September 2017

Lesson 9: Learn How to Shade

Let’s cut to the chase! Here are some straight up steps for you to start shading right away. Keep in mind that there are many ways to approach shading. This is just one!

1.) Sketch your subject
2.) Add dark values
3.) Add a light values
4.) Add the midtones
5.) Draw cast shadows
6.) Define the highlights
7.) Final touchups

These are the tools I’m going to use:

  • Kneaded eraser (you can use a hard plastic eraser too. It’s just easier with the kneadable one)
  • Pencils – HB, 2B, 4B (or you can use one pencil and vary the pressure for different values)


Step 1: Sketch the Shape of Your Subject

This is my subject:

Use a hard pencil such as an HB to lightly sketch your subject.

I’m sketching darker than I should, so you can see it clearly. But you should keep the outlines as light as possible. We don’t want outlines in our final piece – it takes away from the realism.

Step 2: Add the Darkest Values

Remember the shading techniques from lesson 8? Select a shading technique (or two) for the drawing. I’m using the hatching technique because I think it’s the easiest and fastest way to shade.

Along the darkest areas of your subject, shade a medium layer of graphite. I’m using a 2B. Try to keep those edges fairly soft.
If you’re happy with how it looks, darken your shading further. Here, I’m using a 4B.


Step 3: Apply a Layer of Lighter Graphite

Since the subject is fairly light, I’m going to define the highlights at the very end. If your subject is dark, use the shadow-lining technique to outline your highlights now and then shade around it.

Take a look at the reference photo again. Where are the highlights and what value are they?

Answer: The highlights are located on the right side of the body and the brightest areas appear to be white.

We cannot leave any other part of the drawing white because this value is reserved for the brightest point of each highlight.

I see a lot of beginners shade only the darkest values and leave the rest white – which is what I used to do as well. It makes the drawing look flat:

Don’t be afraid to shade your drawing fully. It was a big obstacle for me and it took a lot to get over. It wasted a lot of my time… time I could have spent leveling up!

So use a light pencil such as an HB to shade a medium/light shade of grey over the entire drawing. Since the highlights appear along the outer edge of the subject, I shaded past the body so that later when we add the highlights, there will be a higher contrast between the subject and the background.

Keep those lines thick and close together.

Before we move on, I wanted to darken the facial features and hair so it looks more interesting :)

Step 4: Add the Midtones

Now that we have dark and light values, we’ll need to soften out the transition between the two by adding medium values in between.

Shade a medium value in between the dark and light values to soften out your shading.

pencil graphite value scale H to 9B RFA 4I’m using a 2B because it’s between HB and 4B.


Gradual Shading Transition RFAIf you want to convey a round edge, avoid abrupt shading transitions. The more gradual your shading is, the more smooth your edge becomes.

Take your time and work in layers to build the shading up slowly.


Step 5: Add Some Cast Shadows

Where is the light coming from? Draw cast shadows to give the piece more contrast.

There are shadows on the ground around the feet. Define the boundaries between the feet, belly and ground by drawing outlines where appropriate. This will clean up the outer edges of the drawing.

Remember to draw the outlines no darker than the shadow itself.

Make the shadow darkest where the subject touches the ground and lighter where the shadow stretches away and the edges soften out.


Step 6: Add the Highlights

Use an eraser to add highlights to the lightest areas of the drawing to pull the subject out and off of the sketchbook. I suggest using a kneaded eraser for higher precision.

Darken the background even more to make the highlights pop out really well!

Use your eraser to remove small amounts of graphite from the right side of the drawing. The center of each highlight should be the lightest. If you’re using a kneaded eraser, roll it to a rounded tip and press the eraser onto the graphite a few times until you get a bright white.

To make the transition between highlight and midtone look more gradual, roll the kneaded eraser to a finer tip and press it along the transition zone while using a much lighter pressure..

This particular part isn’t possible with a regular plastic eraser, so use your pencil to smooth out the transition instead.

If your highlights aren’t popping as much as you’d like, darken the background further.


Step 7: Anything Missing?

Do a final check to see if you missed anything. Can you see what’s missing from my drawing?

Answer: Cast shadows on the body and the triangle of light beneath the belly. There are probably others, but these are the major ones.

To get rid of the grainy look, you can blend the drawing so the graphite fills all the crevices on the paper. That’s a topic for another tutorial!


Here’s a much simpler example of an apple:

how to shade step by step

The 2nd and 3rd step are switched: I shaded a base layer of graphite first and then added the darkest values because unlike the sumo, which is made up of a combination of basic geometries, the apple is made up of one basic geometry.

