Tip: You can find the direction of the light source in a scene if you trace the edges of the cast shadow against the form it is cast from.
The side facing the light consists of the core light, highlight and mid-tones.
Create a pointy end on your kneaded eraser to dab each of the dots away. Dab lightly! It’s tedious but well worth it.
For a pencil that can create both broad strokes and precise lines, go with Cretacolor’s Monolith woodless pencil (included in this Cretacolor Silver Box Graphite Drawing Set). These pencils have a protective lacquer coating, are easy to sharpen and range in hardness from HB (medium) to 9B (extra soft).
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Graphite pencils come in various degrees of hardness, from 9H (the hardest) to 9B (the softest). H stands for hardness and B for blackness, so a 9H pencil will be very hard and light, and a 9B pencil will be very soft and black.
Using multiple pencil grades makes the job easy because there is less effort required to achieve a lighter or darker shade. For example, it would have been difficult to shade the background using an HB and even more difficult to shade highlights using a 6B.
Drawing with pencil is an accessible method of creating artwork at any skill level. It requires minimal materials, and even beginners have a strong grasp of how to use this medium.
Shading is the process of applying varying levels of darkness to create the illusion of form and depth.
When shading with a variety of pencil grades, each pencil should only cover a small range of values.
This technique is similar to hatching or cross hatching, except you’re curving the lines to follow the contour of the form you are shading. Contour lines can be drawn vertically, horizontally and even diagonally. This is a great shading technique to practice giving form to your line drawings. With a sharp pencil tip, it’s great for shading fine wrinkles.
1.e) Pick out a few different pencil grades such as HB, 2B, 4B and 6B. Shade in order from hardest to softest pencil and go from left to right. Your goal is to blend the values together seamlessly so you get something that looks like image 1.a).
Crosshatching is simply two directions of hatching layered atop one another. The more strokes you layer, the finer and darker the area is going to be.
A kneaded eraser very effectively removes graphite from the page, allowing you to define highlights in your work.
In the image on the right, the light source is coming from the top left. The area facing the light is the light side and the area facing away from the light is the shadow side.
The cross hatching technique consists of overlapping lines coming from multiple directions.
I’m going to use a sphere with one main light source as an example because the light is more predictable.
This is a method I came up with a while back where I only use a specific shading technique to outline areas of light and shadow before I shade. I don’t want to explain it using 3 paragraphs every time I refer to it, so I’m going to call it shadow lining from now on. I think it’s a car detailing term but it fits, so I’ll just use it.
Your pencil grip and wrist movement should be generally loose, except when shading the darkest values and doing detailing work. Use light to medium pressure and switch to a softer pencil when the one you are using cannot go any darker.
For the face on the left, I would shade my drawing with an HB for outlines and eye-whites, a 4B for the rest of the face and maybe a 6B for the pupils.
5c.) Draw planar faces and shade them by coming up with as many lighting arrangements as you can think of.
You can also hold your pencil with a regular grip which would give you more precision, but it’s not as good for shading large spaces where you need the shading to be smooth.
Soft pencils are great for shading the darks and the middle tones. The most common medium soft graphite pencils are 2B pencils, which are usually used for general outlines and sketching.
I use this technique to convey wrinkled or highly textured skin as well as some types of fabrics.
Shading in many layers. You’ll notice that with each added layer, the dots reduce in size and number. You can also use a sharp pencil to carefully fill in large or weirdly shaped dots to improve the texture of your shading.
Or you can blend the graphite using a blending tool of your choice.
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Core Light: The area on the surface of a form that faces the light source directly. It is darker than the highlight. Highlight: A reflection of the light source on the form. The highlight is the lightest area and will appear in different places depending on your viewing angle.
At certain angles, the highlight will not exist in your line of sight. On glossy surfaces, it will be very defined, while appearing soft on matte surfaces. Mid-Tones: Mid-tones are the darkest values on the light side, and are lighter than the core shadow.
These areas are not facing the light directly. Mid-tones appear darker and darker as they approach the shadow side, as the surface of the form starts facing away from the light. Image 2
4.a) Determine the direction of the light and shade vertically along each jagged line. Around sharp edges, tighten your terminator and loosen it around smoother edges. If you really want a challenge, give each image cast shadows as well.
6a.) Shade the 2 shapes using an overhand grip while moving your elbow and shoulder. Make sure to scribble on a separate sheet of paper before you begin to increase the thickness of your lines. Make sure that each stroke you make reaches the full length of each shape. Only lift your pencil once you get from one end to the other.
