Tools And Material
This tutorial will introduce to you the tools and materials I use to create my drawings. It will also give you insight on the technique I use and teach fundamental concepts every artist should know. I will also provide links to where you can buy the tools and materials.
Paper plays a vital role in the success of your drawing. Not only does the type of paper affect your technique, it also determines how long the drawing will last.
Higher quality paper, e.g Bristol Paper or Bristol Board, is acid free. Normal paper, e.g printer paper, is not acid free and will turn yellow in time.
Bristol is a quality paper made of 100% cotton fiber. It comes in different surface textures: A vellum surface has a slight texture to it. Some artists prefer vellum for the texture and ability to hold layers of graphite. Hot pressed paper is smooth and ideal for detailed drawings. This is the perfect type of paper to use for realistic pencil drawing. Bristol paper is two-ply and therefore thicker and tougher than normal paper.
Pencils are available in different values. A pencil, marked “H“, is a hard pencil and produces a lighter value. The higher the number, the harder and therefore lighter the value. 8H is therefore lighter in value than a 2H pencil.
“B” range pencils have softer graphite and produce darker values. The values go up to 9B, the darkest value.
Here is a collection of pencil values you will need: H, B, 2B, 3B, 5B, 8B.
(A personal favorite of mine)
(0.5mm with 2B graphite)
The PrismaColor Ebony pencil is a great pencil that holds a point and produces a very dark value with a matte finish. I especially like the ability to have a matte black versus the shine some pure graphite pencils produce.
Another very useful pencil is a mechanical pencil. I have drawn entire portrait studies with only a mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils allow for great control and detail work and is especially useful when drawing eyes or hair.
Erasers are not only used to correct mistakes but also used as part of technique to create effect.
A click eraser is very useful to erase the grid. I also cut the tip into a point(like a screwdriver) and use this for lifting graphite when drawing highlights in hair.
The kneaded eraser is also called a putty eraser. It has a putty-like texture. Consequently, you can squeeze it into different shapes. Kneaded erasers are useful for creating highlights and reflective light effects.
Blending allows you to create shading and other effects. It is a very important technique, and I will describe it in more detail later.
Tortillons are my primary blending tool. They are made of paper rolled into a pen-like tool with a pointy end. They are inexpensive and can be found at most art supply stores. The are very useful and can improve your drawing tremendously.
Here is a link where you can find
Another useful tool is a blending stump. A blending stump is similar to a tortillon. Instead of rolled paper, stumps are compressed paper and usually larger in size.
Teaching Your Eyes To See Correctly
Drawing is a brain discipline. The discipline increasingly teaches your eye to see correctly and relaying the information from your brain to your hand. Your eye gets the information and your hand executes the motion of drawing. A common mistake is to interpret a subject’s appearance and then to draw according to how you think it looks.
Your brain is divided into two main sections: A left or analytically side and a right intuitive side. The right side of your brain focuses more on intuition, day-dreaming, meditation, and expressing yourself through music or art. It is the part of your brain that judges space…an important function that helps to produce an accurate drawing. Judging space and distance is a process that will enable you to create accurate proportions.
Stimulating the Right Side
It is definitely possible to train your brain to see more accurately. Find a time and space where it is quite, put some classical Baroque music on, and do the following exercise:
Draw a straight line down the middle of your page. Now draw a curved line vertically down on the left side of the line. Draw another curved line on the right side of the line, but this time you have to accurately draw the mirror image of the left curved line. It will look like the image illustrated on this page.
The idea is to focus on the shapes and negative spaces. The negative space is the shape that is formed by the curved and straight line. By focusing on the shapes you force the right side of your brain to work. Imagine horizontal lines where each curve starts and where it ends. Also pay attention to the distance between the straight line and the curved line. The distance should perfectly match on both sides.
A common phenomenon I see among my students is the top half of the mirror image is accurate. But half way down the student duplicates the left curve instead of flipping it into a mirror image. Pay attention so this won’t happen to you.
Correct proportion can be achieved by arranging objects or elements accurately in relationship to one another as well as representing the size of each object accurately in relation to the other objects. For portrait drawing strive to accurately place the eyes, nose and mouth in relationship to each other. The size of each facial element should also be accurate.
Most human faces are not perfectly proportioned. But most faces can be broken up into different segments to help with the drawing process.
The image below illustrates a way of creating guide lines to help the artist in placing the eyes, nose and mouth. There are different ways to break the image up into segments. Here we divide the face into three parts.
– The top cuts through the hairline.
– The mid-section touches the top of her brows and the tip of her nose.
– The third section ends at the tip of her chin.
Role over the image to see another way to create guidelines.
This time the image is broken into two sections with the white lines. The bottom half is then split in two. This happened again for the far bottom section.
By using this method we develop a way to place the eyes and the mouth. The method helps to create accurate proportion and is made possible by judging space and distance…therefore using the right brain.
More on the Right Brain
The first brain exercise you can do to improve your ability to see proportions is to use the mirror-image exercise I described on this page.
There are other methods you can use as well: One exercise would be to flip your reference photo up-side-down and then to draw what you see. Remember that drawing is all about seeing the shapes correctly and then to accurately draw the shapes on paper. When you flip the photo up-side-down, you confuse the brain since the shapes are not familiar to you. You are therefore forced to look at the shapes from a new perspective.
