How to Shade on a Still Life Drawing Using Pencil

Written by breann kanobi
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How to Shade on a Still Life Drawing Using Pencil
Still life drawings often include apples, wine bottles and cups. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Still life drawings train artists to draw what they see, increasing their ability to recognise contrast and shape. When an artist first starts his training, he draws simple objects using graphite pencils. Pencils offer the benefit of being erasable, while working without colour encourages an artist to focus on shading that represents contrast. To set up the scene for a still life drawing, an artist places a variety of objects on a level surface and adds a light source.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Graphite pencil or pencils
  • Eraser
  • Tissue paper

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  1. 1

    Add a light layer of pencil to all of the images in the drawing. Use a constant level of pressure as you press downwards and slide it along the paper to create an even shade of grey. Apply a second layer of shading, continuing the process until entire object is covered in light grey.

  2. 2

    Determine where the shadows rest. Apply an additional layer of shading over the darker areas of the object. If an area is particularly dark, add a third or fourth layer of shading.

  3. 3

    Examine the still life scene to assess where the objects cast shadows. Place your pencil just under a drawn object. Slide the pencil away from the draw object. Move the pencil back and forth against the paper to create the shape of the shadow and the depth of its colour. Repeat the process for all the shadows in the still life.

  4. 4

    Examine the objects to locate the highlights. Typically, highlights rest along the top of an object. Add highlights by erasing graphite from the paper. A highlight may very bright or slightly lighter than the rest of an object.

  5. 5

    Assess the still life image to focus on its tones. Focus on the scene as a collection of shades rather than a collection of objects. Move your eyes over an object, examining the contrast and shade. Determine where the shadows, mid-tones and highlights rest. The mid-tone makes up the majority of the object while the shadow makes up the darkest part of the object. Light falls on the object's highlight, the lightest part of the object.

  6. 6

    Increase the contrast of your drawing to create the finishing touch. Add additional lines of shading to the shadows. Remove graphite from the highlights using an eraser. If necessary, adjust the tone of the mid-tone by drawing over the object.

  7. 7

    Darken the edges of the drawn objects. For example, if the still life contains a wine bottle with dark edges, draw a line over the dark edges. Turn the pencil slightly so that the side of its tip rests against the paper. Draw a line next to this edge using a light touch. Continue adding lines until the object is adequately darkened.

  8. 8

    Blend the pencil by rubbing a tissue against the surface of the paper. This creates a more realistic, smooth appearance but reduces the darkness of the image. Add additional graphite to the drawing and shade again.

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