How to colour a dragon

Want to create realistic dragons when colouring? Want to learn how to colour dragons? Learn more about texture lighting and shading in our useful guide.

Create a story for your dragon
This might sound a bit silly, but it is certainly fun and can help us when choosing our colour palette and also how to plan our approach to colouring the dragon. For example, is this an old war dragon, who might have scales that are as hard as rock and will require us to colour with more texture or different line strokes, or perhaps it’s a gentle beast with rubbery, bouncy scales that need a smooth and reflective finish. By deciding a story, it can also help us master the dragons character when we fill in the eyes and portray a sense of their story. 

Use contrasting colours
When thinking about our colour palette first decide what colour you want your dragon to be, then work out a colour scheme for the environment that ensures the creature stands out.

For example, you might want to create a moody dragon and opt for using cool blues or purples. You then might want to work in lighter, warmer secondary colours for the background such as red and oranges.

When colouring scales try to create a gradient of the same or different colours to make them look more realistic. One way to do this is to start at the top of scale and colour in small circular motions pushing down hard (but careful not to burnish) then as you fill out the rest of the scale ease up on the pressure, this will make it look as though the scale has different layers without having to colour in several layers for all of the scales! If you want to experiment using different colours you’ll need three shades: a highlight shade, mid-tone shade and the shadow/ darkest tone, these could be yellow, green and black for example. Make sure to do a swatch test first to see if the colours work well together before working on the page, if you’re not sure we have a handy free downloadable colour combination chart that can help you practice recording and refining your colour combinations.     

Depth and dimensions
As we all know the devil is in the detail, so why not take the opportunity to create extra definition to your scales. You can do this by using a contrasting colour to outline on the bottom of each scale, you might want to create thick and bold lines for dramatic effect. Or, if you want to create a shimmery reflection of your dragon’s scales why not leave a thin white or light coloured strip above the bottom outline. 

Larger surface areas
When colouring in bigger areas of the dragon why not try using a few different complementary colours, this will help give the dragon a more realistic look as the light catches the scales in different areas creating shimmery new colours. 

Texture and angles
When colouring your dragon you may want to consider it’s movement on the page and whether it would be considered aggressive, this can help you when you add texture to your dragon. For example, when creating smooth even strokes around the wings this can imply it’s static or in smooth flight, whereas creating blurry edges to its wings can look as though it’s just landed or is about to fly off. This might also determine how much blending we want to do around the wings or our final piece in general. 

When we think back to our story of the dragon, consider where they are based, this can help us add further details in the lighting when we colour in the background areas. For example, if we want to create an ethereal mystical dragon we may want to use lighter colours, tone and shade to create a magical spotlight for the dragon. On the other hand, if we want to create a more scary dragon we would remove as much light as possible and use lots of dramatic contrasting colours with limited light. 

Want to get started? We have lots of amazing dragons for you in our recent Colouring Heaven Presents Dragons Compendium! Don’t forget to share your work in our Friends of Colouring Heaven Facebook group. If you found this News story useful, we have lots of useful colouring resources over on the How to colour section of our website.

Image by colourist Roseanna Kimbrell from Colouring Heaven Gothic Alchemy Special, Dragon Scold by Alchemy England 1977

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