View Full Version : A trois crayons, or red, black & white drawings.

04-30-2013, 03:00 PM

'Trois crayons refers to a drawing technique using three colors of chalk: red (sanguine), black, and white. The paper used may be a mid-tone such as grey, blue, or tan.'

Here is a pinterest site:


Lots of images by many famous artists on this board. Worth a look.

04-30-2013, 03:05 PM

1. Copy an old master drawing which used the 3 crayons technique.
2. Do any other image/photo reference/ or life study.... using the 3 crayon technique.

You could use conte crayon, pastels, chalks, or charcoals.

The aim is to try the technique and see if you like it!!


I haven't tried it yet!!

Looking forward to viewing your drawings.

04-30-2013, 03:14 PM
Here's a thread that might interest you:


Its about which materials to use for portraits using 3 crayons. Quite a bit of debate ensued.

Conte seems to be judged the best. I have some somewhere...but no idea where. Have to search thru my boxes.

05-01-2013, 06:00 AM
This looks like a good challenge, June. I too need to hunt down my conte crayons. I have a collection of altoid tins filled with charcoal bits and pieces and I'm sure there is some red in there somewhere. :cool:

05-02-2013, 02:02 PM
Janet, after a huge search- opening box after box- I finally found my bits of conte. I also found some Pitt chalk pencils. The red in the Pitt pastel pencils seems a better colour than my conte. More of a deep red.

05-04-2013, 11:01 AM
I tried the technique out today. Must say, I loved using the chalks like this. Mixture of Pitt, conte, charcoal and soft pastels.

'A trois crayons'

1. copy/study of Watteau,' head of female', 6 by 8 ins approx., Ingres pastel paper
2. 'Woman wearing jewellery', 6 by 8 ins approx., Ingres pastel paper. Inspired by vintage photo.

05-05-2013, 11:39 AM
From photos. Both are 6 by 9 ins.

05-05-2013, 11:57 AM
You're on a roll. June. Nice work.

05-06-2013, 12:38 AM
June, thank you for the challenge!! And you have such nice pieces. The first piece has a lot of feeling in it.

Here's mine.

Derwent drawing pencils on Ingres toned paper


05-06-2013, 06:53 PM
Vwery nice drawings, June and Sandra...... There is so much to enjoy when the details are minimal and the colors so simple.....the space and light are vibrant when recognized this way.

I can't wait to try it :)

05-10-2013, 05:35 PM
Thank you, Robin.

This one started out as pan pastel but I couldn't stand the dust and aborted after laying a bit of iron oxide color and then used a dollar store oil pastel on Bee Company kraft paper 8.5 x 11 inch.


05-11-2013, 03:49 PM
Good work, Sandra. I like the simplicity of the lines which convey a lot.

I love the chalk/ soft pastel for drawing but the dust is very difficult to take for long periods. I've spent the last week trying to repair the cracks on my knuckles from the dust getting in there.

OP in '3 crayons' seems a good alternative to use sometimes.

You could use the technique for a modern/contemporary style portrait.

05-11-2013, 04:57 PM
Here is a figure drawing that I did awhile back in conte pencil. I assume it qualifies for this technique because of the limited to three basic colors.

05-11-2013, 05:05 PM
June, thank you. So I'm not the only one who suffers from dry skin and dry lips. The moment I opened my pan pastels, I felt dry lips already. I don't even have to touch it. :eek:

I think this combo would make good landscapes too.

Mike, good use of it on a figure too!

05-11-2013, 11:18 PM
Here is another one I did when I first got my conte pencils using a green marbled paper. It was a rough sketch for fun, but it fits this style.

05-12-2013, 10:11 PM
Here is a new work, that I did today. It is a 9x12 portrait of Nichola Tesla from an old black and white photo. It I'd done with conte stick using only black, white and sepia. All other colors are optically blended except for the background which I made by coating my multi medium sketchbook with assorted water color washes and leaving it over night with the page pressed with crinkled parchment paper.

Let me know what you think.


05-13-2013, 07:20 PM
Tweaked the eyes and ears.

05-14-2013, 07:50 PM
Lostjedi - good job on Nickolai!. The mouth and mustache is very life like especially. Interesting posture.

05-14-2013, 08:33 PM
Thanks i am a big fan of his. The posture is classic Tesla. He does it in a lot of his old photos. on a side note, I like how the trois technique makes it look like an old photo.

