August 2017

Lesson 8: Introduction to Shading Techniques

You can create a wide array of textures by applying different shading techniques to your artwork. A simple change in the direction or shape of a stroke can turn what looks like smooth skin into rough or dry skin.

Below are a few common shading techniques:

HatchingHatching Pencil Shading Example 1 RFA

This is the most common shading technique as it is easy to learn and allows you to cover more ground in a short period of time. It consists of a series of lines that go in one general direction. You can use it to shade just about anything.

When hatching, angle your pencil down closer to the paper so your strokes are nice and thick. This allows you to minimize gaps, making it so much easier to blend.

If you’re not careful, this technique can work against you. The straight lines can make something such a sphere look flat, like the example above. These unblended lines will work wonders for shading things like brushed steel, wood grain, etc.


Cross Hatching

Cross hatching shading technique RFACross hatching is where you overlap lines at various angles. It’s great for drawing fabrics like burlap, textured (wrinkly) skin and whatever else you can think of that displays such a pattern. To shade light areas, lighten your lines and space them further apart. In shadowed areas, darken them and bring them closer together.



Circulism Shading Technique ExampleAs the name suggests, circulism consists of many overlapping circles. The more circles you draw, the more smooth the texture becomes! You can use it to draw fuzzy fabrics, soft cottony fabrics, realistic skin textures and more.

This technique is time consuming, but the results are amazing!

Apply this method using a sharp pencil for textured skin with wrinkles or use a blunt pencil for smooth skin, as it will be easier to blend.


Contour Shading

Contour Shading Example Lips RFA 3Contour shading is similar to hatching and cross-hatching. The difference is that the lines are curved to follow the contours of the subject. So these lines can be drawn horizontally, vertically and even diagonally.

Do you remember what was covered in lesson 3? Contour shading is a great way to practice giving form to your 2D line drawings. This might be difficult for you as a beginner, but try to use your imagination to visualize the shape of the object in a 3D sense and then try your best to draw lines that give the object form.


Combine Shading Techniques

It’s perfectly normal to use several shading techniques in one drawing. All of the above were used to draw the image below.

Circulism: Used to shade a base layer on the hand to give it a consistent base texture.

Contour Shading: Used to shade stretched skin.

Hatching: Used to shade nails and stretched skin.

Cross Hatching: Used to create patterns in the skin and to emphasize deep valleys/crevices.

The combination of these shading techniques helped me achieve various textures commonly seen in wrinkled skin.

Shading Techniques Closeup RFA

Tip: When drawing rough or wrinkly skin, try to avoid blending your graphite.


Homework Assignment + Challenge

Shade 4 different subjects using each of the 4 shading techniques above. Once you’ve completed your homework, feel free to share it on the RapidFireArt Facebook page. I will post my left handed homework there as well :)

Challenge: If you can use all 4 techniques on a single subject, I’ll feature your artwork below along with a link to your facebook page.

Happy drawing!


Go to Lesson 9 >

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Lesson 7: Introduction to Line Quality

Do your drawings have good structure but lack depth, weight, texture or realism? In this lesson, we’re going to learn how line quality can:

  • Accentuate a drawing to make it more interesting.
  • Allow you to direct the viewer’s eyes where you want.
  • How it can make 3D objects appear even more realistic.
  • And more!


The Power of Lines!

The weight (or thickness) of a line is referred to as line quality and can suggest material, lighting, weight and more! Introduce a variety of line weights into your artwork to enhance it further. You can find some examples of this below.


Texture and Material

Thin lines appear softer than thick ones when it comes to drawing textures on clothing or even strands of hair:

The example on the left contains very faintly sketched lines because each strand of silk is very thin. You can probably imagine how the fabric feels just by looking at it. Burlap on the other hand is a very rough and thick material, so each of the lines are bold and blunt.



If you’re drawing a scene with high contrast, try using heavier lines for shadowed areas. Any side facing the light should be thin. In certain places, lines can even be non-existent – leading the viewer to fill in the gaps on their own.

The sun and arrows illustrate the direction in which the light is shining. For the wine glass example, there is a good mix of thin, medium and thick lines. The thickest lines can also be interpreted as the thickest areas of glass. While the thinnest parts show how delicately thin the mouth of the glass can get.



Check out how a simple change in line weight can transform an object from light to heavy!

This also works the other way around. What would you do if you wanted to draw a helium balloon?


Enhance 3 Dimensional Drawings

You can manipulate the viewer’s perception by using thin lines for objects far away in the distance and thicker lines for objects, edges, etc in the foreground. The closer the object, the thicker it should be drawn to better illustrate that 3 dimensional space.


Here are some examples of 3D objects being enhanced so they appear even more realistic:

An object stretching far into the distance appears to become thinner and thinner.

If I want to draw a long road stretching beyond the horizon on the morning of a foggy day, I would gradually lighten and thin out my lines until they disappear into the fog.


Create Interest and Guide the Viewer’s Eyes

A drawing done using the same line weight from beginning to end can look a little boring. Consistent line weight can confuse people because they don’t quite know where to look.

Vary the line weight to guide your viewer’s eyes where you’d like them to go.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to thicker lines. You can use this to your advantage when drawing an image that tells a story!

If you’re drawing a scene with various objects or people, you can draw secondary subjects using medium to thin lines so they don’t stick out as much as the main subject. This is very helpful, especially in a busy scene.


Homework Assignment and Challenge

Go over your sketches and drawings from the previous lessons and transform them using what you learned in this tutorial. Post 10 of your favorite transformations on the RFA Facebook page in ‘before and after’ style like the one below and I’ll feature your work here, along with a link to your facebook page!



Go to Lesson 8 –>

Happy drawing guys!

Lesson 7: Introduction to Line Quality Read More »

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