View Full Version : TUTORIAL - Traditional Pencil Shading Technique - by Icey (NUDITY)

01 January 2007, 12:58 PM
I was asked by Rebecca to show my own tutorial(s) here. So i'll just copy-paste what i have on my thread :)

Ok… here is the beginning… I’ve found this web site: ( – and I’ve bumped into this image with the 2 calf skulls. This will be my next drawing. Now, what I am going to do is use the elements that I like, and change the rest of it!

First step: I’m starting with the major volume. Be very careful with paging – you won’t like to find yourself running out of page or asymmetry when it is a must. Most important thing during the whole drawing process – DO NOT APLY PREASURE ON THE PENCIL! Whatever you do, don’t use blacks. You’ll find yourself messing it all up and not being able to erase anything. At this early stage, just let the line flow, let gravity do its thing on your pencil, you just control its direction. You can use the ruler to control your proportions and symmetry, but I prefer to do it by hand, so that I won’t become dependent on it. I’m drawing the eye sockets, jaw and nose, the symmetry axis joining, etc, only at the basic level.

Second step: digging into big details. And that is the next major volumes/forms on your shape. I am also thinking what I like and what I’m changing – I don’t like the jaw –it’s kind of deformed so I’ll get my own design, more real, I’ll lengthen the skull a little, ageing the animal, I don’t like the teeth so they’ll suffer some modifications.

If there’s a chance to use the eraser and modify big things, I think this is the best one! (I mean perspective, symmetry, proportions – very important for the human figure)

01 January 2007, 12:59 PM
Next step: focusing on smaller details: like the curving of the bone’s relief, different holes and the edges where different parts that form the skull ends…. Stuff like that… One thing you have to start thinking about is the source of light. You won’t like the picture’s flash light because is boring, non artistic and flat! You need the real thing, the thing that would make your model interesting in a movie shot, throwing a little mystery upon it – either is a man, an animal or a building….. It also gives you the focusing point! – the most important thing in my opinion. If you use colours you can focus your attention with a striking complementary (is this the right word?...). But right now I have to do it with blacks or wits.

Some would prefer leaving all the construction lines, others would clean it all up… I like to keep an average. Maybe sharpening the edges a little, creating some line contrast – but! !not too hard! You’ll have to cover them with hatching later

One other thing! DO NOT TRY TO COPPY THE PICTURES YOU ARE USING FOR REFERENCE, OR THE LIFE MODEL FOR THAT MATTER! You will find yourself in one situation when you have to draw something with no reference… You have to understand what you have in front of you, either is something as simple as a mug or a human being. Try to understand the way it works, what makes it the thing and the way that it is! Those are very difficult questions….

You can start now with some early shading- it will help you revealing the shape and depth better.

01 January 2007, 01:00 PM
4th step: Blending and texturing. Now is the time you throw your reference away and just go by your thought, because a bad picture could ruin everything you’ve worked on until now. Start adding a little contrast.

I’ve shaded the background a little – because it gives me a first idea about how the edges will look – you need shadow to have light, like you need evil to have the notion of good. I’m also cleaning the edges revealing a more accurate contour.

When shadowing your form, be very careful where your source of light is. Draw small arrows just to remind you about it.

01 January 2007, 01:02 PM
5th step: Further blending and texturing and contrasting. I’ve heard recently that art school teachers think that contrast is for beginners, and they prefer the cool down shading. Well… I don’t know about that, but I just love contrast and things that bump right out of the paper, that you feel you can touch… And you have to have more that a good perspective to do that…

6th step: Start asking yourself : what helps you describe your shape best. Hide the unnecessary parts! (this is something I’ve learned from The Bone Doctor – Mr. Mentler ) Cool down the things you like to remain unnoticed on a first view. Accentuate your focusing point.