I was not happy with the eyes and ear. Is it any better.

05-15-2013, 03:26 AM
I enjoyed looking at everyone's posts, they are just great. :clap:

This was a good challenge for me because I think using minimal colours frees you to focus on drawing and values. I did this quick study just to see how things went and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I may be trying more using this technique. :thumbsup:

Most of my charcoal, conte etc have been packed away (ready for house move), but I managed to find a piece of charcoal and a couple of bits of conte.


05-16-2013, 06:53 AM
Everyone is doing good work here.

Like the hair on your ladies, Sandra. Good use of limited colors.

Jedi,,,your Testa eyes look sadder in the last drawing and the ear is fine.

Hi, Inky...Like your Baroque looking lady and the color choices.

This looks like such fun. Have to get to it. :cool:

05-16-2013, 08:36 PM
Native American conte drawing using white, black, sepia and brown. 9x12 water color background.

05-18-2013, 09:18 AM
Lostjedi, welcome and I love your work. The male portrait is especially interesting and I love the velvety look you achieved in his jacket. Well done!

The Native American is beautifully expressive. I love the details of his necklace too.

05-18-2013, 09:20 AM
Inky, I love the highlights on your female portrait. She looks so shy and endearing too.

05-21-2013, 11:06 AM
The Indian has such a great expression Jedi. He seems perplexed. Like him a lot.

Here is my attempt at Da Vinci :lol: In red, dark brown and white:


05-23-2013, 01:39 AM
Hi Janet. That's a marvellous beard on da Vinci. He looks introspective. Probably thinking about his next drawing.....

05-25-2013, 12:42 PM
Thanks for starting such an interesting thread June, and the excellent link to the pinterest page.
For the Old Master drawing I chose Federico Barocciís Drawing of Saint Joseph (http://pinterest.com/pin/229402174740782427/)from that page which Iíll show as a WIP.

First I toned the paper with some charcoal dust, you can lay the paper down flat and sand or scrape the charcoal with a knife so the dust falls on the paper, then use a cloth or tissue to smoothly rub the tone into the paper.

Second a quick drawing with charcoal, this can easily be rubbed back with the cloth if you need to adjust things.

Then using some lump sanguine (natural rock) or Conte sanguine I roughed in the warm tones and lift out the highlights with a putty rubber.

This is a quick and enjoyable way to work:) .

This next one was done from life and I toned the paper with sanguine rather than charcoal. The interesting thing with this one is the cool blues I was able to produce by mixing Conte black and white chalk in the same way you produce blue with the Zorn palette using Ivory black and white. (thatís with oil paint)
It was just a preliminary sketch that never got finished for an oil painting .

:wave: Dave

05-26-2013, 09:31 PM
Inky = your lady looks very metallicÖ.lovely depth and form on the whole face.

Lostjedi - the American Indian looks very life like, I expect him to take a breath

Janet - oh, Da Vinci great mouth expression, wonderful job on the lower eye lids, so much shaping in a small area without out over doing it. Nice

Journeyman - There is a striking difference in style between these two pieces.

05-29-2013, 07:30 PM
My step mom's dog Bonnie. Three color conte on black paper.

05-31-2013, 04:56 AM
There is a striking difference in style between these two pieces.Hi Robin, yes of cause one is a copy of a Barocci sketch and the other one is a sketch I did in preperation for an oil painting. Trois Crayon is such a wonderfully versatile medium and copying others work can teach us so much, not least, about how to use warm and cool colours.

Love the hints of warmth in your dogs coat Lostjedi :)

:wave: Dave

05-31-2013, 06:47 AM
lostjedi - amazing how much you can do with 3 colors. - Sweet pooch.

05-31-2013, 07:46 AM
Thanks everyone. I appreciate the challenge.

05-31-2013, 09:00 AM
Dave, thanks for showing us your process...very interesting. I love the studies, especially the male from above. I was interested in the Watteau head studies because he does the woman from different angles.
And 3 crayons is a surprisingly quick and effective technique...although a bit dusty!!

Lostjedi, I love that perky little dog. You caught its expression just right.

05-31-2013, 09:17 PM
Rough husky dog sketch three color conte on grey paper.

06-01-2013, 07:42 AM
Lostjedi, you are doing well with the animals in this technique. I must give that a go.

This project will run on for another month...for all who want to try the technique but maybe haven't managed to get around to it yet!!!