I asked a similar question to this recently (Shading dark scenes) but this time I want to know how I can get a colored pencil drawing to look very shadowy and dark.

How do I color the picture where it looks like the figure is somewhere with very dim lighting? (For example, in a room with only a few candles lit.)

I find this next to impossible, but really want to know how to pull it off because it's an effect I always find myself wanting in particular drawings.

  • 1
    Do you have an example that shows your desired effect?
    – Matt
    Sep 16, 2016 at 14:10

3 Answers 3


If the light is coming from a candle, or group of candles, you're going to have very dramatic chiaroscuro lighting.

Shadows should be very black, with not a lot of grey tones. Keep in mind that only the elements very close to the candles are going to be visible. Also, candles have yellow light, so basically all colors are a shade of yellow or orange. Blues and purples will be just about black.

  • 1
    Thanks @Paxwax And do you know how I would achieve faint, blue-based lighting? The thing I'm going for, no matter the color of the minimal lighting, is an eerie quality.
    – Numi
    Sep 17, 2016 at 4:35

What helps me most when drawing is to study a couple inspiration images. I take the time to look very carefully at the colours (for example, when drawing and colouring clouds). In a dim lighting scene, do I really see a darker colour of yellow, or does my brain tell me it is yellow when really the colour looks more blue or gray? For you I would suggest playing with your colour pencils to create a 'dim' colour palette in comparison with your inspiration images. This question posted by another user may help you in evaluating your colour palette (i.e. NOT push your values)

As for using candles to light the scene, the side closest to the candle should obviously be bright, with three to four different shades blending into each other quickly as you move away from the light source. The faster they fade to a darker colour, the eerier it will look.

One last piece of advice, I also find it helps to run a few images through a photo editor to see how it deals with the different colours. Something like Prisma will make even breaks between colour changes. This is really helpful for seeing where one colour ends and another begins and how much the colour changes. Hope this helps!

  • Good advise on experimenting and use of computer photo manipulation software.+1, (wishing I could give +2)
    – Willeke
    Dec 27, 2016 at 12:56

What I have seen in printed drawings, like in newspaper cartoons, it make a dark shadow close to where your light source is, but add less colour farther away.
That way you will not need to fill the whole sheet of paper with dark intense pencil lines but you still get the contrast around your light focus bit.

As EmRoBeau I do advice you to experiment. Take a sheet and draw many a small drawing on it. I have learned to do it with fields (squares or rectangles) with a line around them. But you can also be more free.
Fill some of your fields all the way to the line, in others just fade the shade further from the center.

The all over dark, as in the paintings of Rembrandt, is very hard to achieve with pencils and often does not look good as the amount of colour makes it shiny rather than dark.

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