Learning Colored Pencil: How to Color a Realistic Pumpkin! | Alexis Cassandra Art | Skillshare

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Learning Colored Pencil: How to Color a Realistic Pumpkin!

teacher avatar Alexis Cassandra Art, Traditional Pencil Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (38m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials/Tools

    • 3. Coloring Part 1

    • 4. Coloring Part 2

    • 5. Coloring Part 3

    • 6. Final Details/Project

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About This Class

In this beginner/intermediate level class, we will learn how to create a festive, realistic pumpkin with colored pencils! Pumpkins are a great subject to practice with, especially if you do not have many colors to work with. They also have unique shapes and grooves that will provide you with a bit of a challenge!

Here are some of the main concepts we will go over:

1. The techniques of coloring that will leave you with a consistent, smooth result

2. How to layer and blend your colored pencils to create depth 

3. How to deal with light highlights, soft & subtle shadows, and intense & harsh shadows

4. How to avoid a cartoon-like style while learning to color realistically 


This class is suitable for both beginner/intermediate level colored pencil artists as we go over a variety of techniques and how to avoid common mistakes! So grab your colored pencils and let's get started!

Meet Your Teacher

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Alexis Cassandra Art

Traditional Pencil Artist


Hello everyone and welcome! My name is Alexis and I am a pencil artist focused on realism. I started my first "official" sketchbook at age fifteen and only fell further in love with art since then!

After over eight years of practice and developing my skills and techniques, I have become passionate about sharing what I've learned over time with other aspiring artists!

If you'd like to see more video content, you can visit my Youtube channel here. I have recently started a Patreon for those who wish to see me create artwork in real-time here. I also have an Instagram account where I post all of my artwork, which you can check out here if you're interested! For more art discussion with other artists, try out my discord here!