To block in the subject, make a simplified division between the light and the dark parts of a composition. Observe the light, how it travels across the form and where it turns to shadow. Sketch in the shadows first, as you can see in the sketch above on the left.
By Sara Barnes, Veronica Winters, Jessie Oleson Moore and Sandrine Pelissier on May 27, 2018
This position can, however work very well for shading areas of the skin with fine lines/wrinkles.
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Tip: If you re-positioned your hand on the pencil for any reason while shading, scribble on a scrap piece of paper until you regain the same stroke thickness before you continue with your drawing in case you catch a sharp edge.
Planes angled towards the light directly are the lightest. As the planes start angling away from the light, they receive less and less light, hence appearing darker.
The range of values can vary greatly from one portrait to another due to lighting or skin color. The 2 faces below have very different highlights, mid-tones and shadows.
When using this technique to draw skin with fine wrinkles, use a sharp tip. For smooth skin, angle your pencil more so you get slightly blunt circles which are much easier to blend, giving the skin a softer appearance.
Core Shadow: The core shadow or form shadow is a dark strip that appears after the terminator. The appearance of the core shadow can be affected by reflections or multiple light sources. In ‘image 1’ the core shadow is less prominent on the left side due to reflections from the white table.
Reflected Light: Objects are not only lit by light sources, but also by reflected light. That’s why shadows are rarely ever black. Light bounces off different surfaces such as walls or even dust particles in the air, creating reflections.
These reflections can vary in color and value. Cast Shadow and Occlusion Shadow
To get a smooth shade, you’ll want thick strokes which are close together. Move your hand high up on the pencil and away from the tip. The more you angle the side of your lead towards the paper, the thicker your strokes will be. The thicker, the better! These strokes can be easily blended.
4B: Mid-tones, light shadows, detailing, hair, first layer of shading for clothes, background.
Get yourself a good pencil sharpener. A great choice for beginners is a manual pencil sharpener with two openings. Each cavity is suitable for sharpening the pencil to a different type of tip; this means that every pencil can be sharpened to multiple points, making one more versatile.
This shading technique consists of a series of lines that go in one general direction. You can increase the value by applying more pressure and or using a softer grade of pencil.
In the image below, I used all of the realistic shading techniques above to convey wrinkly skin. For the first few layers, I used circulism, then I used the other three shading techniques to achieve various textures found in wrinkly skin.
3b.) Make up your own shapes and add contour lines to them. Once you’re done, decide where the light is coming from and shade them in.
This is my longest tutorial to date, consisting of more than 3,400 words! I tried to cover as much as I could in this tutorial. If there’s something you’d like me to add, please let me know!
You guys asked for it, so here it is: the most requested tutorial to date: How to Shade + Shading Techniques! 🙂
This technique is a very time-consuming type of shading, but it’s sometimes necessary to describe a specific texture. Some artists have the patience to do a complete drawing using the dots only. The more dots you place, the darker the value is — the fewer dots create a lighter value. By varying the strength, size, and number of dots, you can make a range of values in a picture.
Sometimes, we may have the tendency to over represent or exaggerate subtle forms such as eye bags, pimples and smile lines. Instead of defining a form using an outline or line, practice representing these forms using gradients.
If you prefer to use only one pencil, I suggest using a 2B, 3B or 4B. They’re flexible enough to reach both ends of the value scale without much effort. If your drawings are usually light, go for a 2B. My favorite is 4B.
1.d) Shade a solid tone from one end of your sketchbook to the other. Lift your pencil every now and then and rotate it slightly before you continue shading. Don’t forget to scribble on a scrap piece of paper to test your pencil’s sharpness before you continue! Your goal is to make it look as though you never lifted the pencil at all.
Below are a few portrait pencil shading techniques for beginners and experienced artists alike.
Below is a breakdown of what you can expect to learn from this shading tutorial.
Part 1: Understanding Pencil Grades ⦁ Intro to Graphite Pencils ⦁ Shading with One Pencil ⦁ Shading with a Variety of Pencils ⦁ Black and White Part 2: Pencil Shading Techniques ⦁ Hatching ⦁ Cross Hatching ⦁ Circulism ⦁ Contour Shading Part 3: Pencil Shading Tips & Tricks ⦁ How to Shade Smoothly ⦁ Increase your Range of Motion ⦁ Use the Right Amount of Pressure ⦁ Value Consistency Part 4: Understanding Light ⦁ The Light and Dark Side ⦁ Cast Shadow and Occlusion Shadow Part 5: Intro to Planes Part 6: Representing Form ⦁ Abrupt vs Gradual Shading Transitions ⦁ Is Your Drawing Too Flat? ⦁ Bumps and Ridges Part 7: Shading Practice ⦁ Shading Exercises and Printable Worksheets
Beyond pencils, make sure you have these supplies handyEraser
Before you shade anything, analyze your subject until you understand it’s contours instead of trying to figure it out as you draw. It really helps to observe your subject from multiple angles. Once you familiarize yourself with your subject, decide on how you will shade before you actually shade.
