Thursday, May 31, 2012

Coloring an Owl

Coloring without blending
I have been working on a mural for a local elementary school, and they want to incorporate in their mural some owls. So, I have had to do a lot of owl sketches recently. While the final mural will be much simpler and stylized, I wanted to share a realistic sketch that I made for practice. I am marking this post as advanced mostly because without blending, your stroke technique is what will define patterns and textures.

As this is just a personal sketch, and not for the client, I wanted to color it simply and more for my own reference. So, as with many of my personal sketches, my goal is to work quickly and with a limited color palette. Blending takes time, so I wanted to color this owl without blending and show you how I use the marker strokes and layers to create the suggestion of blends.

The first layer of color is E31. Notice how I used short, stubby strokes from the side of the brush to give the illusion of feathers on the chest. Then, for the more delicate feathers around the face I switched to the tip of the marker and used very small fine strokes. My goal in this layer is simply to define feathers.

Next I added a layer of W3 for shading. I layered it over the E31. Notice on the chest, how I added the gray in stubby strokes as well, instead of just flatly coloring. I tried to define a light source at this point. The reason I added gray after the brown is because I knew that when the gray layered over the brown it would soften my strokes without the need for blending. I also colored the eyes with Y02. I shadowed the eye with E31.

So my first layer of color was for basic texture definition. The second layer of gray is to show shadows and shape. The next layers of color are to add contrast.

Now I add a layer of E44 to begin defining the unique markings of the owl. The slightly darker brown starts to pull out contrast and shape. Notice that in the chest area, I used the darker brown in strokes opposite the lighter ones. I did this to mimic the pattern of the feathers a little more. The darker brown strokes on the wings really start to define feathers.

Last, I add the dark gray markings from this owl variety. I used an N7, since it was the right darkness, and I didn't mind that it was a little cool for the bird. I probably should have used a W7 or T7, but that would have involved me getting up from my desk to find the right color, and I am rather lazy.

The contrast and markings may seem a little strong at this point, but remember, the surroundings will help tone it down after they are colored. So, for the owl, I used E31, W3, Y02, E44, and N7. No blending, simply layering.

On the final image, I colored the sky with BG70 and B41. The tree in the distance is drawn with W1 and YG61. The branch he is sitting on is colored with the same colors as the main owl, with a hint of YR14 to change the tone to make the image not feel too flat. I colored the branch in scribbles to accent the irregular texture of the bark.

I did add a few hints of B45 onto the owl to cool down the shadows and pull in a bit of the sky color. Still, no blending.

I hope you enjoyed today's tutorial. Have a wonderful week!


Carly said...


gorgeous! thank you so much for sharing!

Tamytha said...

Stunning! I keep buying the markers, but haven't been brave enough to actually start. You make it seem so simple. Thanks for the inspiration.

Maire Gamber said...

Just wonderful! I will practice! I just love your tutorials! Thanks!

Linda said...

Gorgeous!!! Love it so much, thanks so much for sharing your amazing talent with us, I really appreciate it so much. You are such a wonderful inspiration.

Patricia St Martin said...

Love how you did the Owl. I tried one and really over colored him. Love your inspiration.

Ellen Taylor said...

Wow! Your coloring amazes me!!

Barb said...

WOW - this is great!!! Thanks for the tutorial and sharing your knowledge and talent with us!!! You inspire me so much!!

Jean said...

I really loved the shadow of another branch in the background. I finally understand the contrast, contrast, contrast that you told us about on Thursday in the class.

Debbie B

Barbara said...

totally amazing! Thanks!

Renate Krogdahl said...


I just recently discovered your blog. All i can say is AMAZING!!! Thanks for all the wonderful resources you have on here! Lots to learn.