01 January 2007, 01:03 PM
7th step: Still looking unfinished! This is when you have to blend perfectly. Close your eyes so that you can allow only a small ray of light through your eyelashes, that way you can create a filter and work on your “natural photoshop levels”. What you’ll see black, just shad it some more! It’s a little trick I’ve learned a long time ago. Work the background too! As you’ve noticed, we have no cast shadows (is that the right word??)… We will have them in the next step, just be patience! That requires all the attention.

Now… Daniel Dociu said something once that changed my opinion about how a final stage drawing should look like. Hope I can translate his words right: “When you think you’ve finished, try blacking two thirds of your drawing, no matter how hart braking is to destroy all the details you’ve worked on, you’ll realize your work has gained impact, force, clarity, much more than losing details.”

01 January 2007, 01:04 PM
And here comes the final step: adding the shadow that your object drops on the environment and on itself. There are 2 major categories of light: the sun light and the artificial light. The sun light leaves no shadow perspective - it means parallel lines when constructing the shadow. The artificial light creates a shadow that respects the one view point perspective – that means that the construction lines meet in one point – the source of light… (ok… I think we all knew that). Scot Robertson has a WONDERFUL DVD tutorial on Gnomon regarding shadow construction.

01 January 2007, 01:09 PM
If you don’t like the finish drawing, it doesn’t have to be the finish! Just start playing with it in photoshop, see what shapes you can get, and you can use those for future works, abstract materials, presentation and so on… Possibilities are there for you to see them :)

01 January 2007, 01:11 PM
That was FANTASTIC! I've been a big fan of your pencil sketches and it was really nice of you to give us a little peek into your process. A wonderfully written tutorial and amazing artwork to go with it.


Edit: Damn, I posted too soon. Just when I thought it couldn't get did! The Photoshop postwork is -beautiful- Reminds me a little of Android Jones' work (and I say it in the best, most complimentary way because he's one of my art gods)
You rock!

01 January 2007, 01:40 PM
HEY.....Icey.....:thumbsup: :)


01 January 2007, 02:16 PM
Icey, in terms of drawing, you're definitely a star - this stuff is amazing! Thank you for sharing your techniques. A wonderful tutorial. I'm definitely a fan. :)

EDIT: I've added your wonderful tutorial here ( to the Notification thread. Hope everyone gets the chance to check this out. I've also made this a Sticky, I think we all could learn a lot from you! :) Please feel free to add more tutorials or drawings to this thread, it would be an even greater source of inspiration. :thumbsup:

01 January 2007, 05:37 PM

OOOOHH MY GOD ! :drool:
I love B&W since I was a baby but your work is MORE than incredible. :drool:

01 January 2007, 05:53 PM
Oh my...

Thanks a lot for sharing with us ! I have to put it in practice !


01 January 2007, 07:06 PM
major help! thanks a lot ill be sure to look through this many times.

01 January 2007, 07:18 PM
Thanks for sharing! Looks great.

Me likey the pencil!

01 January 2007, 08:15 PM
Amazing! I haven't worked in pencil in ages... thank you for sharing the tutorial! You've inspired me to try my hand at it again.

02 February 2007, 03:37 AM
thank you, thank you! :) Very helpful - and timely for me, I was just asking for advice on shading!


02 February 2007, 03:52 AM
Hey Icey, great tips for drawing. The only thing that could make it better is if the direction you shaded in reflected the form of the object, the way you're shaded only reflects light values.

I definitely agree with darkening a "finished" drawing, you can't worry about localized details if the drawing doesn't pull together as a whole. The final layer of shading really reinforces the impact of the work.

02 February 2007, 05:29 AM
Icey :)

That's a lovely tutorial; with lovely artwork to go with it! :)

Wonderful :thumbsup:

cheers and take care
a. :)

02 February 2007, 09:28 AM
Amazing skill! A bizarre and great tutorial. :)

02 February 2007, 11:30 AM
Whooo,proberly not so original when i say thanks for sharing, but i'll say it anyway,so....
thanks for sharing!!!ha,ha.
I love pencilwork too!!!Really nice work you got there!

