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Shading / Contrast Tutorial

2009-02-20 21:39:41 by Art101

Tutorial List

Shading / Contrast Tutorial

After you read all this GO HERE TO SHOW US WHAT YOU LEARNED!

There are 4 basic ways to shade a drawing. Hatching, Stippling, Scribbling, and Blending (smudging). This tutorial will cover the use of those methods, what effects they can give, as well as how to achieve a good value range in your pieces. Shading basic shapes, and lighting effects will also be covered.

Hatching is basically the use of lines in a uniform manner to shade. Its good for technical drawings or drawings where the desired style is more line than tone based. A variant of it is cross-hatching, where one uses crossing lines to further darken areas. The closer the lines are together the darker the area will look. However, be aware of the thickness that they lines are, a few thick lines can have the same effect as many thin lines. Similarly a misplaced thick line can draw undesired attention.
Non-Digital Art Tip: Hatching works best with sharp pencils or pens.


Stippling(often called pointillism), is the use of dots in order to shade an area. The more dense the dots are the darker the area will be. Pretty simple stuff. Keeping the dots a more or less uniform size however is important, because large dots coupled with small ones will appear to be an object rather than a shaded area. Its really only used for a technical aspect, as its rather time consuming and painful. However it can offer some decent atmosphere effects if pulled off.
Non-digital Art Tip: Use many of the same instrument to stipple areas faster.


Scribbling has many different names as there isn't really an official one, but its similar to hatching, but less uniform. Its somewhere in between hatching and blending. It emphasizes the stroke of the tool and is probably the most common type of shading. Its up to you whether you show lines, or just tone down an area uniformly. Chances are your stroke will be visible using this method so keep that in mind. Good for a sketchy look, or inversely also good for a polished piece.
Non-Digital Art Tip: Charcoal and blunter pencils work nice for this


Blending (aka Smudging) is similar to scribbling, but has an extra step put it. This is where you take some other tool (finger, cloth, cotton swap, smudge tool, ect.) and smear the shading for a more uniform shade. If controlled correctly this can give a smooth polished look. Be careful of finger prints or uneven blending because that makes the piece looks messy. Start light. Its easy to get darker using layers.
Non-Digital Art Tip: Experiment with different tools and medias to see what effect each will give. Graphite may smear differently with your finger than charcoal or pastel does.



A common problem in most drawings is lack of a good value range. With weak contrast comes a weak drawing. The best way to achieve a full range of values is to be aware of the color paper you are working on, and the tools you have at your disposal. If you are working on white paper, the lightest values should be reserved for the white of the paper. If you are on black paper, it is possible to get darker using a black pastel or charcoal, but think about the black of the paper as your darkest value at first.

In order to achieve a good range of value its important to know the most extreme values you have. Make yourself a value scale from 0-10 to let you know how dark and light you can get. Then assign mentally or physically the values to the areas of the drawing or reference photo. Darkest of the dark areas get a 10, pure white or lightest areas get a 0, NO OTHER AREA SHOULD GET THESE VALUES. Fill in the other areas in between with the appropriate values. DON'T JUST USE ONE TOOL AND VALUE FOR THE WHOLE DRAWING. If you only have a single pencil, at least make the darkest value it can give your darkest area of the drawing. But seriously get more pencils.



There are three basic shapes that once you learn how to shade properly can drastically help you. Keep in mind that for most cases, at least 3 different values are needed in order to give something depth.

For cubes, pick a light source, and then take 3 values and apply one value per visible side of the cube. Each side of the cube should only have one value because a solid consistent area of value suggests a flat surface. The cast shadow should come off the side that is darkest, however with cubes its possible to also have it come slightly from the mid tone area as well. Make sure to connect the shadow to all the edges of the cube that are resting on whatever surface you choose if you do take it into the mid tone side. Also, cast shadows are darkest right against the edge of an object and have a dark core in the center of the shadow, the shadow lightens up around its edges


Start with a circle then apply 3 shades to it in a gradient fashion. For a cast shadow only a small area of the sphere is touching the surface so connect the shadow to a small portion of the bottom part of the sphere, say about 25-30 degrees worth of edge at most.


The cylinder is similar to both the cube and sphere in that it has flat surfaces and curved surfaces. However unlike the sphere the light is distributed more consistently around its curve and. It also requires 4 shades instead of three. The curve its self apply three shades to, and the 4th shade will be used for the top or bottom flat part. The cast shadow should make contact with the bottom edge all the way to one side of its curve, but not the other.



In the real world light hits an object and bounces off. The light from that object will show up some on an adjacent object. This is called reflected light. This will slightly change what you learned in the basic shapes part of this tutorial. If you wish to make your piece seem real use these techniques. If you are satisfied with a more cartoony look, omit this section.

In the basic shading part, it was mentioned that the cube should have a single shade per side. With reflected light or realistic light


ing this is no longer true. Each side should have about 2 shades with the exception of the one catching the most light. An easy way to to this is to start with a single shade, then lightly erase a very subtle amount of that shade for a part of that side.

Start the same as you did for the basic shading, except this time instead of putting the darkest area at the edge of the shape, put it somewhat near the middle of the shape. This is called the core shadow and the reason why you are doing this is because the bottom part of the shape nearest the ground will be catching some reflected light on it. The same idea applies for the cylinder.




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2009-02-26 16:40:31

Wow thank you!!

Art101 responds:

You're Welcome


2009-02-26 19:15:34

A pretty nice tutorial. Good job.

Art101 responds:



2009-02-27 00:02:10

u make peoeple suck less evyerday! =3

Art101 responds:

All in a days work.


2009-02-27 07:57:11


Art101 responds:



2009-02-28 11:26:19

Nice, I'm really looking forward to seeing moe of these.

Art101 responds:

And more or definitely on their way


2009-03-31 15:13:03

you forgot cell shading

Art101 responds:

Same ideas apply, its just using solid blocks instead of lines and whatnot.


2009-07-30 15:26:27

There's more than one kind of pencil?!


Art101 responds:

yeah not everything is a #2 like your math teacher wants you to believe.


2011-02-03 09:29:26

The links to the sample pics on spamtheweb are all broken. Otherwise a very useful tutorial.

Art101 responds: