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If you’re just getting started, a photograph is a great reference choice because it won’t move or change on you as you work. Go with something basic like a flower or simple object. In this example, we’ll use a donut.
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!
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.
Critique at this point is valuable, think of it as coaching for 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.
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).
Before you start, you need to pick the best pencils for the job. The hardness of the graphite is indicated on the side of the pencil: ‘B’ pencils are softer, ‘H’ are harder, and ‘HB’ sits in the middle – there’s a big difference between a 4H and a 4B. “I recommend starting somewhere on the H scale as a foundation and then finishing with the darker B scale,” says travelling convention artist Tim Von Rueden.
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.
I’m going to use a sphere with one main light source as an example because the light is more predictable.
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.
Keep your main focal point within around 30 per cent of the image
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.
Click here for a full step by step tutorial on how to shade a face
What tutorials would you like to see next? Let me know in the comments below!
HB: Preliminary outlines, some highlights, first layer of shading, eye-whites.
To add some definition, darken the scumbling around the edges or add hatching (linear lines) or cross-hatching (crisscrossing lines) to portions of the radius of the donut that correspond with the darker portions of the reference image.
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.
At this point, you may notice some inconsistencies. Make corrections by adding a few more layers where needed.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before and while you shade:
Home Learn How to Draw How to shade & pencil shading techniques
Skeptical? Try our quickie sketching tutorial below. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make your first pencil drawing of a simple object. And once you master these basics, you’ll have the skills (and confidence) to move on to more complex subjects. Get ready to make your mark!
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
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!
The cross hatching technique consists of overlapping lines coming from multiple directions.
Art of the Sketch: A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing with Pencil
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.
“If you position your hand closer to the end of the pencil, you have more control and precision, but heavier strokes (darker markings),” says illustrator Sylwia Bomba. “Gripping further up the pencil will give you less control and precision, but lighter strokes (lighter markings).”
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.
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.
3c.) Select 3 very different faces from a magazine and draw vertical and horizontal contour lines across each face.
4B: Mid-tones, light shadows, detailing, hair, first layer of shading for clothes, background.
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.
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.
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Drawing with Pencil in Four Easy Steps1. Choose a Reference Image
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.
Create a pointy end on your kneaded eraser to dab each of the dots away. Dab lightly! It’s tedious but well worth it.
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.
5b.) Find 3 faces in a magazine and use a pen to outline major planes.
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!
Once you’re happy with your basic sketch, you can start filling in and refining your drawing. Evaluate your reference image for distinct textures to convey in your drawing . In the case of the donut, the “cake” part has a slightly uneven texture. You could start by filling in that area using small light circular motions (known as scumbling).
To show different textures within your sketch, you need to adjust your technique. “You wouldn’t want to shade skin the same way you shade metallics or fur. They each have unique properties and capturing that will elevate your drawings because of the accuracy depicted,” says Von Rueden.
When shading with a variety of pencil grades, each pencil should only cover a small range of values.
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.
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!
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.
Is your shading incorrectly representing the form you intended to draw?
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.
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.
Shifts in the width and darkness of your lines will create interest
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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.
Bring your drawings to life as you make shading simple and fun! Take all the mystery out of value, interpreting light, mark-making techniques and more.
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Originally Answered: What types of pencils should I use for shading, sketching, outlining, etc.?
You’ll need a good one. A great choice for beginners is a manual pencil sharpener with two openings. Each will sharpen the pencil to a different type of tip, so this will give you a lot of drawing versatility.
I use this technique to convey wrinkled or highly textured skin as well as some types of fabrics.
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.
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.
A good starting point is to consider if the texture is rough or smooth, and then if it absorb or reflects light. “A reflecting and smooth texture, such as chrome, usually has higher contrasts and prominent highlights, while an absorbing and rough texture like cotton has low contrasts and little to no highlight present,” he continues.
If you want to practice shading on simple objects, grab a bright lamp, a set of geometric shapes and set up a scene!
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.
Consider if the material is rough or smooth, and if it absorbs or reflects light
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.
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.
It is possible to create smooth, blended effects using pencils – for example, to capture a sky. “Sometimes it’s preferable for your shading to be less sketchy and more smooth and subtle,” says artist Marisa Lewis. “Pencil lines don’t blend perfectly unless you’re very careful.”
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.
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.