02 February 2007, 01:20 PM
frumos bre, misto cum ai rotit/mixat imaginile alea ;)

02 February 2007, 01:20 PM
Iridyse - :) Thank you! I’m glad you are still checking on my work! Your opinion always counts! Best wishes!

Glen - Cheers, my friend!

Rebecca - I own you a lot for allowing me to show this! Thanks a million for the sticky and the major backup! I'll show here some of my work and any further tutorials.

CyborgJA - hehehe Thank you!

Djampa - you should! Once you'll get a certain level you'll love it more than life itself! :)

Ravmaster - There will be something new everytime! - at least i hope so :D

botched - Me like it too! Thanks a lot!

edenceleste - I'm glad i did! I hope i have the same effect on others too. More to come....
deco-3d - Glad to be of any help! Cheers!

2100 - I know what you're talking about. I try to fallow that every time... I’ve used that around the eye sockets to show the bumping in volume as it grows towards the edge of the sockets, but I only use that in extreme situations because it takes more time. Otherwise a very soft, uniform hatching will do… You are absolutely right about pulling the drawing as a whole. Regarding this, I really think details are unimportant compared to the whole image. They are just that little extra you need :) Thank you for this great remark! It is exactly the kind of reply I needed to hear! Cheers!

Frejasphere - Thank you! I'll show my portofolio work here too... just in case... Sorry if you have to see them twice...

Jadetiger - :D Thanks! Bizarre is the kind of stuff i like!

OKMER - Doesn't hurt to hear it again! :D hehehe Thanks a lot!

Some other traditional stuff i have around here - Sorry for those who've seen them before.

02 February 2007, 01:22 PM
Dominus - Mersi frumos! Ma bucur sa te vad pe aici :) you've posted the same time i did. Glad you've dropped a word! Cheers!

The first one is the real drawing, the second one is the drawing inverted in photoshop - just a little expeiment i've tried

02 February 2007, 06:41 PM
bravo machule, felicitari pentru plug, ce surpriza placuta sa vezi oameni de varsta ta in frontpage pe cgtalk. tine-o tot asa ca mergi bine!

02 February 2007, 07:07 PM
Damn Icey! HUGE improvement since I last saw some of your stuff, you just keep improving unbelievable. I'm going to have to work much harder to catch up - you're miles and miles ahead. Sweet stuff man, and congrats on becoming a mod over at SoFA!

Kudos mate, hope to see more tuts - this one was great!

- d.

02 February 2007, 08:51 PM
hey!!! i cant see any images in between lines of ur tutorial! something should be wrong with me,i see no one has the same problem!
can u post the addresses?

02 February 2007, 10:08 PM

This may be due to nudity filters / controls in your country - I can see the images fine, but if anyone else also has a problem seeing the images, please let me know. :)

02 February 2007, 12:31 AM
Icey, your work is astounding. Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge and for pleasing our eyes with those wonderful drawings!

I would love to see more!! :bounce:

All my respect

Bless :)

02 February 2007, 10:32 AM
I love the last one in the second post!!! do you use a *B pencil? or a HB?

02 February 2007, 03:15 PM
That is awesome. Thanks again for sharing!

02 February 2007, 10:43 PM
infamae - Thanks a lot! Glad to see romanians browsing this forum. Aa... o kestie mica - mi-ai zis machu crezand ca sunt Machu de pe VA?... Sau chiar stii ce varsta am? :) Cheers!

demented - Thanks d! You're on a great road yourself! I'm happy to be a moderator on SOFA... It is such a great place to learn a lot of things. Best wishes, bro!

aliasali - I'm sorry about this problem... I hope you've managed to see them. If not, just PM me and i'll send you the links to the images.

Blessing - Thank you! I will post more - just have to take the time to start a new tutorial... Glad to be of any help!

