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15 Tips for Realistic Shading

January 10, 2010

tips for realistic shadingHere are 15 tips to improve your shading techniques and help you create more realistic drawings. Don’t forget to check out my posts on how to shade and my tutorial for shading a sphere.

1. Avoid pressing hard, instead create dark areas by layering more and more graphite on the page.

2. As well as fixing your finished drawing, a workable fixative can be used throughout your shading to give the paper more texture (tooth). This will let you add more layers of graphite.

3. Keep pencil marks even and close together.

4. Work from light to dark.

5. Use the edge of your pencil instead of the tip.

6. Think in three dimensions and visualize the way light will hit your subject.

7. Use a blending stick to create a smooth texture.

8. Check your proportions before blending to make sure they are correct. It will be harder to erase after you blend.

9. Use a clean, fresh blending stick, especially for the lightest areas.

10. To lighten too dark areas, or to reclaim highlights, use a kneaded eraser.

11. Work slowly; don’t rush.

12. Use a variety of pencils to create a full range of values.

13. Create smooth transitions between shadows, midtones and highlights.

14. Don’t be afraid to go dark. The only areas that should be pure white are the highlights. Try making the darkest shadows as deep as you can, then adjust the rest of your values accordingly.

15. Use different drawing techniques to create a variety of textures with your shading.


From → Drawing

  1. Good list.
    I’d add one more, though it might just connect #4 & #14: build up tones gradually in layers.

    I think #14 is particularly relevant as so many pencil drawing I see simply do not have enough contrast.

    • Hi Neil, thanks for adding your thoughts. I think I touched on that in #1 as well, but you’ve said it much more succinctly!

  2. hi this is the site i was looking for in helping hints im self taught but i still need help in eyes and mouth so could u please send me hints on these two drawings plus shades in certain areas ok thanks im a good friend of ronald scott mcdowell of tuskegee, ala

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