How to Draw Metal With Colored Pencil

The key to drawing metal and metal finishes such as chrome, steel, silver or anything shiny, reflective or transparent is to carefully observe your subject. Pay attention to each little detail of light, shadow and color. Don't worry about the whole thing being 'silver'. Once you've got the basic shape sketched in, develop the small details across the surface. Observe from one spot (slight changes of position can dramatically change reflections and highlights).

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What You Will Need

For this tutorial, you will need a good quality paper, as cheap sketch paper won't hold enough layers of pencil for a good finish. A smooth, fine-toothed paper, such as a hot-pressed watercolor paper, will give you the best results. You'll need a selection of colored pencils including a colorless blender if you have one, an eraser, and a tortillon, rag or q-tips for blending. And you'll need something to draw! A plain object is best to start with - you can tell I've left out the cast detail on the handle of the large spoon, as I was too impatient to draw it. So go raid your silverware, and let's get started!

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Getting Started

Position your object on an uncluttered table, preferably not white (you could use a colored cloth or card) to give contrast to light edges. I've placed a piece of card behind mine to cut down background detail. A bright light source is helpful. First, do the line drawing. Draw the outline first, then lightly indicate the main lines that you can see reflected on the surface of the spoon and the shadows. Mine have two shadows cast by different light sources. Keep your outline very light indeed, and lift any excess graphite with a kneadable eraser.

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First Layer of Color

drawing metal step 2
click picture for larger images. Helen South/

Then lay down the main colors, in this case, ochres and yellows. Depending on the light, white areas (such as the ceiling) reflected tend to be shades of gray. Don't think about what color the object is - just what color you can see in a particular area. You probably won't have the exact color - I choose a darker, less gray option first, building up an underlayer of color. I tend to work the whole image up - a bit here, a bit there - but many artists prefer to complete small sections at a time.

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Layering Colors

drawing metal step 4
Helen South/

Taking care to leave the white highlights untouched, continue to add layers of color. I've used brown in the shadow to give warmth and contrast. Light colors added later will reduce the intensity. Layer more grays over the ochre and brown, and use dark sepia and black to bring up the darker areas. The most difficult area at this stage is the scratched area of the upturned spoon, which has many small highlights.

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Burnishing Layers

click for full sized image
click picture to view larger image.

Now whiten the highlights and work over pale areas in light gray, and put white over the background, including the shadows. Then use blending stump (tortillon) over the background area to blend and smooth. You could also use a colorless blender. Lastly, a final layer of color is added, strengthening the darks, overlaying grays and colors to create a solid burnished (smooth, no paper showing) surface. Make sure your pencils are sharp to give the crisp edges that a shiny surface reflects.