Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
Basic Pencil Shading by Snigom Basic Pencil Shading by Snigom
Some people have asked me how I go about detailed pencil shading. Sadly there is at least a decade of knowledge that I posses that would take weeks to unfold into a tutorial. So I made a quick basic pencil shading reference for those who want to begin tightening up their skills. To some this might be too basic, but bear with me. :)

1. Item one in this tutorial covers the 2 basic methods of drawing.

#1 is the standard way to hold a pencil. It is basically whatever method you use to write. You want to use this method for detail work. You can use it to draw layouts, but it forces your brain to think of things in a rational, technical manner.

#2 is the loose or free-hand method of drawing. It isn't very comfortable to do as your mind might feel lost at first on how to draw. However, that confusion is to your best interest as you will not be hindered by logic. Instead you will be free and more creative than normal. Practice with this method until you develop a sense of control. I recommend doing all your layouts in this method and then using option #1 for tight details.

Additionally I recommend using HB pencils for layouts. Then get a mechanical pencil (with 2B lead) for details. HB is relatively easy to erase. Remember not to press down too hard!!! Don't leave grooves in the paper if you can help it! Not only will this allow you to erase lines if you need to but will also give you more stamina to draw longer. If you tighten your grip and press down too hard your hand will tire quickly and your art will suffer.

2. Item two concerns shading types.

Underneath the hands you'll see a gradation of diagonal lines. I did this by combining layers of softly drawn lines and hard drawn lines. You can also control shading by spacing out your lines as it gets "Lighter' remember, what you're really doing is controlling WHITE-SPACE. White Space is the "white" part of the paper. In fact, while you are drawing, use peripheral vision to look at the entire drawing and try to see the highlights. Then shade around those imaginary highlight borders.

For those who accidentally smudge a lot when drawing, use a sheet of paper under your hand. This doesn't protect 100% but it's much better than flesh as there are no oils to pick up the graphite and smear them.

There are many ways to smudge graphite. I like to smudge against the direction of the lines, but you don't have to hold yourself to that rule. In fact, many times you will likely have to break that rule. How you smudge will be up to your personal touch or style. Sometimes I use my finger and other times I use a Paper stump. The Stump provides more control than the finger.

At the far right you'll see a very basic pencil lead scale from dark/soft to hard/light. I did this to take the confusion out of what lead type does what. H stands for hard. This means less graphite actually gets on the paper. B stands for soft and means that more graphite gets on the paper. You'll find that the harder the lead, the thinner the lead and the softer the lead the bigger. At the end of the scale, EB is for an Ebony pencil. I will admit that every manufacturer has a different mixture for their leads and thus changes how each will look on paper. For example a Sanford HB is lighter than Faber-Castle HB or General Pencil Co HB even though they are marked the same. It'll be up to you to find out which you prefer.

3 Item 3 covers shading techniques and tips.

* the 3 squares that you see are a 3 step process of full pencil shading art.

1) The first step is to draw what you like. Then shade the entire picture in ONE shade of a medium tone.

2) The second step is to use an eraser to erase out your highlights. In this step I used a Kneaded Eraser. Its that weird grey eraser that looks like plastic explosive ;).

3) Finally you add all your shadows and dark areas. Usually you'll have to go back and re-define your highlights or maybe add new ones.

Do not forget that light reflects off objects!!! So when shading an object, remember that light can hit a wall or another large object elsewhere and cast a slight highlight behind a shadow. I show you a small example how light hits a cylinder and light reflects off the floor and back up underneath the cylinder. This can add more 3 dimensional weight to your drawing and make it seem more alive.

4. This covers applied techniques.

Shadows tend to have a direction. I urge you to go find a photograph and see if you can see the direction of the shadows. They do not always follow the direction of light. For example the subject ot the left has a light-source coming from the left shooting diagonally downward. The shadows follow the general direction of the curve of the body part (or area.)

Remember that its not a bad thing to mix line shading with smudge shading. This adds a sense of texture to your work. IN the item to the right shows some shading done with lines and others were done with smudge or solid pencil. Don't be afraid to mix. In fact, remember that there really isn't a right or wrong answer to art, no matter what anyone says; including me! :)

Finally, remember that lines that are against the light source should be thin. Lines that are in the shadow should be darker and thicker. This will add weight to your drawing even if you don't shade it.

Lastly...practice, practice, and practice some more! Draw EVERYDAY, no matter what it is and no matter if its good or not! Your development is solely dependant on your desire to continue. you WILL get better over time. Listen, some people are born with an inherent ability and understand of drawing and others have to work hard to achieve the same level of skill. That's fine! Do not be discouraged if you weren't born a prodigy. If you have a desire to draw, then do not stop. Always continue to draw!

Now...also keep in mind that some people will get jealous and will happily throw negative criticism your way. DO not allow yourself to get frustrated. Just keep doing it in spite of their foolishness!

