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How to Shade

Learn how to shade from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


Now let's talk about shading. Shading is a drawing technique that really allows your drawings to come alive. It gives it dimension, it gives it color, and it gives it movement. I'm going to show you an example of shading with a simple circle.

Here you have a flat circle, and through shading, we're going to allow it to become more three-dimensional. I'm using charcoal. The trick to shading no matter what drawing materials you're using, is to create an area that's very light, area that's very dark, and then various gradations in between. I'm going to use my charcoal and I'm going to allow this sphere to become very dark on one side. I'm pressing down quite hard with my charcoal. Then in the middle area, I'm using the side of charcoal, not the tip any longer. I'm just moving my charcoal through. Then in this white area, I'm just going to put this touch of charcoal.

Right now, it just looks like a lot of different colors thrown on the paper. Now I'm going to start to mix these shades together. This is really where shading starts to come alive. I'm going to shade and mix the charcoal together. I'm moving my finger as I'm shading it in a circular movement to capture this circular orb feeling.

Right now I just have a couple of shades of gray. What I'm going to do is I'm going to use my eraser, just a regular eraser from the back of a pencil. I'm going to bring back my circular shape here. Now I'm going to erase into this circle. I'm using my eraser almost like a pencil, but I'm erasing; I'm literally drawing with the eraser. I'm wanting to bring back the highlights, the lighter areas of this circular form. I'm going to erase an entire area and allow the white of the paper to shine through again. Then I'm going to bring in a little bit of shading again, just so that it's not sticking out too much. Now I'm going to bring back my dark again. I'm going to really darken this one area. I want this area to really pop out and have its shadow pop out.

The last step is I'm actually going to add shading behind the light part of the circle. I want that light area of the circle to pop out, to really feel three-dimensional. You're going to put dark, dark charcoal behind the lightest area of your circle. Then we'll just put a touch of charcoal everywhere else. Last couple of steps: We're going to redefine our circle, bring back that dark. Because charcoal does spread quite easily, sometimes you have to go over it a few times with a few layers. I'm going to, with my eraser, just redefine and draw the lightest area, drawing right with my eraser to pull that light area right out. Within minutes, you had a simple, simple circle that now has become a three-dimensional orb. With shading, you can really make everything come alive.

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