Drawing Techniques and Tips

Pencil Shading Techniques Intro

Pencil-Shading-Techniques-Intro-All ExamplesI’ve always found shading to be the quickest way to add realism and depth to my drawings, be it portraits, concept sketches or even a quick doodle.

In this tutorial, I want to share with you 4 simple shading techniques that can help you achieve realistic textures and effects that will enhance your drawings and bring them to the next level.

By the way, this tutorial is also available on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGx4sypoPjY

Table of Contents:
4 Shading Techniques and How to Use Them
Combine Shading Techniques
Practice Shading Techniques

4 Shading Techniques and How to Use Them

Pencil Shading Techniques Intro 11These techniques may look super simple, but that’s the beauty of it. Let’s see how they can be applied and how they can transform a drawing :)


This is done by drawing lines that run in parallel or side-by-side. Since the lines are uniformly patterned, it works very well for shading things like wood grain, brushed metals and fingernails, just to name a few. A sharp pencil works great for conveying metallic textures, while a blunt pencil can help you achieve smoother strokes that will also be more easy to blend.

Hatching Example_Sharp vs Dull PencilBe careful when using this shading technique on round objects. If the strokes are not blended together well enough, it can make a round drawing appear flat. Here’s an example:

Example of Bad Hatching Shading Technique_Flat ShadingThe straight lines take away from the drawing, making the viewer perceive the object as flat, instead of 3D.


Cross Hatching

This is where you draw lines that cross right through each other. They can go in any direction.

Shading techniques crosshatching example

It’s great for creating textures such as certain fabrics (predictable patterns) or even fine lines on the skin (random patterns).



Circulism Shading Technique ExampleThis shading technique consists of many overlapping circular shapes. I use it frequently to shade realistic skin. It works well for conveying soft or fuzzy surfaces. The more you overlap the circles, the smoother the texture.

The tricky part is trying to control pencil pressure so each circle is similar in value.

Contour Shading

This is where you create lines that follow the shape of the subject you’re trying to represent. Contour lines can go in any direction.

They’re great for shading things that already display lines running along the surface, no matter how subtle. For example apples, onions, and lips. In this example, the lines also double as lip wrinkles too.


Pencil Shading Techniques

For each shading technique, the more densely you shade, the smoother the shading will appear, and the harder you press down on your pencil, the darker your shading will appear, allowing you to achieve a sense of visual depth.

Combine Shading Techniques

All of these shading techniques can be used in combination wherever you see fit. I used all 4 to shade this wrinkly hand. The combination of these techniques helped me achieve various textures commonly seen in wrinkled skin.

Starting with just the outline of a hand, I applied circulism as a base layer to give it a consistent texture all throughout – A texture that resembles subtle fine lines on the skin.

Hatching and contouring were used to show stretched skin that wraps around/across the shape of the hand.

Examples of hatching and contour shading

Hatching also works very well for shading nails, as mentioned earlier. Especially nails that have prominent stripey patterns.


Example of cross hatchingCross-hatching was used very minimally to create realistic wrinkle patterns around the knuckles where the skin is thick. I varied my pressure to make some lines darker than others just to make it look more random and realistic.


You don’t have to stick to these 4 shading techniques exclusively because there are many others you can use, or just make up your own to create the texture and look that you want for your drawing. Here are a few examples:

Pencil Shading Techniques

Practice Shading Techniques!

Here are some fun exercises you can do to practice. I’ve attached a free printout at the bottom of this article for you to use.

Exercise #1:

Pencil Shading TechniquesDraw a row of squares or rectangles and shade them from left to right using your shading technique of choice. Remember that the more pressure you apply, the darker your shading will be and the more densely you shade, the smoother it’ll be.


Exercise #2:

Shading Common ObjectsSketch a variety of common objects and shade them in using shading techniques that best describe the texture.

For example, I want to shade the toy horse above so it looks wooden. The hatching technique looks similar to wood grain, especially the lines vary in darkness:

Shading Techniques Practice_Hatching Rocking HorseThe burlap sack below is made of thickly weaved material. Cross-hatching would work for this one, but I wanna make the bag appear more 3D, so I’m using a combination of cross-hatching and contouring called cross-contouring. In shadow areas, I apply more pressure on the pencil, creating darker lines.

Shading Techniques Practice_Cross Contouring Burlap Sack 2


Teddy bears are usually soft and fuzzy. Do you remember which of the 4 shading techniques creates a soft and fuzzy texture?

If you guessed circulism, you’re right!

