Pencil Shading

Pencil Drawing - Tutorial - Pencil Shading.

To develop realistic methods in pencil shading, and a style of your own, you will need to dedicate some time to practical testing. It is important to get to know the dimensions of what this medium has to offer.

The importance of the contrasts between light and dark is crucial to the black and white study. The impact of a study hinges on the quality and variation of contrasts in the shading. The first being the contrast between light & dark or tones, and the second being textures.

Textures are mostly created through a variety of techniques.

Whereas, tone require a little more effect and time to produce. Firstly, I will give you some pointers on how to create textures. Thereafter, we will move on to toning and layering. Finally, we will touch on how to mix the two.



Drawings Points

Much of pencil shading will depend on the point of the pencil and the grain of the paper.

Through the drawing process the point, or tip of the pencil will be ground down. Consequently it will need to be sharpened periodically. This can be time consuming and non-productive process, but necessary. That is, unless you adopt a pencil shading technique that do not depend upon having a sharp point all the time.

Every artist will refine their own sense of touch that shapes the way they draw. As a result the way they hold a pencil and the state of the pencil point becomes an unconscious reaction in the drawing process.

The best advise I can offer is, do what comes naturally. Your drawing process must be spontaneous and from the heart, without being hampered by the logistics of how to apply pencil to paper.

Okay, so why is the state of the point of a pencil so important?

The surface of paper is not totally smooth; it has little humps and slumps that effect how the graphite pencil binds to the paper. When drawing with a flat point, the graphite is deposited only on the humps of the paper. Whereas, a rounded point pencil will penetrate deeper into those little recesses in the paper. While a sharp point can reach the bottom of the recesses.


Flat Point

Rounded Point

Below, are 3 examples of how different grades of graphite pick up the grain of the paper.

     P1.6B graphite stick that has no point. Referred to as a Flat point. flat tag
     P2. HB pencil with a blunt or Rounded point. flat tag
     P3. 4H pencil with a Sharp point. flat tag

P1. P2. P3.

The first thing we notice is: The softer graphite (P1) appears to pickup more of the grain of paper than the others, and the sharper graphite (P3) appears to pickup less of the paper grain.

Knowing how the different points 'pick-up' the paper grain can be an added advantage in creating those contrasts needed in both textures and tones.

Just think about it; nearly everything we draw has a texture of some sort. Landscapes are riddled with different textures. Even the smooth tonal range of the skin in portraiture has a texture.

Textures in Pencil Shading

Irregular textures are created in a number of ways by taking advantage of the grain of the paper, and by using both hard & soft pencils, or Flat & sharp points.

Here we have an example of flat point texture and below that, how it can be applied, followed by how to apply a sharp point texture.


Flat Point

Rounded Point


Flat Point

Rounded Point

Probably the best way to learn textures is to experiment. Use a variety of graphite's (Hard, soft, flat, rounded and sharp) and see which does what. Then use a different grain of paper and do much the same. Have fun.

Regular textures can also be created by using techniques such as hatching and layering. But more on these later.

Moreover, specific textures in pencil shading will be covered in particular topics on 'How to Draw'.

Toning in Pencil Shading

With toning it is important to work with a pencil that produces a consistent result.

P4. 4H pencil with a Sharp point.

P5. 2B pencil with a Sharp point.

P4. 4H flat tag P5. 2B flat tag

Before we go into the mixing of different grades of graphite, consider the follow as being fundamental.

Use only a good quality hard paper. The choice of grain is optional.

Never apply excessive pressure that will dent or damage the paper.

When toning, apply one layer at a time gradually adding more layers until the required blend is achieved.

Layering in Pencil Shading

To get a gentle escalation of tone it will require a mix of several grades of graphite.

The first layer will establish the range of how dark the final layer can be made.

If the first layer is a hard graphite such as 4H, the final tone will be limited to lighter tone than an area that was first layered by a medium graphite such as H. The reason is that the first layer is the one that binds to the paper. Whereas, the subsequent layers above have only the lower layer bind to. The mix of the different grades will produce different results.

Extreme mixes of grades will produce a 'mask' effect. In example BB1, three parallel 4H lines were drawn first. Thereafter, the area was shaded in with a soft graphite 2B. Because the three lines where drawn first, the upper layer 2B cannot bind to the paper. Consequently, the three parallel lines will shine through. BB2 and BB3 are some working examples of how to take advantage of this process. (Hairline & Whiskers)







The above example of layering using extreme grades of graphite.

To get a gentle growth of tone, adjoining or grades less extreme should be used. For example, 2H to H, H to HB, HB to B etc

The example below highlights that point. L1 (2H) is the base layer to L2 (2H & B), L3 (2H & HB) & L4 (2H & H). The dividing line between the two layers can be seen on L2 & L3.


L1 2H


L2 (2H & B)


L3 (2H & HB)

Whereas on L4, where adjoining grades where used, the dividing line is not as apparent. L5 is a darker example of layering with adjoining grades. The base layer is H and the upper layer is HB.


L4 (2H & H)


L5 (H & HB)

The first rule in blending is, do it gradually. Apply the initial base layers sparsely and repeat. Do the same with the upper layers as example BB5. Avoid creating a 'whip-edge' lines as in example BB4. To prevent graining, crosshatch lightly as in example BB6







There are a number of reasons to tone down the contract of textures. Below L7 is an example of a texture created by a soft 2B rounded point graphite. Round Point L8 is the same with an additional layer of a 2H sharp point graphite Sharp Point applied to tone down the contrast of the texture.




Whereas L9 is an example of the same with a gentle escalation of tone applied by a blend of several different grades of graphite.




L10 is an example of how to smooth out or remove all indication of the paper grain. This is done by a process referred to as 'scrubbing'. In this example the first layer is 4B. Thereafter, it is scrubbed with a robust brush (an old tooth brush) to remove 'light-spots'.

"If you want to truly understand something, try to change it."

Hatching in Pencil Shading

Hatching is a series of patterned or regular parallel lines used to shade in an area.

These can be either a single stroke as example H1 or return stroke as example H2.

Crosshatching is created by applying a second layer at a different angle as in example H3. In example H4 several layers where applied at 60, 90 and 120 degrees.




Crosshatching is created by applying a second layer at a different angle as in example H3. In example H4 several layers where applied at 60, 90 and 120 degrees.




Experimenting with different mixes grades of graphite can create some interesting textures and effects.

Pencil Shading is only the start of a complex journey of creating a pencil drawing. On the next page on Drawing Techniques the above will be taken to the next level.

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