Erasers aren’t just for do-overs and clean-ups. They can also used for shading and special effects. 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 the eraser on the end of a pencil but larger) are both great, low-cost choices. Learn more about erasers here!
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.
Drawing is something that anyone can do, and it’s really fun, too! In this kids’ beginner class, join art teacher Jordan DeWilde and gain the skills you need to express yourself through drawing. Follow along as Jordan guides you through six quick projects — including drawing a life-size robot — that will help you draw more realistically.
Plus learn easy techniques for shading, perspective, texture and more.
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.
Tip: When drawing wrinkly or rough skin, avoid blending your graphite.
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5a.) Select any 3 objects around you and simplify them using geometric shapes. Shade them once you’re done.
Click the icons in the top right of the pictures to enlarge them
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.
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Next page: Advanced sketching tips to take your drawings to a new level
Von Rueden uses four different sketching techniques to define object edges: thin, hard, lost and undefined. A thin and hard edges give objects solid borders. Lost edges occur when the object and background values start to blend together, so the edge is implied rather than defined. Undefined edges need to be deciphered by the viewer themselves. He suggests exploring all four types, and combining them to create interest within your work.
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The hardest part of shading hands down is being able to add the right amount of value in the right spots.
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.
Getting started with sketching can be more daunting than you might expect. In this article, seasoned artists give their top sketching tips to help you on your sketching journey. On this page you’ll find advice for getting started, or jump to page 2 for some tips on how to elevate your sketching skills. Here you’ll find tips on the technical skills you need to master, as well as techniques for getting inspired.
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.
There are plenty of sketching techniques to help you achieve different styles and effects. Above are some examples demonstrating different ways to create form and depth. “It’s important to experiment and find what works best for you, to not only complement but enhance your style,” explains Von Rueden. “While I prefer smoother value transitions with the pencil strokes blending in against a thin outline, you may be more partial to cross-hatching against a bold outline.”
“When shading, use an extra piece of paper underneath your hand,” advises artist Brun Croes. “This will minimise the amount your hand smudges your pencil lines. If you’re right-handed, start shading from left to right; if you’re left-handed, start at the right and move to the left.
The brand of pencil is irrelevant, Just try and be consistent with the brand for the first year, until you can control the pencil, then any brand will work for you.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to make a clean-looking drawing that loses its brilliance and value thanks to smudging. Instead, use smudging to your advantage every now and then to smooth out shading. You can do this with several tools. I use a simple piece of tissue paper to get the job done.”
6B: Darkest shadows, hair, clothes, dark areas of background, pupils, inside the mouth and nostrils.
Below is a breakdown of what you can expect to learn from this shading tutorial.
5c.) Draw planar faces and shade them by coming up with as many lighting arrangements as you can think of.
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.
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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.
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.
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 more textured the paper, the more white dots you will get across your drawing. This can make your drawing look very grainy.
You guys asked for it, so here it is: the most requested tutorial to date: How to Shade + Shading Techniques! 🙂
Finesse your drawing by using various pencil marks to shade and highlight certain areas . Using a variety of tones will suggest color even in a black-and-white piece. Start slow (you can always make an image darker, but making it lighter is more difficult) and pause every now and again to look at your image from a distance. It will help you determine what areas need more shading.
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.
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.
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).
Use varied lines, says illustrator Rovina Cai. “Not all lines are equal. Subtle shifts in the width and darkness of your lines will create a dynamic, visually interesting drawing. Controlling the kind of mark you put down can be tricky in the beginning, but with practice you will be able to create a variety of marks that work together to make a cohesive image. Experiment with different pencil grades (from 3H to 6B) and with holding the pencil at different angles.”
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.
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.
Click here for my extensive tutorial on how to shade a face!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Drawing with pencil is an art form that you can jump into at any age (Not started yet? Take our Start Drawing Course! ) . It requires very few supplies and — honestly! — isn’t hard to learn. In fact, if you know how to hold and use a pencil (check!), you already have the basic graphite skills needed to start working with this versatile medium.
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A 2B, and a 4 B for heavy shading, a 5 or 6H for drawing, remember H pencils are harder and it is easy to press into the paper and leave a mark even after you erase. So use a light touch or live with the indentations. I use mechanicals for detail work, but actually taking a wooden pencil and shaving the wood off and exposing about 15–20 mm of lead will give you a nice tool to work with. You hold the pencil differently but it is a nice technique. Use a utility knife to shave the pencil. Get a good PVC eraser and a Kneaded eraser, especially for the 2 and 4 B pencil marks. Re member you erase after you draw, erase after you redraw, clean it up as you go. You will erase about 4/5ths of what you draw in your lifetime.