Ravmaster - I've used mechanical pencils - a 0.7 HB (or B… not quite sure) and a 0.5 2B - for blacker areas

neeko - Thanks a lot! I'm flattered to see you have your first post in my thread!

Hope i'll be back soon with another tutorial. Thank you all for taking the time to check my thread! Feel free to ask any questions!


02 February 2007, 03:42 AM
Man that was an awesome insight on your process & workflow; Short and sweet yet chock full of information. :)
I will most definately show this to show my students next lecture!

Great addition to the community

02 February 2007, 12:20 PM
Beautiful pencil work! Thank you for sharing your techniques! Looking at your work makes me want to dig up dust off my pencils. I look forward to your next tutorial! :)

02 February 2007, 06:07 PM
Wow. This is the kind of level I hope to get to someday. Thanks for putting up the walkthrough. I'll study it some more and see if I can apply it to my own stuff.

02 February 2007, 10:10 AM

that's a really great tut!

I have one remark though and I think it's really important:

when drawing we are creating the illusion of placing a 3D subject on a 2D platform (paper, canvas, etc)...

Everything that is white (as in not shaded) can be concidered flat.
A really good drawing will have almost no or even no parts that are not shaded at all...

But maybe the lightest shades in your drawings you show here got lost in the scans (I know that is a problem I'm having myself), so forgive me for mentioning but I think everyone who reads the tutorial should realize this. It's something that is often not mentioned because it seems so obvious...

03 March 2007, 02:52 PM
Blacklion - i'm honoured to hear that. I'll be back with something solid soon.

Aviva - thank you. You should do that! You should dust off your pencils because it's a wonderful feeling using them

Asatira - hope you'll find this stuff useful. If you work hard you'll get even better, trust me!

NR43 - first of all thank you for dropping by! :) You are giving me a hard time answering that! hmm... Well, you are quite right about that. But the human mind works pretty well with imagination. As you've said, everything is 2D, even the 3D models, even a photo. A white spot is as flat as a black spot, but artists have used this method of getting rid un unnecessary details and gaining impact by shading a lot of their shapes, just letting the brain figure the rest of it. And the truth is that the human mind does this thing pretty good!

Of course, everybody is free to do as they please. They don’t need to know that they have to shad everything so that the drawing won’t look flat. If they fallow this rule they’ll risk flatting the whole image, as I’ve done in the past. What they need is to find something that works for them. And I mean aesthetically first of all, so that they enjoy the result, understand the result and achieve what they had in mind.

I'll be back soon with a new step/by/step -tutorial stuff....
thank you all!

06 June 2007, 04:54 PM
Man great tutorial! i'll have to practice this my self later!

09 September 2007, 02:07 AM
Ok my first post and my first sketch on cgforum.
Reference image (

click for particular

I don't manipulate in psd because this pc is old, but i must clean up because all my sketch are dirty :P i apologise for the scan and for my english.

scan in 600dpi.
All critics or comments are welcomes!

09 September 2007, 02:15 PM
theblackmage - hello! Glad to heve inspired you. Drawing is a lot of fun! Use the advices, don't copy the drawing ;)

EKOes - Hello!
Welcome to this forum :) I'm glad your first post is on this thread.
Your image is pretty good! Depth and sense of 3D space works just fine. More will come with practice.
What i can add to help is that the linework - the early sketch before shading - tells you a lot about the final drawing. You can try to vary the thickness of the line according to your light and shadow – thicker on the shaded areas – for example around eye sockets – and thinner on the lighted ones. Leaving this type of marks really helps you a lot in understanding the next step of the drawing better. You can try several line-drawings with no shading, see how it goes :) All that matters is that you’re having fun – and trust me… it gets better and better the further you advance with your skills ;)
One more thing… Just let your hand slide on the paper… let the hand do what the brain wants, and do not interfere in your thoughts…. With your thoughts. Don’t rush out for erasers if you done something wrong, but double and triple the line… The human brain chooses the shapes he finds best suitable with his taste, and that’s a huge advantage! So if you’re trying to draw a circle for example, don’t just use a single line, because you won’t get something round on a first try, but draw several ones and let the brain choose the right pass.

