Would you like to draw realistic drawings?
In this post, you will discover some drawing tips that will make your drawings look like they are jumping off your drawing surface.
Drawing Tips For Realistic Drawings
Understanding how light reacts to different subjects and how lighting affects form will help you draw realistic drawings that jump off the paper.
Value is the darkness or lightness of tones. These tones create form and a sense of depth on a two-dimensional surface.
Form in art is an element of art that is three-dimensional and encloses volume; includes height, width, and depth like a cube, sphere, cylinder, pyramid, or free-flowing.
In my opinion, an essential element of drawing is value.
Value allows a viewer to understand the forms they are looking at and the light that reacts on them.
The placement of shadows and highlights on an object creates the illusion of form and light on a two-dimensional drawing surface.
A Gray Scale and Value Finder will help you see the soft value changes on a reference image and your drawing.
By the end of this post, you will know…
- The five elements of shading
- Different techniques for shading
- How to create smooth and subtle value changes
- An exercise to help you enhance your skills quicker
- At the end of the post, you will find a list of drawing supplies I use for my drawings
Five Elements Of Shading
Full Light – This is the area on an object where the light source is hitting it at full strength.
Halftone – This is the area on an object that is the middle value. It is neither indirect light or shadows.
Core Shadow – This is the darkest tone of an area on the object where light is blocked from hitting the object. For example, it will be where the sphere curves away from the light but not at the sphere’s very edge.
Reflected light – This separates the darkness of the core shadow from the darkness of the cast shadow. It is a lighter value that outlines the edge of an object.
Cast Shadow – This will be the darkest value on your drawing. It is the opposite side of the light source and blocked by an object. For example, it will be where the sphere meets a surface on the opposite side of the light source. This is the area where light does not hit.
Shadow Drawing Techniques
Below are several different techniques used for drawing. All of the techniques listed below can create a realistic drawing if used properly however if you are interested in drawing photorealistic drawings you will want to use the blending technique.
Hatching – Is when the value is created with parallel lines. Lines that are closer together will look darker and lines that are further apart will create the illusion of highlights.
Cross Hatching – Is when the value is created with lines that are crossed instead of parallel. The closer the lines cross together will look darker while crosses that are further apart will appear lighter.
Stippling – Is a technique that creates value with tiny dots. The more dots close together will create a darker value while dots further apart will create highlights.
Blending – Is when you create smooth value changes with graphite by spreading graphite on the drawing surface with blending tools like tortillons or blenders.
The ink drawing above was done with a combination of stippling and hatching.
You can see how I created an illusion of darker shadows by using more dots in a specific area and gradually used fewer dots to create a lighter shadow.
The hatching technique created depth in the wood of the watermill making this drawing look more realistic. You can purchase prints of this drawing by visiting Rustic Watermill Print.
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In the graphite drawing above I used the blending technique to create a photorealistic drawing of this dog.
Notice where the highlights are and the soft value changes on his fur. You can purchase a print of this drawing by visiting Happy Your Home Print.
Basic Shading Techniques
Realistic shading requires smooth and subtle value changes.
Learning how to create smooth value changes takes practice. You will have to learn how to apply pencil lines properly and use different blending tools.
If the lines are too far apart, no amount of blending with the blending tools will smooth them out.
For the best results, you should create soft value changes with the different grades of pencils. The harder the lead like an H6 pencil the lighter the line will be. The softer the lead like a 6B pencil the darker the line will be.
Drawing Tip – Always work from dark to light. Start with your H2 pencil and gradually add graphite to the darkest areas and lighten up the value as you go towards the lighter areas.
Observe where the light source is coming from and identify the 5 elements of shading.
When you can not get your drawing any darker with your H2 pencil, use your HB pencil. Continue these steps with softer leads until you have achieved the values you where looking for.
The last step is to blend the drawing with a tortillion or blender. You can also use a cotton swab, q-tip, or plain tissue with no lotion for blending. Never use your finger to blend. The oils on your hand will destroy your paper making it impossible to blend smooth values.
Practice Drawing Shading Techniques
Use the sphere below as a shading exercise.
The more practice you do with the sphere the better your drawings will become.
Start by drawing a circle. You can trace a round object if you would like. This is just a practice for you to enhance your shading techniques not for you to learn how to draw a perfect circle.
Try to copy my sphere.
Notice the 5 elements of shading create an illusion of depth.
You will want to observe every subject you draw and look for the 5 elements of shading.
How To Shade With Pencil Realistically
Below are the steps I use to shade my drawings with a pencil.
- Use high-quality pencils like Tombow Mono Professional Drawing Pencil or Blick Studio Drawing Pencils.
- Use high-quality paper like Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Velum
- Identify the darkest areas of the sphere.
- Add graphite with a 2H pencil starting at the darkest areas and lighten the pressure as you move towards the lighter section.
- Use short strokes and follow the contour of the sphere.
- Each line should connect with the previous line. There are no white spaces in a real ball or marble.
- Use your HB pencil to add more graphite to the darker areas. Continue this step with your 2B, 4B, and 6B pencil if necessary.
- Use your blending stump or blending tool of choice and softly blend your drawing working from dark to light. You might have to add more graphite because the blending tools will remove some of the graphite from the drawing surface.
- Check the value changes with your Grey Scale and Value Finder.
- Always refer to your reference image and keep in the back of your mind the 5 elements of shading.
Drawing Tools You Will Find in My Studio
Below is a list of all the materials I use for my drawings. I purchase all of my drawing supplies online at Blick Art Materials.
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Smooth
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Velum
- General’s Factis Magic Black Eraser
- Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser
- Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Erasers
- Alvin Dry Cleaning Pad
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By practicing these drawing tips on how to see and draw the five elements of shading will make your drawings jump off the drawing surface.
Identify the full light, halftone, core shadow, reflected light and cast shadow of the subject you are drawing before you put your pencil to the paper.