How to Draw: Sketching and Shading

In the first episode of this How to Draw Series, we learned what tools we need to draw with. Now I’m going to share my top secrets to sketching and shading. Secrets?? Oh yeah, there’s lots of secrets! Ones that I wish I’d known a long time ago, and I’m going to reveal them to you so that drawing no longer has to be such a mystery.

The next best thing to having the things to draw with, is knowing how to use them in a way that really puts a picture together (pun intended).

Using a Grid:


If there’s one thing that is the most important take-away from this series, it would definitely be: Don’t be afraid to draw off of a photo. Going off real life is the best way to create real life accurately.

You may remember that in the first post of this series, I mentioned that I was going to show you The Grid. I am completely unashamed to show off the pair of grids pictured above that I use. I wouldn’t have become an artist without them.

Excepting a few, most people cannot accurately draw off of a live model or even a picture from the start. Practice is important to helping train the eye to correctly judge distances, see shadows, and know what details to look for. I personally dislike the word practice. It sounds so super boring. So don’t think about practicing art; think about creating art and gaining experience.

Using a grid is not just from a little kid’s drawing book, it is the little secret of many an artist. Above, you saw two grids: one printed on paper and the other on a clear sheet. I am not sure where they came from since they’re actually my parents’, but I’m sure you could find a pair on amazon. Place the paper grid under the sheet of paper which you will be drawing on and fasten with paperclips. You should be able to see the grid faintly but clearly through the paper. If you are using a heavy paper such as Bristol Board (what I generally use), you will need a ruler to draw a light grid on top of your sheet; making sure that it is light enough that it will not leave marks when erased. Next place the clear grid over the picture you’re going to be drawing and fasten with paper clips.

Voila! You’re set to go! The sketch doesn’t have to be perfect, the lines don’t have to be smooth, and I promise it will look weird. This will all be taken care of when the shading happens. Just trust yourself and put those lines and circles and curves at the same place in the squares as you see them in the original. If you drew a grid on top of your paper, erase it once the sketch is complete


And the Shading:


Shading is as easy as putting down graphite in what looks like the right place on the picture you’re drawing. If it’s too heavy, lift some of it off with a kneaded eraser.

If you’re going for a smooth realistic look, scribble your 6B pencil (the lead is softer than the HB pencil which is better for shading) back and forth on a separate sheet of paper. You can then rub your blending tools on the graphite and apply it to your picture.

Some people scribble graphite directly onto the portrait with a pencil and use a blending stump to smooth it out. If you’re going for realism though, this won’t work for skin as it will make the skin look rough. It is a great technique for some cloth textures.


To use a paper stump, hold it as shown above and put on as much as needed. You will probably have to pick up more graphite at different intervals. You can also hold a paper stump much as you would a pencil, which is what I often do, being careful not use it directly on the point because once the point is smashed over, the paper stump won’t put down graphite smoothly anymore.


Tortillions are great for shading anything small and making light lines. I use mine all the time. I really don’t want to imagine the art world without them! Completely opposite of paper stumps, tortillions are used on their tips except for when a different texture is desired.


And the adorable kneaded eraser! They almost feel like play-dough. They can be bent and pulled and squeezed  into any shape your heart desires.  And they will especially come in handy when we get to the eyes!

And that concludes this second episode of The How to Draw Series. 🙂 Next week I will be sharing all about eyes. and if you happened to miss the first post, you can view it here.

Until next time!


One thought on “How to Draw: Sketching and Shading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s