Shading With Strokes

March 19, 2012

Drawing Faces, My Art, Shading

Shading or building tone is a subject that is very fun for me because there’s such a wide variety of ways and tools to do it with. Blending is the method I started off with and is effective in producing a soft smooth texture, but recently I’ve been feeling a bit adventurous and have been trying a new style, and it uses no blending; it’s called modelling with strokes.

In this post I will cover the steps I’ve used to draw this picture.

Step 1. Draw the outline and features of the face

As with most of my drawings I start off by drawing the outline and features of the face along with the basic shape of the hair. (See “What Everyone Ought to Know About Proportions” for a tutorial on face proportions)

Step 2. Defining main areas of tone (shadows)

Now I map out where the main bulk of shadow is in the picture and use the side of a 2B pencil to fill in the tone. At this point don’t worry about details just focus on dividing the shadowed areas from the light. I also erase any guidelines that I’ve drawn in step 1.

Step 3. Halftones

In the previous step I had only drawn 1 tone, shadows.

In this step I start to develop the halftones between the shadows and light on the face as well as darken the shadows already in place. Now you can see a slight gradation of the tones. For the shadows I continue to use a 2B pencil switching from using the tip to the broad side of the pencil, and for the halftones I used a 2B and HB pencil varying the pressure to produce lighter tones.

By changing the direction of the strokes of my pencil I start to suggest the curves of the face.

Step 4. Smoothing things out

From here I start to pay attention to the features of the face. I strengthen the shadows on the cheek, left side of the nose, around the eyes, and neck.  To smooth out the look of the picture without smudging/blending, I draw each stroke closer together and close the gap between strokes that are too far apart using the tip of my pencil.

I also strengthen the shadows in the hair, dress, and necklace using a combination of broad strokes from the side and tip of my pencil.

For the halftones I use pencils 2B-4H and the shadows are 2B-4B.

Step 5. Details

When using this style you’ll want to finish drawing all the tones and leave the details for last. That way when you fill in the last details of the face you’re picture is complete.  By now the skin tone is almost completely finished; what I focus on now is the features of the face, the hair, and the dress.

For this stage in the drawing you’ll want to use a sharp pencil to fill in the details. The eyes nose and mouth are drawn with the sharp point of a 2B pencil. The dress is the broad side of a 2B pencil, while the hair is done with a combination of 2B, HB, H, and 4H. I also go over the drawing with my pen eraser to bring out the highlights in the hair, eyes, dress, and teeth. I do one last check over my drawing and it is finished.

I really enjoyed drawing with this style. It’s not photo realistic, you can see the strokes of the pencil and it looks like a sketch, and I think some people may prefer this over a drawing that looks just like a photograph.

For those of you who are interested, the technique I used in this drawing is taken from a book called “Portrait Drawing” by Wendon Blake pages 36-38. The book covers the basics of everything you need to know about drawing portraits, from proportions to drawing the facial features, as well as various methods of shading using a wide variety of tools. It teaches without cramping your style and that’s something I like about the book.

For those of you who do check out the book, I suggest going through it from start to finish as that’s the best way to get the hang of the techniques brought out in it. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more posts on shading.


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