Check out the NEW stars of the Idiot’s Guides series!

Browse Quick Guides by Subject

Drawing 101: Shading Techniques

Drawing 101: Shading Techniques

Share this with your friends

When you understand how shading works you can begin to draw the illusion of depth (also known as three-dimensional reality). Simply stated, values (sometimes called tones) are various shades of gray. A broad range of different values is the primary ingredient of shading. Here’s how you shade.

Hatching

Hatching is a series of straight or curved lines (called a set), drawn beside one another to give the illusion of a value. Depending on the shading effects you want, you can make the individual lines in hatching sets far apart or close together. In the hatching set in the upper left (in the next illustration), you can clearly see each individual hatching line. However, the hatching lines in the second set are drawn closely together to create a solid tone.

In hatching sets, the lines can be either far apart or close together.

In hatching sets, the lines can be either far apart or close together.

Crosshatching

Crosshatching is a shading technique in which one set of lines crosses over (overlaps) another set. In the upper set (see the next drawing), the crosshatching lines are far apart and lots of white spaces are visible. Lines that are close together (as in the second set) look like a solid tone.

Crosshatching lines can have noticeable spaces between them or appear to be a solid tone.

Crosshatching lines can have noticeable spaces between them or appear to be a solid tone.

Squirkling

What do you get when you cross squiggles and scribbles with circles? You get squirkles! I coined this fun word to describe this enjoyable shading technique. Many of my students from the past two decades are very familiar with squirkling squirkles!

The next illustration provides a peek into the versatility of squirkling. When squirkle sets have noticeable spaces between the lines, they work beautifully for shading various textures, such as fuzzy fabrics and curly hair. Squirkles can look like a solid tone when the lines are drawn closely together, and are great for shading lots of different aspects of people, including skin tones.

Squirkles can create shading that is highly textured or very smooth.

Squirkles can create shading that is highly textured or very smooth.

Shading Tips

Whether you decide to use hatching, crosshatching, or squirkling is completely up to you. Keep the following points in mind when making your decision:

Being able to draw lots of different values is very important to shading. A range of different values from light to dark (or from dark to light) is called a value scale.

To warm up your engines for shading, find your art supplies and play with your various pencils. Draw several straight and curved lines with each and note all the different values an assortment of pencils can make.

Practice combining the following three techniques to draw some hatching, crosshatching, and squirkling sets of lines:

Graduations (also known as graduated shading or values) are a continuous progression of values from dark to light or from light to dark. The goal of graduated shading is to keep the transitions between the different values flowing smoothly by combining the following three techniques:

Mastering these shading techniques will give your work even more depth. For more drawing info, check out our quick guide Drawing 101: Seeing Light and Shadows. Have fun, and happy drawing!

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Drawing People Illustrated by Brenda Hoddinott