28 Jan 2022Mont Marte
Craft DIY Drawing

Create a chameleon with water mixable oil pastels

If you’re looking for an awesome project using water mixable oil pastels, try out this cool chameleon! You’ll learn about sgraffito and scumbling techniques, and create a beautiful piece of art at the end of it. Follow along with our step-by-step guide and video. 

Extra material you will need:

  • Clear tape
  • Paper blending stump

The first step is to transfer the outline onto a sheet of watercolour paper.  This can be done by taking the reference guide that you can find under “Resources” on our webpage, or have ago drawing your own chameleon. Shade the backside with a 6B pencil, flip it over and retrace the outside of the image with a sharp 2H pencil. 

Once you’re happy with the outline, paint the silhouette with the black acrylic paint. This will seal the paper and create a more robust surface to take the sgraffito.  Add a little water to the paint to make it flow smoother if you need to. Let this dry thoroughly.

Once dry, you can lay in the background.  Use the clear tape to secure a sheet of watercolour paper to the table.  This will not only stop the sheet from moving when applying the colour, but it will minimise any paper warpage when the water is added.

To get a soft and out-of-focus look, lay down some Green Grey into the chosen areas, then apply Lime Green into the edges of the Green Grey, followed by Chrome Yellow into the highest key areas.  These will suggest the sun shimmering through the vegetation. 

Once the page is fully covered with colour, use a large flat hog bristle brush and scrub the pastel colours. Because we’re using water soluble oil pastels, the pigment will create a watercolour effect in the background Use circular motions with the brush and roughly blend the tones together. Allow this coat to dry thoroughly before the next step. 

Now that the under painting is down, you can lay oil pastel over the top.  Add Lime over the areas where Green Grey has been laid, Yellow over the areas where Lime was added and White over the yellow areas. Blend the adjoining colours into each other. Allow for some of the underpainting show through too.  The broken surface will add an interesting texture to the work.

Once the background is done, you can move onto applying colour over the chameleon. Although oil pastels are essentially a crayon when it comes to their use, there are many similarities. You follow the lights over darks principle, and thin layers are lightly applied over thicker coats.

Referring to the reference guide, you will be able to see the colours used in this tutorial, but feel free to add any colours you wish to. Regardless of what colour you use, the technique is to lay the tones down and blend the colours into each other so there is a smooth transition. For blending, it is best to use a paper blending stump.

Once you have decided on a colour scheme, lay down the darkest value of each tone.  For example, if you want an orangey tone you would lay down Vermillion first and then apply a lighter coat of Yellow Orange over the top. The underlying colour can be seen through the top layer which gives a more complex and interesting look to the tone. 

Add bright colours to the tail area. Then, lay blue, green and orange shades into the body and limbs.  Apply the colour quite thick as the next step will involve creating some texture using the technique of Sgriffito. We suggest colouring the body and limbs first and leave the head for the next stage.

Sgriffito is the action of scratching into the surface of a coat to reveal either the underlying coat or just to add a pattern or texture. 

For this project we will be using the technique to suggest the complex scales on the chameleon. To create your Sgraffito, you can use any hard, pointy object such as a tooth pick or fork. We have used a small round brush sharpened to a point. The scales can be created with small circles joining together in a line.  Try to follow form with the lines as you work across the chameleon and then fill in between the lines with more circles.

To give it a natural look, make the circles irregular shapes and sizes. Create the body and limbs first and then gently scumble a lighter version of each underlying colour over the top.

Scumbling refers to a very light coat over the top of a previous layer.  Usually most effective if the underlying colour can still be partially seen to an extent. When this top layer is applied it must be done gently so the scales are not distorted.

You can draw the chameleons head the same way, but more colours are used and closer together.  The scales are also more intricate and follow the form of the eye ridge and back of the head.

Finally, you can colour in the branch by laying in Van Dyke Brown followed by a lighter tone of Sienna. 

Fun facts:

  • Currently, there are about 200 species of chameleons and they vary greatly in size with the diminutive Brooksia Micra chameleon measuring 2.54 centimetres, compared to the Parsons chameleon measuring 68 centimetres. 
  • Chameleons feet work like salad tongs, and they have a really funny jerky walk, making them very cute.
  • Chameleons also have very unusual eyes that can swivel around in two different directions simultaneously. This allows the chameleon to scan the area for food without having to give away its position, and gives them great depth perception.
  • Chameleons have skin crystals that allow them to change colour at will, making them awesome at camouflage.
  • Chameleons catch their prey by shooting out their tongues (which are roughly about twice the length of their body), and moves at speed of 97 kilometres in 1 hundredth of a second.     

Material List

  • Watersoluble Oil Pastels Signature 48pc
  • Cotton Watercolour Paper Premium 300gsm A3 (16.5 x 11.7in) 5 Sheets
  • Acrylic Colour Paint Signature 75ml (2.5 US fl.oz) - Lamp Black
  • Drawing Set Signature 8pc
  • Oil Brushes Signature 6pc
  • Gallery Series Brush Set Oils 5pce

Shop Materials List

Find a Stockist
Resources Print project