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1. Introduction: Hello everyone, happy fall and welcome to my second class. My name is Alexis and I've been a pencil artist for about six years now. Today I'd like to share some colored pencil techniques and tips with you as we create this very festive autumn pumpkin. And I'd like to teach you some valuable information that you can apply to your other colored pencil work as well. I will provide the reference photo of the fairy tale pumpkin that I'm using in this drawing. But feel free to choose your own reference or reference photo if you would like to. So let's grab our colored pencils and get started with creating a beautiful autumn pumpkin. 2. Materials/Tools: Before we get started with coloring, I'd like to go through the materials list. So I'm using the care and dash illuminance colored pencils, but I'll talk more about that and the colors in a minute. I'm also going to be using a couple of different erasers. You'll notice I have a normal white eraser as well as a kneaded eraser. And I will explain the uses for those. The white eraser of course, is mainly just in case I make any major mistakes. I also have a small detail eraser that looks a bit like a mechanical pencil. That is the Tambo mono 0 eraser. And it is great for picking up small mistakes without disturbing the surrounding areas, or even to add some small highlights. The paper I'm going to be using is Strathmore Bristol vellum surface. And essentially a vellum surface paper has a bit more texture to it. This is a stylistic choice, but either way, I would advise that you pick a thicker paper that can take multiple layers of colored pencil without warping or kind of crumbling underneath. I've used a half sheet for my pumpkin drawing, but I'm just showing you here how the paper is quite thick and sturdy. You can kinda tell just by feeling a piece of paper if it is going to be flimsy or if it's actually going to be able to hold up. Now let's talk a bit about the pencils themselves. The pencil brand I'm using for this, it's a Karen dash luminance colored pencils. They actually have a smaller color range than other popular pencil brands like PRISMA color or polychrome most, I'm going to create a little bit of a swatch chart in case any of you are interested in color matching to the set that you're going to be using. Or if you happen to be using this exact same set and you wanted to see what colors I'm using for my drawing. I've gone ahead and labeled all the colors I'm going to be using. It's going to be 13 colors total, although multiple of them are actually the same color in a variation as secure in dash set provides a couple of different variations of the same shade. It may be a bit confusing looking at this swatch and only seeing a couple of oranges even though we're drawing a pumpkin. But it actually turns out that you end up using a lot more browns to focus on things like shadow and creating depth. And you don't really need to actually have that many orange shades. 3. Coloring Part 1: And let's get on with coloring this very beautiful pumpkin now. So you can see I have my sketch done in graphite and what I'm going to do is use my kneaded eraser to pick up any excess graphite so that it doesn't show through in my final result. And I always do this no matter what medium I'm working in. I always like to sketch out in graphite, so I'm going to have to do this no matter what. And I like to leave the line a little bit faint so I could still see, of course, what I'm doing, but I don't want there to be anything excess. So I'm just gonna do this section by section as we go along. The next thing that I'm going to do is use some of my darker browns to show where the shadows are. I'm starting off with, with where the deepest shadow is going to be, which is of course, the areas between each section of the pumpkin as well as that bottom corner. Those bottom corners are not going to receive a lot of light. So they're going to be very dark. But as you might notice, I'm not going to create anything too dark right now because we are in the beginning stages of the drawing and I want to make sure that I'm using a light hand so that way I can layer it a lot of additional colors on top and I won't have any issue with that. And as soon as I start to press a little bit too hard, what's gonna happen is the paper won't be able to take much more layers. It will be a little bit difficult for me to achieve the result that I want. So if we are going to press hard, we're going to wait until the end to do so. The colors that I'm using to create the shadowed portions are raw, umber and then CPO, which is a really dark brown tone that I'm going to use, especially with those creases between the sections of the pumpkin and those bottom corners, which I've already identified as my darkest areas. So it really helps to identify your darkest areas and then also your other shadowed areas so that you really know where you're going to have to add a lot of different layers. And I also have defined the line a little bit between this section of the pumpkin and the next one. And the reason I wanna do that is because these pumpkins are very shapely there, fairy tale pumpkins. I definitely know that there's going to be quite a dark area in that crease there. So what I want to do is start to build that up a little without creating a harsh line. So instead of drawing a straight line, what you can do is create a line that varies a bit so that it's not completely straight. And also so that it's darker in some areas or wider in some areas than other areas. So in some areas it's really faint. In other areas it's a bit darker and more defined. And that way you will get a natural-looking line and not something that look straight out of a cartoon because it's a little bit hard to avoid that sometimes. And then going over my shadowed areas with some burnt ochre and any really burnt orange color, burnt brown tone that you have will work for this. It just helps to deepen up the shadowed areas depending on your reference photo as