Scotch Bonnet Chilli, step-by-step

Back to botanical art as promised, but for the benefit of those checking in for an update on my mental health this week: I’m doing well thank you. I feel really wired and have loads of energy at the moment. Intense weights sessions at the gym on both Thursday and Friday nights meant I did get some sleep on Friday but I’ve struggled since then, even with another gym session on Tuesday. Even got up and made a hot drink at 4am on Sunday morning. On the plus side – I’m losing loads of weight and toning up nicely 🙂 . Really enjoying the gym at the moment.


Chillies are really good fun to draw. The bright colours and convoluted shapes make it an enjoyable challenge and a very pleasing outcome if you get it right. If anyone would like a printable version of these instructions I can send a pdf if you get in touch.


I use Bristol Board because it is very white and the smooth surface allows great detail. However – the downside is that it is difficult and labour-intensive to build up colour intensity as the smooth surface does not take up much pigment. Some coloured pencil artists cheat a bit with deeply coloured red chillies by underpainting with red watercolour or permanent marker pen first. I can understand this as it does shorten the process and you get intense colour quite quickly. Me, being my own worst enemy, I do it the hard way !

Absolutely critical to getting a smooth ‘painterly’ finish is to have needle sharp pencils. I use a Rapesco 64 rotary sharpener, which produces a long fine point without breaking the pencil core. Pencils still need sharpening further with sandpaper, and resharpening with it very frequently.

Apply the pencil in tiny circular strokes that overlap. This can mean a circle only 1mm in diameter with a sharp pencil. And you will need to keep going over the same area again and again to build up colour. Not a job for the impatient!

Avoid adding yellow or white until the end – they block the tooth of the paper and make application of further layers very difficult if not impossible.

So – step by step pictures below. These are not great as they were taken with the ipad for my own reference and not for publication. The right-hand half of the chilli is almost complete from the start so just pay attention to the left-hand one. The ‘bubbly’ looking interior walls are fun to draw too, by the way.

You will need:

Pencil Sharpener –(Rapesco 64 strongly recommended)
•Putty eraser (The Koh-I-Noor one illustrated is good)
•Fine sandpaper
•Paper (Bristol Board used here)


HB Graphite pencil used for outline.

Prismacolor: Black Cherry, Crimson Lake, Scarlet Lake, White

Faber Castell Polychromos: Dark Red, Scarlet Red, Light Violet, Chromium Green Opaque, May Green

Derwent Artists: Yellow Ochre, Light Ochre

•Keep pencils needle sharp using sandpaper frequently
•Apply coloured pencil in tiny overlapping circles, never using hatching or lines, to get a paint-like finish. Numerous layers will be needed. Expect a full day for this subject!
•Even if you think you have a pencil the right shade of red, applying layers of differing shades adds depth.
•Never use grey for shading colour as it flattens the tone.


Over graphite outline shade with Prismacolor Black Cherry


Start applying PrismacolorCrimson Lake as main colour.

Add FC Polychromos Dark Red to shady areas. Seeds shaded with FC Polychromos Light Violet


Add FC Polychromos Scarlet Red to add warmth. Add reflected highlights in white


Seeds and pith are Derwent Artists Yellow Ochre and Light Ochre


Stalks, shade with Prismacolor Black Cherry then FC Polychromos Chromium Green Opaque and May Green



  1. I can agree that building up color on Bristol takes time. I use ink and spend a great amount of time trying to get the colors to look vibrant. Lovely work on the peppers. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frustratingly it varies with brand too. The helleborus picture in an earlier post was my first attempt at using Seawhite Bristol. It has a slightly felty surface with protruding fibres that do not take up pigment. The result was a picture that looks almost like it has a piece of thin tracing paper over it. The original is probably, therefore, unsaleable, but thankfully I was able to digitally improve the contrast so I could at least get cards printed.


      1. Nope, I never text while walking. The only time I did was for a photo shoot. I was imitating a fashionista, Olivia Palermo, who always has her iphone in her hands. That’s the photo I used for my post on texting and walking. Have a beautiful weekend Darren.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Laura 🙂 Everyone is being so kind today!

      I have only been doing this seriously for about 5 years. I was always able to draw as a kid but my school was a fight for survival so it took a back seat to staying alive. In my twenties, for my birthday, my wife (we had already been together several years) bought me a pad and pencils. When she went out for the day I dashed off a quick study of a Cyclamen plant on our windowsill – my first drawing for 10 years. She almost thumped me when she got back and said ‘I never knew you could draw’. My response was ‘you never asked’! In the years after this I dabbled occasionally and did some short courses but then a respected botanical artist teaching one of these courses kind of took me under her wing and it all went from there.

      Liked by 1 person

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