If I were to shade a base layer on the sumo before adding the darkest values, the outlines would all disappear – making it hard to redraw details like the facial features, fingers, toes, etc. Here’s a small example:


Homework Assignment + Challenge

Your homework assignment is to pick any subject and draw + shade it 3 times.

For the first drawing, set a timer for 3 minutes. The second drawing should be set to 5 minutes. For the final piece, set it for 30 minutes. Try to finish the entire drawing within the time frame given.

Feel free to share your artwork with me on Facebook under the Lesson 9 post. I’d love to see it!

If you want to challenge yourself further, draw it within 2, 1 or even 0.5 minutes. If you can do all six timed drawings and post your results on the RFA Facebook page, I’ll feature your artwork down below along with a link to your facebook page! I’ll also be posting my left handed homework when I get around to it (I’m so far behind!).


I hope this tutorial was helpful to you! It’s just an introduction but I hope it gives you a good starting point. If you want to learn more about shading and pencil techniques, visit this detailed guide.

And as always, if you have any questions or think I could have explained something more clearly, please let me know in the comments below. Your feedback is always welcome!

Waiting for lesson 10? Follow me on facebook and sign up through the candy-striped mailing list in the sidebar (on desktop) or at the bottom (on mobile) to get notified when it’s released!

If you like what I do and want to support me, check out my Patreon – where you can support your favorite artists and earn cool rewards at the same time.


Go to Lesson 10 >

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Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition – Unboxing & First Impressions

Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition Medium Unboxing 1_1This is the Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition, which was very generously given to me by the awesome folks over at Wacom! Playing around with this tab for a few days already gave me a bunch of cool ideas for future tutorials, so I’m super excited to see what I can do with it!

Thank you Wacom!

This tablet can turn traditional pen and paper art into digital ink right in front of your eyes! How cool is that?

As I familiarize myself with this awesome new toy (*ahem* medium), you’ll see me use it in a lot in upcoming video tutorials. It’ll help me speed up my work flow which means I can finally create content for you guys on a more regular basis! Yay!!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

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Unboxing the Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition Medium

Before delving into my first impressions on the tablet, I wanted to share a snippet of my unboxing experience with you because… it was AWESOME!

To skip the unboxing, click here.

It opens like a book!

These are the goody boxes!

The first box contains a pencil case, clip, ink pen, extra ink and paper. The paper is packaged so beautifully – I just can’t bring myself to open it!

The pencil case is really soft inside. There’s a lot of room for additional drawing supplies and even fits the tablet clip.

The ink pen has a soft rubber grip which feels comfortable to write with. I tested the pen on a notebook and the lines came out very fine without any blotches. The ink dries almost instantly.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found three extra ink refills in the small rectangular package. The method for removing the ink cartridge is genius! By the way, I love how their instructions are all visual!

The second box contains the tablet, stylus, stylus holder and a USB charging cable. The tablet was so beautifully packaged that I felt bad removing it from the plastic cover haha.

The surface feels cool to the touch. It’s thin but doesn’t feel fragile at all.

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There are programmable buttons on the side and one of them is magical! I’ll tell you about it later.


Here’s what it looks like with the clip.

Everything else was hidden under the tablet. I immediately thought of Iron Man’s arc reactor when I saw the stylus holder. It’s such a cool looking holder!

The stylus comes with a silver decorative ring near the tip and there are four other metallic colors to choose from. The rubber grip on the stylus feels a lot more comfortable to hold than the pen and it’s also a little plushier.

Besides looking cool as heck, the stylus holder has other uses as well. It helps with removing the stylus tip and also holds extra tips inside its body.

Here’s the difference between the ink pen and the stylus:

Ink Pen: It writes like a real pen with real ink. When used on the tablet, anything you draw can be digitized. It can be used to trace under-drawings.

Stylus: It’s a digital drawing tool which can be used to paint, draw or even replace a mouse.

First Impressions on the Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition

I plugged the tablet into my laptop and got a few prompts to download the software: Inkspace and Bamboo Paper.

Inkspace: As the name suggests, Inkspace is for turning paper sketches into digital ink. I’ll go more in depth down below.

Bamboo Paper: It’s a notebook app that you can draw in! The app looks like a notebook and has flippable pages. I LOVE writing notes, lists, plans and sketching out my ideas on scrap paper. But I always end up losing them! This app is really going to come in handy.

