How to Draw Shade Using Pencil in the Art GCSE

Written by robyn tindle
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How to Draw Shade Using Pencil in the Art GCSE
Arrange a still life to start a pencil drawing. (still-life image by sanyal from

To pass the General Certificate of Secondary Education assessment, art students in the United Kingdom have to create a coursework portfolio of artwork combined with a final practical examination. Students are expected to cover a range of drawing and art techniques to complete the course. An essential aspect of the GCSE art course is their ability to demonstrate that they can draw using a range of drawing and shading techniques.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Still life
  • Sketchpad
  • Drawing pencils from 2H to 8B
  • Eraser

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  1. 1

    Set up a still life using contrasting objects of interest. Place the still life beside a natural light source to get the best play of reflected light.

  2. 2

    Draw the basic contours of the still life shapes lightly in pencil in your sketchbook to form your composition. This rough sketch is now ready to add tonal shading.

  3. 3

    Observe the play of light and dark on the surfaces of the still life objects and notice the light and dark contrasts before applying tone to your study.

  4. 4

    Use a good range of drawing pencils from 2H to 8B to be able to maximise the tonal quality of your pencil studies. The darkest grade of pencil to create the darkest tones is the 8B. The lightest tone can be achieved by using a grade 2H pencil. Use an eraser or the white of paper to show areas of reflected light.

  5. 5

    Shade in the darkest areas in your drawing by using an 8B and shade in exactly the shape of the shadow you see in the still life. Note where your lightest areas are and, with your 2H pencil, shade around an area of white reflected light. Work in the mid- and graduating tones from dark to light areas to add a range of tonal qualities to the drawing.

  6. 6

    Use a range of shading techniques to create different effects. Hatching is where you shade with a series of lines in one direction, whereas cross-hatching is where you draw a second series of lines over the first section of hatching but in the opposite direction to create a boxlike effect. Stippling is using a series of dots in close proximity to create shading and texture. Squiggling is the process of creating random squiggled marks to suggest pattern.

Tips and warnings

  • Experiment with shading techniques to create different effects. Soften areas of shading by smudging the pencil marks.

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