How to Draw with Realistic Shading

This tutorial provides a basic way to teach a younger or less experienced artist to shade realistically with graphite, and eventually other media as well. Let's begin!


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    A three-dimensional drawing will still look flat or two-dimensional without the aid of shading.
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    If we visualize a light source at the upper left of the image, we can simulate an object as 3 dimensional by adding various layers of grey (one darker than the next). Start by using the lightest gray or white along the area nearest to the light. You can use various shades of pencil or coloring tools to create this effect.
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    If the layers of grey are blended together where the each shade meets, It can further simulate the appearance of volume and solidity.
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    This effect can also be done using pen and ink, by drawing intersecting lines drawn on top of one another to simulate the appearance and layers of shading from light to dark. This is commonly used in illustrations and comics. In other print media, the printing process uses "halftone" printing, which prints small dots of varying sizes to simulate shading.
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    Here's an example of shading using various layers of grey. The sketch used here was created using an image of the actress Milla Jovovich. I sketched the image using a very dark rough pencil and only drew the darkest parts of the image.
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    Leaving the lightest part of the image as white, the rest of the sketch was shaded with a light shaded coloring tool.
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    Using a slightly darker shade of coloring tool, the next darker areas of the image were shaded.
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    A darker shade of coloring tool was used to shade the darkest areas of the image.
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    By blending the edges of each shade using a blending tool, the final image now has a 3 dimensional appearance like a photograph.


  • Work slowly, and always start too light. It's easier to add pencil than remove it.
  • Pencil/graphite hardnesses go from hardest to softest in the following order: 6H, 4H, 2H, H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B. HB is also called No.2. See Choose a Pencil for more information.
  • Keep your hand steady and do not apply too much pressure.
  • DO NOT blend or smear with your finger. The oils can damage paper. If you can't find tortillons, use a tissue.
  • For extra effect, highlight an area with colored pencil, then use a coordinating matte in the frame. For example, you could draw a rose in graphite, color the flower red but leave the stem and leaves grey, and use a red-in-black matte, inside a silver frame. The silver and black coordinated with the graphite, the red accentuated the flower.
  • Cross-hatch - crossed parallel lines.
  • Hatch - parallel lines to infinity.


  • Don't smear the graphite to blend it. It may leave smudges around the drawing. Use a tortillon to blend so that smears are prevented.
  • Softer graphite is harder to control and will smudge more easily. However, harder leads will cut the paper more often and are harder to get contrast with, along with being less blendable. Use HB or softer.

Article Info

Categories: Coloring and Shading