These Rocks look so real!

When I posted my coloring of this rock background from the book Daydreams by Hanna Karlzon on social media, the comments I got the most was “these rocks look so real”! Everyone wants to know how it was done. I will share with you the technique I used. I hope to see how you apply this to your own design rather than copy exactly what I did. That is what sharing is all about. Right?

Why rocks?

First a little bit about the crab page that I picked for my rock background. I love the intricate pattern design of the crab but it looks a bit lonely on the page. The crab was holding a crystal in its claws as if it found this treasure. This gives me the idea of a crab finding a diamond in the midst of rocks! Hence the rock background.

rock background using colored pencils

The steps

Materials used:

  1. Sakura micron pen 005 or 01
  2. Faber-Castell polychromos colored pencils, black + variety of earth tones (browns, greys, orange)
  3. Derwent blender pencil

Picture of rock background progress shown with colored pencils

Use a pencil to draw the rocks outlines. Try to vary the size, shape and directions of the rocks. Sometimes overlapping each other. There should be crevices between rocks (see the black triangles in between rocks in mind), these crevices are what add to the depth and make it real.

The coloring of each rock follows these steps:

  1. Use the Sakura micron pen black #005 to outline the rock
  2. outline the triangular crevices around the rock and color it black with the micron pen (not black colored pencil, as we want it really really black)
  3. layer any rock colors you like, use 3-4 different earth-tone colors or even add a surprise color like yellow or red sometimes. Start from the edge of the shape and go inwards, keep in mind which area you want to be light to highlight the shape of the rock. The edge, especially where it intersect with the triangular crevice, should be the darkest. If a rock is beneath another rock, the edge they share should be much darker for the rock that is underneath. The goal is that you should not see any micron pen outline at all if you do the shadows correctly.
  4. Use black pencil to really darken the shadow.
  5. Use a blender pencil (I used Derwent blender pencil) to blend all the colors. Be gentle in the area where you determine to be the light area. Blend harder in the dark areas.
  6. Create texture – Use the Micron pen to add some dots around the dark areas. The more dense the dots, the darker the area.
  7. Blend again before the dots are totally dry – this creates some interesting textures on the rock

All these might sound a little complicated. Hopefully watching the accompanied video will make this easier to understand.

A worthy exercise

I think even if you don’t really have a need to color rocks in your coloring page, just drawing some rocks and coloring them as an exercise is a lot of fun and you will find your understanding of depth and dimensions improves. I did this in my sketchbook as an exercise before I attempted this crab page too.

Coloring rocks in a sketchbook by Betty Hung

Hope you give it a try!

Happy coloring!

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7 comments on “These Rocks look so real!

  1. Your rocks are amazing, I was hoping to find a tutorial on how to do them by you.

    Your an amazing artist.

    Thanks Wendy

  2. Your background far outshines the original illustration. Thank you for sharing your techniques.

  3. The amazing part of the rocks is the pitted (rough) surface you achieved. Truly AMAZING!!!

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