Tools Artists Use for Shading

By Adam Gilbert ; Updated September 15, 2017
The proper tools can develop the quality of your drawing.

When drawing, a common challenge many beginning artists face is developing the realistic shadows and highlights of their picture. Knowing what shading tools to use and when to use them can be confusing and overwhelming without proper guidance. Luckily, there is a rule of thumb which can be followed for every basic shading tool used. Each shading tool can help develop different textures and tones of shadows. Once an artist understands each tool's use, she can shade in her pictures with ease.

Blending Stump

For a beginning artist who has trouble rendering smooth surfaces, the blending stump is an excellent shading tool to use. It gives an artist the ability to smooth out the lines and is applicable to both graphite and charcoal. An artist uses the blending stump by rubbing over the markings of their pencil, mixing them together to create one solid shadow. The blending stump tool works well for developing surfaces such as skin, tabletops and polished metal.

Graphite Pencils

Graphite pencils can be used as shading tools if the proper techniques are applied. Simple techniques such as cross-hatching (shading developed by overlapping pencil lines) or circulism (shading created by overlapping circles) allow an artist to bring out lifelike shades using only his pencil. The techniques required for pencil shading do require some practice. Once an artist gets a handle on these techniques, it allows him to create different tones of shading quickly.

Charcoal Pencils

Charcoal is applied much like graphite pencils, but because of its structure it allows for darker shades and a less glossy reflection. Charcoal smears easily, enabling it to work with blending stumps and kneaded erasers well. However, charcoal lays down much thicker than graphite and can be harder to adjust. The best way to avoid overwhelming a drawing with charcoal is to gradually apply shades in layers. This is done by lightly drawing the shadows at first and then gradually darkening them over to develop the picture.

Soft Brush

A soft brush is an excellent tool to help lift graphite and charcoal. This ability allows an artist to apply different layers of shading onto their picture. It is done by brushing over the base shadows of a drawing, softening them and reducing their thickness. An artist can then overlap the base shadows with a new layer of graphite or charcoal, enabling the development of more detailed lines and shades. It is best to use a soft brush in moderation to avoid over-detailing a drawing.

Kneaded Eraser

A kneaded eraser gives an artist the ability to apply highlights and adjust shadow tones accurately. This is done by rubbing the eraser over the desired parts of a drawing, which lifts graphite and charcoal powder easily. A kneaded eraser can be molded into different shapes, allowing an artist to lift as much or as little as they desire. Over time the eraser needs to be cleaned, but this can be done by stretching it out, massaging it, and molding it back into whatever shape is desired.

About the Author

Adam Gilbert began professionally writing in 2009. He has experience collaborating on blogs and public articles and is currently published in the College Of Lake County's "Willow Review" and in Westlake Christian Academy's annual public letter. He has received an Associate of Arts and is now working towards a Bachelor of Arts in English.