Colouring Walkthrough: Creating a Background in Enchanted Forest.

Johanna Basford’ Enchanted Forest colouring book features a number of pages where a single featured animal or item is drawn ‘floating in space’.  This makes for quick easy pages in between her more complex, detailed ones.  Quick and easy unless you’re me.  As beautiful as those stand alone images are, you know the ones I’m referring to: the fox, the treasure chest, the dragon fly, I just can’t wrap my head around leaving them suspended in a void.  Well, maybe the dragon fly, because, you know, it flies. 🙂

So I have spent some time pondering what i can do to ground my next picture, the deer with those enormous curled antlers.  It had me stumped.  So much so that I skipped it and forged ahead until a suitable idea presented itself.  I have seen some lovely renditions of mountains and snow scenes and even a Christmas scene worked around it.  I even googled a stack of mountain in the distance kind of pictures to try and prod my muse.  Nothing really seemed to appeal to me.  Regardless I forged ahead and started planning for a picture of a plain with a stream and a couple of mountains in the background.  And then one evening I had an epiphamy: the book was about a forest therefore the deer HAD to be in a forest!  With very little planning beyond the idea of a lot of trees and maybe a waterfall I plunged into the picture with my light blue sketch pencil and created a forest scene with a waterfall behind the deer.  Don’t try this at home, kids… you should always plan these kind of things on a separate piece of paper before committing them to your precious books as I SHOULD have done.

This was the result:



Sorry about the shadow… it was late at night and i was too tired to fiddle around getting a good shot.

Just for a heads up: this is the process I use to create almost all of my good drawings.  In this case I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted so I didn’t use any reference photos.  Normally reference photos and preliminary sketches are a must before attempting something this complex.   Once I was happy with the loose placement of all the features i wanted I went ahead and refined the sketch with a graphite (gray lead) pencil.


I used a ruler for the waterfall and took care to make sure that my trees were perfectly aligned.

When I was happy with the refined lines I crossed my fingers and committed myself to inking the picture.  I used a Unipin 0.2 fineliner for this job as it delivers a nice firm fine line.  There are many good quality fineliners on the market that would work just as well but I love my Unipins.  I worked slowly and carefully to get nice lines that matched Johanna’s work.  It was important to me that the background and the original picture gelled together as one image.


Almost finished inking. I left the water and splashes un-inked as I thought it would give it a nice translucent quality in the finished picture.

The inking complete I erased the blue and graphite lines reserving the waterfall lines as a guide for colouring later.  By this time I had some pretty good ideas about what colours I was going to use.  I started with the birds making them bright and colourful.


Next I tackled the background.  I wanted the feeling of greeness rising up to a pale yellow light to give the impression of a deep lush forest.  I chose a dull blueish green to suggest distance  Then I worked on the trees giving them a rough bark surface.  The leafy plant is a brighter shade of blueish green to bring it forward.  This is using colour to suggest depth.  The distance will be duller and more blueish while closer objects are warmer and brighter.  That is why mountains in the distance look dull purply-blue even though they may be covered with bright green foliage.  Something to keep in mind when choosing colours for a landscape picture. 🙂


My usual colouring technique of starting at the top left hand corner and heading down diagonally across the page.

I felt the need to spread some brighter colour around to properly define my palette for this picture so I added the bright green foliage.  I needed to define the rocks so I took up my beloved blue grey Derwent artist pencil (I seriously love this pencil shade… my favourite for creating shadows) and blocked in shadows on the rocks.  I also used a light lemon yellow colour to add some sunlight striking the rocks and the plants.  Now we’re getting somewhere!


Making a start on the deer. I lay down very light layers of colour to create an ‘underpainting’ and define where I want all the colours to go. the pelt will be a mixture of browns, orange, blue and ivory to give the deer depth and interest. Note the yellow highlights and grey blue shadows.

Completed the deer in rich tones of browns and orange.  Not sure if there is a stag with this kind of coat colouration but he is supposed to be a mystical animal afterall.


The waterfall had me stumped.  I have never coloured a waterfall with pencil before.  In fact I can’t remember, outside of a single experiment using photoshop, ever colouring a waterfall ever!  So this had me stumped.  In the end I decided to go with bright blue, even though it is not a realistic colour in this circumstance, because I wanted it to look magical and bright blue would contrast with the deer’s orange coat and make him pop.  I winged applying the colour to the water… made it up as I went along.  The falling water needed to look sort of blurry to suggest speed and the surface of the pool needed to look choppy to suggest water movement.  I finished the water off by adding white gel pen sparkles to suggest spray and diffused light hitting the water behind the deer.