Wacom’s Inkspace app has a really cool live area where anything drawn with the ink pen can be instantly viewed on the screen in real time and a copy is automatically saved in the app. I had so much fun playing with this feature!


I haven’t drawn for leisure in a very long time but for some reason this makes me want to draw more! There’s something about seeing the ink appear on the screen that makes it so much more satisfying. I can’t really explain it.

Side note: When I put my laptop into “stand mode”, the tablet replaces the touchpad and this setup works quite nicely. Bonus point.. The tablet is exactly the same width and length as my laptop which means I can put them both in one travelling case!

All saved drawings are conveniently stored on the main screen of the app. From here, they can be exported into several different formats such as: Text, JPG, PNG, SVG or PSD.

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The app can even convert handwriting into text!

Remember that magical button I was talking about? Whenever I hit the small circle button on the tablet, my drawing gets saved. I don’t even need to be connected to the computer or internet since it can save to the internal memory. So that means I can work on the go even without my laptop and 8 pound scanner! Score!!
Usually when I scan my step by step tutorials, it takes anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes per scan depending on the quality I want.

This only takes about 5 seconds!

Every time I save my progress, it actually saves it in layers. This is going to come in handy for capturing step by step drawing tutorials! When I want to turn this into a full image, I simply stack them on top of each other:


Here, I tried tracing a face from a 3 millimeter thick coupon book. It came out exactly how I traced it.

I tried it again. This time focusing on pressure sensitivity. The ink pen doesn’t seem to have pressure sensitivity (not that I know of anyway). If you compare the shading of the nose bridge from one image to the next, you’ll see what I mean. So if I want to shade, I’ll need to overlap lines or play with stroke spacing.

I wanted to test if the stylus had pressure sensitivity, and it does! On the right side, I tried to shade a nice gradient and it worked beautifully! It can almost pass as real graphite!


Here, I’m using the stylus to color the Iron Man drawing I made earlier:

RapidFireArt Coloring IronMan Wacom Intuos Pro Paper EditionWith the stylus, I can only see what I’m doing by looking up at the screen. It’s a completely different experience from using the ink pen but it was just as enjoyable!

I’m really excited to play with this further and see how I can create realistic drawing tutorials using a combination of pen and stylus!

This is going to speed up my work so much! Once I figure things out, I’ll be able to quickly pump out more tutorials (most likely on fundamentals)! Don’t worry, I’m still going to do traditional pencil art as well.

Have you used a drawing tablet before? If so, how was your transition? Also, is there anything you’d like to see me try?

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How to Draw a Pair of Realistic Eyes

This is hands down the most requested tutorial to date. It’s a long one too!

The video below is a super detailed version so you can actually watch me draw it with explanations along the way. It contains a bunch of extra steps and techniques you will surely find helpful! Click here to watch it on YouTube!


Tools I used:


How to Draw a Pair of Realistic Eyes

This is a long tutorial and I tried to keep it short, so if you get stuck anywhere, please watch the video or let me know and I’ll try to explain it better or add examples :)

Step 1: Determine the Eye Size

Using an HB pencil, draw 2 light ticks spaced well apart. This will determine the size of the first eye.


Use a ruler to draw a horizontal line through the ticks and extend it to the far right side of your sketchbook.


Measure the distance between the 2 ticks and triplicate it across the horizontal line so you end up with 3 equal spaces.

Not sure how to do this? Check out the video to watch me do it.


Step 2: Draw two Circles

In the left and right spaces, draw 2 circles similar in size. Make sure the circles are large enough to fill the space.


Step 3: Decide on an Eye Angle

Eyes are usually a little slanted. Use a ruler or draw a line freehandedly across each circle at an angle.


Erase the horizontal line to keep your drawing space clean.


Step 4: Draw the Eye Shape

Draw the inner corner of each eye where the circles and slanted lines intersect.


Draw the upper eyelid while staying within the circle.


Draw the lower eyelid but avoid drawing a flat line. Put a little curve into it so it looks more realistic.


Let’s draw the upper crease now. Start from the inner corner and work your way out towards the tail of the eye. You can use the shape of the top lid for guidance. If you want a more detailed tutorial on drawing eye shapes, click here to learn how to draw 8 different eye shapes.


Step 5: Shadowline the Eyebrows

Starting above the circle, use the Shadowlining technique to outline the eyebrows. Shadowlining prevents your outlines from showing through in your final work. Want more guidance on drawing eyebrows? Watch the video and visit this detailed eyebrow tutorial.