well, you might be using different colors. Now before I go any further talking about the pumpkin, I really hope to talk about my method of shading or coloring here. So I'm going to be using a method of soft shading and not harsh shading. When you use harsh shading, your likely using the tip of your pencil a little bit too much. You might be pressing too hard, you might be coloring and a linear motion the same way that we might have used when we were younger. We played around with colored pencils, of course you would color and like a linear motion. And so people are really used to that. But really you don't want to be coloring and a linear motion for the most part. Want to be doing is coloring more in a circular motion and maybe even using the side of your pencil a bit more than the tip of your pencil. And at least for broader areas, that's what she wanted to be doing. You want to use the tip of your pencil for detail areas or to make sure you don't go outside the lines on the edges. But for the most part, for the broader areas where you want to create a nice, seamless blend. You don't want to use the tip of your pencil because that makes it hard to not show any pencil strokes and pencil strokes, of course they're not going to achieve a realistic result in the end. So with soft shading, again, I'm stating in circular motions and kind of blending each color into the next very nicely, just by creating gradients. So my shadowed areas will have a gradient where it just kind of fades off nicely into the orange tones. And then some of the oranges fade off nicely into a lighter area that I would consider my highlight. And even with that little section I was working on, there's a tiny bit of a highlight there. And I kind of just achieve that by letting my orange tones fade out a little bit and just kind of lightening my hand as I worked on those areas. This is really important for those creases because what I want to do with those creases is create for really deep intense shadow without separating it from the rest of the drawing and making it look too cartoon like. And using a gradient and soft shading to help dot blend out into the orange a little bit is really going to help me achieve that result. Same thing with those bottom corners of the pumpkin. I don't want them to be so dark next to other areas and to look so dark next to other areas that it looks non-realistic. I still want to make sure that it blends out nicely. If you do prefer to color in a more linear fashion, make sure you are using the side of your pencil a lot. And also make sure you're following the curve of whatever it is you're coloring because following that natural curve will help everything to look realistic in the end. Also keeping your pressure, your pencil pressure consistent throughout is very good. The idea as well because that way everything will look more uniform, which is necessary in the end for to look realistic when you want to create a nice and smooth blended out area. You might notice that my drawing has a bit of texture to it, and that is due to a couple of things. First of all, the type of paper that I'm using does have a bit of extra tooth to it, which naturally is going to lead to a bit of a texture. But another thing is I kind of made a stylistic choice to leave a little bit of texture in my end result, not everybody likes to do that. So there are things like solvent or you can burnish, meaning press very hard and your very last layer in order to get that in extremely smooth result. And if I were to do that, I would use a lighter pencil to burnish not the orange tones that I'm using because that would kind of just flatten out the drawing and ruined any type of blending that I had done. But I would kind of use a lighter tone for the lighter areas and then a darker tone for the shadowed areas and press very hard and my very last layers. But I'm not going to do that because I do like to leave a little bit of texture. Now back to what I am working on, on the pumpkin specifically, I've created a couple of imperfections because pumpkins, along with most vegetables, actually, do have a lot of imperfections and it helps to make your pumpkin not look completely perfect because in reality, most pumpkins are not completely perfect. What I'm going to demonstrate now is how I'm going to create a highlighted area on this little section of the pumpkin. Right now the highlight is quite bright, but it's not going to stay that bright. I'm actually going to kind of cover it mostly with orange, but I still want it to be lighter than the rest of the section of the pumpkin. And I'm just going to keep calling them sections of the pumpkin because I don't really know what other name to give them, but I'm just going to continue to create gradients and then still leave that area little bit highlighted without leaving it completely white. And then I continue to add some more imperfections and detail to the pumpkin as well. And now I'm going to just let you watch as I build up my oranges and continue to layer this until I'm happy with it. 4. Coloring Part 2: Alright, so you can see I skipped over a couple of things because I did have some blurry clips, but I do wanna go over how I got that deep crease and I will go over that because we do have a couple of more deep creases to work on, so don't worry about that. I didn't have to skip over a couple of clips though, because they were just awful. Earlier I mentioned to color in the direction that an object curves in. And now as I'm starting to work on some areas that do curve because of the point of view we're looking at them from, you can see that I've also paid attention to make sure I'm coloring in those directions so everything looks a bit more consistent. In the end. You can see I am working on a couple of details in this section. And now I'm moving on to this left section, which is going to include another deep crease that I'm going to talk a little bit about. So of course, as usual, I'm starting off by identifying my shadowed areas and coloring those in, but not too harshly. Of course, I