How to Shade With a Pencil


Shading with pencil gives your drawings depth and helps create the illusion of shine and reflection. While it may take some practice, you can learn to shade with a pencil. No formal training is required.

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing paper
  • Pencils

Practice Shading With a Pencil

  • Choose a large area and shade it in without thinking about shading technique. Step back and view your work. You will likely find that your shading has a patchy look caused by starting and stopping your pencil in the same place as you draw.

  • Pick another large area and practice shading with an irregular pattern. While shading, alter the length of your stroke frequently. One pencil stroke could be short and horizontal, while the next is long and diagonal.

  • Avoid trying to shade small pieces of the area completely before moving on. It is best to allow white areas to show through your pencil marks until you fill the entire area.

  • Vary your pressure on the pencil to simulate reflections or highlights. Varying the pressure, while mid-stroke, is especially effective for creating natural-looking highlights.

Try Circular Shading

  • Shade with an irregular, circular stroke. Be sure to use a very light touch so that the circles do not show through the shading.

  • Space your circles out at various distances to achieve a smooth texture.

  • Work slowly to cover the area. Build up several layers of circular strokes until you reach the shade you want.

Use Contour Shading to Create Shapes

  • Practice shading around the contours of a drawn object to create three-dimensional effects.

  • Vary your pressure on the pencil, as you shade along the edge of an object, to create lighter and darker areas. The lighter areas will appear to be closer to you than the darker areas, creating a sense of volume.

  • Match your shading strokes to the perspective lines of the drawing. This means changing the angle of your pencil strokes as you fill in an object. Perspective angles are sharper at the bottom of a square, for instance, than at the top, making it necessary to adjust your shading technique.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create the desired effect with your pencil. Shading with the side of the pencil will create a softer look. Shading with the tip of the pencil will give you greater control and allow for more detail.
  • Beware of changing direction while shading. If one area is shaded with horizontal strokes and the area next to it is shaded with vertical strokes, your shading will look patchy.

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