Now erase all your guidelines to get ready for the next step!

Step 6: Draw the Irises

Very lightly draw an iris in each eye using an HB pencil. The iris should take up about 2/4’s of the eyeball horizontally like the examples below:

Your measurement should start from the tear duct to the outer corner of the eye.

To draw a perfectly circular iris, draw a full circle and then just erase the parts that fall outside the eyeball instead of drawing bracket shapes. This helps a lot when drawing narrow eyes.


Step 7: Shade the Face

Shade the face, leaving the eyeballs white. If your drawing is too light, darken it just a little before you shade or else the lines could disappear.

Click here to learn how to shade a face


Step 8: Draw the Eyebrows

I’m using a sharp 0.5mm 4B mechanical pencil for this step. Starting at the bottom portion of the eyebrow, draw upward strokes. The strokes should be thickest at the base and very thin at the ends.

If you want a super detailed tutorial on drawing eyebrows, check out this tutorial.


Do the opposite for the top portion of each eyebrow. Angle your strokes downward and use lighter strokes near the end of each eyebrow. Make sure your strokes taper at the ends instead of crossing over each other forming ‘X’ shapes.


Add a row of hairs going down the center to fill in some white space.


Carefully go over your strokes on the bottom to darken them.


Lastly, add a light shadow by shading the area using an HB pencil.


Step 9: Draw Details in the Eye

This is a really long step because I tried to include as much detail as possible haha. Stick with me guys!

Draw a small circle (pupil) in the center of each iris. Draw a rectangle (or any shape you want) in or touching the iris. This is the reflection of light from a bright window. Curve the sides of the rectangle to make it look like the eyeball is spherical.


Use a sharp 6B pencil to shade the pupil. Try to keep your edges as clean as possible.


Around the pupil, draw a squiggly ribbon using an HB pencil.


Around concave areas, use a sharp 4B pencil to darken the ribbon to give the eye more depth.


From the center of the pupil to the ribbon, draw light spokes.


Darken spokes that fall within concave sections of the ribbon.


Very lightly, draw a second ribbon around the first one. Leave a thin space between them.


Use a dark pencil such as a 2B or 4B (up to you) to darken the ring of the iris. Then use an HB pencil to shade the section between the ribbon and ring.


Grab your kneaded eraser, pinch it and dab it onto your drawing. This will create white spokes.


Use a sharp 2B pencil to make the spokes pop! You can do this by outlining them.


Use a sharp 4B pencil to add more details in between those spokes.


Grab a blending stump and carefully blend everything but the rectangle reflection. If you don’t want to use a blending stump, use an H pencil to shade instead of blending.


Step 10: Shade the Rest of the Eyeball

To make the reflection really pop, shade the rest of the eyeball so the only thing that remains white is the reflection.

Start by shading the inner corner of each eye using an HB pencil. This area is bumpy, soft, glossy and darker than the rest.

Once you’re done, soften the edge around each iris using a blending stump or HB pencil.


Shade the rest of the white space using the contouring method. If you want a more detailed tutorial on shading eyeballs, visit this tutorial.

After shading the eyeball as light as I could, I decided to darken the face to give the drawing more contrast.

Step 11: Draw the Eyelashes

Start by drawing 3 lashes per eye lid. Space them well apart. Use very light pressure just in case you need to erase anything.

Click here for How to Draw Eyelashes <– There’s a lot more detail with longer explanations and more pictures.


Fill the empty spaces with more lashes.


Create some triangles by tapering the hair ends together.


Once you’re happy with the shape and placement of each lash, use a sharp 4B pencil to darken them.


Not enough lashes? Thicken the base and body of each one or add additional lashes – making sure not to overcrowd. Once you’re done, use a 2B pencil to shade the upper eyelid skin and an HB pencil to shade the lower lid.

The eyelashes should cast a shadow on the eyeball, so use an HB pencil to shade the top of the eyeball a little darker than the rest (Do not shade into the reflection). Try to make your shading very gradual.


Step 12: Add Eyelash Reflections

Finally, use a sharp 4B pencil to draw several eyelash reflections in the white rectangle. Want the eyes to have more depth? Darken your pupils as much as possible, brighten and/or darken some spokes to make them pop even more.

If you haven’t checked out the video tutorial, click here to watch it on YouTube. It’s very detailed and contains more steps!

Guys, I really hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Let me know if you have any questions and don’t forget to share this with your friends using the share buttons.

Happy drawing!

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