*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Are you confident with your skill level creating outline sketches and feel ready to start giving them a sense of three-dimensionality and form? Do you find all of the information out there about different shading techniques a bit overwhelming and, perhaps, are unsure about which one(s) you should be using in your work? Is it even necessary to know about all of them?
I find sketching with pen and ink incredibly refreshing in between larger projects. A couple of the things I love about this artistic medium are that it challenges me to think about the intention behind each line or mark I create, and that I have to work around mistakes in order to complete each piece. You see, as opposed to sketching or drawing with pencil, ink cannot be erased!
In today's blog post, I'm going to share my favorite six of ways of shading and adding three-dimensionality to pen and ink sketches. I will explain how to go about using each technique, as well as some points I consider positives and negatives about each.
This way, you'll have more of an idea of when you could be using them in your own work and you'll avoid creating effects that you weren't intending to create.
It's important to understand that, when using these techniques, we are creating marks and lines. By repeating marks and lines we not only create value, but also a certain visual texture.
If we're not mindful about how we draw these marks, we can create effects in a piece that are too distracting and that don't really help describe our subject effectively.
In this post we're focusing a bit more on value because this is what is going to help us give our sketches a sense of believable form.
Though the techniques I will describe below are different, these two principles apply to all of them:
a) The more marks created= The more ink is covering the surface (paper)= The darker the value
b) The less marks created= The less ink is covering the surface (paper)= The lighter the value
I highly recommend checking out this past blog post of mine:
Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Crosshatching, Scribbling and Others
In it, I go over why being able to discern between lights, mid-tones and darks in a reference image is essential and also provide specific examples of hatching, crosshatching and scribbling in old masters' work. This post also includes a few free downloadable PDFs with useful exercises for you to practice with!
It's important for you to know that it's ultimately going to be up to you to explore these mark-making techniques and decide which ones you prefer. How you use them (and combine them) is going to depend you your particular preferences, as well as the style you're going for.
Exploring Mark-Making and Shading Techniques
Shading Simple Geometric Shapes
The absolute best way to get started with actual shading is to begin with simple geometric shapes that are formed by flat planes (cubes, rectangular prisms, triangular prisms).
It's important to decide where your light source is going to be located before you begin so that you can then decide where your lightest, medium and darkest planes are going to be.
Take a moment to observe the cubes above. Can you tell which side is the lightest, which is the darkest and which is the in-between value? Judging by the placement of these values, where would you say the light source is located?
Need help drawing three-dimensional geometric shapes? No problem! Go to my blog post titled Perspective for Beginners: How to Use 1 and 2 Point Perspectives to find free downloadable PDFs with step-by-step instructions.
If you'd like to practice specifically shading cubes and don't feel like drawing them, download the free PDF at the end of this post!
Once you're successful with shading flat-sided geometric shapes, move on to geometric shapes that contain curves in them (spheres, cylinders, cones, etc.).
Only after you have practiced these enough, should you move on to more complex subjects.
Stay tuned for the next post, because we'll be discussing how to use each of these techniques to describe the form of a piece of fruit!
Become a Patreon community member to get access to:
-Real-time drawing/painting tutorials with full walkthrough commentary
-Downloadable outline drawings, reference pictures and supply lists
-Direct feedback from me
-Downloadable workbook titled How to Discover Your Artistic Voice
-Instant access to a growing vault of original reference pictures that you can use for your own art
-Special thanks in YouTube videos and opportunities to get your work shared
-Participation in polls to decide new blog post and YouTube video topics
-Live classes and Monthly Creative Assignments
+ much more!
*Click below to learn more!
Links To Useful Sites
My Artwork For Sale
Painting With Oils
Student Art Shows
is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites
to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
is a participant in the Shareasale.com Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Shareasale.com partner companies.