess that I will probably do the right hand one so that the two buildings and the trees are framing the middle section. That ensures that the tonal balance is as good as we can manage.  I will put down a layer of White or Ivory CP shading on the light Left Hand wall surface to ensure that later layers of colour are kept pale.

The white/Ivory will ensure that the surface has a protective first layer.  I had thought that I might 're-decorate' the outside of the right hand building in cream, but then again I might not, and just leave it as white paper.

Janey said :

Concerning your colours comment, I'm using a mixture of Polychromos (oil based) and Derwent Artists (wax based). Is this likely to cause problems with the layers?  I think I read somewhere that oil and wax should be compatible! They seem to be ok up to now but I've only got four layers down so far.

I said :  Mixtures of oil based and wax based pencils are not usually a problem.

Your Derwent Artists are possibly a touch harder than Polys so I don't expect a problem for you any more than a mix of Polys and Pablos   If I am using mixtures they are usually Polys and Pablos and both are oil based and I know they work well together and the order of application is irrelevant.  I think the only area of difficulty may be if you try harder pencils over softer ones

For anyone using the softer Coloursoft in a mixture with Polychromos ( or Prismacolor ), I suggest that the batting order for layers might be the harder Polys at the bottom ( first layers ) and softer wax pencils on top - but I don't know how that mixture will burnish.   Polychromos are harder than Coloursoft or Prismacolor, so the Polys should burnish any mixture underneath.   Coloursoft might not burnish a mixture as well but I haven't tried.

If anyone is working with an 'exotic' mixture of pencils, perhaps you will keep us posted on that, and I can record the end result for posterity.  I don't think that there will be too much of a problem though

Following which, Pauline said :

I often use Prismacolor and Polychromos together and found it better to put Prisma down first and the harder Polys on top.  This method seems to push the softer wax into the paper valleys.  If I want a really shiny burnish then I prefer to use Prisma on their own.

I say : Sounds like there shouldn’t be a problem of hard over soft, then.  Keep me posted though





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