Cheers! Hope this helps you a little!


09 September 2007, 07:48 PM
okay thanks for the help, my first problem is the material, unfortunately in italia i discover only low-medium material, finder prismacolor ecc is very very hard or impossible.
In this picture i made an error, i use a charcoal, task instead that the just road is to use matite various 6b 4b 2b H 2h 4h 6h, or not?
An other thing that I ask myself, in before or the second phase when I must set up the shadows I do not know if to outline them or to vanish them.
Ok thanks for the answer!

10 October 2007, 07:41 PM
EKOes - You can use whatever lead you want (even though i think 4H or 6H is a little radical). I usually use a HB or B, even 2B... The important thing - and i can tell you this from my own experience - don't change the type of lead you're using, or you'll mess up your work. About the shadow - in nature you'll find only vanishing shadows, but be very careful for the core-shadow that forms where the light hits (or passes) tangent to your shape. I don't know if you can get your hands on a Scott Robertson Gnomon DVD, but they are wonderful in explaining these kind of things! Hope i've helped....

10 October 2007, 07:42 PM
A new tutorial with a new creepy subject. The basic idea is to complicate the subject and see what new problems appear on the way. This is made using as reference a picture I took in Paris, at the Musee de l’homme.

Now… because the drawing is much more complicated, we have to take extra care for proportions. I start with very light lines, finding the edge and figuring proportions using the near elements. Some prefer to build geometrically their forms, but I find it much harder… but if that helps do it! You can start from one point to the other, or you can walk with the whole body at once. Some (including myself) prefer to render something on the early drawing, especially when this is a complicated one, just to get a sense of direction to where your final drawing is going, others just render everything step by step. Do as it best serves you! No one has the right to tell you what’s best for you!

Try not to rush for an eraser (unless you have no choice), but double the lines. Trust your brain. He will choose the right contour on itself, so just go on with the flow. If the model has funny proportions, do them right or exaggerate them because otherwise they will seem like mistakes in your final drawing, and we don’t want that.

Remember : you have to paint an idea! Don’t blindly follow what’s in front of you!!! Otherwise the whole thing is useless.

10 October 2007, 07:43 PM
At this step you are only guessing a level of 3Dimensionality that you had in mind the whole time. Choose your lights carefully and remember : “When light doesn’t enter, there is darkness.” – Harvey Dunn. Keep in mind all the useful things you’ve heard. I don’t have that big of a brain so I just save my favorite quotes and review them every time I need an advice.

“The human mind looks for recognizable forms to create order in the visual universe” (Michael Mentler – The Bone Doctor) Applying this in my case : I don’t need to draw things like the picture offers them to me. I need to understand the idea of bones, the idea of a skull or a ribcage and paint that. If you understand the thing you’re drawing you suddenly are free to create your own universe! That is outstanding!

10 October 2007, 07:44 PM
For the next step you’ll be reshaping the perspective and the minor mistakes that you have in your drawing. At this point you should think about you are planning to emphasize on your subject. ALWAYS look for what’s best in your work and take that out as much as you can, leaving the rest in the lowest detail possible.

“Note that I said eye... the next time you are talking to someone notice that you only focus on one eye at a time.... The biggest mistake by far that the artist makes when doing portraits is drawing both eyes will the same amount of detail. Always choose one eye as the focal point. Obviously this is the closest one to you in most cases and in a straight on view it is the left eye because we read the page from the lower left to the upper right.”

This is what Mr. Mentler told me once. I’m applying this in my case by focusing on the first skull (witch is better!) and leave the rest fade out, only suggesting it.

The scanner hides a 1000 light lines that exist in the drawing. I’ll just leave them there and cover them with the hatching. They will later on give a nice vibration over my drawing.

