Tutorial: Frog Picture. Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest.

Warning: Very detailed description of how I coloured this ahead. ūüôā

I had a great response when I posted my creepy frog picture on Instagram not so long ago. ¬†Thank you to everyone who responded. ¬†As promised I have uploaded it here on La-Artistino and I’ll tell a bit more about how I completed this picture.

First off I have to admit I didn’t like this picture. ¬†Now don’t get me wrong, I love almost everything that emerges from Johanna Basford’s talented hand. ¬†But there is something about this froggy person that kind of looks creepy to me. ¬†Maybe it’s those staring eyes? ¬†So since this was my least favourite pic in Johanna’s Enchanted Forest I decided to use it to test some water colour paints I had sent to me from Micador to see how the paper would take some light application. ¬†The paints were Koh-I-Noor Brilliant Watercolours and they are very brilliant. ¬†As close to Ink watercolours as I have ever seen. ¬†I used them to paint all the yellow flowers varying the colours slightly with mixing a few colours with a little orange or brown. ¬†At this stage I had no intention of finishing the pic and didn’t stop to plan any kind of colour palette. ¬†By the way… the paper took the watercolours quite well. ¬†No buckling with the small areas coloured and no bleed through. ¬†I am very happy to confirm that this paper can take a light, careful application of watercolour paints as I love using them as a base to colour over with pencils or just on their own.

For a long time the froggy picture sat unfinished with no intentions to go any further with it. ¬†Then I got a bug about how many pictures I had left unfinished and decided to work my way through them and get those deserted projects finished! ¬†Froggy was on my list. ¬†But what to do with a pic I really didn’t like?

The thing with working on a picture when I’m not agonising over making the final results as best as I can get is that I feel free to step outside my box and experiment. ¬†So I decided to try a self imposed challenge. This picture could only be coloured in with a set of 12 colours pencils! ¬†I chose to use my little 12 set of Derwent Studio pencils as they are hard but quite nice pencils with great layering potential to create other colours. ¬†I also decided I would not use any greens… another challenge for colouring in a subject that cried out for greens. ¬†I allowed myself to use my beloved white White Uniball Signo gel pen plus a yellow glitter gel pen.

All the media used to colour in this picture.

I decided to start off by going back to the watercolour set and colouring some parts of the frog in sap green. Then I piffed the paints and got to work with the pencils.  The Flowers were finished first by adding orange, deep vermillion and crimson lake as well as touches of copper beech to give them depth and interest. I also used a tiny bit of spectrum blue over the yellow of two flowers to give a greenish hue and I think a tiny bit of black on the stripes of the middle flowers.  Then things got interesting.

I decided to up the challenge by creating the rest of the colours by mixing only a small selection of pencils building up the colours in soft layers.  The only colours I used on the Frog were: prussian blue, deep cadmium, and crimson lake.


Only three colours.

And lots of careful layering to create the colours I was after. ¬†The orange bits were created with the deep cadmium layered over crimson lake layered with prussian blue for the shadows. ¬†The toes of the back legs have more blue and crimson in them, the belly spots less cadmium (yellow). ¬†I added the yellow glitter pen on the other spots and touched a bit around the eyes to make them sparkle. ūüôā ¬†I layered blue and crimson on the green parts of the frog to create shadows.

All of the pencils I used on this picture bar a tiny bit of black. The vast majority of this picture was coloured with only three pencils: prussian blue, crimson lake and deep cadmium layered over one another in various amounts to create different colours.

The lily pad she is sitting on was coloured completely by layering the same three  pencils I used on the frog.  NO green was added!!!  All i did was increase the amount of cadmium and blue and reserved the crimson for adding shadows.

The butterflies were coloured with deep cadmium, crimson lake and imperial purple with black used on the lower wings. I also used the yellow glitter gel pen for added touches.

I wasn’t originally planning to add the background but the picture looked incomplete without one. ¬†So i decided to do something simple but sticking with my limited palette colour mixing theme. ¬†Using a light circling motion i first surrounded each little butterfly with a halo in spectrum blue. ¬†I added a few more halos to break up the rest of the back ground. ¬†I started first with the top lighter part of the picture and, sticking with soft little circles to colour, I added a layer of imperial purple. ¬†Then I went over the top with crimson lake followed by prussian blue and then deep cadmium. ¬†I continued to touch up and add layers of these three colours being careful to blend in with the spectrum blue halos for a soft effect. ¬†I worked in small patches completing one area before moving onto the next to prevent colour fatigue. ¬†(You know… when you get sick of using the one colour continuously.)

I did the darker bottom part of the background using exactly the same colours and technique but with more layers and pressing slightly harder to make the resulting colour darker. I finished with a few flashes of white gel pen to make my froggy shiny.

I really like the interesting mottled effect I achieved using a small selection of pencils. ¬†This technique was very calming and medative… something I really needed in my life at the moment. ¬†I didn’t have to spend ages agonising over which colour to pick next but could just relax and enjoy the act of colouring. ¬†I found the limited palette freed me from the tyranny of too many colours to choose from and allowed me to experiment more with what could be achieved with just a little. ¬†I see this as proof that even when restricted to a few art supplies you can still make something to be proud of. ¬†I will definitely be using this technique again.


  1. Penne Kane

    Thankyou for the great tutorial, Peta. Love all your work and thoroughly enjoy the videos, The frog looks wonderful. I really like the way you make me think about colour.

    1. Verónica Rodríguez Elías

      Me gusta much√≠simo su tutorial es magn√≠fico, ¬Ņtiene echo usted un v√≠deo? Gracias

      1. Chaypeta (Post author)

        No para esta foto, esta fue solo por diversión

  2. Roxanne

    Its the mouth on the frog. It makes me uncomfortable, lol!

  3. Mikki

    Amazing. I love that you come up with the most interesting ideas for your coloring!

  4. Mari Brady

    Dear Peta:

    Welcome back! You have been missed. Your tutorial is great especially the tip about using fewer colors. While you were away I started doing exactly that because even on a good day I agonized over color choices and without your tutorials I was sunk. I’m currently working on pictures from Johanna Basford’s Magical Jungle and hope you’ll do pictures from that. Even just telling us the colors you use is a tremendous help. It is very good to have you back.


  5. Pam Love

    So glad to hear you are ok.

  6. Rebecca

    Thinking of you just yesterday. Looking at the book I’m saving for when I get better. My thought was, “well, I won’t get much better at this without Peta videos.” Now that’s uncanny!
    Welcome back.

  7. Corry

    Hi Peta,
    Isn’t life funny at times? I have this coloring book and I think this froggy picture is one of my favorites. I think he is absolutely adorable. You referred to the frog as a ‘she’ and I ‘see’ him as a male. I just think it’s amazing how people see things from a different perspective. Your picture is lovely and has transformed her into a Froggie Princess. (:


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