Shading Techniques

Original Post: 2/11/2010

Let's talk about shading....

By using various pencil strokes and varying the pressure and grade (hard to soft) of the pencil lead, you can create a variety of effects in your drawings. One of the most important aspects is creating smooth, gradient shading. Here are a few exercises and techniques that can help.


Exercise 1 (Shading - left half of image below)
Use a 4B, 2B, HB, 2H and 4H and shade from dark to light - keep your shading as consistent and even to create a smooth gradient or transition.


Exercise 2 (Shading - right half of image below)
Start with a 4B and shade one third of the way down, then use HB and shade two-thirds of the way down (shading over the 4B). Then finally shade with 4H over both the 4B, HB and the rest of the section.


Exercise 3 (GrayScale)
Start with the softest lead you have (4B) and shade the blocks into smooth gradient from darkest to lightest. See how many blocks of distinct grays you can make. This shows 18 but the average used in a drawing are between 4-8 shades.

Exercise 4 (Pencil Strokes)
You can create gradient tones by varying the type of pencil stroke you use. This sample shows 4 different pencil strokes:

Circular - small irregular circular strokes, layered over each other. This is especially effective if you don't want visible directional strokes.

Crosshatching - most commonly used - layering closely spaced hatch marks with each layer in a different direction. The more layers, the darker the value.

Scribbling - Make small, controlled scribbles. Increasing the pressure produces darker values. Layers of scribbles result in an even texture.

Additional techniques to create smooth even tones:

Blending - for a smooth blended texture, create light cross-hatch layers, then wrap a tissue around your finger or use a tortillon (rolled paper) and use a light circular motion to blend the lines together.

Burnishing - For a smooth even tone, apply a harder lead over a softer lead. Apply an even layer of 2B and then use a chisel pointed lead of a harder grade (4H or 2H) and "burnish" over the 2B. This creates a beautiful middle tone that smooths out the graininess of the softer lead.

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