Creating ‘Serene’ Leopard Pastel Portrait / Art Tutorial

This artwork is the result of an in-depth tutorial and real-time video posted on my Patreon channel.

What you will learn:

  1. Tips and techniques for how to use soft pastels
  2. Achieving depth in your artwork
  3. How to elevate your drawing to look realistic
  4. How to properly apply pastel for a desired outcome

You will also have:

  1. HD reference photo that is copyright free
  2. Full list of materials used
  3. A huge range of other Patreon videos

This drawing is an exciting one for me as I feel that it allows me to show you a really useful insight into how I use soft pastels to create realistic drawings. I want to explain to you my process of how I do things in detail. This is also fun for me as its a large wildlife piece which I rarely get time to do in between pet portrait commissions. I want to go forward creating more in-depth wildlife pieces like this one, and I would love to hear any suggestions you may have on what to draw in the near future.

To start off, the reference photo is from which is a free website where you can use any image as they’re copyright free. This drawing is created on Pastelmat paper in the colour dark grey. To get an accurate outline work of your subject, I recommend the grid method. You can google how to do this, I’m in the process of making an in-depth tutorial on how to achieve accurate proportions but this won’t be out for some time. If you don’t want to draw the grid itself on your paper, you can use the grid method on tracing paper and then transfer your drawing from the tracing paper onto your pastel mat paper by transfer sheets which you can purchase from amazon. These are similar to the ones I have :

For small detailed parts such as the eyes, I only use pastel pencils and rarely pastel sticks as I am able to get maximum precise control. For large areas, i use pastel sticks, mainly unison colour but I have since tried a couple of other brands. So far, unison seem to be the best quality and they have a huge range of colours to choose from so I highly recommend them. They’re also made here in the UK which I think is great! You do not have to press hard, just patiently lightly build up the layers and slowly fill in the tooth of the paper. For the deepest blacks, I use creta colour black chalk pencil I also find that Caran dache Chinese White pastel pencil is the lightest white

You should aim for your base colour layer to generally be a darker shadowy area for your lighter detailed pastel pencil marks to sit on top of. This is how the depth of fur is created, just think of how animal fur sits in the real world on top of skin. The skin and fur underneath the highlighted fur on the very surface of the animal will be dark and in shadow. this is because it is behind the highlighted fur on top that we can first see, this is exactly what we want to achieve in our drawing. If you look hard between the highlighted fur details, you should be able to point out what colour you need your base layer to be. I will also link a video in the description on how to achieve correct colours in your artwork from your reference photos.

I advise you to practice different levels of pressure with your pastel pencils, lighter pressure will create thinner but slightly more transparent lines. Harder pressure will allow for opaque lines but they may not be as thin as you require.A constantly sharp pencil also helps a lot, i turn my pencil around as i work to help keep the nib sharp as best as I can.

Creating the background may take more time than most think. Patience is really important as the process can be very frustrating if your aim is to transition colours smoothly. I mostly create soft transition backgrounds with my pet portraits so I’ve had time time practice. For the background I use purely unison pastel sticks, here is a picture of the various pastel colours after I placed them on the paper and then after I had blended and smoothed them out:

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YouTube Video