This is my favorite and most used technique, especially for speed drawings! It’s a huge time saver.
The longer a cast shadow gets, the lighter and softer it becomes due to reflected light from the environment around it.
Less can be more! The 70/30 rule helps you create effective compositions. The idea is that 30 per cent of your sketch is filled with the main focus and detail, and the remaining 70 per cent is filler. This less interesting area helps direct attention towards the main subject of your artwork. You can see the rule in action in Von Rueden’s sketch above.
For more advice, read our article on how to hold a pencil correctly.
Keep a nice contrast going between a finished look and a more of a sketchy feel
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.
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
“I like symmetrical drawings, but they often look boring all too quickly,” says Croes. “A good way to prevent this is to add some subtle changes and only keep the general lines symmetrical instead of mirroring every small part. Keeping some elements asymmetrical helps to avoid boring repetition.”
Confused? That’s okay! You don’t have to know exactly what letter/number you need, or even what you’ll be drawing, to buy pencils. Simply pick up a variety of H and B pencils (even fancy models won’t set you back much) and you’ll be covered.
Create subtle shading by smudging large areas of soft charcoal
Use an extra piece of paper under your hand to avoid smudging your work
Shading is the process of applying varying levels of darkness to create the illusion of form and depth.
Draw in three dimensions! Use easy-to-learn techniques to depict objects with realistic form.
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.
Below are a few portrait pencil shading techniques for beginners and experienced artists alike.
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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.
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.
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.
There are a few factors involved in achieving a smooth pencil shade.
When you’re learning how to draw, it’s also worth considering using mechanical pencils alongside traditional ones. “Mechanical pencils are usually better suited for precision, while traditional pencils are great for laying down large areas of texture,” says Von Rueden. “Keep in mind that most mechanical pencils come with HB pre-inserted, which gives you only the middle range to work with.”
Draw the basic shape of your object, but don’t worry about realism here. It’s okay to take some liberties.
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.
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).
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.
What about mechanical pencils? Yes, they can be great. They never require sharpening and are terrific for line work, hatching and cross-hatching. They’re not as good as regular pencils for soft shading, though. If you’re serious about drawing with pencil, it’s a great idea to figure out what types of tip (fatter? finer?) and graphite hardness you like, and then take the leap into buying a high-quality mechanical pencil.
To avoid your initial scribbles showing through, Lewis uses a particular art technique. “Use spare paper to doodle a big swatch of soft graphite or charcoal pencil, then use a large blending stick to pick up the soft dust to use for your image,” she explains. “Keep using the blending stick and adding more scribbles as you need more graphite.” You can then build up darker areas to create definition.
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.
Shadow Lining is a great way to plan out your shading without having your outlines show through in your final drawing.
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Clearly! But in the art world, there’s more to choose from than the standard #2. Pencils are graded by both number and letter, with “H” being harder and “B” being softer (or blacker). Within each letter category, there are numbers denoting degrees of hardness or softness; the higher the number, the softer the pencil.
The side facing the light consists of the core light, highlight and mid-tones.
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.
If your tool belt currently consists of a single HB pencil, your portraits are probably lacking depth.
This position can, however work very well for shading areas of the skin with fine lines/wrinkles.
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.
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.
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.
Create a value scale to use for cross referencing if needed.
Get decent paper at first, sketch a lot. Draw wherever you are, what is right in front of you, the more boring the better. If you are using proper technique you will see a fairly rapid improvement, meaning in months and weeks. If you have acquired bad habits or technique you will not see improvement. Frequently ask the instructor to critique you last weeks worth of practice. Use every office hour that your instructor has and practice diligently throughout the week.
You can take the drawing as far as you’d like from this point, working it into a highly detailed work or leaving it more loose. Follow your intuition and make the drawing your own!
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.
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.
If you’re just getting started with pencil drawing, you probably don’t want to be using expensive paper from the get-go. You’ll want to invest in two types of paper: sketch paper, which is cheap and ideal for testing out ideas and refining techniques; and higher-quality archival drawing paper , which is thicker and has a gentle “tooth” that’s ideal for graphite, for when you’re ready to work on a final piece. You can even transfer the sketches you’d like to develop into finished pieces onto good paper using transfer paper.
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.