still want to be able to add more layers. And then I'm going to figure out where my very deep crease is. And I'm going to start and color this area with more of a medium pressure. Now the line, of course, cannot be consistent. It has to vary. Some areas have to be wider and darker than other areas in order for it to look realistic. But either way, I'm still going to build that area up a little bit darker than I normally would with my shadow areas. To start. Once I do that, I'm going to create a bit of a gradient that goes from that deep crease out into the rest of the sections of the pumpkin. And this particular crease is quite deep because a section that it kind of falls into a smaller section. So this is one of the really heavily shadowed areas that I'm going to have to work on. I'm even going to use a little bit of black in here after I layer my CPS. So you always want to use black and layers. You don't want it to be your first layer. You want to layer it on top of a brown or another color, and then layer that Brown or other color on top of a black again to make sure that it doesn't look too harsh compared to the rest of your drawing. And then I go in with my black and start to add some more dark areas to the other crease that I worked on as well. So especially towards the top and bottom corners, that crease kind of comes out in a bit of a gradient. So that's very important. I know I keep mentioning it, but it's really important to keep things looking realistic and like a real shadow and not just something fake. Because with a real shadow, there is a point where the light starts to come in a bit so the shadow fades out. It doesn't just stop in a harsh point, but it fades out naturally. Altogether though this section is really small and won't take me very long to complete. And actually the longest section are the largest section was that front section that was paying a lot of attention to because that of course, is the first thing you see when you look at the drawing. Whereas the other sections, you can't really see very much of them. Another thing I'd like to mention is how the highlight falls in a different area on each section of the pumpkin. Because, why keep saying section of the pumpkin? And I'm gonna get tired of my voice by the end of this. But it's going to fall in a different area on each section because of how the light is hitting it and how each section is in a different spot, of course. So definitely follow your reference photo on that and the highlight should not be in the same spot in each part of your pumpkin because it just won't look realistic either. You definitely want to make sure you follow your reference photo for photo for that. A lot of the times when people are new to colored pencil or they're still kind of beginners with colored pencil. They think that you need to have a bunch of different shades of color in order to get a realistic result. And the truth of it is you don't really need to have a million different shades. So for example, you might look at a picture of a pumpkin and thank you, need like ten or five different orange colors in order to achieve it. But in reality you don't as long as you have maybe two to three orange colors even to I would say is fine. And then you have some browns in order to create those shadowed areas. So for example, I have my orange color and then I also have raw sienna, which is a bit of a yellowish orange rather than a pure orange. And then in some cases you might use instead of a yellowish orange, you might use like a red orange depending on whatever shade the pumpkin is in your reference photo. But my point would be that it's more important to have brown tones that you can use to portray the shadowed areas and to blend out nicely into your orange tones. You really don't need to have a million different oranges. And if you do, you're going to get a bit overwhelmed with where to put each one and with the whole layering process in general. So I recommend you keep it a little bit minimalistic. And if anything, I would use more brown tones than oranges. Most of the depth that I have achieved is definitely from layering those Brown's with those oranges. And not just with using a lot of different orange. But anyways, you can see that I'm still building up some of those sections before I move on to the next section. And this is okay too. If you finish one area, don't feel like you can't go back to it and fix something or make a few adjustments because I feel that sometimes it's necessary, especially when you finish more areas, you look back at one area and feel like maybe it's missing something or maybe you need to make a couple of adjustments and that's perfectly fine. You don't have to call a section done. You can always go back and fix it a little bit more, add a little bit something to it. And I know I've already mentioned this, but I'm not actually using my white pencil in this drawing. So all of my highlights are just created by creating a bit of a gradient and not actually using a white or super light pencil and ordered to get that highlighted area. And that is just great for some of you who don't like to use your white pencil for highlights or who don't have a super great white pencil because not all of these sets of colored pencils come with a really opaque and really nice for blending white pencil. No, I do feel like this is going to get a little bit repetitive because I'm using the same process really to cover every section or to color every section of the pumpkin. So it is going to get a little bit repetitive because I am using the same method of first laying down the shadows and then starting to layer orange and then building it up. But you can really look at each section that I do and kind of observe exactly what is happening. And I'd like to leave all these different sections in even though it's nothing new. Just because I think it could help some people who are struggling with this and who are new to colored pencil just to see the method that I am using here. Now as I move on to that section on the left, it really does curve a lot in his kind of portion of the drawing. So I am going to be coloring and the curve in the direction that, that section of the pumpkin curves em because that's really prominent at this point and it's gonna get more prominent as I continue towards the back of the pumpkin. It's also of course going to take me less time as I get further back because so the pumpkin is really showing. Yeah, and because I'm getting used to the technique and I'm just going to be a bit faster as I do it over and over again, of course. So I do feel this is getting a little bit repetitive. I will let you watch this for a little while and then I will go back to giving some more tips once I start to work on a couple of new sections. Right? 