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This helps you to either set a tooth back or bring it forward depending on what is casting the shadow. The face, like a tooth, is contoured with a high point where the light hits most directly and gently slopes to either side where the light dissipates as it moves further from the source. Below is an example of what that gradation might look like:.

How to See, How to Draw: Keys to Realistic Drawing by Claudia Nice, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

This is a technique that you can practice on a scrap piece of paper any time. Simply draw a line and then practice softening the edges by creating a gradation dark to light in both directions.

Sounds good, right? Except, instead of drawing groupings of hair with shadows in-between more about that in a second , many will place their pencil tip right at the edge of the scalp and create one long strand of dark, noodle-like hair. Instead, I look at the hair not as individual strands, but groups of hair, and what I draw is the shadow space between those groups—does that make sense?

With this technique or a variation I can draw almost any color or style of hair that I want!


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Have you ever seen or drawn a portrait where the clothing lacked dimension and seemed to just fuse right into the skin? Just like the hair from mistake 1, shadow and gradation can be used to show that the shirt is blocking the light from the skin underneath. Take a look at the example below to see this principle in action! Again, we see one feature seemingly melding into another and completely missing the opportunity to boost realism. We have to create space between the lips and teeth and only a gradation will show how the light is illuminating the teeth but going dark as the teeth go out of our sight.

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My hope is that this article will make you aware of some of the most common problems budding artists face and give you the confidence to take them in stride! Welcome visitor. Do you recognize any of these all-too-common drawing faux pas? Discover 7 mistakes that professional artists avoid like the plague and how you can too! It's like Netflix for graphite pencil artists!

Choose from over high-quality streaming drawing classes and watch on your own time! Plus, join in a new live class each week.

How to See, How to Draw : Keys to Realistic Drawing by Claudia Nice (2010, Spiral)

Try it out now! Which Pencils Work Best for Drawing?


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  • The 5-Pencil Approach to Portrait Drawing. The head determines how the hair falls, whether or not the hair is full-bodied and coarse or thin and limp. It is useful to indicate the shape of the hairline at this phase, and show the location of the ear, even if you know it will partially or completely covered by hair.

    Portrait #23 - Key Steps for Starting a Live Portrait with Charcoal

    Using a light pencil, draw your outline of the shape of the hair. You can draw lines to indicate the shape and direction of the hair, but be careful not to get carried away at this point. Note that hair does not always fall down away from the top of the head. In this woman, the hair at the front of the hairline is pulled back behind the ear, and it droops enough that the shape of hairline between the ear and top of the forehead is concealed.

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    This will not always be the case, so observe carefully. Using a darker drawing tool such as conte crayon or charcoal, start to lay down the location of the darkest values in the hair. It often helps to use the edge of your too here, and to lay down the values in blocks, rather than think too carefully about the direction of the hair. Finer and narrower areas of value can be laid down using a charcoal pencil. Some areas need to remain light, as they will serve as your highlights.