The more circles I draw, the softer the texture becomes…

Shading Techniques Practice_Circulism Teddy Bear

To make your shading look even softer, use a blunt pencil and/or blend the shading out with a blending tool such as a tissue, for example. Feel free to experiment with a different shading technique to see how it changes the look and feel of your subject!


You can combine shading techniques or make up your very own:

Pencil Shading Techniques


Here are a few objects you can use for practice. For each one, sketch it out and choose one or several shading techniques that will best describe the texture. For example, the wooden toy could be a mixture of hatching, contouring, and dashes.

Click here to download the image above (link will open in a new tab).

The texture that you choose to give each object is completely up to you. Stretch your creative muscles and have some fun with it! Feel free to shade outside of the lines or get rid of the outlines altogether.

Pencil Shading Techniques

You can practice with the shading techniques introduced in this tutorial, or create your very own :)

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you liked it, please share it and leave a comment down below! Let me know if you have any suggestions for future tutorials!

To view this tutorial in more depth, please watch the full narrated video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGx4sypoPjY

To learn more shading basics, please visit: How to Shade for Complete Beginners.



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Drawing technique #1: Shadow lining

Hey guys! This is the first article in a new series I’m starting. The series will be focused on drawing techniques using a variety of different tools.

Today, I’m going to delve into a technique I call Shadow Lining. I came up with this technique a while back, but only recently introduced it in my tutorials. I’m not sure if anyone else uses this technique already or if it already has a name. If it’s an actual thing, let me know in the comments below!


Shadow Lining is basically the process of outlining an area on your portrait such as the boundary of a dark shadow or highlight using pencil strokes that mimic the way you would shade the drawing instead of using a continuous line to do so.

Example: In the image below, I Shadow-Lined the cheeks. This helps me break the face into sections, which makes it easier to shade and it also provides a guideline to follow while I’m shading.

Since my drawing is mainly shaded using the hatching technique (strokes going in a single direction), my Shadow Lines will also be drawn using the same technique. If I shaded the drawing using circulism, my Shadow Lines would be drawn as circles.

Shadow Lining

Image on the left shows shadow lining on the cheeks. Image on the right shows how well the outlines blend in after the area is shaded.

With Shadow Lining, you can outline areas of your drawing without worrying if the outline will show through in the end.


Even though it’s called “Shadow” Lining, you can use it in many applications such as outlining noses, lips, hair, eyebrows.. the list is endless!


drawing technique shadow lining eyebrows

Hair (Lighting):

rfa-shadow-lining-hairIf you usually outline elements of your drawing like the images below, this technique will give your drawings a major improvement and a more professional look.



Have any requests for future articles in this series? Let me know :)



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3 exercises to improve your drawing skills

Below are 3 awesome drawing exercises that will improve your drawing skills dramatically. They will help boost your observational skills, accuracy, speed and confidence! Practice them everyday until they become a habit.

1. Break it Down!

Have you ever tried to draw what you thought was a simple object and then after all your hard work, you realize it’s lop sided? Hey, I feel for ‘ya. This exercise can greatly increase your drawing speed by providing you with a structure to build upon from the very start, instead of having to define it each step of the way.

Take Action: Gather together a bunch of uniquely shaped objects. Before you even pick up your pencil, use your imagination to break each object down into basic shapes. Once the shapes solidify themselves in your mind, do a light sketch followed by contour lines to better define the shape of your subject.

Draw your subject on a straight vertical or horizontal line to help with alignment.

how to draw better_ break it down 12

how to draw better_break it down 4


2. Observe your Subject

Unless you have photographic memory, drawing something or someone without constantly cross-referencing it to your drawing can turn out to be a really bad idea.
When trying to reproduce an image in your head, your brain will make things up or fill in the blanks to compensate for the missing details.


My portrait drawings are usually made from 80% observation and only 20% of actual drawing time. Sounds crazy? If I start to observe less, my drawings will become at least 50% less accurate. This really matters when it comes to drawing people. It pays to observe!

Take Action: Study your subject closely and try to memorize what you see. But let’s say your memory only lasts for 3 seconds. Give yourself only 3 seconds to jot down what you observed. I usually draw no more than 2 strokes before observing my subject again.

Sounds like a slow process? This exercise isn’t about speed. It’s about increasing your observational skills and weeding out errors caused by laziness and lack of commitment. Imagine how much time you would waste if you had to erase your drawing 4 hours in and do it again from the start!

