Creating ‘Serene’ Leopard Pastel Portrait / Art Tutorial

You can find the full video tutorial along with 8 hours of real-time footage for this artwork on my Patreon in the ‘Tutorials’ tier.

What you will learn:

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

You will also have:

  • HD reference photo that is copyright free
  • Full list of materials used
  • 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 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.

To start off, the reference photo is from Unsplash.com which is a free website where you can use any image as they’re copyright free and 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 : https://amzn.to/3cT1tVy

For small detailed parts such as the eyes, I only use pastel pencils and never 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 https://bit.ly/393U9mV. I also find that Caran dache Chinese White pastel pencil is the lightest white https://bit.ly/2PD55lL.

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 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 on top, 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 you want to transition colours smoothly. I mostly create transitioned 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:

The full video tutorial for this Leopard drawing is over on my Patreon channel in the ‘Tutorials’ tier, along with 8 hours of real-time drawing footage

The MUST HAVE Art Studio Device! How to Avoid Smudging, Back Pain + Cramping

If you have trouble with smudging your artwork, or you have arm and hand cramps or even back and shoulder pain when drawing or painting, this post is for you. I mainly create artworks in pastels so I can’t rest my hand on paper on top of my work as that smudges the pastel underneath so this hand rest equipment right here has been an absolute life saver. Achieving the same results as a Mahl stick, this device is raised a couple of inches above your artwork to make sure your hand stays away from smudging what’s beneath. Keeping our oily and dirty hands off artworks is really important, especially when it comes to producing the highest quality work. It comes in 3 sizes; 18in,  24in,  31in.

I would like to say that this post is not sponsored in any way, I’m simply highly recommending this product as it has greatly helped me and I would like to share it with others. If like me you have a tilted surface, I easily apply masking tape to the edges to hold it up and stop it from slipping. There may be a better way to do this but this is how I keep it in place and it works well for me.

I also used to get back and shoulder cramps after a long day’s drawing, I’m 23 so hopefully I don’t already have a naturally bad back. However as I rest my wrist on this device to draw or paint, it takes the strain off my back and shoulders and avoids smudging any work. This device is also now an essential studio tool to me for adding in precise detail to my works, on larger pieces especially, my hand is able to hover just over the spot that I need to get at. It’s made of very sturdy acrylic so you don’t need to worry about it bending down and touching your work or breaking, I have been using mine for about 4 months now and the quality has been really really great so far.

Lemur Drawing || PASTEL ART (with bokeh background) – Beginner Tutorial

In this drawing, I will be using Unison colour pastels, Carbothello pastel pencils and Faber castell pastel pencils to draw a Lemur on Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper.

I wanted to create a fun, dynamic background, similar to the reference photo. I took inspiration from the bokeh effect already seen on the righthand side of the reference photo and continued it onto the left (reference attached on Patreon). I loved the colour palette of blue’s, grey’s and dark green’s of the bokeh, I used a mixture of pastel sticks and pastel pencils to create it. I also used both the pastel sponge tools as well as my finger to blend it together to achieve the blurry out of focus effect.

I believe that one main thought to take away from this piece is that the lighting in a piece is what can help make it stand out. The reference had great shadows and highlights which really forces you to keep the contrast high and creates a dynamic atmosphere. Sometimes, lighting can be more important than details, it also makes for a more visually interesting portrait.

The real-time video for this painting can be found on my Patreon here. You can find the sped-up YouTube video here.

Tips and Techniques for Drawing a Photo Realistic Cat in Colour using Pastel Pencils

Creating realistic pet drawings for clients & capturing a true likeness along with all the detail is crucial. In this blog post I want to talk you through how I created this realistic cat portrait drawing using purely pastel pencils. I mainly draw in colour as I believe it makes for a more impactful portrait when compared to B+W drawings which are also great in their own way, but rather for a more formal result. A colour portrait on the other hand will bring out the many subtle colours and tones found in the fur along with the colour in the eyes which can really captivate a viewer and create a certain wow factor.

What materials do I use? For colour pet portraits, I draw with pastel pencils. Mainly, Carbothello & Faber Castell pastel pencils, on occasion I will use PanPastels or Unison pastel sticks but not always as I find they tend to block up the paper quickly. Pastels in either forms have great longevity (lightfastness) so you can rest assured that your clients artwork will stay in prime condition for many years. They are also very pleasing to work with in my opinion and offer great flexibility in technique.

How do I create my realistic artworks? To create my pet pastel portrait drawings, I always use the same technique of putting down a base layer of colour and finish off with fine details on top. Making sure my pencils are continually sharp will allow me to get the details of fur and hair highlights which can really make a portrait stand out. Below are links to videos on YouTube + Patreon to learn my process!

