Drawing Realistic Portrait Series [2 of 8] – The Fundamentals of Shading

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Hey, welcome back!

Remember the 3 Pillars of Portrait Drawing that I mentioned yesterday? (If you haven’t seen the first video in this series, you should go watch it here & and then come back to this page. Things will make more sense. )

Well, in today’s video, I’m going to cover Pillar #1: Realistic Shading. Shading is one of the most important thing in portrait drawing but most people get it wrong.

See, there are many styles of shading out there, but if you want to draw truly realistic portrait, you need a very specific way of shading. It’s called Gradual Blending.

This video will teach you what it is and how to apply it:

(To download this video. Right click and select “Save As”)

Again here’s the reference photo that we’ll be working with:

Click to enlarge

The shading technique I just showed you is very powerful and it is one of the big reason why The Blended Pencil Method is so effective.

If you are currently struggling with making your portrait look realistic, you’ll see a big difference once you apply the Gradual Blending technique. It is the foundation for the method, so be sure to learn it well.

Now just practice drawing a gradual blending bar so you’ll be ready for tomorrow’s lesson. I’ll tell you about the most important shape in portrait drawing.

And I’ll show you how to take the concepts that we’ve learned to day and use it to draw a realistic 3D object.

It’ll be fun!

For now, please “LIKE” this post and leave a comment below. Thanks!

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Let us know what you think! Leave a comment below...


  • Sabira

    Reply Reply August 22, 2016

    Your lessons provide invaluable tips. Thank you Ethan.

  • asemota unity

    Reply Reply July 23, 2016

    wow nice one bros….I was hoping u teach us how to draw complete portrait,.

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply August 27, 2015

    I haven’t watched the first video could u send it plz

  • ahinzy

    Reply Reply December 2, 2014

    guy u r gud

  • ahinzy

    Reply Reply December 2, 2014

    tnx for ur time .ethan u r guy in arts

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply November 11, 2014

    Hey thanx Ethin love and respect from Afghanistan .

  • Gazelle

    Reply Reply September 10, 2014

    Im an architecture student and my instructor doesnt really give instructions and briefing lessons he just post the activity and leave the room iam really bad in rendering and shading but your tutorials helped me alot ๐Ÿ™‚

  • peter odoyo

    Reply Reply August 28, 2014

    Hi Ethans
    I’m a growing artist who is talented in drawing,how can you help.I mean drawing material so that can perform it in a digital way?

  • Viv

    Reply Reply March 28, 2014

    Ok thanks for replying. I just have a suggestion you don’t have to do if u don’t want to but if you can please post the video from your DVD about materials I am a beginner who really needs to know the basics. Thanks, -Viv

  • Viv

    Reply Reply March 26, 2014

    Hi Ethan,
    I have a question. I see that in a lot of your videos you are
    able to go very dark with a 2B pencil, and I never see graphite
    shine when you do it. Is there any trick to get rid of graphite shine,
    or is it just not showing in the video?

    Thanks, Viv

    • Hi Viv,
      Great observation! The graphite do shine, I just try to change the lighting so that it doesn’t show up on camera. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Frid

    Reply Reply March 6, 2014

    Youre videos made my drawings more realistic than my past drawings. Thanks a lot Sir ๐Ÿ™‚

  • cindy

    Reply Reply January 16, 2014

    thanks so much…interesting

  • Chris

    Reply Reply December 17, 2013

    You really are a help.
    Blessed be

  • Elias Rodriguez

    Reply Reply December 14, 2013

    What type of pen do you use for drawing ?

    I have pencils #2b 3b 4b 6b and hb. I will appresiape any advise.

    Thank you. Eli

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply December 2, 2013

    Good instruction. Almost done with Angus young portrait got art set today don’t know how to use looking for my art to be more realistic Thanks a lot.

  • Rebecca Lynne

    Reply Reply November 20, 2013

    Hi Ethan, love it! Such fun, the eye required three tries, but the 3rd one looks like the sample.
    Hooray, the shading is so important…..thanks looking forward to #3.

  • Ben

    Reply Reply November 11, 2013

    This drawing class really helps Thanks Ethan!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • anat

    Reply Reply November 6, 2013

    thank you. fascinating.

  • Antonella

    Reply Reply October 28, 2013

    Complimenti per questi tutorial, sei bravissimo!
    Grazie mille.

  • Jenny from Australia

    Reply Reply October 8, 2013

    Thanks so much Ethan for the lessons on Perspective. I have been trying to get my head around it for years, maybe with your help I will finally get there, you make it sound so logical and easy. It all makes sense when I follow your instructions but then I get confused when I try it for myself.
    I will keep practicing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply September 7, 2013


    u hv a nice tutorial

    but could u put some of ur best works

  • pankaj

    Reply Reply August 16, 2013

    ur lessons are good.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • sparklingcoal

    Reply Reply August 4, 2013

    finally understood the art of shading
    great job!!!!

