How to draw pencil shading the right way…

How to draw pencil shading the right way…


Line is the best way to get amazing Pencil Shading in your images.

There are a few different tips that I can share about pencil shading. They are pretty simple to get the hang of. All shading can be done with the use of a pencil and line. It is how you use the line that makes the shading effective.contour-drawing-shane

There are two different ways that you can do pencil shading. All the rest is merely strategy and preference.

  1. You can draw the shading with just line
  2. You can use blending techniques and other tools

In this post we will be focusing on line since that is where everyone starts out and is the oldest method.

Using Line

Like I mentioned using line in your drawings to create your tone and shading is the oldest method for creating shading. It can create just about any type of shading that you are looking for if done properly and with some patience.

Shading with line relies on the direction, thickness and the way the line is played down on the paper to create the desired effect. It can be very effective and is often used in graphic design, graphic novels and most print. This type of shading creates shading and tone from line only no extra
blending tools.

The line is drawn in different directions and spaced different widths to suggest tone. In the older drawings of past centuries, line was used almost exclusively to suggest contour as well as tone.

The 2 different methods of using line

Hatching: Uses line in one direction to create the desired tone or shading

Cross Hatching: Uses lines overlapping each other to create the desired tone and shading.


Shading with Line

Using the tip of the pencil

When using the tip of the pencil you will have more control over the tones that are put on the paper. You can get much lighter tones with lighter pressure and gradually build up more tone as you go. This will dull the pencil pretty quickly if you are covering any kind of area which will leave you sharpening quite a bit.Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.38.35 PM

Flat shading or shading with the side of the pencil

This is better for covering more area quickly and also allows you to get darker tones more quickly as more surface area of the pencil is on the paper.

When doing any shading in a drawing I often start out with using the tip of the pencil and as the tip dulls down I switch over to the flat side of the pencil to continue. This maybe just out of apathy as I don’t like sharpening my pencil every 2 mins, but it works well for me.Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.38.03 PM

Pencil Hardness

You can also get varying tone with different hardnesses of pencils. If you have multiple hardnesses you can easily get a very smooth gradient. Just switch to a softer lead to get darker tone and harder lead as you get lighter. You can also get very smooth even shading using softer lead and smudging the pencil ,shading with a cotton squab or paper towel. Both work very well and are basically free.

pencil hardness

 Best Practices

1. Stagger your strokes

You will want to stagger your strokes if covering a large area as the overlapping will be very obvious and will not be what you are looking for. Creating an irregular shading leaves you room for blending in the next row of shading which will make it less obvious creating a smoother more uniform gradient instead of a row of shading for each pass.

2. Extreme direction change

Changing the direction of the pencil strokes should generally only be used when suggesting an new plane or direction. The most obvious example of this would be when drawing two planes that are butting up against each other such as chair back. The vertical sides hold up a horizontal backing. This can be a very effective technique if used correctly.

Just remember ,”You change the contour, you change the angle of the line to match it.”

Other Tips

When using the directional pencil shading method you can vary the pressure with the pencil to bring out highlights or shadows in specific areas. Follow the contours of the object as well to suggest the shape and combine the two to give the subject more depth and form. A great example of this would be when drawing any cylinder shape.

Pencil shading is not hard once you get the hang of it. Once you do start doing it you will find your self instinctively drawing it. This will free your mind up to think of other cool ways to add to your drawings and push your skills even further. Just like anything once you learn it you will be laughing about how difficult you once found it to be.

(Want to learn more about how to shade your drawings check out our Shading Masters course.)



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