I am quite happy with the result.  I will be adding backgrounds to more of Johanna’s pictures in the future.  But not today. 🙂 This was a mammoth task.  I think I’ll go back to some simpler stuff for a while.  I hope you enjoyed my colouring walk through.  If you would like me to do more of these here leave me a comment below.  Happy Colouring!


  1. Jane Croxford

    Your work is just magic and you sharing your journey is very much appreciated. Thank you I look forward to viewing more..

    1. Judith

      This was really helpful. I have trouble deciding on what colors/shades to use where/when in my landscapes and really need many more lessons in this area. I appreciate all the time and effort you put into this for us. It’s an excellent tutorial. Thank you.

  2. Tammi

    Absolutely amazing work. Thank you for all the work you went through for this post, too. It’s very helpful to see an artist’s process

  3. Lise Endacott

    What a fabulous pic and the colours are stunning – I am mesmerized with all of your work, maybe a speed colouring?

  4. Jennifer


  5. Samantha G.

    Thank you for documenting your steps and sharing your thinking. I have seen some beautiful backgrounds created for some of Johanna’s pages, but this one is the most FANTASTIC I have seen yet. I do not have anywhere near your talent, but this inspires me to dream a little bigger for my own work. Thanks also for the suggestion about working on a separate page for planning. I can hardly wait to see what you will come up with next.

  6. AnnW

    This is fabulous! I have seen this done in man backgrounds but yours is the very best! Thank you for explaining how you go about this sort of thing.

  7. Tammy

    Your work is absolutely spectacular! You put so much thought into your colorings and just as much into your videos. I love your YT channel!

  8. Dorothee

    I am learning, learning with amazement! That is so fantastic: the effects of light, depth, bringing out objects, matching colors – please, keep them coming and thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Pandore

    It’s so interesting to read the process. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Ken Liljengren

    Stunning work!!
    Thanks for sharing Your thoughts and expertise .
    Keep up the good work!

  11. Michelle

    Absolutely beautiful. I look forward to your posts. You have such talent, so thank you for sharing it with others to help us grow in ours.

  12. Judie

    You really should post this on Johanna Basford’s colouring gallery. Truly fabulous.

  13. Patricia dirickx

    All of the above….with a little personal touch. I’m going through some dire straits, being ill and just recently found out my beloved dad had cancer; some tangling and colouring are no options for me….I NEED them to find my balance. Watching you working with such ease gives me the rest I need and refills my batteries. And of course helps me to refine my own attempts and draw more satisfaction from them.
    Thank you.

  14. Johanna Ans

    This is absolutly gorgeous work…. Love it…and what a great waterfall!

  15. Sabrina


  16. Jenny Morgan

    Fabulous background, it gives me inspiration to try a background myself, I thought the stag looked a little lonely on the page when I bought this book.

  17. Ana

    Beautiful! Just beautiful! And yes do more of these, please!

  18. Clara

    Es precioso!! Quita el aliento mirarlo!
    Really beautiful and breathtaking!! Thank you for share this!

  19. Roxanne

    That’s gorgeous!!!

  20. Susana


  21. Marie-Christine

    Marvellous! You are very talented! Thank you very much for sharing your work so inspiring! I learn a lot and I am encouraged to do some, explore, practice and expand my senses on art. It’s a great way to feel in a sort of still, serene and joyful moment in my life. I send to you a big hug!

  22. Myself

    That’s stunning

  23. Emma

    I wish I had the drawing skills to do this! This is stunning! ?

  24. Melvina Grose

    When I seen this on your blog, I was absolutely dumbfounded. I have never seen anything like this! This is absolutely beautiful work. I wish that we lived closer to each other, that way you could give me lessons on how to draw as good as you. Your work is absolutely stunning. I am so excited to see what more beautiful backgrounds you will come up with for the other pictures that Johanna has done like this one. Beautiful work Peta.

    1. Melvina Grose

      I was also just thinking that it would be wonderful to see the process of how you are able to achieve such greatness in maybe either a speed drawing/coloring or a tutorial some how. I would love to see how you are able to start off with something like this. It would be an adventure to take pointers on. 🙂

  25. Frances

    It is beautiful. Unfortunately most of us colorists do not know how to draw. You can probably publish a book of drawings that we can color.

  26. Frances Posnanski

    Beautiful work. Unfortunately most of us colorists do not know how to draw, that is why we buy the coloring books.

