My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drawing Lesson 1 b, Gradating Shading Scale

Now that you know the shading scale and recognize its numbers (10 is black, 1 is white, 2-9 are the tones in between), you are ready to do a gradated shading scale. This is again a transition from 10 down to 1, but there are no dividing blocks of shade. It is a gradual, smooth change from black to white. You DON’T want to be able to tell that one shade is ending and the next beginning.

Draw a long rectangle, just like in lesson 1 a (see Thursday, August 19, 2010 post for first shading lesson, 1 a), except DON’T divide it into boxes. Write your numbers along the side, just like in the illustration, going from 10 (black) on the top, down to 1 (white) on the bottom.
Reminder: Use a cover sheet to protect the paper.

Which pencils do I use?
You can either use a standard number 2 pencil or fine pencils.

If you are using fine pencils, you will use the same ones as you did on lesson 1 a, except as the pencil areas change, you will overlap those areas with the pencil from the next area:
Shades 2-4: 6H (when you get to the area of shade 4, overlap the end of the area with a 2H pencil)
Shades 5-7: 2H (when you get to the area of shade 7, overlap the end of the area with a B pencil)
Shades 8-10: B

If you are using a regular number 2 pencil, you will use the same techniques you used in the boxes, except now you are covering an area and easing into the next shade so we don’t notice.

The 1, or white, area is to be left blank. The white of the paper is all you need. What you need to watch out for in this and any drawing, is to be sure to leave this area (1: white) LARGER than you think you need to. The reason for this is that in a drawing, the white is the sparkle. If you close it in too tight, it may be too small and you will lose the effect you want. It is better to make it larger to start off with, and then, if you want to make it smaller, it is easy to shade into it, closing it in, rather than trying to erase it out. Often erasing will not take it completely back to a 1, leaving you with a 2.

Caution: Watch out again for pressing too hard with your 6H pencil, because it will cut grooves into the paper. It is only to be used with a light touch, for the lightest areas.

Let’s get started.

Just like in lesson 1 a, start with your black, or 10 area, putting in a good, solid black, but easing off a bit as it comes down. Then stop there, just as you’re going into your 9.

Now jump to your 2 area (nearly white). Remember to start higher than you think you should, almost into the 3 area. Then as you shade, shade DOWN toward the 1 area, getting lighter, lighter, lighter. Really focus on keeping your strokes smooth, even and right next to each other. If this makes you nervous, practice on another piece of paper until you are confident, then come back to your rectangle.

If you are using a regular number 2 pencil, use the same technique taught in lesson 1: slide your fingers back along the pencil to the end (taking the pressure off the tip) and then carefully sweep the pencil from side to side. As you go, lift slightly on the pencil until the shade gets lighter and lighter. When you can barely see it, you are there. Now focus on keeping your strokes even and right next to each other.

Your 2 area should literally disappear into your 1 (white) area. If it doesn’t, you can use your kneaded eraser to tap along the bottom of the 2 area until it does disappear.

Once you are happy with your 2 area, move on up into your 3, then 4, and so on, working up to your 9 and 10. If you are using fine pencils, remember to switch when the pencil won’t go dark enough.

Keep your strokes smooth, even and right next to each other the whole way up. When you miss an area, or get too dark or spotty, go back and touch it up, using your kneaded eraser and then finishing up with your pencil as needed.

When you have finished the whole rectangle, stand up and step a few feet away from it. Squint your eyes and look at it. Are there any areas that jump too quickly from one tone to the next, so that you see a line? Are there any blotches or spots? Are there any gaps between your lines?

The rectangle should be very smooth and very gradually change from white up to black.

Take your time and go back to fix the problem areas, stopping every now and again to step back, squint your eyes and see how it’s progressing.

Don’t try to hurry this. It takes time. It’s a very important skill to acquire.

When you are happy with it, you may do a second one, and this time, you can use your blending stick on the final step to smooth the rough spots and make a perfect ascending transition. (Remember to start with your 2 area first and work your way up, cleaning the blending stick often.) The reason I want you to do one with the blending stick and one without, is that you CAN do this without a blending stick and it’s very important that you can.

If you just can’t get it right the first time, don’t worry. It’s a process. It takes time and practice, just like learning the piano, or learning to walk. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself room to grow.

The most important thing is that you DON’T GIVE UP. Do it again. Make yourself proud. I learned that if I can’t do something, I go to another page and practice – up to 10 times. I guarantee that the 10th one will be 10 times better than the first.

Now when you’ve done it, it will feel awesome, like a drawer’s high! Date your page, and I recommend that you save it in a three-ring binder, in a page protector.

And get ready for the next lesson. We’ll take what you’ve just done and use it on an actual object. And don’t worry, it will be fun! See you next week.


  1. The practice part is so important. It's so easy to give up after one try and seeing that it's not perfect!

  2. ARGH! Thank ye much for droppin' by the Scribblers Cove! You an' yer parrots are welcome any time. Matter o'fact, give me a holler if ye wan ter sign on to the crew.

  3. By the powers, Rebecca, I be thrilled to have ye! Me and me parrots'd love ta join yer crew.


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