How to shade a face: Ultimate tutorial


How to shade a face _ RapidFireArtIn this monster of a 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 guide, 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.

Do you have trouble following shading tutorials online because they usually skip from step A to step G with little to no explanation? Do you have difficulties making your drawings pop or look realistic?

For this tutorial, I recorded the full drawing process by scanning 213 high quality images which took over 35 hours in total just to scan! From that, I carefully selected a group of images for each step which clearly shows the intricate stages and layers of my shading process. Each step is backed up by clear explanations, shading tips and techniques for you to apply to your own artwork.

Most steps contain a clickable slideshow of 3-9 images so you can view them at your own pace and easily observe the subtle changes from one image to the next.

Below is a preview of only a few images you can expect to see in the tutorial below.

How to Shade a Face - Sansa Stark Game of Thrones RapidFireArtIt doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or intermediate… if you have the patience and dedication to sit through this entire tutorial, 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 such as eyes, nose, mouth, chin, etc. You can skip to any area by using the links below, but please do not skip the first 2 sections!

Step 1: Lighting the Face
Step 2: Preliminary Outlines + Shadow Lining
Step 3: Shading Eyes
Step 4: Shading the Nose
Step 5: Shading the Mouth
Step 6: Shading the Forehead
Step 7: Shading Cheeks and Smile Lines
Step 8: Shading Jawline and Chin
Step 9: Shading Neck and Ears


Tools I used
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. You are helping me become a better artist. I will continue – gladly – to purchase your tutorials. I am 54 and finally trying to develop drawing skills which I think I have. Your guidance has me happy with the initial results. Kudos- Dave

  2. Darlene — Your locked content is well worth it. Heck, your downloads are the cost of a latte and a fraction of the price of a book covering the same techniques. Keep up the great work and I’m looking forward to your future lessons!

  3. This is amazing. Been looking for something like this forever. I’ve done graphite portraits in the past without a “process” and it it was maddening and not fun. It’s making it easier to follow your steps as I work on a portrait of my granddaughter. All of the help I need is right here with all of tutorials. Never used some of the shading techniques, but I am now. Thank you. Your precious time was well spent

  4. Dear: Darlene Nguyen How do I do shading without good pencils I’ve been focusing on drawing since I was three years old, can you please show how to shade without good pencils? Thank you for the work though!

    • Hi Sylvia,
      In my system, it says the email has already been sent to you. It may have landed in your junk or spam folder. If you can’t find it, please send me an alternate email via the contact page and I’ll send the link to you again :)

  5. Ur lessons are really helpful Darlene. I’m actually kind of a beginner and I just actually draw without any special techniques. These would come in handy. Thanks a lot .

  6. Dear Darlene,

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

    thank upi and best regards,

  7. 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 :)
      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.

  8. 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 :)

  9. 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 :)

  10. 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