5. Coloring Part 3: I'm finishing up with this section and I'm going to start working on the next section which will have a pretty heavy shadow where kind of the crease of the pumpkin is going to be. So we are going to go through and do another crease. And I'll show you again how we do that. I'm using my CPI again, there are lots of really great natural dark brown color for your deepest shadows and a pretty good replacement for black if you don't really want to use black in your work, like a lot of artists do not. So what I'm doing is I'm really building up where that shadow is going to be. But you can see the emphasis is on making sure that it's uneven. The last thing I'd want is for it to look to even because then it's not going to look as natural. So as long as your shadow looks a bit uneven and like it fades out in some areas it's darker and other areas is narrower in some areas than it is going to look realistic. I know I've gone over that before, but it's important. So I wanted to go over it again. And then after I kinda started out with that little rough sketch of the shadow, I'm gonna go in with my orange and start to color a little bit on top and create a little bit of a Layering, which is really important too, to make sure that you're always layering and making sure that you don't leave color just flat as it is. Now since I am using sepia and raw number for my shadowed areas, they do look a bit earthy and a little bit like a dark kind of coffee looking color, a little bit of a greenish tint almost to it. And if you were to use a different tone of Brown, You would expect that it would turn out or a different shade of brown, you would expect it would turn out a bit different. So if you were to use maybe a burnt sienna, you would get more of a reddish undertone. So really you want to pay attention to the undertones of your Brown's as well. If you don't have a large collection, of course you need to work with whatever you have. But if you are kind of new to colored pencil and you happen to have a bit of a bigger set, I would definitely go in and look at your browns and really kind of identify which ones have which type of undertone, which ones look a little bit warmer? Which ones look a little bit greener and just kind of figure out what she would like to use based on that. As we start to work more towards the edges where we will be hitting the edge of the paper a little bit and where the sections of the pumpkin are kind of going to end towards the back there. I do want to mention how we never want to create any harsh outlines around our edges. If we do create harsh outlines, we're gonna get a bit of a cartoonish look, which isn't really what we're going for when we're doing realism. So instead of creating a harsh line, you want to still color in a soft motion, whether that's a circular motion, which I really recommend for the edges of a drawing. But when you are working on the edges, you want to make sure your pencil is quite sharp so you don't go outside of the lines. But that being said, you don't need to have extremely crisp lines either. It's actually best that you don't, because if you do, you can see the definition a little bit too much and that doesn't really make for a realistic work, even though it's really tempting to define the edges and create outlines. When you see me using that very light tone, that's actually the burnt ochre 10% that comes with the Karen dash aluminum, if you're familiar with that set. And they have three Bert ochres. So I'm using those three in this drawing, which is why it looks like I'm using like a peach and a couple different colors is actually just another form of burn ochre. So now what I'm gonna do that's gonna take me a little bit of time, is I'm going to focus on working on that shadow. That is a little bit, I want to say too harsh, but not really the way that I want it yet. So what I'm gonna do is I'm going to work on that. I want to deepen up to shadow it. It's kinda darkest point and then I want to have it fade out and not look uniform in any way because it kinda does fade out really naturally. So that is the goal with that shadow right there. And unlike the other portions of the pumpkin, you can see a lot more of the shadow from this angle. So I really want to emphasize on doing that without completely making that entire section too dark. So sometimes when you're working on shadows, you want to be careful that you don't accidentally make your shadow spread out too far. You still want to make sure that you pay attention to where the highlighted areas are and the lighter areas as well. And now I'm starting on the last section in the back where you can actually see the bottom part of the pumpkin and all the other sections on the back left-hand side, you can only see the top part of the pumpkin. So that's going to be pretty fast. It's mostly just going to be highlighted areas. But this is the last area that I can actually see, the bottom on the left-hand side here. And it's of course getting quite thin. So this is gonna take me less and less time as I move towards the back of the pumpkin. But again, I'm doing the same formula over and over again where I just layer down the shadow, add orange on top and just continue to layer until I get a really nice blend while still paying attention to where my highlight is going