Drawing Techniques

Pencil Drawing - Tutorial - Drawing Techniques.

Drawing techniques is rather like driving skills. Once you have learnt to drive and have your driver's license the focus switches from 'how to' to 'where to'. However, it is a gradual process and it takes time and effect.

As with learning any particular skill, there has to be a conscious effect to learn the logical process. Thereafter, through practice and experimenting your drawing techniques will be shaped to suit your own personal needs and abilities.

From there on, these well-rehearsed standards will slip away into the unconscious and becomes a vehicle for the journey ahead. Giving you more freedom to concentrate on creating art without been hampered by uncertainties.

In the examples below these fundamental drawing techniques will be reviewed. These include examples on how to mix these basic techniques to create a range of 'finishes' from gentle escalating tones to bold contrasting textures. Each of which can be used to create some interesting details.

Much of the results of what follows will depend on the quality and grain of the paper you use. After all the paper is the foundation to your art. It must be of the best quality, hard, if not, very hard and should have a light irregular grain.


Hatching is a fundamental part of shading. It is a method of drawing that is used in technical drawings, ink studies, sketches and pencil art studies. Different types of hatching will create a different result.

Through this demonstration we will be reviewing how hatching can be used to create a number of finishes ranging from soft escalating tones to a variety of different textures.

Types of Hatching

To start we will be looking at the different types of hatching.

  • The first is the Single Stroke Hatching (SSH). Drawn with a series of evenly spaced parallel lines.
  • The next is the Irregular Stroke Hatching (ISH). This can be a series of 2 or more groups of parallel lines spaced regularly.
  • Probably the most flexible and widely use type is the Return Stroke Hatching (RSH). This is a quicker method of hatching in that there is no need to lift the pencil until a run is completed. As a result is becomes more spontaneous and efficient.
  • The angle of the hatching and subsequent over-laying hatching; or Cross-hatching, is optional. Whatever appears right for you, go for it!
  • Each batch or set of hatching lines is referred to as a 'Run'.




Single Stroke Hatching

Irregular Stroke Hatching

Return Stroke Hatching

  • When crosshatching is added the SSH creates a regular patterned texture.
  • Instead of crosshatching the SSH, an alternative method would be to use a series of parallel lines. Spread wider to create a lighter tone, and closer to create a darker tone.
  • After adding the crosshatching to ISH it creates a course regular texture. Using different grades of graphite the ISH is ideal for creating textures that depict cloth such as tartans and knitting.
  • With crosshatching the RSH creates a more regular and softer texture. Something that can be used for toning larger areas. Variations of the RSH will probably become your primary method of shading. However, there is an inherent problem that must be pointed out.

Return Stroke Hatching

Before moving on to other techniques let's concentrate on the variations of return stroke hatching and what finishes can be created.

Rounded Point

Flat Point


The first example is of a run of RSH drawn with a rounded point. This shows a natural tendency that any artist may have when drawing a run of RSH. Here we can see that the upper return is sharp whereas the lower return is rounded. Some artists may have a tendency round both ends.

These tendencies will vary from artist to artist. And consequently, the results may differ. So it is important to test and identify these natural tendencies.

In the second example the run of RSH was drawn with a 2B flat point. The result shows a series of 'spots' on the whip-edge of the lower return stroke. This could be a problem when shading an area that needs to be smooth and consistent.

So what is the solution? Well, let's move on to the next section on how to draw soft textures.

Soft Textures

One of the primary objects of how to draw soft texture is to create a consistent finish in the area been shaded. That, if need be, can be extend to a larger area without seeing any noticeable difference between the two

Return Stroke Hatching is an ideal technique to use for drawing a soft texture. In can create consistent or varying tones and can be extended easily.

However, consistent results are also a matter of touch. It is recommended that you rather tone down the area where the soft texture is being applied and return to it later to balance the differences.

To start the first layer of RSH is applied. Each run should be sparse and randomly drawn.

Add Cross-hatching

Add more Cross-hatching

At different angles

Next the first layer of crosshatching is added. This and subsequent layers of crosshatching should also been drawn in the same way, namely, sparse and placed randomly. As each layer is applied, you have the opportunity to 'touch up' those areas that are little lacking. This allows you to create a consistent tone that is free from spots and holes.

