Shading Techniques: Add Depth and Value to Your Drawings

shading techniquesWhen I first started drawing, I was told many a time, “Just do whatever and have fun.”  And so I did.  However, once I was finished with my drawings, I would feel a sense of frustration because my artwork seemed to be missing something.  Sure, I was having a great time just drawing “whatever” in whichever way that I wanted to.  My people would generally be stick figures with big heads looking like cartoons that were surrounded by more realistic looking 3D objects. While it was indeed fun, I knew I was not getting the effects that I wanted.

It was not until I was older, and taking a required art elective in high school, where I learned the various techniques and processes that could be applied to drawing.  My favorite of them was shading.  For some reason, shading was able to make anything look a lot more intricate, advanced, and professional than it should be.  Shading even seemed to fill the need for color being in a picture.  It gave flat objects shape with a hint of delicacy.  To be able to reap the benefits that shading has to offer your drawings, tune in as we go over some tried and true shading techniques that will take your art up a few good notches!

Shading Supplies

Before we get into the techniques, let’s make sure that you have the right shading supplies.  Keep in mind that it is fine to use regular number 2 pencils, or a lead pencil for shading.  However, if you are going to step into more complex shading, you will want to pick up some specialized pencils for the occasion.  Here are some things that you should know about shading pencils:

  • Artist pencils will either be marked with a “B” or an “H”.
  • “B” will refer to soft graphite, and is available in the number 8B, 6B, 4B, and 2B.  8B is the softest.
  • “H” is going to refer to the hardness of the pencil.  8H is the hardest, and 2H is the softest.
  • For shading, soft pencils are probably your best choice.  A soft pencil will allow you to blend your picture easily.  A hard pencil is hard (no pun intended!) to shade with because it will not blend as well.
  • If you are using a regular school pencil, you should know that it is usually HB, which means it meets at the middle ground between hardness and softness.  Still, a “B” pencil will be the easiest to work with.
  • Of course you will need some paper.  You will find yourself having a hard time shading on paper that is either too smooth or too rough.  It is helpful to invest in some good drawing paper if you want your shading to come out nicely.

shading techniquesShading Techniques

With your supplies in hand, let’s get started with some basic shading techniques!  If you would like some online assistance, checking out this helpful course to learn how to draw with confidence, because we all want to feel and do our best!

Hatching:  With the technique of hatching, you will create a series of straight or curved lines in your drawing.  Each of these series will be called a set.  Make sure you draw your lines side by side of one another to make it seem like there are a lot in value.  Depending on the type of effect you want your shading to achieve; your lines can be far apart, or close together.  If you lines have space between them, you will be giving the illusion of progression, and with lines draw close together, you will be creating a more solid tone.

Crosshatching:  Crosshatching is a shading technique where one set of lines overlaps another set.  Again, you can draw your lines close together or far apart.  If they are close together, you will create a solid shaded tone, and lines that are far apart will have a lot of white spaces that are visible.  You will usually come up with a sort of mesh-like pattern that will create a tonal effect for your drawing.

Squirkling:  This method of shading is just as easy as it is funny-sounding!  With squirkling, you will draw random curvy lines combined with squiggles and scribbles with circles to create a type of textured value for your drawing.  In your squirkling shades, you will notice that there are noticeable spaces between the lines.  Squirkling can work for things such as: creating a fuzzy-looking texture, giving a person curly hair, or for skin tones.

shading techniquesChoosing a Technique

Although we have only gone over three techniques for shading, it can be tough to decide which the best technique for your drawing is.  Let’s go over some things to consider before you make your decision:

  • If you are working with only one set of lines, hatching will be your best choice.  It also works best if you are trying to achieve hair-texture results on a portrait, such as straight hair or wavy hair.
  • Crosshatching works well if you are looking to draw human skin.  It provides a smooth transition of values with its two sets of overlapping lines.  This allows the values to flow smoothly in different directions.  You can simply extend your crosshatching by adding a few extra lines to your drawing.
  • Of course, if you want to fuzzy-up your drawing, you can turn to squirkling, which is the best choice for drawing curly hair or getting achieving a fuzzy texture.

Final Tips

Here are some final tips for your shading convenience:

  • Vary the density of your shading lines.
  • Vary the pressure that you apply to the paper with your pencil.
  • Consider trying out different grades of pencils to achieve lighter or darker values.

Shade Away

These fun and effective shading techniques can be useful for anyone, from novice to more advanced drawers.  The point of drawing and applying shading to your pictures is to give your art more depth, feel, and personality than it would have otherwise.  Remember to not miss out on the wonderful drawing courses online that will show you how to draw a multitude of different things.  Expand your drawing palate and your techniques!