Monday, May 7

Tutorial: Undertones

When I colour a group of items, such as these three roses, I often like to distinguish between them without making them completely different colours. I want to end up with three red roses, but I want them to be subtly different. One way to do this is by adding undertones.

An undertone is simply a base colour that is laid down, before you start colouring, to give a different tone to the end product. You can vary the "temperature" of your image by using "cool" or "warm" undertones... blues and purples are usually "cool", while reds and yellows are generally "warm".

Start by adding three undertone colours to the roses - red, peach and yellow. When using pencils, make sure you use a light touch when adding your layers or the pigment won't lay down evenly.

Now I colour over the top with the same red pencil. You can see the tone still showing through the pigment. As I add layers of colour, the different tones will become more subtle.

Even though I have ended up with three red roses, you can still see a subtle difference, particularly with the front rose which has definite yellow tones.

You can use the same technique for foliage too. In this case, I'm adding a bright yellow green to the new growth and the leaves that are positioned in the front of the image. Light, bright colours appear to come forward, while dark colours recede.

After adding a layer of the same green to all the leaves, you can still see the bright areas where I added the undertone colour. Notice how those areas catch your eye?

This technique works with most colouring mediums, including pencils, paint and markers. (Watercolours are a little different given their unique qualities.) As always, practice makes perfect... and it's always fun to play!

Photographs and written instructions are copyright Beccy Muir.
All rights reserved


  1. Thank you Beccy!
    Until now I've always used your precoloured images. Now I have started to colour some images myself, so this tutorial is very helpful for me!
    Hugs, Liv

  2. For me; who doesn't like to color; this was Very helpful.
    Thank you

  3. Thank you so much for this tutorial Beccy!

  4. Thank you so much for this tutorial Beccy - it is very much appreciated

  5. Hi Beccy those roses are gorgeous. Thank you for all the colouring tips. I think I might treat myself to some of those pencils. Take care. Hugs Jackie

  6. I usually use different colour pencils, but this is a great tip too! I am definitely going to try, thanks! Greetings Petra

  7. Those are great.Thank you for the tutorial.

  8. Great tutorial Beccy and your colouring is stunning x

  9. thank you, Beccy! Great tip! (you're such a lovely artist!)