The drawing is going the right way, but I don’t like how the lower half/body distorts the perspective. The one thing I can do right now trying to focus the attention on the upper skull and hope that the lower one will skip attention. But I really do need convincing power in my future steps.

“Horizontals and verticals tend to emphasize the eternal and the very static.” Iain McCaig said this if my notes are right. So what I’m doing is trying to vary my hatching so that it gives motion even to a static subject.

10 October 2007, 07:46 PM
I’m almost done. But I think I’ve over rendered some areas in the wrong direction so now I have to cool them down a little (take a few steps back). A kneaded eraser is very good in these situations. Also this is where you can focus on the last minute details just to increase the excitement and spice up your character.

Just don’t rush things like I did here and don’t be discouraged if this isn’t the highlight of your life. Every study is a step forward and your achievement is in what you’ve learned, not in what you have by the end of the day.

10 October 2007, 07:48 PM
Gorgeous stuff Icey! :)

10 October 2007, 08:28 AM

Thanks for sharing your process steps

10 October 2007, 07:23 PM
Say you were paying attention.
Very powerful....

11 November 2007, 08:12 AM
Awesome!!! i've never touch my pencil since i recognized corel :) i think ill start it over again ... thanx for inspiring :thumbsup: (

01 January 2008, 08:03 AM
a quick question: Do professional artists use anything to blend/rub their drawing, when they use graphite/charcoal/conté? In general, is it a good thing to do, or should it be avoided?

01 January 2008, 12:18 PM

Also my first post to the forum, though i've been reading for a while. Started drawing two months ago and i think this tutorial helped me a lot. The stuff i did before lacked any contrast.
Thanks a lot!
Still made many mistakes here, e.g. first using a HB and then a 4B for the dark areas, also my wet hands smudged the paper terribly.

01 January 2008, 04:25 PM
Happy New Year!

Rebecca - :) thank you! But i do think that someone better at this should have this plug instead of me.

NR43 - Thank you! Really appreciate it! Have a great year!

Mr Mentler – I try to. I would be a shame for all the knowledge people gathered all this time to get wasted without even pinching the surface. A lot to learn not only by drawing but by listening. Thank you for opening the doors.

Mantankyai - :) Glad I did. Do start drawing traditionally because learning in digital medium is hard! I wouldn’t advise that to anybody. Traditional pencil is not overrated!

Elijah – As a beginner you shouldn’t rub the paper unless you are using coal/charcoal. I use to rub the paper like hell when I knew nothing about drawing, but that turned out to be a mess, so if you don’t control everything from form to lighting very well, I would advice not to try any blending that you can’t get with pencils. William Whitaker has a tutorial where he uses charcoal on one of his perfect paintings!

Nothing should stop you trying! Try everything, every new thing that crosses your mind. You can never do wrong in that. ( (

FloJ – Hello and welcome! I’m honored that this is your firs post. I can’t open the link, but it doesn’t look bad at all! Certainly for 2 months of drawing this shows enormous potential! ;) Glad you’ve stepped by!

Wish you the best for 2008!! Thank you for your replies.


01 January 2008, 03:20 PM
what an amazing resource! Thank you Icey, these tutorials are very inspiring, loaded with insightful quotes, and the artwork is just beautiful!
I love looking at artwork that just makes me want to draw.

02 February 2008, 03:25 PM
its my first visit here to your thread and i like your pencil work .. i like how you treat the shading and lights ... great work keep it up :thumbsup:

02 February 2009, 01:09 PM
great tutorials! Only thing i do disagree is the fact you change things that look dull (in your first tut the jaws of the "emoes") you should hold them so you can keep it as realistic as possible.

Love your drawingstyle though! (also worth trying to draw with inkt, that way you need to look better before you draw because you don't have an erraser)

Can also be done without using ctrl + z on your wacom

03 March 2010, 09:17 PM
Foarte tare frate!

Awesome dude!

10 October 2010, 07:31 AM
Thank you! Looks great!

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