Many moons ago, I wrote this post on creating an accurate outline. I was planning to follow it up with a post on shading your accurate outline. But then I began thinking of all the different methods of shading, and everything that goes into it… and I’ll admit I got a little overwhelmed. The thought of trying to fit all of that into one post seemed impossible.
I don’t know why it never crossed my mind before that I could write more than one post on the subject.
[Insert several cuts of me facepalming]
Hello folks. Chalice here. And welcome to part one of a series of posts on shading. This is where art really happens.
Today we will be covering the very basics. The tools you may need, the proper way to hold your pencil, the pros and cons of different shading techniques, and more.
Let’s dive in.
Tools of the Trade
First of all, let me just say that you don’t actually need a lot of fancy tools. I get by most of the time with my mechanical pencils, kneaded eraser, and blending stumps.
But that being said, it is pretty handy to have some of the other tools as well. And thankfully, art tools are fairly non-expensive. (:
PENCILS! The life-blood of drawing. My two favorites are these fat 0.5mm mechanical pencils. I have them filled with 2B and HB lead respectively, and I use them for basically everything. I love the grip, the extendible eraser, and of course the fact that you never have to sharpen them.
I use those for the majority of my projects, and then I’ll go in with the 4B, 6B, and 8B pencils to darken my blackest areas.
Then we have the charcoal pencils… which I also love. And the white colored pencil, which I don’t actually use a lot with the graphite and charcoal, but I thought it would be fun to talk about that technique.
I’m going to be honest, I need my erasers. They’ve gotten me through a lot. They’ve seen many tears, and many mistakes, and they’ve always been there.
The kneaded eraser is definitely the most versatile. I use it for lifting out small, thin highlights; or large, faint areas of light; or those annoying blotches that graphite tends to make. It’s a wonderful tool
Faber Castell’s pencil eraser is probably my second favorite. It’s extremely handy for erasing the smaller, brighter highlights and edges which the kneaded eraser isn’t always sturdy enough to pick up.
That large, hulky black tool is an electric eraser, which was recently gifted to me by my mom. It has made my life SO much easier. I could cry over all the time I spent drawing around tiny sharp details that this eraser can easily take out. It’s a very powerful tool, but not so much that it tears up my paper.
There’s also the eraser at the end of the mechanical pencil, and your average block eraser. Unassuming as they are, you should never underestimate their power.
I thought my finger blending days were over when I got my first blending stumps and tortillons. They were a game changer for me, and I treasured those tools dearly. I think over all, I like the stumps better, because their blending surface is smoother. But I use the tortillons quite a bit as well.
I also occasionally grab a paper towel, which works really well for blending large, undefined areas.
And then, as you may know, I’ve rediscovered my love for finger blending too. We’ll talk more about that later. 😉
And various other tools you may find handy. A pencil sharpener. A scrap of paper to rest your hand on, so as not to smudge your drawing. Some bristle brushes for brushing away eraser crumbs.
Side note: You can blow the crumbs away too, but some artists worry about spitting on their drawing… I personally have never had a problem with that, but I’ve still found the brushes to be quite useful.
a quick word on how to hold your pencil (and stumps)
Okay, so there’s not a right or wrong way to hold a pencil. I’ve seen different people hold it many different ways, and I’m not going to tell you how you should do it.
However, I will give you a simple crash course.
The Tripod Grip (aka, Writing Position). Best for getting those heavy, dark strokes.
Painters Grip. Best for getting light, feathery strokes. (As a general rule, the further away from the tip you hold it, the easier it will be to do the light shading.)
The Overhand Grip. Best for not smushing the tip of your blending stump.
Again, just the very basics. You should definitely experiment with your own grips, and find out what works for you.
The One Skill you need to master
Now that we’ve gone over the tools, and the different ways to hold a pencil, there’s one more thing that you need. And that is a very specific, uncelebrated skill: the ability to draw a Value Scale.
Behold, an unblended value scale in full HB.
When I was first getting serious about art, I would draw these All. The. Time. It was my go-to doodle, and my school notebook lives to tell the tale. 😄 But it taught me how to control pressure and see tone, and was a just really good building block.
It takes a bit of practice if you don’t have as much experience, but it’s actually quite easy to learn. I build up an even gradient, and a dark tone with lots of layering. Any accidental dark streaks are easy to lift out with an eraser and then go back over to smooth out.
The goal is to create a completely smooth transition between your darkest dark and your lightest light. If you can do this, you are ready to conquer the art world.
A look at different blending techniques
I’m going to do some more in-depth posts on the different shading/blending techniques and processes, but for now, I thought it would be good to do a quick run down of the basics.
There are so many different ways to shade something, and I could never choose a favorite. So we’ll just be discussing some of the pros and cons of each method.
Right now, I’d like to introduce you to my old pal, the Sphere.
This one was done in graphite and blended with a stump. I like how smoothly the stumps and tortillons blend out the pencil strokes. The rough, hard surface of the stumps really pushes the graphite into the paper, so you don’t see a lot of the texture coming through.
The different size stumps also make for a very clean, controlled blend.
However, you do have to look watch out for the texture of the stumps and tortillons.
Since you’re using the side of the tool, they kind of have a marker-like quality. So you have to be careful about leaving streaks.
Which is one reason I like finger blending.
No streaks. (: But you do have to look out for fingerprints. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, the oils from your hands can be damaging to your drawing. But that’s an easily avoidable problem if you always rest your hand on a scrap of paper while you’re working.
One thing I love about finger blending is that it allows the texture of the paper to shine through, giving it a grainy, sort of film-like quality. It’s also a more ambient blend, since you’re smudging everything all around, and generally have less control. But that’s all part of the charm.
While I don’t have a favorite blending method, I do think blending with a white colored may be my least favorite. Not that it’s bad or anything. Again, I like how smooth it is. And the waxiness of the colored pencil kind of adds a painterly feel to the drawing.
The white colored pencil does a fairly good job blending out the strokes, but you do have to be careful, because it not only darkens the graphite, it also makes it permanent…. and has the tendency to streak a bit. This is why it isn’t my favorite.
The Wipe-Off technique. This lovely method is comprised of layered and wiped off charcoal, and I absolutely love it! It naturally tones the paper, it works well with the easily smudgeable nature of charcoal, and it totally speeds up the drawing process. We’ll be covering this specific method in my next post. And yes, I’m pretty excited. (:
And last but not least, a method that I really enjoy: pencil blending/not blending at all! I really like how dynamic and loose this technique it is. It’s not hyper-realistic, or photo-realistic. It shines as just a drawing.
The only thing you have to look out for here is getting carried away with the details, and loosing that sketchy look. (Which honestly, is not a bad thing, and it happens to me all the time. I’m a detail monster, haha! I just really like the more sketchy look.)
Alright, we’ve taken a look at various tools of the trade, the inescapable Value Scale, and different ways to draw a sphere. Hopefully this has given you a good foundation for the tips to come! I’m planning to go deeper into some of the different blending/shading techniques in some future posts, as well as other drawing tips and tricks.
Let me know if you found this helpful, or anything you would like to see in future posts! It would mean so much to me. (:
Until next time,