Another exercise is choosing a simple object to draw. Place your hand on the paper and start drawing the object by only focusing on the object and not looking at your paper.
Shape and Light
Everything we observe with our eyes we can see because light bounces from objects and is projected to our eyes. Some parts of the object projects most of the light and creates a key- or highlight. Other parts will appear darker because most of the light gets bounced into a different direction.
When you observe the image below you will notice the brightest part of the ball is where light is bounced straight to your eyes. As the ball curves…more light gets bounced but into different directions, due to the angle that keeps changing.
On the bottom of the ball you will see a rim of light. This is called reflective light. Depending on the surface, reflective light is caused by light that is bounced back into the object. Reflective light is important when you draw objects and can often be noticed on the nose, chin and jawline.
A great exercise would be to draw the ball. This will help you practice your skill in applying the graphite gradually.
Move the mouse over the image.
The Value Scale
In art, value refers to the darkness or lightness of a color. A great example where you will see different shades of value is a black and white photo and pencil drawings. But value is not just limited to drawings…it is an important element in most art mediums.
Value is something you have to pay attention to when you draw. All drawings need to show good contrast to make it look realistic. Make sure to show darks, lights and enough value in between to create a good work of art. Applying value accurately will also make your subject look dimensional…especially if the subject is well lit in a creative way.
The diagram above shows a gray or value scale. Use the diagram as a guideline when choosing photos to draw. Choose a photo that has creative light and shadows. The drawing below illustrates this point. Notice the light source is from the right towards the subject. This creates a nice shadow on the left side of the persons face (as we see it).
Also notice the reflective light that bounces back towards the side of the face. The shadow and reflective light are ideal for a good dimensional drawing. Hoover with your mouse over the drawing to see the descriptions.
Every artist will develop a style of painting and the same is true with drawing. We all have a different way of interpreting what we see with different ways of rendering the image.
I have my own style in how I draw, depending on what my goal is. Some drawings will only take 20 minutes but other realistic drawings might take up to 20 hours before it is complete.
Basic Stroke Technique
The basic stroke will also become a cross hatching technique and this is ideal for quick sketches. Hold the pencil loosely towards the middle of the pencil and create a motion where the pencil moves up and down. The motion comes from the wrist and is usually at an angle. Pressure can be applied towards the center of each line. If you keep the motion loose then you will be able to “feather out” the ends of each line to create a soft edge. This technique becomes very handy when you draw hair.
Now practice the technique on a piece of paper.
Cross Hatching Technique
The cross hatching technique is the same as the basic stroke, only it has multiple layers each in a different direction. This way you are able to create a more dense layer for areas where you need the value to be darker.
The second image shows multiple layers in three different directions.
It’s all about shapes
Now that you know how to create layers of different value, practice creating different shapes of cross-hatched layers on a piece of paper. Try to use multiple kinds of pencils. You can use a mechanical pencil, HB, 6B, Charcoal, or Carbon. Each pencil will allow you to create layers but the look of each layer will differ.
Draw a random shape and then create a new layer next to the shape. This exercise will train your right brain and also help you practice your skill.
Creating smooth layers
The next technique I will describe is used when creating smooth layers for a more realistic look. The image to the right shows an exaggerated illustration of the approach. Layering takes place by using a circular motion with your pencil. Continue with the motion until you have created a dense layer of graphite.
Building dense layers
Your initial layer should be a light value. If you desire to create a dark layer…work over the initial layer and gradually build up on the graphite until the value is dark. A common issue I see among students are the inability to create a smooth gradual transition of value from light to dark. This is something you need to practice until you have perfected it. I always say to students that if you are able to create this gradual transition then you will be able to draw anything. That is if you can accurately depict the proportions.
Practice this method and focus especially on being able to create light values.
Blending is an important part of the process and helps to create a smooth layer. Here you can see a layer that was first created with the basic stroke method and then blended with a tortillon. I used the same motion to blend. The important thing to remember when you blend is not to press hard into the layer. This will embed the graphite and you need to be able to “move” the graphite on the surface of the paper.
Once you have your outline it is only a matter of creating and connecting the shapes. Connecting shapes to form the overall image is important. Sometimes students tend to outline everything rather than allowing the shapes to create natural looking edges.
The drawing shows many shapes connected to one another. Notice how the iris, pupil, and the top eyelid is in fact one dark shape. The same can be said for the skin around the eye. It is in fact one shape with different values that flow together.
Occasionally the artist needs to cover a larger area with graphite. It could be very time consuming to use a pencil to do this. One way to quickly cover large areas is to use a soft paintbrush with graphite powder. Apply the graphite with the brush.
You will have to practice this technique since the graphite powder tends to go on darker than you intended. It is easy to go dark but rather tricky to have very smooth and light values. Here is what I do to create a soft light value: Dip only the tip of the brush in a little graphite powder. Now dap most of the graphite off on a piece of paper. Rub with your brush on the paper until you see the desired value. Now your brush is ready to fill in the light areas.
Now is the time to read the rest of the drawing tutorials on this site since you will be able to see the entire drawing process.