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 >

25 thoughts on “Lesson 8: Introduction to Shading Techniques”

  1. Thank You so much your drawing lessons have helped me so much with my sketching I used to have a hidden talent I never new about and well I do now.
    Thank you!

    1. It is really helpful.

      But i can not understand how to do cantour shading.

      I have some shading releted drawings .
      Do u see them and give some advice please.

  2. Hi Darlene, I am having a hard time with my drawing skills. I have been going well with your past lessons, but now after a few weeks, I am having a hard time. Do you have any lessons to go deeper?

  3. darlene i just wanted to say that i love that you are taking the time to do this because i look forward to draw just as good as you. so please keep this up!!!!

  4. Jilah Lee Castroverde

    hi Darlene, I just wanted to have a perfect sketch, but it wasn’t good to look at….I tried many times but I always fail. :( I don’t know how to create a perfect lips because for me it’s so difficult. May I have some techniques to do it? .. have a nice day to you ! THANK YOU.. Hope you’ll read this message :-)

    1. Hi Jilah, please feel free to send me your artwork via the contact page or FB so I can give you more personalized tips :)

  5. Darlene, I used to draw, but wasn’t so good at it. So, I have decided to learn how to draw again; I mean, I want to start from scratch. About three days ago, I was surfing the web; with the sole aim of looking for web articles on how to draw a nose, I found some from other websites, but I didn’t like them at all. So, I came across your website “RapidFireArt.com”, and I am like; lemme click on this website… I searched on your webpage for how to draw a nose, and there I had it… I found the simplest and easiest tutorial on how to draw a nose. Your tutorials, have made me want to re-awaken my hobby of drawing. Your tutorials/explanations are straight to the point, very easy to understand (you way of explaining things show how polite and good hearted you are), I am so happy I found your website… I’m grateful! God bless you. Darlene, I have also downloaded all the PDFs of your lessons, except for Lesson 8; I couldn’t find the link to download it. Please can you upload the PDF of lesson 8(shading technique)? Have a wonderful Sunday, Thank you! :-)

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Ben! Thanks so much for sharing that with me, it makes what I do feel even more worthwhile! :)
      I’m going to upload the PDF in a few minutes, sorry about that.

      By the way, welcome to RFA!

      1. Jilah Lee Castroverde

        Hello Darlene, I was so amazed looking at your amazing sketches :-) and I am interested to do it because I wanted to become a great artist someday. And by the way, i’m from Philippines and I am proud to be an artist :-) (someday) :-)

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