Take the Stress Out of Shading with These Pencil Shading Techniques

Have you ever wanted to add shading to a drawing of yours but just didn’t know where to begin?

Learning how to draw people is a skill that so many budding artists yearn to master. Mastering the shading techniques on a drawing can be daunting. In fact, the prospect of completing an entire shading project is nothing short of terrifying for some people.

The best way to get over this hurdle is to realize one basic thing: art is a skill that can be honed over time and with the right amount of practice. When it comes to drawing, particularly when it comes to drawing people, there is no such thing as “talented artist” versus “untalented artist”.

Everyone has a little artist in them. It’s all about finding a way to open that portal to your imagination. The great thing about art, and shading in particular, is that no two people will hone their skills in the same way. You can learn the basic techniques associated with shading and put your own spin on them. Creating an amazing drawing is all about portraying the way you perceive things. Exploring the various types of shading is a bit like a journey of self-discovery, in a way.

In the following sections, I will share with you five shading techniques. As you read about each one, just know that there are no hard and fast rules saying you HAVE to shade one way over another. Experiment with each and learn how to love the shading process, and in no time you will have mastered the shading process in a way that is entirely your own!

Contour Shading

contourContour shading is a technique that is all about following the natural lines of your drawing. This particular technique enables you to use your pencil to enhance shadows, light, and depth in your art.

The best way to go about it is to complete your line drawing, and then follow the natural lines of the object (or feature or person) you have created. Use a softer pencil for dark shadows and a hard pencil for the lighter, less defined areas.

The great thing about contour shading is the amount of freedom you have when completing your pencil drawing. If you prefer a precise approach, use this to your advantage by paying close attention to each and every line. If you prefer a free and abstract sort of approach, you have the opportunity to be as relaxed as you want to be.

When implementing this style, be sure to take your perspective into account. Draw the object exactly as you see it, not how you think someone else would see it from their angle.


hatchingHatching is a technique that involves using straight lines in a uniform direction to create different types of light and shade.

In order to achieve the look you are going for, consider first drawing a set of thin, parallel lines uniformly in the same direction. In order to make certain sections appear darker, go over them with again and again, until you achieve the desired shade.

All you need to master this technique is lots of practice and a steady hand. If the lines are too harsh for your taste, try going over them with a soft brush or tortillon. By blending out the lines you will be able to create a much smoother, subtler look.


crosshatchingThis is one of those shading techniques that can be incredibly fun to do, once you get the hang of it. In fact, you might find that the whole process is quite therapeutic.

Essentially, this technique involves one set of lines overlapping another. Think about it as creating a sort of penciled patchwork.

When you do cross-hatched shading, you will soon learn that you achieve lighter and darker tones by spacing your “squares” differently. When the spaces between the lines are larger, more white shows through and this creates a much lighter look. When the spaces are closer together, the shading is denser and therefore looks quite a bit darker and generally more solid.


scumblingOf all the shading techniques, this one is probably more likely to engage your inner child. Essentially, scumbling is used to describe a random, figure-eight style scribble that repeats over and over to create light and dark shades in a pencil drawing.

Space your scumbled shading a bit further apart to shade in curly hair or fabrics. Squeeze them closer together for darker, more solid shades. The harder you press, the darker your scumbling will be.

This particular technique is often used with abstract drawings, cartoons or caricatures. Use scumbling when you want to throw the usual rules to the wayside and explore the sillier side of artistry.


stipplingStippling involves the use of dots to create texture, tone and shadows in a pencil drawing.

To create darker shadows and tones, these dots will be denser and darker. For a lighter effect, the dots should be spaced more sparsely.

It is probably best to practice stippling with a soft B pencil as this is more likely to adhere to the paper. The darker the pencil, the more dramatic the effect will be.

The best way to get uniformly-sized dots on your paper would be to press the graphite nib down and then twist. Do your best to use a completely straight up and down motion; this will prevent an unwanted smudging on the page. To avoid further smudging when you move your hand, try placing a piece of tissue or another piece of paper under your wrist.

True Artistry Comes with a Price

The price you pay for gorgeous shading is this: a good old dose of repetition. If you dream of perfecting any shading technique in the book, you need to spend a fairly large amount of time on honing your skills. It is probably comforting to know that you are probably going to find one particular technique that accurately reflects your style and personality.

Many artists find the prospect of learning these shading techniques to be uncomfortably daunting. The fact of the matter is that none of this should be stressful. Take the time to use each one of these techniques in one of your drawings. Keep using them and you’ll soon see that they will become second nature.


  1. I really enjoy your lessons. They have really helped a lot.

    Thank you!!

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