How to Shade a Human Face


Drawing the features of a human face is only part of the challenge. Amateur artists, and even seasoned professionals, can experience difficulty capturing the human face in all its glory. You may find that even after spending time perfecting the details of the features, your human face still lacks the realistic quality you're aiming for. The trick to capturing realistic human faces is in shading which adds depth to the subject's features and lifts them away from the page. With proper shading, you can bring your portraits to life.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil (medium HB)
  • Gum eraser
  • Drawing paper
  • Examine the human face you want to shade. Consider the profile of the image and where the most appropriate areas might be for shading. Depending upon whether you have a straight-on drawing, a semi-profile, or a full profile, the shading locations will vary.

  • Lightly apply shading to one side of the face with an angled motion of the pencil lead. Move your hand side to side quickly. Don't be concerned about covering every inch of the image.

  • Deepen the set of the eyes with light shading just above the eyelids.

  • Darken the lip of each eye to thicken the line.

  • Add light pencil strokes to the corners of the eyes. This gives the eyes shaded texture.

  • Apply light pencil strokes along the angle of the cheekbone to give it shape. Vary the pressure of the pencil strokes to keep the shading from being too even. A slight gradation in color--darker at the cheekbone--will give the cheekbone definition.

  • Shade the chin cleft. This will enhance the depression of the cleft.

  • Smudge and blend the shadows with the edge of your eraser or the tip of your finger. Smudging softens the lines and helps give a finished, even appearance to your drawing.

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  • Photo Credit portrait drawing image by PinkShot from
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