Graphite Shading critique

by Motonimus, September 8th 2018 © 2018 Motonimus

Although any general critique is welcomed,

I am mainly concerned about how rough my shading always looks and how I could make it look smoother, particularly with the skin (I currently blend with tissue paper and a cotton swab).

I would love if anyone could share any techniques and/or recommended materials :)

Kim - Site admin

Hey Motonimus! Great question. If you're having a really hard time getting your graphite to blend, my question is, what hardness/softness of graphite are you using? Are you using a typical pencil, or an art pencil of some kind? Really hard graphite can be very hard to spread around. Using a pencil with a less sharp tip might also help you to get less of a "liney" look in your shading -- I can see this particularly on the left side (our left, not hers)

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While I'm primarily a pen and ink artist, I have experimented with pencil shading, and you've stumbled on the exact problem I hit. I found that a lot of it is technique, but the materials matter a lot as well. As an experiment, you may want to try rolling up different types of paper into a stump, try paper towels, or even use a thin cloth.

Hope this helps :)


Beautiful work!!

I just would enhance the bottom part of the nose.
Maybe just by taking away a bit to make a clearer line.

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Sanne - Site moderator

Hi Motonimus!

This looks really pretty. :) The advice given so far is excellent so I won't repeat it; materials can make a difference!

I think a mistake a lot of people make when they go for 'smooth' is that they color in everything and then focus on blending everything out until there's no more untouched paper left, and what is intended to be more smooth and skin-like ends up looking more smudgy and flat. It's okay to leave spots of paper untouched with the pencil to provide brighter areas and create more contrast!

The brightness difference between the left and right (our left and right) cheek is pretty dramatic in the reference photo, but because the entire face is colored in with pencil, both cheeks have the same brightness and contrast. This makes the face end up looking flat. The left cheek could do with retaining more whiteness from the paper without a lot of pencil smudging to create the contrast difference. Technique is as much about being able to use the materials and apply them, and knowing when not to (over) use them.

In short, try not to overblend the pencil to get a smooth effect and make use of the paper's own whiteness to help create the tones in the final drawing. Her hair on the left side is all the contrast you need against the left cheek, so using less pencil on the left cheek will end up looking better.

I hope this help!


Hi Motonimus!

The shape is very accurate, which shows your drawing ability level since I can't draw such correct faces, but I still want to point out that you can make a contrast by shading the hair and left white on the bright part of the face, that will make your work looks even better.

I'm not a native English speaker, so if there is anything offensive or incorrect, please let me know, thank you.


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