Copycat: Johanna’s Christmas

Or: How to color Johanna’s Christmas like a pro!

I couldn’t quite figure out how to begin this blog post. Because, to some extent, we are all a bunch of copycats, aren’t we?
We are inspired by what we see and how others do – not only in the coloring community, but around the world. We see something we like, add it to our pictures or pages or whatever, and it adds that little sparkle, that little special ingredient.

And then there’s outright copying another’s picture. In this case from the coloring book “Johanna’s Christmas” by Johanna Basford.
See, that’s a whole new level of coloring. I had copied a photograph into a real painting once, so I knew it was doable. Therefore I thought: Maybe I could learn something from this exercise? And indeed I did. But first things first, so here goes:


This post is written with acceptance from the artist Morena Vajak and me. It is not – and I repeat – NOT advisable to just go about copying others’ work without asking for permission. The coloring community is inspired by each other, but if you’re downright copying others’ work, please be a nice person and ASK before you post it. Not only does it show good manners and respect for the artist, it also prevent you from being excluded or banned from certain places (worst case scenario).

(FYI: Pencils and colors are listed in the bottom of this post – scroll down to read it)


We all want to BECOME BETTER than we are, and improve our skills. I think there is a saying that great artists are great because they did as others did before them. It sounds more cynical than it is, but truth is, we admire these people who seem to know their way around something and we want to be as good as them. So… why not try to improve your skills?

Meet Morena Vajak. She’s the kind of artist whose pictures I have ‘Ohhh’ed’ and ‘Aaaehhh’ed’ about many times. Her pictures are simply stunning, a beautiful blend of colors and shadow, light and darkness. I decided to color a picture, making it look the same as hers. Luckily Morena was OK with me trying to copy her painting in Johanna’s Christmas. And so I began picking colors and start my journey through an unknown territory of layering and light and darkness…

Johanna's Christmas painted

Johanna's Christmas - rocking horse









As you can see, it’s not so easy to copy another person’s work. I only had a 4″ screen on my iPhone and a picture from Instagram.

Playing with colors…

As the painting progressed, I was truly amazed at how skilled she is. She has a great eye for detail and her work is truly some of beauty. In the process I discovered how much I really could learn here. How to paint so that the true effects of light and shadow really stood out!

Close-up they don’t look like anything special, but if you look at the painting from afar, you will see the true effects of light on the paper, created by colored pencils alone.

Some of it weren’t new of course, but putting it all together, I felt powerful and amazed. But most of all, I felt a lot of respect for hardworking artists around the world! What’s more, I simply adore Johanna’s Christmas book. It’s so amazing, detailed and really capture the spirit of what Christmas means to all of us.

This is the result after two days of work:

Johanna's Christmas - full screen rocking horse

At this point I was amazed at my own skills at copying. “It really is THAT easy” I thought. And yes, it is. If you just do the copy thing from another’s work. But when forced to do it yourself – you’re on much thinner ice. This stuff requires continuous effort to really sink in, but I DID learn a few things along the way (Beside the fact that Johanna Basford has a wonderful eye for that Christmas feeling…)

Johanna's Christmas - finished rocking horse painting

For the blue I used baby oil to blend the colors together and erase the look of pencil strokes on paper. It’s amazing how this little trick can make a painting look much more complete or professional somehow. The colors blend nicely into each other, creating a shadow/border effect in the blue sections.

During the process I showed my painting progress to Morena who was rather impressed. I think she found the whole thing a little bit flattering as well as fun and amusing to follow. I mean – how often would someone copy your work just because they think you’re pretty darn awesome? I know for sure I would 😉

And last but not least…

If you want to compare this painting with the original, you can find Morena’s version here.


First of all, this painting is from “Johanna’s Christmas” by Johanna Basford.
(Buy it on Amazon)

For pencisl I used my beloved “Polychromos” by Faber Castell, one of the best range of dry pencils on the market. It turns out, Morena used Polychromos for this painting as well!

The browns:
9201-182 Brown Ochre (light brown)
9201-180 Raw Umber (light brown)
9201-280 Burnt Umber (dark brown)

The blues:
9201-146 Sky Blue (light blue, light areas)
9201-151 Helioblue-reddish (medium blue)
9210-247 Indanthrene blue (dark blue – along the edges)

The reds:
9201-132 Light flesh (lightest)
9201-189 Cinnamon (middle)
9201-190 Venetian red (dark)
9201-169 Caput Mortuum (darkest details)

I also used “Cream white” in the middle of the holly’s leaves to add “light” as well as a white POSCA pen to create the effects on e.g. the stars and cranberries.



I think this experience has taught me two things:

1: Never, ever do a copy of anyone’s work WITHOUT THEIR EXACT PERMISSION. Seriously, I mean it. Don’t violate other people’s work, even if it’s “only” a page in a coloring book. How would you feel if others did the same and used your photos? It’s simple – you wouldn’t like it. It’s all about respecting other people’s work and effort.
2: You can learn a thing or two about your own skills and how to improve them as well. But don’t expect it to come overnight. These things take time to learn and to implement in your own portfolio of tricks and skills.

I can highly recommend you try this at home. But if you’re going to publish it anywhere near the internet – make sure you have the artist’s permission first, OK? 😉


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