3. Measure

Measuring is an important skill if you want to produce accurate, realistic and more convincing drawings. If you practice this frequently enough, you may find that your drawings are super accurate even when drawing freehand (no measuring). You can measure anything from length, width and angle (relationships between things on a slant, horizontal, or vertical axis.Measure your subject 1

Take Action:
1. Determine how long you want the drawing to be and make boundary lines on your paper
2. Hold your drawing as level as possible or use the paper’s straight edges for vertical and horizontal reference.
3. Hold your pencil straight up in front of the subject.
4. Close one eye and use the tip of the pencil and your thumb as a gauge to measure the length of your subject’s head. In the picture below, the subject’s length is equal to 8 heads. (For the sake of this tutorial, the hand/pencil is off to the side. You ideally want to place your hand directly between your eye and the subject).

measure number of heads yn2

5. How can you transfer this information to your drawing? In step 1, you made 2 ticks on your paper. What you want to do is separate the area between these ticks into 8 equal sections lengthwise.

** This method can also be applied horizontally to find the correct width. Similar to step 4, measure the head’s length and then turn your pencil horizontally. You can figure out the width of the head, shoulders, waist, etc.

Drawing a person using measurement techniques 5

Measuring Angles

If you were to draw a straight line down the middle of this person’s head, where do you think the line will fall further down the picture? In the gap between his shoes?

The middle of his head is actually vertically aligned with the inner heel of the right shoe. Measuring helps us combat tricky illusions like this!

Can you see how different body parts are related to another in the picture below?
– The right shoulder is vertically aligned with the right buttock
– The left ear is higher than the right
Etc… etc..
vertical and horizontal alignment 3

While drawing, hold your pencil up to your subject vertically, horizontally or even slanted and carefully move it in front of your drawing to determine, correct or validate your strokes. Make sure you have a steady hand and that your drawing is level.

measuring angles when drawing rfa

I could go on and on about measuring angles, but I’ll save that for a more in depth tutorial in the future. Perhaps a video tutorial. Happy Drawing!


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What is a kneaded eraser – How do you use one?

So, what is a kneaded eraser? Unlike the common vinyl or rubber pink erasers, kneaded rubber erasers are more pliable and can be stretched, molded and compressed.

These super fun erasers can be used for removing and highlighting mediums like graphite, charcoal, pastel and chalk.

They can even be used for entertainment purposes such as making sculptures and bouncy balls. Although a couple of bounces on the floor can pick up more than enough dirt to make you cringe!


how to use a rubber eraser

How to use a Kneaded Eraser

Details Details…

One of the most amazing things about kneaded erasers is that you can mold them into any shape which is great for detailing work. I remember the days of using a solid eraser and having to erase a large area of my portrait in order to fix a tiny flaw and boy was that fun!


rubber eraser

Kneaded erasers do not leave residue. Look at how it eats the graphite up without leaving a single trace
behind. I didn’t even rub the paper! Just press and lift. Do this a couple times and the graphite is gone. However, this might not work if the pencil marks are too dark. In the image below, I gave it only ONE light press!
how to use a kneaded eraser highlighting

I mostly use the ‘press and lift’ method, but when it comes to things like highlighting hair, I’ll pinch the eraser and use it to swipe the graphite using light strokes. Avoid putting too much pressure on your drawing or you will bend the eraser. If it starts to change shape or becomes too dirty, fold the eraser into itself, pinch it to a fine tip and continue!

how to use a kneaded eraser on hair

How to Clean a Kneaded Eraser

Because kneaded erasers absorb graphite, they will become dirtier with use. To clean a kneaded eraser, you can stretch and knead it until the color turns light grey. Eventually they will become too dirty to use as graphite, charcoal, dust or other particles accumulate in the eraser. I’ve only thrown away 1 so far because of the excessive accumulation of dust and dirt from the eraser continuously falling behind my desk. That’s not a big problem because they are generally very cheap and can be found in most art supply stores.

When you get your first kneaded eraser, you will need to break it in. Prismacolor kneaded erasers are the perfect texture for me. If you got a different brand and find that it’s too hard to manipulate, cut it in half or use only one quarter to start. The eraser should become softer as it picks up more graphite. You can increase the softness immediately by creating graphite shavings with a sandpaper pencil sharpener and folding the graphite into the eraser and then pulling and stretching it until it becomes a darker grey. I’ve tested a few different brands and so far my favorite is PrismaColor for it’s softness and ability to pickup graphite with just the slightest touch right out of the packaging. Other brands I tried were either too hard, difficult to mold and keep the shape I needed, or required a lot of friction to erase.