A time-lapse of this drawing process can be found on my YouTube here

I have also uploaded the real-time drawing process video to my Patreon along with a full materials list if you would like to watch my techniques in more detail

Back to blog homepage

An Introduction to Drawing Animal Fur for Beginner Pastel Artists

Drawing fur is almost like problem solving every reference photo in to relevant layers and textures. Creating the illusion of fur can be a real pain, but I hope this blog post gives you a good insight into my method of how to draw fur using pastels along with a few tips and tricks! I’ll give a little back story into my journey with pastels but if you’re easily bored and want to just get straight to the point, scroll right down for my method!

Not too long ago I found myself being commissioned for animals way more often as compared to humans which I was used to, quickly realising people love their pets more than anything! I had built my skill up to draw people for years so I was used to drawing smooth skin. Drawing the texture of fur was a whole different skill that I realised I had to quickly learn and improve on. I noticed I wasn’t able to produce as high quality of work compared to my smooth skin portraits. This turned into frustration and which definitely showed in my quality of work.

I began drawing fur by simply using pastel pencils alone and this created a multiple of problems. When using pastel pencils on their own, overall it can be boring, time consuming and you’ll also most likely be left with white gaps everywhere in your drawing where the paper shows through. You need to create a base layer of colour underneath where the detailed pencil strokes of fur will go instead of trying to create the base colour with just pencils alone. I create base layers of colour with PanPastel which are a condensed form of pastel that you apply to the paper using sponges. You can also use pastel sticks but beware, using these will make everything very dusty! Have a hoover handy and make sure not to hold it too close to your work so that is tries to suck up your work and ruin it. Other than making the work so much easier, it is also much quicker to use pastel chalks or PanPastel’s instead of pastel pencils alone and is one of the great benefits of drawing with pastel as a media.

Paper choice may be the most important factor in my improvement of fur drawing. I previously used a high quality, expensive paper called BFK Rives which did in fact work well with pastel pencil, however I found myself only able to build up 1 or 2 layers when using it. I also wanted to use PanPastels on it but the paper didn’t allow for detailed strokes on top of layers which was an issue when it came to fur. This is due to there being a minimal ‘tooth’ on the smooth surface (which I explain further in the next paragraph). I started looking around for an alternative and Pastelmat by Clairefontaine became an obvious answer. When I first tried this paper, I was completely blown away. Its specifically made for pastels so I felt as though I had been missing out this whole time! It even excelled in drawing smooth skin textures because I could incorporate more layers into the paper but most importantly it allowed for detailed pastel pencil strokes on top of pastel layers. The surface of Pastelmat has velvety / sandy surface, this is because its made from a fine coating of cellulose fibres. This gives it the ability to grab and hold many layers of pastels which is exactly what I was after for drawing fur.

It all comes down to the tooth of the paper. You may have experienced for yourself that the paper you work on can only handle a small amount of pastel before you’re unable to work more layers on top. The tooth refers to the peaks and valleys within paper, the smoother the paper means less peaks and valleys, the rougher the paper equates to greater peaks and valleys. I hope you enjoy my badly drawn example to the left, the lines in between peaks and valleys represent different layers of pastel. I had previously worked with rough paper but I tried to avoid it as I wanted my drawings to be as smooth as possible. Because of this, I avoided rough paper altogether but this was what was keeping my pastel ability from excelling. This is where PastelMat performs above the rest as it feels and appears smooth yet the fine coating of cellulose fibres allow for many layers. Understanding how pastel sits on the paper explains why smooth paper doesn’t allow for many pastel layers and details. As a layer of pastel goes on, the peak and valleys of the paper gradually fill with pastel, this is why smooth paper only has room for one or two layers. Where as using a paper like Pastelmat where the surface is sanded and the peaks and valleys are much greater, it can hold in more of those layers, also allowing you to put detail on top of previous layers below.

I hope all of that helped and gave you a bit of an insight into how pastels work. Just to recap, when drawing fur with pastels my method is:

  • Pastelmat as paper choice (always!),
  • Thin base layer of pastel, either in pencils, sticks or PanPastels to block in the colour,
  • Always make up the base layer with shadows / dark tones so that the highlights of the lighter pastel pencils stand out,
  • Refine fur details on subsequent layers with pastel pencils,
  • Notes: Keep a hoover handy to clean up any dust (wear a mask for protection if needed & keep the workspace well ventilated. You do not want to breathe in pastel dust). If the pastel paper gets clogged with pastel, use a kneadable eraser to lift of some of the condensed pastel so you can continue drawing with detail. Keep your pencils sharp!

You can find many tutorials and real-time drawing videos on my Patreon HERE

Lessons

Below are a number of lessons dedicated to teaching you how to draw fur:

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Back to blog homepage