Real Crayons

Intro to Grisaille Underpainting for Photorealism

Join Amy Shulke, a professional illustrator and marker enthusiast in this introduction to coloring with maximum realism.

Are you ready for realistic coloring? Or maybe even photorealism?

Chances are, you've heard the terms "underpainting" and "grisaille" tossed around in the coloring world. Amy didn't invent either technique (they go back centuries) but she's the pioneer who brought both concepts to the world of illustration markers.

Now's your chance to learn grisaille underpainting directly from the woman who's been using the method professionally since 1997.


Join Anytime

Work at Your Own Pace

Join Amy Shulke for a fun and informative coloring lesson- Vanilla Arts style!

Marker Painting is a completely different approach to coloring with markers.

Amy teaches students basic techniques and color theory based on the way artists use paint. Instead of focusing on "how" to color a selected stamp image, Amy shows you the "why" behind color selection, shade, layering, depth, and form. This provides students with the necessary knowledge to color any stamp image in their collection and every stamp they might purchase in the future.

Take your coloring to the next level-- coloring with independence, creativity, and your own unique voice.


Are you frustrated with marker blending?

Depth and dimension techniques never seem to create the realism you're looking for. Amy knows the reason why.

Your blending technique isn't the problem. It's your blending combinations.

When every marker you use is clean and bright, it leads to cartoonish looking projects. Let's step-up your color game with grisaille!

Realistic coloring is easier than you think - all it takes is a little gray!


You've learned about shade, but do you understand why the shade of shade matters?

Sometimes you know we do things a certain way in Vanilla Classes, plus you see that it looks good, but darned if you can explain why. In Real Crayons we work our way through the color spectrum, exploring how the correct colors for shade and shadow add life to bright but flat colors.

We’re not coloring crayons because they’re cute…

This is a nitty-gritty lesson which covers the essential elements of photorealism. And the best part is, we repeat the lesson 11 times changing the hue and angle to fully explore how colors affect each other.

And as with every Amy lesson, there's a whole lot of color theory woven into every part of the lesson.

Your Real Crayons project becomes a reference point for a lifetime of coloring.


Real Crayons is an intermediate level workshop.

We welcome colorers of many levels at Vanilla Arts, but basic marker blending techniques are not covered in this class.

Intermediate classes assume you’ve mastered basic techniques and are ready for more challenging and though provoking methods to develop your artistic skills. Read more about Vanilla skill levels here.


We do not recommend this course for first time Vanilla students.

Techniques Used:

  • Flicking
  • Push & Pull
  • Underpainting with gray markers
  • Color Theory
  • Directional shading
  • Cast shadowing
  • Temperature/Hue adjustments
  • Using photo references
  • Photo Realism
  • Overpainting with colored pencils
  • Color bouncing

Course Includes:

  • Crayon digital stamp (PNG and JPG formats)
  • Detailed supply list plus substitution tips
  • Three hours of video demonstration with time outs for intermediate/advanced troubleshooting tips
  • 31 page booklet with full color work in progress photos, step details, and diagrams for color placement
  • Photo references
  • Underpainting guide and color map
  • Full color sample for several project check points


Basic computer skills are required to access class materials.

If you struggle with websites, video players, downloads, printing digital files, and communicating in discussion forums, this course may not be right for you.

We recommend that you try our FREE More Than Luck course to get a feel for how our site works and the type of computer skills you'll need to make the most of your learning experience here.


Required Supplies: complete supply list included in class package. See select products here.

  • High-quality Copic friendly marker cardstock
      • Strathmore 300 Smooth Bristol is used in the demo
      • X-Press It Blending Card is recommended for those who want easier marker blends
  • Copic Markers
  • Prismacolor Premier Soft-Core Colored Pencils
  • Glassine paper
  • Mod Podge brush or Hake dusting brush
  • Clipboard or hard surface (glass mat is recommended)
  • Erasers - black and white polymer, white sticky tack, Tombow Mono Zero (round)

Get started now!

We recommend The Blend as a prequel to Real Crayons.

"The Blend" is not required for enrollment but you must be able to blend dark to light with confidence.

This is an intermediate level class which assumes you have mastered beginner skills. Blending instruction is not included in the "Real Cryons" class.

The Blend is a 12 week course teaching the fundamentals of Copic blending plus an introduction to underpainting and color selection.

After Real Crayons, try Jellybeans.

After this underpainting crayon class, we recommend leveling-up your observation skills with Jellybeans.

Jellybeans is an introduction to seeing the form of objects rather than simply guessing where to shade. Understanding form is essential for advanced realism.

Your Instructor

Amy Shulke
Amy Shulke

Amy is a professional freelance technical illustrator with 25 years of experience in graphic arts. Amy began using colored pencils in 1985 and she started with DeSign markers in 1989. Colored pencils with a base of either marker or watercolor is her preferred process for portraiture and scientific illustration. She has a special passion for teaching crafters and shy artists to stretch their boundaries by adding established fine art techniques to their coloring projects.

Join Amy for fun and highly informative lessons which will not only change the way you color but the way you see color in the world around you.

"It's the OMG moments. That's why Amy's classes rock. She explains things that you've maybe noticed before but never thought much about. I love it!"

"At 62 years of age I have no illusions about becoming a great artist but. I am so appreciative of the change in my perception since taking classes with Amy at Vanilla Arts Co. Now I see the play of colors, the motion and the grace... It's a great way to view the world around me."

"I just love the things I'm learning and can't wait to start the next project. Your images are challenging for me and I like that. I'll never look at another image and how to color it the same again!"

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
Immediately! As soon as you're through the registration and payment processes, the class material will be automatically opened for you.
How much of the course will I have access to? Do you stagger the release of information?
This course is 100% FULL ACCESS from the moment you join. Work at your own pace and take as much time as you want to complete the lesson.
How long do I have access to the course?
Anytime access! You have unlimited access to the content - across any and all devices you own.
Is the digital stamp included or do I have to purchase it elsewhere?
The digital stamp is included in the class materials. No new purchase necessary.
What if I'm missing markers or supplies from the required list?
I'm very liberal about supply substitutions BUT please understand that not all markers and pencils behave the same way, even if the colors are very similar. Every substitution you make will change the look of your finished project and the more substitutions you make, the harder your project will be to complete. We have a segment in the course with tips on what to substitute and which supplies are essential. If you are missing a color and want advice on alternatives, email [email protected].
What if I use a different brand of marker?
I'll be honest, I use Copic because of their brush nib. I've yet to find another maker brand with nibs as springy and juicy. I would suggest that some of my techniques are unlikely to work well without a brush nib... but if you've got other markers and are willing to match my colors to your brand, GO FOR IT. Sorry, but I won't be much help troubleshooting any problems you encounter because I won't be able to test your blends myself.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact me in the first 14 days for a full refund minus processing fees. Due to the digital nature of this course, absolutely no refunds are possible beyond the 14 day mark. NO EXCEPTIONS. Note: A refund withdraws you completely from the course. You will lose access to the course panel, course materials, and any associated forum.

Get started now!