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Detailed guide: How to use a blending stump

A blending stump or paper stump is a stick of tightly rolled up soft paper with 2 pointed ends. They are used to blend, smear or smudge graphite, charcoal or similar mediums. They work really well for blending large areas (using the side) and even small areas (when using the tip) which require detail and allow you to have more control than other blending tools like q-tips. A lot of people confuse blending stumps with tortillons.
how to use blending stumps Arya Stark GOT

What is a tortillon? They’re also made of rolled paper, however, due to the pointier tip, they are able to blend even tighter spaces where a high level of precision is required.

The tip can collapse when too much pressure is used. A toothpick or paperclip can be used to push the tip back out.

The side of a tortillon will not blend very smoothly, but it does create very interesting textures that resemble grass and brushed metal for example.

how to use a blending stump

I personally love using blending stumps with charcoal because it spreads the medium so beautifully. For graphite drawings, I mainly use it for dark areas of the drawing. It saves a lot of time when blending and shading clothing and backgrounds.

Different Methods for How to Use a Blending Stump


Drag the stub to smudge different elements of your drawing. You can use small circular motions to create interesting patterns on things like shrubs and trees.

Draw some tight scribbles in a small corner of a scrap piece of paper and work the graphite onto the paper stump. If needed, remove excess graphite by rubbing it in a clean area of the paper before using it on your drawing. Use light strokes to layer the graphite onto your portrait. Keep the direction consistent with your overall drawing.

how to shade with a blending stump
Use a clean blending stump to push the graphite on your drawing back and forth lightly until the tones blend together. If you are scared to do this, use very little pressure (it will take longer to blend though).

Light Values: Always use a clean blending stump when blending light values. You may need to sand it a few times throughout the blending process to keep it clean. I generally use tissue paper for the lightest areas of a portrait.

Dark Values: If you’re trying to achieve a really dark value, a blending stump will do the trick. You will notice that when shading, there are tiny little white dots between the graphite. These little grooves in the paper are really noticeable when adding dark values. Using a blending stump will spread the graphite and fill the grooves to give your drawing a smooth finish.

If you notice many black dots on your drawing before and/or after using a blending stump, use a kneaded eraser to remove them one by one. Click here to learn how to use a kneaded eraser.

how to blend with a blending stump

How to clean a Blending Stump

When the tip of your blending stump becomes too dull or dirty, you can sharpen it using a sand paper sharpener, which usually comes with the stump if you buy it in a pack. After sharpening the paper stump, you will notice that it becomes a little fuzzy. I personally like this, and will use it to blend lighter areas of my portrait using very little pressure. You can also use a nail filer or box cutting knife. But be careful!
I recommend having dedicated stumps for dark, medium and light shades to avoid cleaning your stump multiple times for one portrait.

How to Make a Blending Tool

The benefit of making your own blending tool is that you can customize the type of paper and level of softness.

how to make a blending stump tortillion

Alternatives to Stumps and Tortillions

Tissue: Tissues work great for light or mid-tones. But they don’t work as well for darks because much of your graphite will transfer to the tissue, making those darker values almost impossible to achieve. Here are a few ways you can use tissue paper to blend:

  • Fold the tissue in half and then in half again. Fold it into a triangle one or two times until you can get a pointy corner that’s relatively stiff. Great for tight spaces!
  • Wrap a tissue around your finger making sure to bunch the tissue at the top so you don’t accidentally smudge other parts of your drawing.
  • Make a tissue ball and wrap it inside another tissue. This is similar to the one above except you can blend a larger area.

Makeup or Paint Brush: Good for blending light areas. My favorite brush is the S60 Flat Shader by Robert Simmons. The bristles are stiff enough that the brush doesn’t flare out too much when pressure is applied, it’s super soft and the brush’s corners are perfect for getting into tight spaces.

Q-Tip: OK for large areas, but not so great for tight spaces unless you roll the cotton to a fine tip. You might find it hard to erase areas where you’ve used the q-tip. Especially if the q-tip is hard. Can’t find soft q-tips? Use your clean hands/nails to fluff the cotton by pulling on it in different directions.

Chamois: Chamois are made of soft leather and are most ideal for blending charcoal and pastel. Not for detailing work. I haven’t tried one, but have heard amazing things about them.

Finger: Using your finger to blend a portrait is a big no no because the natural oils from your skin can cling onto the graphite, making the area impossible to erase. If you absolutely need to use your finger to blend, make sure to clean it very well using an oil/grease absorbing cloth/tissue.

I hope you enjoyed this guide! Click here if you want to learn how to use a kneaded eraser!


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