  • Adam

    Reply Reply July 21, 2013

    This website is great

  • alex

    Reply Reply July 11, 2013

    looking forward the rest and practicing as I do
    thank you

  • Zuzmarok x

    Reply Reply June 15, 2013

    I really like all of those tutorials, it makes my drawings much, much better. Thank you for doing this! x

  • Andrรฉs

    Reply Reply June 9, 2013

    Nice information. Thankยดs

  • Ali Shammoon

    Reply Reply June 3, 2013

    Hi Ethan,
    Today I realised that my drawings didn’t look realistic because my blending work is not good enough.
    Thank you,

  • Alyssa

    Reply Reply June 2, 2013

    There is a tremendous difference in my drawings so far. Great Job on these easy to understand tutorials!

  • Karen

    Reply Reply May 30, 2013

    So far so good, Some great tip’s, And I seem to understand more what your saying.
    I loose interest in other tutorial’s. Looking forward to the next one.
    Thank’s. x

  • LNG

    Reply Reply May 8, 2013

    He makes it easy to follow and gives great hints

  • Mimi

    Reply Reply April 28, 2013

    Thank you so much Ethan for this Blending technique lesson. I just purchased a pack of new tortillons. This is first time I try to use tortillon. May I ask how many times I can use it? I am Looking forward to the next lesson. Thanks again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Edwin

    Reply Reply April 24, 2013

    Hi Ethen I am in my mid seventies and I have struggled with tonal values for quite some time ,but your video has enlightened me thank you soooooo much and cheers Edwin from the UK

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply March 12, 2013

    Hi, have 1-8 and 3-8 lessons I have been trying to view
    Them and have not although its nice to know I can follow
    These tutorials it gives me a better view on how to apply
    Correctly as I was comparing my sketches I saw the cast
    Shades were not applied and that I had more darker tones in the

  • finlay

    Reply Reply February 11, 2013

    Which H or B pencils you use on each video would be handy.

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply February 13, 2013

      I use a 2B lead pencil for all these lessons.

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply January 24, 2013

    tankyou you are a good ticher, but you are more famous if you translate to spanish too, am recomend you to all the spanish people you are great!!!

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply January 26, 2013

      Thank you for the recommendation! I have been getting quite a few request for Spanish translation. I guess I need to look into that ๐Ÿ™‚

  • gabriella

    Reply Reply January 15, 2013

    that’s so good, thank you very much. it’s very generous of your part.

  • Maria Villegas

    Reply Reply January 15, 2013

    Hello Ethan im fallowing your every move i work a lot so my feedback is slow but i look forward to your videos and lessons. I saw a comment from Abel Perez where he asks for videos in spanish. Well your videos are step by step and very self explanatory but if u need help in tranlasting im cetified as a translator for spanish so I offer my help. I transalate in a county hospital im just offering friendly help . Thank you your videos are excellent!!!!!

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply January 15, 2013

      Oh wow. Thank you so much for your generous offer, Maria. That is a great idea.

      Unfortunately, I’m still pretty swamped with working on part aspects of the site. But when I’m ready for that, I just might take you up on your offer.

      Thank you so much again. You are very kind!

  • Gwendoline

    Reply Reply January 13, 2013

    Many thank for your lessons always wanted to draw but never seemed to have the time now i am 70 and retired i have desided to make time and learn your lessons are easy to follow and not rushed it gives me somethink to look forward to once again many thank

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply January 14, 2013

      You’re very welcome, Gwendoline. I’m very honored that you find my lessons helpful.

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply January 13, 2013

    thanks for the lessons, as of now i’m in the second lesson.. and it greatly affect how i draw now.. thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jorge

    Reply Reply January 10, 2013

    thanks you so much for the lesson great help in inproving my drawing skills

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply January 10, 2013

    thank you so much for the lessons thay are great and looking forward to my lessons from you thank your

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Thank you Sir

  • Claudia

    Reply Reply December 3, 2012

    Hello!!! I have a question… is it ok if I use drawing pencils? or do I have to use a mechanical one like you? thank you!!!

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply December 4, 2012

      Hi Claudia,
      Good question. No, you are welcome to use any pencil you like best. The mechanical pencil was just a suggestion.

  • Abel Perez

    Reply Reply November 22, 2012

    Thanks for everything, with a suggestion if you have videos subtitled into Spanish because I do not understand the English .. thanks

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply November 22, 2012

      Thanks for the suggestion, Abel. I will try to see what I can do. But to be honest, I can’t speak Spanish ๐Ÿ™ so it might be a long time before I can implement that feature.

      Maybe one day ๐Ÿ™‚

  • clarissa

    Reply Reply November 20, 2012

    Thanks for the help! Been wanting to learn how to draw for ages!

  • Jazzie

    Reply Reply November 14, 2012

    Loved this video. Blended shading does a lot to improve a portrait. Thanks for your easy style of presentation.

