How to Shade a Face


In this tutorial I will show you how to shade a face with pencil from beginning to end.

If you haven’t read the in-depth shading tutorial, please click here before you continue on. I’m not going to talk a lot about shading techniques in this post because it’s already covered there.

For this tutorial, I recorded the full drawing process by scanning a whopping 213 images which took over 35 hours in total just to scan! I’ve carefully selected a group of images for each step which clearly shows you how I got from a white piece of paper to completion, backed up by explanations, tips and techniques.

How to Shade a Face - Sansa Stark Game of Thrones RapidFireArtIf you have the patience and dedication to sit through it all, I PROMISE you will walk away with a handful of value!

This is going to be a very detailed and lengthy post where each step covers a specific area of the face. You can skip to any area by using the links below, but please do not skip the first 2 sections!

Lighting the Face
Preliminary Outlines + Shadow Lining
Shading Eyes
Shading the Nose
Shading the Mouth
Shading the Forehead
Shading Cheeks and Smile Lines
Shading Jawline and Chin
Shading Neck and Ears

These are Amazon affiliate links, so anything you purchase through them will support RapidFireArt :)

How to Shade a Face Step 1: Lighting the Face

If you read my shading tutorial, you will need to apply your knowledge of light and your practice with planes in this section.

Proper proportions aside, it is highly important that you figure out the lighting situation for the scene before you shade the face to identify patterns of light and be able to apply the right amount of value where appropriate.How to Shade Planar Faces RFA

To do that, you can create a planar head/face of your subject, add a light source and shade the individual planes using solid tones or gradients relative to the direction and intensity of the light(s). You can take this a little bit further by adding cast shadows as well.


  1. Dear Darlene,

    You are very talented Continue beautiful work. I hope that I get time to practice drawing hobby :)

    thank upi and best regards,

  2. Hi,

    first, I’d like to mention, that I really like your content. The style of your tutorials is really great, and they are, in my humble opinion, a much better read than similar alternatives. I like your straightforward approach.

    In addition to that, I’ve got a few questions:

    1. Do you accept payment in bitcoin or something similar?
    2. When is your ebook about to be published?
    3. What will it contain?

    • Thanks Fukit :)
      1. Unfortunately I can only accept paypal payments. Paypal allows you to pay using credit or debit cards without signing up though.
      2. I put the ebook project on hold since I don’t have the funds to work on it yet. I can see it taking about half a year to complete (putting me out of commission for longer than I would like).
      3. It will be on how to draw portraits: learning how to see, drawing your subject with likeness, etc.

      • Thanks for the answer. Now I’d like to add something:

        to 1: Unfortunally, paypal doesn’t work out for me. A long time ago they froze some of my funds for no good reason, and I refused to use their service ever since.

        However, as someone who wants to sell something, you might just consider adding another way of sending you money to your site. There are Payment-Services, very much like PayPal, which would accept bitcoins, convert them to the currency of your choice, and transfer said currency to your bank account. BitPay would be the largest one, and offers WordPress Plugins. It’s really not that complicated, and I’d be your first customer paying via bitcoin.

        to 2 and 3: I’d really like to see it coming. As I said, I like your style of teaching very much.

  3. This is so so sooooo helpful Darlene!! All the steps are clear and easy to understand. I love your teaching style so much. THANK YOU

    • I measure the size of the head using my pencil and transfer it to paper using a very rough sketch. Then, I measure the placement of facial features, position of hair etc and then use a few methods I came up with to confirm my measurements. A more detailed process will be covered in my upcoming ebook :)

  4. Hey can you make tutorials for youtube? some steps i cant really understand and it would be a big help if you made a video showing what you do.

    • Hi Bianca, I will be creating video tutorials in the future. Although I can’t see myself recreating this tutorial in the near future since it’s quite extensive. Which steps are you referring to? I’ll try my best to explain them better :)

    • Actually, let me know which steps you’re stuck on and I’ll try to make a few videos or additional images to explain them clearly :)

  5. Thank you for your precious time dear Darlene! I will read it all (I just took a first look on the pics) …you are very dedicated, very talented, very helpful and there are no words, no words exists to thank youso much for those 2 very detailed last tutorials! :D

    • Thanks for your kind words Angela :) Let me know if you have any questions. I think I covered everything, but I always seem to leave something out hehe