An effective trick to draw with colors

In the following article, we will teach you a trick to learn how to draw with colors. We will talk about color theory, going through tonal value, lights, shadows, and choosing the right color palette, either grayscale or color.

You will clearly see the difference between a color drawing and a drawing in grayscale or black and white, color is very important in a drawing, and if you know how to apply them, you will surely achieve a great illustration.

Also, we will give you a great exercise so you can put into practice what you have learned today.

Pay attention, follow the steps mentioned below, and learn how to draw with color right now!

Simple Technique for Understanding Color Theory

For every draftsman, color is a challenge, and something that is often not conducted with confidence, and results from a much more intuitive process. However, drawing in color is something that always enhances our illustrations, and many times, a necessity.

We bring you a very simple and effective technique, to understand some main concepts of color theory, and how the tones of the palette we select can work, in an effective, expressive and impactful way.

Before starting with this work, we need to review the concept of “VALUE”, the key in the understanding of light and shadow.

What is Tonal Value in drawing?

Value is the degree of lightness or darkness of a color. The luminosity of surfaces. To understand the differences in value, a grayscale is often used. Where black and white make up the extremes, and all other values, which are the intermediate grays, are located between the two.

In this way, we identify this concept of “values”, thought and used in color theory, with the control, and the variety of grays that we can handle in our drawings.

In short, the values in the drawings, are the light index, and the equivalent of the luminosity, of the colors on the surfaces.

The relationship between value and color

The value is not a unique condition of black and gray white, but all colors have a value that is unique to them, for example, yellow has a degree of light brightness and violet, dark. Likewise, violet, yellow or any color can be lighter or darker, going from white to black.

un truco para aprender a dibujar con colores

Knowing this, we will make a drawing with pure colors, as they come in our materials, without mixtures or preparations, where we will be able to experience this theory in a practical and direct way.

This technique is forceful, and very fast, in addition, it allows us to work with the colors freely. Perhaps far from the “local color” * of the things, but with a pleasant and very powerful result expressively, if we learn to handle it.

*With local color, we refer to the tone or natural color that things have, that is to say, the sky is light blue, and the trunk of a brown tree, therefore, in the naturalistic works, we try to relate as much as possible, to the local color of the elements of our illustration.

There is another possibility, which is the “Arbitrary Color”, a process in which we can paint in any tone, anything, without looking for a natural sensory relationship with the object represented. In this way, the sky can be green, and the trunk blue.

This method, popularized in the history of painting by painters belonging to the “expressionist” and “fauvist” avant-garde, is the one that will be developed in this exercise.

We will not pay attention to the local value of things. Rather, we will work with a reduced palette, chosen by the intuition of taste and design thinking.

So, open to these possibilities, let’s go in search of the materials and start our work. Good luck!

Materials we will need:

-Block of colored sheets (Suitable for pencil drawing or oil pastel, depending on the technique).

-Colored pencils

-Oil pastel (Optional)

– Photograph in digital and printed format, where we can distinguish at least 5 grays in our scale of values.

The technique of oil pastel is a great possibility for this work, since, unlike colored pencils, here the materials of higher value, such as (white or yellow), can be superimposed on the darker ones, such as (violet or navy blue).

escala de grises
Considering that this work is an exercise, it is best to select an image that meets the necessary quality guidelines, it can be digital or printed, but mainly has to have enough variety of grays. It should not be a complex image, to be able to be solved quickly in our first attempts, this means, that it does not have a lot of figures, and we see it simple, for the drawing and the forms.

Important recommendation “The quality of the materials”.

We will have to go testing the materials (pencil or pastels) directly on our support, to go seeing how it is, this will help us to assemble our palette, and test the quality of the same.

Seeing what power to cover it has, that is, if our material can paint on that support covering the area, and exposing the full potential of its color, or in the worst case, if the material is intermingled on the sheet, and produces a different color to the one we are looking for.

It is necessary to be attentive to these reactions and to look for the indicated material to obtain a good result. For these reasons, the quality of the materials is fundamental, as much the pencils, as of the sheet.

In this case, it is not advisable to work with school type tools, the ideal would be to have semi-professional materials.

Scale of values that we are going to use

High (white); high intermediate (light gray); low intermediate (dark gray); low (black).

escala tonal de grises


Step 1: Selecting a color sheet

In selecting the color of the sheet, we must consider what position that shade occupies in the scale of values.

In the example we select the yellow shade, which implies a “high value” on our scale.


Step 2: Select palette

When selecting the series of colors we are going to use, we must first take into account the value of the shade of the leaf, to complete the possibilities of our scale. Below is an example.

The yellow of the support gives us the high value, and then, in the color selection, orange ( high intermediate value), red ( low intermediate value) and violet ( low value).

Therefore, the proposal of the slogan would be to complete the scale of values with pure tones.

valor tonal en el dibujo
valores tonales para dibujar

Step number 3: Let’s draw!

We will use the photograph as a reference and, therefore, we must analyze and interpret the amount of grays we have in it. Organizing its variety, within the scale that we proposed, but this time, building the drawing with our equivalent tones.

We must observe and group the area that each value occupies in the image, where all the high values are located, where the intermediate ones, and where the low ones are located.

We will work in our drawing, in each value area separately, but with our own tones.

In the example, the yellow of our support is going to protect our highest values, and, therefore, we stopped to observe the low intermediate values that have a great prominence in the image.

Our red tool fulfills that function, so our job was to paint the entire area of that value in red.

imagen en escala de rojos

This was done without paying too much attention to the line, covering all the sectors that have low intermediate values, with schematic planes. This is an agile method, which allows us to go from the general to the particular, the most advisable way, because it allows us to maintain an order to advance in the details, without getting lost in the attempt.

We repeat the same, with the zones of low values that we register in the image, and we translate them in the drawing with our violet color, and, likewise, with the orange we cover the zones of high intermediate values.

fotografia en escala de grises y a color

Without using any black and white, we manage to translate the light values of our photographic reference, with only a handful of colors, and without the need to intermingle them.

Maybe, after having seen the process of this work, we will notice that the choice of a suitable reference, is capital, therefore, it is advisable to take a good time to find images that will facilitate this work.

We must choose those, in which we can find the necessary assortment of grays that runs the spectrum of the scale (High-Intermediate High-Intermediate-Intermediate Low-Low Intermediate) well delimited, in different closed and distinguishable planes.

As any exercise of drawing and color, it will be necessary to try it a number of times, varying the color of our support and our palettes. It is always necessary to experiment as many times as possible, and not get frustrated in one attempt.

This is the only way to learn from experience, and the more the better.

You can do it with different palettes, and it is very fast, so it will be a matter of sharpening our materials to get used to draw with colors, on colored sheets! So you will enjoy and be surprised with this powerful technique of pure colors!

Take these materials in your backpack, wherever you go, and for a while, observe in grays attentive to the values of light, and draw in colors in a direct way. Good luck!


As it was mentioned during the course of the article, color is very important in a drawing, that’s why, in this post, we teach you everything you should know about it. When you learn, and put into practice what you learned today, your color drawings will look great.

The exercise we give you during the post, will be very useful, choose the right palette, with the correct values, follow everything to the letter, it won’t take you long to make them perfectly.

Important, don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right the first time, it’s normal, it’s just practice and desire, a lot of desire, see you next time!

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