Would you like to learn how to draw realistic drawings that look like they pop off your drawing surface?
You can if you learn how to shade drawings.
By the end of this post, you will know…
- The best drawing tools for graphite drawings
- The different grades of pencils for artists
- Shading techniques
- Tips for shading
- An exercise to help you enhance your shading skills
- How to add value slowly
How To Shade Drawings With Graphite
Before you start drawing real subjects, you should first become familiar with the tools you will be using and get a good feel of using them.
Drawing reproduces what you see or what is in your mind on a drawing surface.
Learning to use the available tools will help you create professional compositions.
Below are some posts that will help you learn the basics of drawing:
- 3 Different Pencil Points For Shading
- Drawing Tips For Realistic Drawings – The Elements Of Shading
- Drawing Tips For Enhancing Drawing Skills
Below is a list of drawing supplies I use daily:
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Smooth
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Velum
Shading Pencils Set
- General’s Factis Magic Black Eraser
- Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser
- Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Erasers
- Alvin Dry Cleaning Pad
Below is a small section from a post I wrote Drawing Tips For Enhancing Drawing Skills.
Before drawing realistic objects, you need to understand what pencils will produce the perfect marks for each situation you encounter.
Graphite grading scales measure the hardness of a pencil’s graphite core.
The letter “H” indicates a hard pencil.
The harder the graphite core is, the lighter the line will be on your drawing surface.
The higher the number is, the harder the graphite core will be
The lower the number is, the softer the graphite will be.
Common “H” pencils:
Tip If you press down too hard with a hard pencil, you will increase the odds of damaging your drawing surface.
Always use a light touch when drawing with “H” grade pencils.
You can make the area darker by drawing over the lines with the same grade.
“B” indicates the darkness of a pencil’s mark.
The higher the number is, the softer the lead will be.
The softer the lead, the darker the mark will be on your drawing surface.
Common “B” pencils
You will also have an HB grade. This grade is in the middle of the “H” and “B” grades.
Draw a box with each grade of a pencil to understand the value each pencil offers.
This is one of the best drawing tips for beginners.
Having the right pencil for shading is crucial, and this exercise will help you know what pencil will be appropriate for every situation you encounter.
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Now that you know what tools are available for graphite artists and you and you have a good feel for them, it is time to practice some easy pencil shading drawings.
Understanding how to create soft value changes how to create light and shadow on a drawing surface will make your subject come to life by producing a three-dimensional illusion on a two-dimensional surface.
Let’s review some shading guidelines that will help you with your compositions before we start.
A contour drawing is the outline of an object. It is two-dimensional because it has no values that follow the curves of an object.
Below is a contour drawing of a tulip.
You know it is a tulip because your brain can identify the shape even though it is two-dimensional.
Adding values that follow the tulip curves and following the elements of shading makes the simple contour of the tulip look realistic as if it is jumping off the drawing surface.
Value is how light or dark something is. A Gray Scale and Value Finder is a great tool that makes it easy to identify values on a reference image or drawing.
You can see the full drawing tutorial of this tulip by visiting How To Draw A Tulip – Drawing Tutorials.
Hard Edge – a hard edge is where two tones create a more defined appearance. These tones separate the subject you are drawing from another subject overlapping it or the subject’s negative space.
Soft edge – is when the soft value changes to create a gentle curve, making a shadow edge.
The drawing below shows you how I used a hard and soft edge to draw the old water can.
The hard edge separates the metal piece surrounding the can, and the soft edge creates an illusion of the can being a cylinder.
How To Apply Tone – Always follow an object’s curve when applying tone with your graphite pencil.
The same technique should be used when blending the tones with a blender.
Pencil Shading Tips
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 subject.
- 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 pencils 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 Techniques For Beginners
Practice the drawing tips above on a circle, triangle, and cube.
First, trace or sketch a circle, triangle, and cube on paper.
Identify where the light is coming from.
Start adding tone from the darkest area of the shapes.
The darkest part of the object will be where the light is not hitting.
Gradually lighten the tone as you draw towards the lightest section of the shapes.
Try to copy the examples below.
Add Value Slowly
Realistic drawings are done by adding a wide range of values that range from dark too light.
The drawing of the dog I drew below gives you an example of the wide range of values I used to draw a realistic dog portrait.
Tips for adding gradual value changes:
- Start with a hard lead and work from the dark to light.
- Do not press too hard on the drawing surface
- Continue to layer graphite to the darkest areas and work towards the lighter areas
- Use a softer lead when you can not get the tone darker with the harder lead pencil
- Do not leave spaces between lines
- Soften the lines by using a blending tool