That concludes this tutorial for now. DRAW ON!
Add a Comment:
frwings48 Featured By Owner Edited Mar 8, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Can I just use 4B for my layout? It's darker even if I lightly touch the paper with it, also bec. I can't see HB/F properly and I don't wanna press hard with my pencil bec. it will just be harder to erase. Trust me, I have very good eyesight lol
omkrub Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Regardless of the tutorial being almost a decade old, it is still truly helpful and encouraging.
Many many thanks :) 
Snigom Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
My it really that old @____@
omkrub Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
hahaha sry I saw that you submitted it in 2006, and it's almost a half of my life lol
But yes, it is still great! Old but very gold:D (Big Grin)
dimkazyryanov17 Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you 
hawnby Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2015
Very helpful
Jemina Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've been looking for pencil tutorials. Thank you, this was really helpful (:
lilisillyface Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2015  Student Artist
Nice booty
Snigom Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Always and forever :)
Iggychulover Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for this! It's perfect! 😊😃
Snigom Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
You're welcome! :)
VivekNKulkarni Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Cool....!!! quite helpful..!
furguts Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2014  Student Digital Artist
That butt is too cute.
The-Lost-Hope Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2014  Student General Artist
I never thought to smudge my shading until I saw your tutorial so thank you so much for sharing.
 Already putting this into practice Little Mushroom Shading Practice by The-Lost-Hope
CoCoM4n Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
thank you so much Snigom... you are my Opra
tinyhedgehog Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Yay! Now I won't screw up as much with my shading! Cuz seriously, that stuff is always a problem for me
Mawada-IR Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
thank you ♥
Dayahya Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
stylable Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is very helpful !
Xiana-Tsuya Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014
Oh helpful!! Thank you very much for making this!!
Fires-storm Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014  Student General Artist
These are very handy, thanks so much for doing these!
Phi-sal Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2014  Student General Artist
helpful :D
henryiii Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014
This Tut is helpful to me. I really don't know much about drawing techniques. Thnks for Tut.
SpiritDragonTano Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2014  Student General Artist
I read this and I kinda get shading, but it's something I just don't get too well DX
Snigom Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
It just takes practice.  When bored, get a paper and pencil and scribble. See what happens when you push down real hard and see what happens when you barely let the pencil touch the paper. Sometimes squinting your eyes can help you see the gradation better.
SpiritDragonTano Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Student General Artist
Oh, okay, that's pretty easy to do and doesn't take much time :) Only like 5 minutes xD
I'm learning myself atm, drawing in general.
jane-beata Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Hello :)

Your work has been FEATURED in an article Artist's Toolbox: Pencil, Graphite & Charcoal. Thank you for sharing it with all of us :heart:


Snigom Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks! I hope it helps!
JkCm6594 Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is awesome ^^ I got some neat ideas from this thanks :D
elyse331 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2013
i just started learning drawing realistic portraits, and this is incredibly helpful to me!
Gookins Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks a lot for sharing these. It's hard finding such detailed information on the internets in general. :thumbsup:
Snigom Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
You're welcome
violetense Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2012  Student
Hi, you've been featured here: [link]
Snigom Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
thanks :)
Schreibaby-Zephyr Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Your advice (in comments) is just so dead-on accurate, I should spread this to others should they feel discouraged about drawing and shading. C:

Great tips on the tutorial btw!
DeathOfFallenOnes Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I think this should be a DD....Its helped me some on my shading, I suggested it to ^UnicornReality, hopefully you get a DD on this eventually.~
Snigom Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Well, we can always dream. You'd think after 5 or so years and hundreds of pieces that I would ONE day get a DD.....
DeathOfFallenOnes Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
victorescu Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks for this. My weakness right now is shading and your tutorials are helping a lot. *pulls out paper and pencils to start*!
nanchino Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Hobbyist
I can't belive how that tutorial isn't a DD yet....
it's so basic and so full of information at the same time.
So did a VERY well job here
Snigom Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I can't believe with my body of work that I haven't ever received a DD. Apparently it has to be suggested by someone that the group admin cares about :(
nanchino Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Hobbyist
I suggested once...but failed
I'll try again....maybe you got one :3
you really deserve
Myamaj Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2012
thanks it's help for me ^^
hotaruka Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2012  Student Artist
Thank you so much! i'll follow those tips! ^__^
Lucy-Livija Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is so great!
I love this tutorial
foresteronly Featured By Owner May 16, 2012  Hobbyist
Thanks for this awesome tips! :dance:
rejojohn Featured By Owner May 9, 2012
Cool! Thanx!
mooseabe Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2012
thank you muchly
TypicalWatson Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2012  Student General Artist
Thank you for the tips
NinjaTeddiesGalore Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! And there I was thinking I wouldn't find a pencil shading tutorial ^_^
Add a Comment:


Submitted on
October 31, 2006
Image Size
461 KB


275,308 (21 today)
5,356 (who?)