Shading Techniques

5 Shading Techniques

Shading Techniques

Whether you draw traditionally or digitally, there comes a time when every artist decides to take their drawing to the next level and the first thing to be addressed can your your techniques for applying shading. There are a number of techniques and approaches that you can adopt to getting lead on the paper, the most common being hatching.

“5 different ways to shade”

I have added an image above that shows you 5 different ways to shade an image. Each have their own qualities and characteristics, and you as an artist are free to pick and choose which approach you decide to use for any given image. To give you a little helping hand, I have included a list of the places where I find these different shading style useful.


Stippling is great for adding a sense of texture to an image. It can be used to depict rocky surfaces, pitted texturing or to give a feeling of bumpy-ness to an image. The technique for apply stippling is rather straight forward, it consists of lightly stabbing your pencil on to the page in small leading marks, be careful not to be too aggressive as this might tear the paper and it can also be quite hard to remove!


Hatching is useful for cover large areas quickly, simply apply a series or straight lines, typically going in the same direction! Although you are free to use hatching to follow the form of the object you are drawing and give it a sense of volume. Hatching works well for objects that require more depth and a sense of solidity, such as wood or fabric.


X-Hatching is the big brother of hatching, it is created using exactly the same process, only this time, you go-over the image again applying more lines in a direction different to the underlying marks. The direction is typically either 45 degrees or 90 degrees. Layering your marks in this manner will result in a rich deep patterning, especially useful for heavy objects, or objects that have a lot of surface texture. X-Hatching is great for making powerful sketches and best of all its fast!


Scumbling is the process of applying marks in a sort of scribble, usually applied without lifting the pencil from the page. Scumbling adds a wonderful sense of texture to an image and lends itself very well to things like wood, fabric, trees and bushes. When using this technique you can keep going over the same area to darken the tonal contrast with the surrounding areas, giving form and volume to your drawings. Scumbling is also great as a way to stop your hand getting tired, as you do not need to keep lifting your hand from the page.


Tonal shading a a combination of all the above techniques, with the subtle difference that your transitions are smoother, meaning that you see less marks and more of a single flat colour. Tonal shading is great for rendering skin, metal surfaces and for creating a strong contrast between elements in your image. Tonal shading is also the hardest as it requires you to vary the pressure you are applying to the pencil as you progress around your image. but, do not let this put you off! Tonal shading is one of the most powerful techniques that you can learn on your path to becoming an artist.

I hope you have found this post useful? I would love to hear any requests or feedback.

Happy Drawing ;-)

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