In Art, What Comes First Coloring or Sketching?

Updated: Oct 20


It was early 2017 when I started taking online Copic marker coloring classes. Though I am a lifelong crafter, I came to this art form with no experience. I not only didn’t color; I couldn’t draw anything more than a stick figure. Sad but very true.

So now here we are in 2020 and I still color. I color a great deal. Most of the time I color, I would have to say I’m focusing on specific techniques to learn more about how to employ my tools or newfound powers of observation to improve upon my art. Just recently I have gotten the bug to sketch. I don’t really understand that because I’ve tried a few times over the years, always ending at the same conclusion—I don’t possess the necessary skills to draw, I’m not artist.


Yet today, it is starting to feel like sketching is a natural progression for me to follow.

This is so similar to my walking exercise experience many years ago when I would walk a few miles every day. After months of doing that, I decided that maybe I could jog for a few minutes here and there to break up the monotony. I did this for months before I realized that I was now running instead of walking. Unbelievably, I signed up for my first 5K run. Yep, I finished top in my age category - who knew I could do this? Not me.

So, I’ve come to the same point in my coloring. I don’t just want to color, I now want to create the image too, but by hand instead of digitally tracing images. Even after three years of coloring, sketching is not coming natural to me. As a result, I’ve decided to challenge myself to sketch daily for an entire year. I’m only to day 22 as I type this, but I know I can make it because I'm the girl that couldn’t run but somehow completed several 5K races!

Realism is my coloring style of choice. I guess it is because seeing something coming to life on my paper ignites the passion for me to create more and more. The way I continue to try to improve my realistic coloring is to sharpen my powers of observation. It’s amazing how we can look at a reference photo, a person right in front of us or the flowers in the garden and not really see them. Our brain comes in and lets us know what we are looking at and that seems good enough. However, it’s not good enough if I want to replicate what I am looking at into a piece of art. I must really look intently for the details, not make assumptions. Turns out the same is true when I sketch.


Each morning, the first thing I do is grab a photo or something that is on my desk and set out to sketch it in my 5” x 7” sketchbook. I decided that I would use the small sketchbook so that I could finish within a short period of time. It’s not been easy, but my practice partner keeps me motivated (ok, she will ask where’s today’s sketch and I can’t take the guilt if I don’t produce it) and helping me in areas that are so new to me.

In the end, I guess I’ve found the “which came first the chicken or the egg” scenario in my art. But my question is which comes first the sketch or the coloring? I do know that I am already sketching recognizable images which is amazing to me. I do believe that this is directly attributable to my coloring experiences. When I sketch, if it doesn’t look right on my paper I go back and look at my reference again with my focus on the area that is not quite right. I erase and adjust until I think I’ve got it.

So, you see, it doesn’t really matter which comes first does it! What matters is sticking with your art technique(s) until you reach your goals, even if that is learning to sketch after you’ve only colored for years.

It turns out that an added benefit of being a member of the Practice Corner that I never expected is the exposure to new techniques that I never imagined would be of interest or importance to me. That is so true about sketching. When you spend time focusing on a technique through practice it just might lead you into another area of interest that you didn’t know you would ever want to dabble in either. I believe this keeps the process fresh and challenging to keep us growing in our art.

Happy coloring, or is that sketching . . . that’s right, it doesn’t matter . . . happy creating!

What's happening in the Corner . . .


Do you like to color images with people in them? Do you freeze when you get to the point you have to color skin? Don't know if you should approach coloring legs or arms different than a face, what colors to use, or even how to shade skin?


If so, come spend a month with us in the Corner while we will focus our coloring on skin. With practice, you can overcome the fear of coloring skin.


If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Practice Technique Pack for Skin here.

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