Download the printable worksheets below and follow the instructions carefully. If you don’t have a printer, that’s okay. Follow along using your sketchbook!
What tutorials would you like to see next? Let me know in the comments below!
A cast shadow appears when a form blocks light from reaching the surface of another form. The edges of a cast shadow can appear soft or hard depending on the intensity and distance of the light source. In direct sunlight the edges will appear hard, while in diffused light such as a cloudy day, edges will be soft.
Comparative measurement involves seeing the ratios between the objects and using the negative space as a measuring device. For instance, an apple might be two times smaller than a vase placed next to it; a child could be three times shorter than an adult. In other words, you relate one object to the next by placing invisible comparative lines to demonstrate the relationships.
A gum eraser removes less pigment than a kneaded eraser, so you can produce depth.
Use a sharp tool to make small indentations in your paper; when you draw over the area, the graphite will not reach the indented areas. This is a great method to make whiskers, blades of grass or to draw any other super fine lines.
A typical full set of pencils will range from 9H (hardest) to 9B (softest). Having a full set is not necessary for portrait drawing. The range you need depends on the type of drawings you do.
While pencils don’t make the artist, being armed with the best equipment sets you up for drawing success.
When shading, you are essentially reproducing the value of light as it interacts with a form. Understanding light is crucial in order to create a convincing portrait.
Every drawing begins with a sketch. There are three main methods for getting the sketch just right which all involve extrapolating the information in front of you and using only what’s necessary, to relate objects to one another, understand the linear perspective and develop accurate forms.
The grid method is often used to enlarge the drawing for a mural painting or a large artwork. This old method involves dividing the drawing into equal squares. Then, you compare and transfer abstracted shapes from the squares to the enlarged surface. This technique helps to see the comparative relationships between the objects.
Soft pencils produce dull and dark lines which are easy to blend. Soft pencils deposit more graphite with less effort, making it easy to fill in space, blend, shade and add texture to your drawing. They are the best pencils for shading and drawing portraits!
These come in handy when you draw uneven surfaces, like a leafy bush or a tree.
Black: With graphite pencils, you won’t get a deep black. However, you can achieve it with charcoal. They are actually very commonly used together with amazing results.
Here’s an example from my face shading tutorial using the hatching technique.
The side facing away from the light consists of the core shadow and reflected light.
In the sight method, you’ll set up your drawing pad right next to the subject itself, so you can transfer the object to the paper at an accurate size by measuring your object with a pencil.
The hardest part of shading hands down is being able to add the right amount of value in the right spots.
If you’re just getting started with pencil drawing, you probably don’t want to be drawing on expensive paper from the get-go. It’s a good idea to invest in two types of paper: sketch paper, which is cheap and ideal for testing out ideas and refining pencil techniques; and higher-quality archival drawing paper, which is thicker and has a gentle “tooth” ideal for graphite, for when you’re ready to work on a final piece.
1.f) Layering: Use an HB pencil to shade an even layer of graphite across the page. Split the area into 4 spaces labeling them 3, 2 and 1. Add a darker layer of graphite over your first layer from left to right and ease up on the pressure as you approach 1. Do the same thing except this time stopping at 2. Then the same thing for 3.
5b.) Find 3 faces in a magazine and use a pen to outline major planes.
The more textured the paper, the more white dots you will get across your drawing. This can make your drawing look very grainy.
Home Learn How to Draw How to shade & pencil shading techniques
If you want to practice shading on simple objects, grab a bright lamp, a set of geometric shapes and set up a scene!
Try to get a wide array of tones on your drawing ranging from very light to very dark. A true black is difficult to obtain with graphite because when the paper is saturated with graphite, it will glare. You can use charcoal in your pencil drawings to obtain a real black.
The pencil grades I use the most for portrait drawing are: HB, 4B, 6B and 8B from Derwent. You can click here to check it out on Amazon.
For the face on the right, I would use an HB for outlines and highlights, 4B for my first layer of shading, 5B for the second layer and light shadows, 6B for darker shadows and eye detailing, and finally a 9B for the darkest shadows.
Tip: When drawing wrinkly or rough skin, avoid blending your graphite.