to be a not ignoring that in this drawing, I'm not going to be using my gel pen, which I sometimes use to bring out bright highlights because in this drawing there weren't really many bright highlights. In fact, the highlights were a bit more subtle, so I wanted them to look a bit more natural. And if you are going to use a gel pen for highlights, makes sure that the highlights and your reference photo look very extremely bright white. Kind of like a light shining in somebody's eye or something like that. You don't want to use a gel pen for every single one of your highlights because it's going to look a little bit unnatural, especially for those more subtle highlights. You don't want to accidentally make them too bright. Kinda like you don't want your shadows to just be straight black. You want to make sure that they still have a little bit of depth to them and that they do get dark in certain areas, but that they're not just completely black. I've also used a little bit of violet grey in that section where you can kind of see where the stem is connecting to the top part of the pumpkin. It's a little bit of a violet grey, muted tone. And I saw that in my reference photo and I thought that I would just sort of use it because sometimes when you see an odd color in your reference photo, it kind of makes the drawing pop a little bit more and look a little bit more interesting if you actually incorporate it. So that is the one kind of odd color that I've incorporated that you wouldn't typically think of when you think of drawing a pumpkin. Not violet grey was seen sometimes where the pumpkin is connecting to the stem, but also her on some of the highlighted areas as well. So I'm going to very subtly add some of that in there and I'm not gonna overdo it because when you have an odd color like that, you definitely don't want to overdo it. Now that I'm moving on to the very back sections, the only part that is visible is the top part of the pumpkin. So we're going to focus not really as much on the shadows. There are going to be some shadows, but we're also going to focus on the highlights because we're working with such a small area. And to go between highlights and shadows and the small area is a little bit tricky and tough sometimes. So I'm really going to focus on that. The highlights are going to show up towards the top now that we're at this angle, that we're looking at it from this angle. And then the shadows are going to show up kind of on the sides. We do have to be especially careful while working on these areas in the back because we are working around so many edges that we still have to make sure we're not accidentally defining them too harshly. As well as the highlight being at the top kind of proves to be tricky as well. So I'm not really going to have any solid area where you can see the pumpkin endings. So since the highlight is at the top, it is kind of a little bit of a fade out and not so k because that's kinda how it looked in the reference photo anyways, and it would look a lot worse if I had just defined it with a line to make sure that people could see where the pumpkin ends. It's not really super necessary to do that. At this point, I'm going to catch up a bit on the right side since I've gone ahead and finished so much of the left side. And then we will talk a bit more about the final touches. Right? Two. Right? Okay. Two. Right. Okay. 6. Final Details/Project: Okay. And last but not least, I'm going to work on the stem and the stem is the final touch. So I wanna make sure I don't rush through it too much. I'm using my brown ochre colors to do this. Those are colors I did not use for the rest of the pumpkin, but I'm going to use it for the stem. And when I say the stem, I also mean the areas connecting the stem to the pumpkin, which is visible in this reference photo, depending on your reference photo that might not be visible though. So with the stem, make sure you still indicate where the shadows and highlights are going to be. You don't want to ignore that and make it look too flat since we want to have dimension in all parts of our drawing. Of course, also, if the tip of the stem is visible to you, wanna make sure that you show that so that it doesn't just kind of end awkwardly. In this particular photo, you can see the top part of the stem just a little bit, so I am going to outline that. And when you create shadows, it kinda helps to make the stem look like it's not just perfect and it does have some grooves in it and things like that. There is a group in the middle there, which is why I have kind of a deeper brown color there, which would have been my brown ochre. I am using the Karen dash set, so I have three different Brown ochre colors that I'm using here. And I'm also using CPI to really dark in it some areas. And then I also want to keep my pencil really sharp since this is a small area I'm working in and towards the end I can add in a few little details like little spots or imperfections or anything like that. And then I'm just going to touch up a little bit around the rest of the pumpkin. Make sure that everything looks nice because I always like to do that for final touches. And the stem is going to be left fairly light actually, it's not going to end up being super dark. So I'm just going to work on that a little bit more. And as I'm finishing up, that brings us to the end of our pumpkin journey here and the end of this class. I hope that there was information here that was useful to you and that you end up enjoying the pumpkin that you draw. And I would love it if you would post a picture of your pumpkin under projects. Also, please don't hesitate to ask questions if you have any as well. I will have some information available for you under the project and Resources tab, including information about the materials I'm using, as well as the link to the reference photo that I'm using. Thank you so much for following along with my class. I hope that you enjoyed it and I also hope that you learned something new that you can apply to your own colored pencil art.