In this post I discuss a fun and simple way to draw an apple using only 6 basic colours, red, blue, yellow, orange, green and purple. I’m a great believer that creating art doesn’t have to be complicated. With colour pencils you can create beautiful work with just a few tools, a subject and a place to draw. In the video I walk you through the steps of working with these 6 colours and how to achieve successful layering, colour mixing, colour neutralizing, texture and form. In the end you’ll have this beautiful apple and along the way get a good understanding of colour basics with a limited palette.
To start with here is a list of all the materials I use in the video.
Colour pencils: Faber Castell Polychromos: Cadmium yellow #107, Cadmium orange #111, Dark Red #225, Purple Violet #136, Cobalt blue #143, Permanent Green # 266 Prismacolor colour pencils: Black, white and a colorless blender
For a list of equivalent colour pencils from other brands go here.
Pencil sharpener: Any good one. My favourites are: M&R brass pencil sharpeners and Kum pencil sharpeners particularly the Long Point sharpener.
Note: When you purchase a handheld sharpener, keep the sharpener and purchase replacement blades. Change out the blades every time the pencil tugs when being turned.
A good low/smooth tooth drawing paper. If you’re not sure what this is, check out my short discussion on paper types A Guide to Drawing Paper: 3 Key Characteristics.
For starting out any decent art drawing paper can be used. Remember, papers if they are not acid free will turn yellow and become brittle over time, consider purchasing a small sketch book from Strathmore, Canson, Fabriano (Bristol) or Stonehenge paper. The paper I use in the video is Stonehenge drawing paper by Legion it is 100% cotton fibre, acid free and archival.
Papers Extra Information
For when you are creating art that needs to stand the test of time you will need to look for a paper that is acid free, archival, and 100% cotton. Strathmore 500 series, Fabriano Artistico hot press, Arches hot press, Stonehenge.
For indenting you’ll need a small tip indenting tool, such as an old used up pen, a small tip knitting needle, or anything that can create a tiny circle shape for the Apple textured spots.
I’ve included the image and outline here.
The video is a step-by-step outline of all you’ll need to do this drawing.
You’ll find extra information on colour wheels and a step-by-step drawing process of the apple below.
Using 6 Colour Pencils to draw an apple – Part 1
Why only 6 colours?
There could be many reasons for choosing to work with only 6 colours.
More budget friendly
Sometimes it’s hard to find the money to get art supplies. But what if we can make beautiful art on a budget? Keeping a limited palette as you begin working with colour pencils is a great way to start working with this medium and still create great art.
You might also want to challenge yourself. Working with a limited palette or allowing yourself to go back to the basics, is a great way to learn or relearn important topics such as colour theory, layering and mixing methods. Being an important part of working successfully with colour media such as colour pencils this basic palette allows you to study the possibilities of what the tools can do, and learn from that.
If I can share anything that I believe will make your art making easier it is the need to work with the best artist materials available. All artist professional quality colour pencils can be bought open stock. Meaning, you can buy individual pencils from a brands full colour stock instead of a set. This is great because $20 is easier to manage than $400 if you’re on a limited budget. The pencils I work with and list here are considered to be artists grade materials.
Primary and Secondary Colours
For this drawing we use colours that are based on the primary and secondary colour wheel chart. It’s always great having a colour wheel handy so you can use my basic colour wheel chart below or use one you have already. These 6 base colours can do a lot, the key to working with 6 colours is understanding how colours interact with each other. If you’re unsure of exactly how this works and need to know more about basic colour use and mixing then check out my post and short video here.
Use a softer graphite pencil such as a 2B to create your drawing.
There is an important reason for this. A softer graphite, when drawn lightly over the soft drawing paper will not gouge a line into the paper. Once I’ve drawn my subject with graphite, I use my lightest colour pencil and trace over the lines of graphite. I then use a kneaded eraser to remove the graphite lines since it will smear and blend with colour pencils if left making the colours muddy. Graphite doesn’t adhere to the paper the same way colour pencil does, and using the kneaded eraser will clean up the graphite but leave the colour pencil lines.
I lay a base colour down over my entire drawing with the exception of bright highlights. My base colours come from a study of the subject and a firm understanding of the colour wheel.
There are a couple of methods that help me determine base colours.
1- Studying the subject up close. Using a microscope, magnifying glass or if working from a photo I zoom in and look closely to find the lightest colours on the subject. Sometimes this is a textured area, sometimes it is seen between the lines of the darker areas. (See photo close up of Apple)
2- I use a colour identity app. I will often plug a photo of the subject into an app such as Photoshop, or … you can eye drop around the image to find the lightest colours.
Once I’ve found the lightest colour, and if i determine it’s still quite dark, I use my knowledge of the colour wheel to break down that colour into smaller segments.
In the image below you can see my lightest colour found is a light green. However, I want to find a base colour even more basic than that green. I do this by an understanding that green is a secondary colour made from yellow and blue. If I extract those two colours and look at them separately I determine that between those two colours yellow has the lightest value. Working with my limited palette of 6 colours I choose yellow as my base colour and do a very light wash of yellow over the entire image. You can add a second base tone using the orange to add more depth.
Adding tiny specks of texture
Using the indenting tool (see picture) push gently over your apple area to create a varied texture of the little light spots.
Remember to refer to your photo for an idea of where to place the spots and do not be overly consistent in the pattern, you want it to look random.
Adding volume to create form.
To attain realism in our drawing we need to have a good understanding of volume. Shape to form. This means understanding space, light, value ranges and your materials. If you struggle with this you can check out my step-by-step video on value ranges here.
Once you have your base colours you’ll work up the form of the apple by adding your red. Remember to always work with a sharp pencil tip to make strong clean edges and work from edge to inner area, paying attention to the highlights and shadows. Treat the apple as a sphere, remember reflected light, base, mid and quarter tones and how they flow into the highlights.
Keep referring to your apple image and draw what you see, not what you think you see.
Adding More value
This is where understanding basic colours wheel concepts comes into play. If you’re unsure of what primary and secondary colours do when layered and how you can manipulate colour check out my post here.
Working with green over a red will create a darkened brown colour. You can use this to your advantage in helping you create value ranges.
The linear texture of the apple is created by applying purple and blue in jagged curved contour lines along the apple. Remember to look closely at your subject to determine the texture placement and be random and inconsistent in the line length, texture and closeness.
The final step to the image is apply a overlay of the red, orange and yellow. This will help blend the colours. Pay attention to the highlight and have fun with smoothly blending the full image.
Professional Colour Pencil Brands I Love
Polychromos: Faber Castell
Luminance: Caran D’Ache
Pablo: Caran D’Ache
Prismacolor Premiere: Newell Brand
Procolour Pencils: Derwent
Lightfast Pencils: Derwent
Holbein Artist Color Pencils: Holbein Works LTD.