General Shading Tutorial

Shading is the most important skill in any artist’s repertoire, but is also often the most difficult aspect of a drawing to get right. This tutorial demonstrates how to shade a smooth and uniform patch of graphite in several simple steps.

Difficulty: 1*

Required Equipment:

  • Pencils: HB-6B
  • Tissues/Makeup remover/Q-tips/Cotton buds/pads

Step One – Laying down the Graphite


Begin by laying the pencil on its side such that the lead of the pencil lies flat against the paper. You do not want to try and shade with the sharp point of the pencil as you will scratch and ruin the paper if you apply too much pressure.


As a general rule of thumb when drawing, you should never apply a large amount of pressure and naturally this applies to shading as well. If you want to shade darker, rather than applying more pressure it is much better to shade more layers with a darker pencil compound (i.e. 4B).


Here you can see a fairly sketchy layer of graphite. To draw this, you simply must draw quite large pencil strokes across the page fairly quickly. The trick is to keep the pencil strokes parallel and move quickly across the page without lifting the pencil off the page as you do so. I find it much easier to do this if I lock my wrist and make the movements with my whole forearm.


At this stage, the shading is far too patchy with large variations in the darkness of the graphite. You would not want to begin smoothing this out just yet as it will come out too patchy. It is much better to apply another layer of graphite to even it out.


Here I have applied a second layer of graphite using the same technique, but I have applied the strokes in a direction perpendicular to the strokes of the previous layer. This crisscross layering fills in any gaps in the graphite and produces a more uniform shade across the region.



Step Two – Smoothing out the Graphite


To smooth out graphite, you can use either a tissue, a q-tip (cotton-bud), or make-up removers. I prefer using q-tips for detail work and make-up removers for shading larger areas as I feel that tissues are too thin.


There isn’t much technique involved in smoothing out graphite like this, I like to use a circular motion and apply a moderate amount of pressure. Make sure that you are smoothing out all areas of the graphite equally or else it will come out patchy.


I always like to apply another layer of graphite over the smoothed out shading. You will notice that it is much easier to lay down the graphite without applying as much pressure so do not get carried away.


If you got a patchy, cloudy looking layer in the previous step, you can then use this additional layer to try and even out the levels.






Finally, smooth out the last layer of graphite and you get a very even and smooth shaded area.






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