A Beginners Guide To Pencil Shading

Pencil shading is creating artworks using pencil strokes. I did my first artwork in pencil shading during my school days, probably in the 5th or 6th grade while preparing for my art exams. Later, after the 10th grade I took up a course in Charcoal Sketching. It was a vacation batch and as a preliminary step to Charcoal Painting my teacher took a few classes in Pencil Shading first. I learnt a lot both about Pencils and Charcoals in that class.

A pencil is the most easily available drawing tool. Learning pencil shading can teach a lot about shade and light in a drawing. Pencil Shading as a subject will be a part of every curriculum – at every Art School or University or College or a Masters level study. Traditionally ‘live study’ meaning the subject to be drawn or sketched is actually in front of you and you have to draw it was the way to sketching in Art.

It would be a good idea to invest and buy a few books on Pencil Shading and Sketching. It will be helpful to observe works by different artists and study their styles. We can practice and draw from the drawings in books. One can draw from photographs or online drawings at a later stage. Beginning from a book or with a tutor guides us stepwise and covers all the subtopics. Artists who wish to take up Pencils as their main medium of Art require training of an advanced level.

Begin with simple ‘Landscapes’ to more complex ones, followed by ‘Object Drawing’ and ‘Nature Drawing’ and finally to ‘Human sketches’ and ‘Portraits’. That is how I did them. Drawing and sketching always helps and is important even if you take up any other medium. I really think everyone can draw and everyone’s drawing will look different.

Here’s how I learnt it or what I learnt about Pencil Shading:-

  • To start with, select a simple single subject like a flower or leaf or a pot or a pan. (Picture 5)
  • For the first one, try to shade using only the 2B pencil. Observe the strokes, texture and blending (Pictures 1 and 2)
  • Add darker tones with 4B and 6B pencils (Picture 3)
  • Can blend using the finger, stumps or cotton buds (Picture 4)
  • Use a kneaded eraser. It helps erase a clean line when pointed and used. If you just tap it on the shaded area it will absorb the graphite like a magnet making the shaded area lighter but keeping the strokes. That is why I call it a magic eraser. (See pictures 6 to 8)
Learning Pencil Shading
Pencil Shading Explained

A beginner can start by looking at artworks and reference images in drawing books. I wouldn’t advise looking at images on the Internet because sometimes they are a bit too much for a novice. One can barely differentiate between a hand-drawn and digital artwork. Some of these are genuinely handmade artworks by professional artists, while some are computer edits. Don’t be disheartened looking at them or set the benchmark too high. That is why I suggest books or taking up formal training.

Learning  pencil shading  2
The strokes will improve with time. See bottom images and top images.

Pencil shading is the foundation to a lot of methods in drawing and painting. Once this is aced, the other methods become easier to learn. With time and practice the shading will improve. Like in this picture the leaves in the bottom images are my previous works and then with time it improved as the top two images. All the four are from my early days of learning pencil shading. Then as we feel more confident, we can take up advance levels.

I felt sharing my experience might help beginners taking up Pencil Shading. One can use Coloured Pencils for colouring as well. I have seen artists doing realistic colouring using coloured pencils. One small but important point that I would like to make here is ; with the advent of such amazing digital tools for drawing, even the best artists can get fooled as to whether the art is hand-drawn painted or digital. So please be honest with yourself and learn it without using the digital tools.

Pencil Shading Trees
Trees done in Pencil Shading

There are some additional things one needs to know about Pencil Shading. Knowing these can sort out some problems that may pop up while learning :-

1) Create strokes or lines to shade in the direction of the object surface. Rounded for the pot. The direction shows the rounded ness of the object. (Picture 9 and10) Some people create bold strokes in pencil shading like this but they should be in the flowing direction of the object. That is how they show movement also.

2) The Paper matters. The thickness, grains and texture of the paper influences the finish. I suggest Cartridge Paper of 160-200GSM if you don’t know which one to go with. After a few trials, you will surely be able to select the paper that works best for your style. (Picture 10)

3) The graphite powder can stick to the hand ruining your work. Keep a plain paper under your hand while shading to avoid this. (Picture 11)

4) All artworks in Black and White look best with contrast. There must be a distinctly dark tone, mid-tone and a light tone in the artwork. The whole artwork could be done using only one pencil. However, there should be areas you can distinctly call dark, mid and light.

Pencil shading tree
The light, mid and dark tones must be clear.

5) For a white, we either erase a portion or leave it as it is. Shade the area around that with a mid or dark tone to give a contrast. (Picture 12 and 13) The white looks whiter when there is a dark colour around.

Pencil shading techniques
Some additional points to note

So let us start! Make smaller objects first and then an entire picture. Think of Pencil Shading as learning the ABC to Art. We don’t need to be professionals at it but we definitely need to know it – Pencil Shading. Have an Arty Weekend!

Related Posts you may also want to take a look at :-

  1. Selecting Pencils for your Art
  2. Five ways to fine tune your Art
  3. Drawing without using a scale or ruler

Published by #artistniralimehta

Nirali is an Artist doing Art and Illustrations both hand drawn as well as digital. She is a trained professional with good work experience in her field. She masters various art styles and has shops on Etsy, Redbubble, Society6 all three by the same name ‘NMartworks’

8 thoughts on “A Beginners Guide To Pencil Shading

    1. You are welcome 😀 See if you wish to give it another try. Yes! Many images on the net are digitally edited. We get apps that convert your photos to pencil sketches in seconds. It is a preset button. Check the App Store. We need not compete with the computers. Don’t give up, give it another try.

      Liked by 1 person

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