How to draw chrome objects with colored pencils?
Reader Question: I would like to learn how to draw chrome objects with colored pencils. What combination of colored pencils will achieve the best result for drawing chrome items, such as a car bumper or wheel?
Chrome, along with metal and glass, is one of the most difficult objects to draw or paint. Many artists avoid these objects like the plague, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to draw chrome objects with confidence.
To draw chrome or metal objects in colored pencil, you'll use a fairly limited palette that centers mostly on greys, along with white and black.
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If you use Prismacolors, you should invest in the full range of greys, which come in cool greys, warm greys, and French greys, each of which are available in the following range: 10%, 20%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 90% - with 10% being the lightest and 90% being the darkest.
As the name suggests, cool greys have a cooler tinge, while warm greys have a warmer feel. French greys have a slightly creamy or subtly brownish tinge.
If you have a limited budget, you can usually forego the French greys and get by with the cool greys, warm greys, white and black - although if you buy the colored pencils open stock from Blick they can be purchased for under a dollar each, which makes them quite affordable.
Other colors that may come in handy to add warmth, depth and realism include slate grey, sepia, light umber, and burnt umber.
To achieve a sense of smoothness in your chrome or metal drawing, burnish your underdrawing with a white or light grey.
As far as other colors go, since chrome is a reflective surface, look closely at your reference image to note what other colors are present. Do you see subtle blues or hints of green? Depending on the colors in your reference image, you could use colors like blue slate or powdered blue for subtle blue reflections, and celadon green or jade green for slightly green reflections. To determine what colors you'll need to capture any reflections, look closely at your reference image and use your best judgment.
You should also choose the color of your paper wisely to make it easier to draw a chrome surface. A light grey paper might be ideal. If you use a white paper, just leave the bright whites of the chrome (the highlights) blank, so that the white of the paper shows through.
Colored Pencils Guide
To learn more about colored pencils, such as the difference between oil-based and wax-based pencils, check out my Guide to Colored Pencils.
Hope that helps and best of luck with it!