Typical Soft Texture

Sandstone Structure

Skin Texture

Okay, lets clean it up. This has been scaled up; so much of what you see is a little exaggerated. An added advantage to this method is that it is very easy to extend into adjoining areas. Because of that it is an ideal solution for shading those large areas that have little to no variations in tone or texture.

Here is an example how this method was used to draw a sandstone wall. Moreover, it is an excellent technique for drawing gently escalating tones needed in portraiture and figure studies.


There are two distinctive phases to the layering technique. The process starts with what is referred to as being the base layer. The base layer is that first application of graphite that is applied to the paper. Or, is defined as being that graphite that is binding to the paper. The second is the additional graphite, or upper layer that is applied over the base layer.

The various ways in which the base layer is binding to the paper is what makes the layering technique so usefulness. Different 'effects' can be created by applying a base layer in such a way that it will limit the upper layers from binding to the paper.

Okay, let's move on to layering different grades of graphite. And why is layering so important in pencil drawing?

Here is a line draw with a 4B flat point. Typically, a flat point soft grade of graphite usually picks up the grain of the paper and leaves little 'holes' in it. After zooming in on a portion of the line and enhancing the image we can see those areas where the graphite is binding to the paper. The remaining area in yellow is the exposed paper.

Then over that, some return stroke hatching has been added with a 2H rounded point pencil. And, as expected the sharper point does not pick up the grain of the paper. On the first image we see that the 2H graphite pencil can only bind to those areas where there is exposed paper.

Then on the second image we can see that the 2H cannot bind to the first layer of 4B graphite. This is significant in that the first layer; or base layer, will inhibit the upper layers from binding to the paper.

Before we move on, I have set-up two practical examples. It is something you should try yourself.

In the first example the base layer of 4H grade of graphite was drawn first. Thereafter, an upper layer of 2H, HB and 2B was added. Draw partly on the exposed paper and partly over the 4H base layer.

In the second example the whole process is reversed where a base layer of 2H, HB and <2B grade of graphite was drawn first. Thereafter, 4H an upper layer was added. Draw partly over the exposed paper and partly over the 3 different base layers.

Example 1

Example 2

The results appear to confirm the fact that the base layer will prevent the uppers from binding to the paper. Apart from a few 'weak-spots' in the base layer of example 1 the additional layers of 2H, HB and 2B where inhibited by the 4H base layer. As a result the upper layers where comparatively ineffective, if not, unpredictable.

Although in example 2 the harder upper layer of 4H did make an impression on the 3 base layers. But more that later.

No matter what mix of graphite pencils you use; be it hard over soft or soft over hard, the base layer will inhibit or prevent the upper layer from binding to the paper.

These layering techniques can be a great advantage when you want to create a gentle escalating tone, or some interesting textures and special effects.

"Create art to inspire not to sell"


Masking is not that widely used. It may appear rather unconventional, but by taking advantage of the layering technique, masking can create some useful effects and detail.

To start the process three parallel lines are drawn with a 4H sharp point graphite pencil. This is the base layer that will prevent the upper layers from binding to the paper.

Before we move on the three lines are lightly erased. Visually they appear to have been erased, but there is usually an invisible residue left on the paper. It is this residue that can cause unexpected problems that lead to 'graining'. However, in this example we will be taking advantage of that and use it creative way

Next some 2B return stroke hatching is added over the three erased lines. Then additional layers of cross-hatching are added. Even after several layer of 2B hatching is added the impression of the three lines are still 'shinning through'.

The residue base layer of the three erased lines is preventing the 2B hatching from binding to the paper. No matter how many layers is added the 3 lines will still be seen. This can be an advantage and this technique can be used to create a number of special effects.

Have you ever tried to draw whiskers? Or what about that telephone lines hanging from pole to pole? Well, using this technique is one way of drawing them.

It can also be used to draw the hair highlights, long grass, wood grain and thatch. Or create your own 'Watermark' hidden somewhere on the drawing.

Or, what about that exotically embroiled lace blouse.

Rough Textures

There are many ways of creating rough textures. Layering different grades of graphite is a method that can create some very effective textures.