Hard pencils produce clean, sharp and light lines which are great for sketching, architectural drawings, product sketches, etc. The harder the pencil, the more difficult it is to blend or smudge.
1.a) Without lifting your pencil or taking any breaks, draw tight lines back and forth from one end of your sketch book to the other. Gradually increase your pressure as you go. Your goal is to get a smooth gradient.
Aside from practicing proper shading and blending techniques, a good understanding of light, planes and contours are crucial for turning a flat line drawing into a realistic portrait that conveys the illusion of form, bringing your drawing to life.
2.a) Draw a series of wide to narrow boxes. Shade each one using vertical strokes. Follow this pattern using one or multiple pencils: Shadow, Mid-tone, Highlight, Mid-tone, Shadow.
Use an overhand grip on your pencil paired with movement from your elbow and shoulder to create longer and straighter lines. This will give you a much wider range of motion compared to using just your wrist or finger joints. To shade darker, press your index finger down on the pencil’s tip.
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Even if you just washed your hands, there is always a tiny residue of oil on your skin that might go onto the paper and make the graphite more difficult to remove. For that reason, you might want to avoid blending with your finger. Experiment with different materials — tissue paper or cotton swabs works well for that purpose as well as stumps. Don’t throw away your stumps when they are dirty, as they can be used to apply a light layer of graphite.
If you want to convey a round edge, avoid abrupt shading transitions. The more gradual your shading is, the more smooth your edge becomes.
The negative space helps to find distances between the shapes. In the photo below, the negative space is the background around the cat, which helps you find the distances between the cat’s ears or toes.
The blending of graphite works best with a paper stump or a small piece of sketch paper. Don’t rub the surface, however, because it ends up looking smudged. Strive for a nice and even application of pigment, which requires just a bit of blending. Blending tends to make all tones (values) look as the middle tone. Thus, it’s important to re-establish the darkest areas and to work on the highlights afterward.
This is my favorite and most used technique, especially for speed drawings! It’s a huge time saver.
If you’re shading into a lighter area, though, it helps to reduce the amount of pressure at the end of the stroke so you get a nice gradient instead of an abrupt change in value.
3c.) Select 3 very different faces from a magazine and draw vertical and horizontal contour lines across each face.
The surface of a cube is much easier for someone to shade realistically compared to a sphere because you can clearly see which sides of the object are facing the light and which ones are facing away. These flat surfaces are called planes.
Create a value scale to use for cross referencing if needed.
Be careful when shading or outlining with sharp, hard pencils because they can leave deep indents in your paper which are very difficult to cover up.
Steps for creating a simple pencil drawingOnce you’ve practiced the various techniques and mark-making, you can implement them into a single drawing. 1. Sketch your subject
Click here for my extensive tutorial on how to shade a face!
To make the soft shading shown in #3, you would move your pencil in a circular motion. By moving it back and forth with a light touch, you create a slightly different texture.
Click here for a full step by step tutorial on how to shade a face
Though pricier, the Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils also come in sets of different grades of hardness and have superior black, break-resistant leads.
Before you blend, make sure that your strokes are tight, the shading is even and there aren’t too many white and black dots. Blending smooths out your shading, but it’s not a miracle solution for lazy people. If your shading is sloppy to begin with, blending isn’t going to help.
Produce unique textures by placing the paper over an object and rubbing your pencil back and forth.
The longer a cast shadow gets, the lighter and softer it becomes due to reflected light from the environment around it.
Before shading a portrait, it’s good practice to simplify what you see by breaking areas of the face into planes so your brain can process the information better. This allows you to find patterns of light more easily and can also improve your overall drawing accuracy.
If your tool belt currently consists of a single HB pencil, your portraits are probably lacking depth.
The center plane in the first image is shaded with a solid tone, making it appear flat. The following two images introduce a range of very subtle tones, giving the surface slight bumps.
The addition of these values are subtle, but do their job in transforming a flat surface into a more shapely one. Also take a close look at the right forehead plane. The shading is even more subtle, but still does not come across as flat.
This involves is applying the pigment using the side of a pencil tip. Such soft shading is necessary around the highlights for a realistic appearance.
Click the following link and hit the download button beside the printer icon to download the PDF: RapidFireArt Tutorials – How to Shade Pencil Shading Techniques
You can click on the links below to quickly jump to any section of the tutorial. However, I highly suggest you read all the way through!
Is your shading incorrectly representing the form you intended to draw?
HB: Preliminary outlines, some highlights, first layer of shading, eye-whites.
