Shading in drawing – part I

March 8th, 2019 / Illustrations Basics

Shading – an extremely important matter for every artist – from hobbyist to professional. We need it in the drawing to create a sense of depth through:

  • building shading – light is a very important aspect in visual arts – it allows us to see,
  • the air perspective – what is closer to the viewer is clearer and the objects located in the distance are more blurred.

The post will consist of three parts – a general,  a more detailed one, presenting particular shading techniques with graphite and carbon, and a part about building shading in color.

It is recommended to first learn the principles of shading, building depth and shading in black and white and do not skip this topic, going straight to colorful works. In projects created with digital techniques, you can even build a shading, starting with a black and white version and then applying a color to it.

Remember that before shading you should know the foundations of drawing . Even a beautifully shaded face with all details will not be a good drawing if we misinterpret proportions and perspectives and it will have some stiff and unnatural expression.

By joining shading we also have to answer the question what effect we want to achieve. Otherwise we will be shading by drawing a comic book, or a hyper-realistic portrait. However, you must remember some general rules and focus on them in this post.

At the very beginning it is worth to learn important terms related to this topic:

  • contrast – enhanced difference between light and darkness,
  • value, quoting online sources: “the intensity of light relative to the shadow (the amount of brightness and darkness) that is contained in the color tone”
  • grayscale – to properly create the contrast of our work we can use gray scale bars, which we will do ourself – this is a 9-degree scale in which 0 is white and 9 is black. Between them we have a grayscale – from light to dark shades,
grayscale Turdus Concept
  • gradient – tonal transition,
  • halftones – very important to draw, do not forget about halftones – good shading is not only light and shadow, but also intermediate tones mentioned above.

Choose the right reference picture – if you do not see the above-mentioned halftones in the picture – because it is simply overexposed or underexposed – then, if you are a beginner, it will be difficult for you to figure out, how to create the appropriate gradient. You can also draw from nature (even better way to train your skills), but even then it is worth to take care of appropriate lighting.

Dash – if you target hyperrealism, watch out for a stroke. When you use a line in a drawing, it should result from your artistic preferences, not from disgust. If you draw a stroke, it must be intentional. I think it’s very interesting to combine a more realistic shading with intentionally left, more raw fragments like here.

However, if you want to draw hyperrelatively, avoid the outline – in the real world it simply does not exist. Objects have their own limit, but it will not be a single line; rather a contact between two color patches.

When creating, pay attention to how light behaves on objects. For example, let’s look at this sphere:

shading with pencil Turdus Concept
  1. highlight – light reflex (changes position relative to the viewer, if you move, the blik will also move to another place),
  2. center light (does not change position on the object, if the light source does not change it)
  3. halftones/midtone,
  4. terminator – borderline between shadow and light,
  5. core shadow (the boundary between the lit and unlit part of the object),
  6. reflected light (if the object lies on a black background, it will not be visible),
  7. rim light
  8. occlusion shadow (the darkest point)
  9. cast shadow,

Another important thing – rubbing. We do it carefully and avoid rubbing with your fingers – usually it gives a very messy effect. We believe with the intensity of this treatment, because we can get the impression of a blurred, blurred image.

Think about whether you like blurry photos – if the effect is not only about the background, it’s not desirable. It’s like drawing – it must have the right contrast and sharpness to please. Some are orthodox enough that they do not recognize rubbing in shading altogether. However, I am not so radical.

We can rub in a controlled way:

  • blender – a tool for grinding (it is usually a very tightly twisted piece of paper and you can do it yourself, but I do not know if it is worth bothering, because one pendant costs about 1$ and is rolled up tightly)
  • cotton pad – I use earplugs for details or swabs for larger areas,
  • piece of cloth – on a large surface, a piece of cotton fabric can be used.

The last principle to remember is the most universal: be patient. If you do not create a quick sketch just to get to know the basics, stick to what you do. Be aware that accurate shading is time-consuming. I suggest to divide work on a given drawing into several stages spread over time. If you want to realistically give, for example, animal’s hair, it will consist of one million small lines.

Be prepared for it and do not speed things up, because the picture will come out careless. You can also deliberately skip the details by putting on a different style, but it is worth remembering all the rules mentioned above. Goodwill and contrast are some of the most basic issues and often make up the difference between good and average work.

I hope this post has helped you to dispel doubts about this rather difficult subject and that you will return to the blog next week for the rest of your knowledge.