Textures can be created in a number of ways. This particular texture can be used for a number of finishes that are rough and bold. Namely: Concrete - Damp plaster wall - Tree bark - Stubble - Sea Surf or Rock.

First the base layer is drawn with a 4B flat point. Here the base layer is quite dense. This can be sparse or even a single line wiggling from one point to another.

Then over that the first layer of HB return stroke hatching is added. Instead of HB a harder grade of graphite could be used to create a lighter texture. Or use a softer grade to make a darker texture.

Thereafter additional layers of shading can be added to suit. Alternatively, a range of different grade of graphite could be used to create an escalating tonal scale. For example the different faces of a rock.

An added advantage of this technique is that is can be extended relatively easily.

After the upper layers are completed it could be lightened with the use of a putty eraser. This could be done in selected areas or applied over-all. Alternatively, the putty eraser used in a 'dabbing' process to create a tonal range from lighter to darker.

The example below was created in much the same way. By adding a number of layers to the base layer of texture.

Thereafter, with a shaped putty eraser selected 'spots' have been erased. This is done to enhance the texture. The 'blobs' are random and vary is size. All of which add to the variation to the texture.

Okay, Let's clean it up. Now what does that remind you of? Maybe some polished granite?

It could be a foundation or corner stone. Or what about a memorial stone? If so, the inscribed writing could be done using the masking technique as described above. That means the inscription will have to be done first. After that lightly erase the inscription, and then add the rough 4B base layer and subsequent hatching over


A major advantage the colour study has over black and white is that the colour artist has a range of contrasting colours to use, whereas, the pencil artist has only B/W and a mix of the two.

Consequently, to boost the contrast the pencil artist has to adopt drawing techniques that make the most of the delicate differences in light. And I may add, with particular attention to the presence of reflected light. Furthermore, the artists must set-up or choose subject matter that plays to these parameters.

Escalating Tone

The escalating tone will probably the artist's most used method of shading. It must be flexible in that it must be easily 'touched-up' and can be increased to areas not yet drawn with no noticeable difference.

This process will require several grade of graphite. Moreover, each contour of tone must be blended into the next without any visible divisions. To do this it is important to keep in mind what was discussed above. That is the base layer sets the tone.




The process begins at the lower end of the tonal range. Depending on the tonal range this would most likely be the 2H contour. In the first image you can see the start of the 2H contour. From the center, add an ever-decreasing amount of graphite to allow for blending the next contour. Also keep it a little toned down to allow for finishing touches later.

The next and following contours of tone get applied in mush the same way. Gradually bending the newer contours into the overlap to create that gently escalating tone.

For the purpose of this demonstration this example has been drawn with a vertical RSH. However, to achieve a more consistent texture the crosshatched RSH method as described in Soft Textures should be used.

When toning, draw a 'patch' of the full tonal range first. Then extend it into adjoining areas. It is better to start a little in on the tonal range. Thereafter, move through the darker tones. After area has been done, check it's consistency and return to beginning for those lighter finishing touches.

Hard Over Tones

Over tone is when a hard grade of graphite is applied over a soft grade. Although it can apply to a base layer of any grade it is more noticeable over softer grades. Namely, HB and over. The main reason for this is that a soft grade will tend to be a more rounded point and as a result will skimp over the recesses in the paper grain.

Furthermore, it generally applied to selected areas as a finishing touch to improve the consistency or to emphasize a less obvious detail. For example, it could be used to accentuate the line of a vain on the back of a hand.

In this example a B grade has been used for the base layer.

Thereafter a 2H upper layer is added. As a result, a notable difference can be seen in the tone. The reason is that the base layer has holes in it for the upper layer to bind to.

If we had to zoom in and look at an enhanced image we can see those areas of exposed paper.

Just a word of caution, the harder the over tone the more permanent will be the finish. Because there is little or no exposed paper remaining, additional layers may well be almost futile.

To highlight this option a third layer of 2B has been added over the over tone and adjoining area. The 2B has appeared to have done is job and it appears to be darker.

However, if we had to enhance the image. A notable line can be seen between the existing over tone and the exposed paper.

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