You can tell how hard or soft a pencil is by looking at the combination of letters and numbers printed on the end of each pencil.
5a.) Select any 3 objects around you and simplify them using geometric shapes. Shade them once you’re done.
Apply a masking fluid to your paper before drawing; the masking fluid will essentially block your graphite from reaching the paper. Then you can remove the masking fluid to reveal clean paper around your shading
For the exercises below, try to implement the shading tips and techniques mentioned in Part 2 of the tutorial. You can apply different shading techniques to the exercises too (cross hatching, circulism, etc).
If you need help selecting the best pencil grades for a portrait, create a value scale using your own graphite pencils, compare the values to your reference image directly and select the range of pencils that closely match the values you need.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before and while you shade:
Harder pencils are sharp and can be used for details. They’re easier to erase but more difficult to blend. You can use them for very light shading, but it would be difficult to shade a large area with a hard pencil.
When using this technique, always angle your pencil more towards the paper so your strokes are nice and thick. This allows you to minimize gaps, making it easier to blend.
Avoid holding your pencil like you would if you were writing, especially if you just sharpened your pencil. The lines are more difficult to blend and it requires more time and effort to keep your strokes tight, not to mention cover more ground. A drawing shaded like this will look very scratchy.
To achieve a realistic drawing that communicates form and depth, your drawing will need to have a wide range of values. Invest in a set of high quality pencils with a range of grades that fit your specific drawing needs.
Shadow Lining is a great way to plan out your shading without having your outlines show through in your final drawing.
Does the overall shading of your portrait lack balance? Make sure your lighting is consistent across the entire portrait by keeping track of how dark you shade each area of the portrait. You can do this by referencing back to one main value. For me, the main value is the darkest or lightest value already established in the portrait.
1.g) Select a few different pencil grades and shade a series of rectangles. Use only your pencil to blend each of the values together.
How to Shade a Face How to Shade an Eyeball …will add more soon! Understanding Pencil Grades
Invest in an eraser. Even if your pencil has an eraser on the end, it will be worn down in no time. A soft gum eraser or a “big pink” eraser (like a pencil eraser but larger) are both good choices, and typically retail for $1 or less.
Graphite drawings can easily get messy, so it’s always a good idea to use something, like a sheet of paper under your hand, to avoid smudging your drawing. You can also try to work from left to right if you are right-handed or right to left if you are left-handed to minimize the risk of having your hand going over an already drawn area.
There are a few factors involved in achieving a smooth pencil shade.
Some artists produce energetic, rough lines, while others make deliberate, careful contours. The quality of the line determines how interesting your subject looks.
For this approach, you’re only creating texture in a particular area. The type of paper you select (rough, with a bit of a tooth) is important.
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The area immediately below the sphere is called an occlusion shadow and is usually the darkest area as it is least affected by reflected light.
It’s common for beginners to leave large areas of their portraits (such as cheeks) white. Areas that remain white or are shaded with a solid tone indicate that they are facing the same direction. Have a look at the center forehead plane in the three images below.
6B: Darkest shadows, hair, clothes, dark areas of background, pupils, inside the mouth and nostrils.
The HB pencil (aka #2 pencil) is absolutely great for drawing preliminary outlines and shading light areas because it doesn’t require much effort to produce faint lines. However, you’ll need to apply a lot of pressure when it comes to shading dark shadows. All this effort can damage your paper, resulting in a drawing that doesn’t translate well from multiple viewing angles. Not to mention, it will be impossible to erase.
Again, if you’re using a highly textured paper, you might get some black dots across your drawing. If you’re shading skin, these dots can look like stubble (it’s even worse when paired with white dots). If you’re going to use a blending tool on your drawing, remove the dots first!
Are you frustrated by inconsistent, short, choppy strokes? Improve the quality of your strokes and increase your stroke length by harnessing the power of your elbow and shoulder.
Hatching is simply drawing parallel lines to fill a space with value. This is one of the most common forms of shading and mark making.
Circulism is my second favorite shading technique. It’s great for creating realistic skin textures. The idea is to draw many circles that overlap each other, building tone with each added layer.
White: You may have seen artists use correctional fluid (whiteout), paint or white pencil crayon to bring out strong highlights in their drawing. This gives the drawing a very impactful look and can enhance the level realism. Here’s an example.
For example: If I’m shading a face using the circulism method, I will also use circulism to outline shadows and highlights on the face. If you don’t outline your shadows or highlights, then this method may not apply to you (It’s very effective for drawing hairlines though).
At this point, you may notice some inconsistencies. Make corrections by adding a few more layers where needed.