Shading Techniques in Art

Shading is the technique of showing tones or values on an object through gradual gradations for it to look ‘solid’ and have a three dimensional effect. Shading techniques allow you to weave layer upon layer of pencil marks to add a convincing form to your line drawing. Shading adds a sense of substance to your subject and produces a convincing tonal relationship. Drawings take on a three dimensional form when shaded properly.

To render shades correctly on drawn objects, the artist must carefully observe the source of light that is striking various values of tones or shades on the drawn objects. After realizing the source of light, the artist must study closely the reflections of the light on areas of the objects to know the lightest and darkest sections. After establishing the endpoints or extremes thus the lightest valued areas as well as the darkest valued areas, the remaining area with a mid-half tone between the two extremes is the middle value.

The tones are adjusted as many times to make it look realistic. It is advised that artists step back periodically to look at the drawing and the subject in a distance to view and adjust the tones accordingly. This would make the values depicted on the drawn objects more realistic. In the rendition of cast shadow, the artist must take note of the light source and the striking or reflection of the light on the objects. If the light is far above, the shorter the shadow is (try checking out your shadow at noon – 12:00PM) whereas the lower the light, the longer the cast shadow will become. The rule is that the darker the shadow, the brighter the light source. As the shadow is drawn further from the object, the lighter it becomes. The shadow takes on the shape of the item it comes from. Notice that to make the shadow, all you have to do is create a triangular shape from the top of the object to the ground and back to the base of the object. According to the light source, make your shadow fit accordingly.

There are various ways of rendering shades on a drawn object. Some of these are:

1. Hatching: This is a shading technique that employs one set of line either vertical, curved or horizontal lines in rendering shades on a drawn object. These lines are drawn beside one another to give the illusion of a value. Depending on the hatching shading effect one want to achieve, the artist may decide to make the individual lines in hatching sets far apart or close together.

2. Cross-hatching: This is a shading technique made by the use of lines that crosses each other at an angle in rendering shades on an object. In cross-hatching, one set of line crosses over (overlaps) another set of line to create a shade on a drawn object.

3. Stippling/Dottilism/Pointillism: This is a shading technique that employs dots or series of points in rendering the shades on an object.

4. Circularism/Squirkling/Scribbling: This is the use of circles, squirkles and scribbles in rendering a shade on an object. When squirkle sets have noticeable spaces between the lines, they work beautifully for shading various textures, such as fuzzy fabrics and curly hair. Squirkles can look like a solid tone when the lines are drawn closely together, and are great for shading lots of different aspects of people, including skin tones.

5. Tonal gradation/smudging: This is the rendering of soft tones on a drawn object and blending the tones together with the thumb, a piece of paper or a soft cloth.

Rendering shades on objects using any marking or drawing tool is an interesting practical exercise in art. However, to achieve successes, artists must learn the rudiments in shading so as to render shade on drawn objects based on the accepted rubrics of art.

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