    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      Of course. 🙂 And for me I like to relax and just colour in somebody else’s work without stressing about making lineart first. But I thought if some people would like to attempt a background I could give them a few pointers as to how to go about it.

      1. Melvina Grose

        I would LOVE to see how you make beautiful backgrounds to the floating pictures in some coloring books. Especially in Johanna Basfords books. She does have a lot of those. I would love to see the process and the tips you may have to share to us other colorists. Maybe a new YouTube tutorial? 🙂

        1. Chaypeta (Post author)

          I am comming up to the rabbit and porcupine pictures. I have been considering using one of those to demonstrate background creation from start to finish in a video. One for the future.

  27. Gigi

    Beautiful! To have such a gift and to share it is wonderful. Thank you. I admire your work and your ability to “think outside the lines”. I too would love to see how to go about adding a background.

  28. Donna Passmore

    This is so amazingly beautiful. Yes I’d love to see more. I’m a wannabe artist. I believe I could learn a lot from you.

  29. Denise

    Love, love love! Thank you for sharing your talent. His coat color is spot on for a summer time white tail deer in the US. Great job.

  30. Karen Brown

    Very inspiring, even for us that are not artists but do enjoy the coloring books. Your work and videos are so inspiring and I have enjoyed learning from you. Thank you for sharing your talent and knowledge.

  31. Charlene Bethel

    Beautiful…and I thought the skull with the wooden background was great this surpasses that. I am no artist but and considering trying something like this…will make a copy of the page first tho’. Love your work Peta.

  32. J.M.

    Beautiful work, Peta!

  33. Sheila McEvilly

    Love your work PETA, I watch your videos several times and then have a go myself. I have learnt so much from you, so thanks.

  34. Joolz

    OMG, I think I may hate you (in the “Damn, this person is so talented so I just have to hate them just because.).

    But, in all seriousness….I have no words. Wow, just Wow 🙂

  35. Linda Joy

    Absolutely mesmerizing! Thank you for taking the time for sharing Please keep helping us want to be’s.

  36. Charne


  37. Fiona

    Aussie artists are great.

  38. Laura Villani

    this is absolutely amazing ! Thank you for taking the time to document this and showing us your process
    When I began colouring ,I never imagined that I would even attempt to draw but after seeing this magnificent work of art, you have inspired me to maybe try .I just love the waterfall but wouldn’t know how to capture the effects you so well accomplished.I hope that maybe in the near future you will do a video demonstrating your process live.
    You are an amazing, gifted teacher Thank you for sharing your knowledge and inspiring me to discover my own talents.
    Love all you works, Peta, please don’t stop!

  39. Jenna

    I just finished colouring this page and happened to be scrolling through your older blog posts and saw this…well I did think mine turned out pretty well but after seeing this it’s a toddler’s work! It blows me away to see how talented people can be! It looks absolutely stunning.

  40. Carmen wilkinson

    I just love your work. I watch all your videos and always look for anything new or upcoming from you PETA. You are so talented I wish I had a quarter of your gift. I hope you do more live tutorials especially in Johanna basford books I have them all. I love how you can think outside the box, I wish I could but hoping in time by you teaching the world we all can get better we all learn something new in all your videos. I to would love to learn more on background work. Thank you so much for your skills and appreciate the time you spend with us all!!!??

  41. barb

    What an inspiration you are . We all need nudges to move out of our comfort zones. I frequently have deer in my backyard so i will try to draw the view from the kitchen window Thankyou Peta

  42. Andra

    This is amazing! I love your work and tutorials! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  43. sharon

    All I can say is WOW! What a wonderful gift you have. Thank you so much for sharing.

  44. Norrie

    This is absolutely stunning! I’ve been stearing clear for these pictures for a while because i couldn’t come up with an acceptable background and didn’t want to leave them empty. Seeing this, i might attempt a forest, with no waterfall mind you… You make it look so easy, but i bet it isn’t 🙂

  45. Christine

    Realy Wonderful work. I’m fastinated.

    The waterfall is realy complicated to do.
    Great job

  46. Kaitlyn

    You truly have a gift! Thank you so much for sharing all of your tips, tutorials, and journeys of coloring and art! I have learned so much and taken my coloring (which I have loved since childhood and never stopped even before ‘adult coloring’ was a thing) to a whole new level. I watch other people on occasion, but I haven’t learned from anyone the way I have from you. I would love to see more walkthroughs!


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