  • thomas

    Reply Reply November 6, 2012

    well, i’ll be waiting…:)

  • bianca dickerson

    Reply Reply November 5, 2012

    i love the lessons. do you mail lessons overseas and how much is it exactly.fineely somebodywhocan xplain t that anybody can understand this

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply November 5, 2012

      Hi Bianca,
      Thank you, I’m glad you like them. When you say, “mail lessons oversea”… do you mean my Realistic Portrait course? In that case, the course is digitally accessed so you can get it from anywhere in the world. But I do plan on created a DVD set for those who wish to have a physical copy. And yes, when that is available, I will ship it oversea. Thanks for the question.

  • thomas

    Reply Reply November 4, 2012

    hi ethan why do you show only your hand in the videos? i would like to see u. please show your lovely face in the next video

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply November 4, 2012

      lol. I’m camera shy ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe one day…

  • akiraah

    Reply Reply November 1, 2012

    Hi Ethan, I asked you could I sent you my drawing of the eye that was our second lesson so that you could evaluate my effort? I really was looking forward to your input because it would help me to know how I am progressing in your lessons. You responded ASAP from my first message to you, so I was wondering about the the delay this time that you have not responded to my email yet. Can you please let me know whether you will send me that feed back or not because I feel it is critical that the instructor can see and review our work if not I would have to determine how good or improved my work is based off how I see it whether I did it correctly or not, that is why I decided to follow a person who is all knowing in this matter because you will see the lack of technique among other things that will make a more realistic picture pop as you would say. Thanks again for your time

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply November 1, 2012

      Hi Akiraah,
      Sorry about that. I’m been so busy with uploading the new lessons that it must’ve slipped my mind.

      I was going through all the past emails (sorry, I receive many so it’s hard to keep track) but I can’t seem to find the one with your name. The closet one I can find is with the name “Bernie”?

      If not, would you mind sending it again and I will try to review it as soon as I can.

      Sorry again,

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply November 2, 2012

      Hi Akiraah,
      I just saw your email in my inbox now. Sorry, you must have sent it to me yesterday and I haven’t had a chance to check my messages yet. I’ve re-written a reply just now. Hope it helps. Thanks.

  • puja...

    Reply Reply October 25, 2012

    hello Ethan, i want to ask you how to clean the Loew-Cornell ?? Or do i have to buy another one, because where i live it’s not very easy to get it… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply October 25, 2012

      Hi Puja. By Lowe-Cornell, do you mean the tortillon (blending stumps)? In that case, I don’t really clean them. I try to have 3 separate tortillon. Each one is assigned a different darkness level. So when I blended a really dark area, I will use a dark tortillon and a light one for light area. This keeps them lasting a lot longer.

      And if art supply store is hard to find in your area, you can always use a q-tip or a cotton or a piece of paper instead. With a little bit of skill they can work just as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Finlay

    Reply Reply October 24, 2012

    Good start, keep it going!

  • izmeฤ‘u redaka

    Reply Reply October 23, 2012

    Great site,one of the best tutorials,good explanations .Your site making drawing very interesting.

  • Zalina

    Reply Reply October 22, 2012

    Thanks Ethan

    I am finding these videos of yours helpful. I’m just about to finish 5yrs of “part-time” art school and the one thing not really taught (glossed over) is realistic anything. I’ve been told that no art school in NZ teaches realistic drawing/ painting etc. So now at the end of my studies I now have to source my own learning for realism. Thank God for the internet and books on the subject! Oh and also for the tutor I have found and will go to as $s allow.
    So thanks for these lessons, they will be of great help.

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply October 23, 2012

      Hi Zalina,
      I agree. Information on how to draw truly realistic drawing (especially gearded towards beginners) are very hard to find. It was a big problem for me when I started learning and it one of the main reason I started this website. Thank you for the comment and I’m glad I can help you on your artistic journey.

  • Ruth Fredericks

    Reply Reply October 21, 2012

    Very helpful. Easy to follow.

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply October 21, 2012

    Very helpful. I’ve been drawing portraits of my family and have never heard these “rules” before. This will help me tremendously. Thank you.

  • Maureen

    Reply Reply October 20, 2012

    Thank you so much very easy to follow

  • Richard

    Reply Reply October 19, 2012

    Very interesting, good explanations and easy listening. Thanks

  • eira

    Reply Reply October 19, 2012

    so pleased at the way you explain things. Almost as if you were beside me


    Reply Reply October 18, 2012

    real good it’s helping me to find my mistakes.

  • Mae Wade

    Reply Reply October 18, 2012

    Comprehensive tutorial…very straight forward …you don’t beat around the bush…GREAT !!! Thank you, I am looking forward to learn more.

  • phillip hand

    Reply Reply October 18, 2012

    I enjoyed this video very much thank you

  • Jean

    Reply Reply October 18, 2012

    Ethan, excellant blending technique. You make it look simple. I will let you know lol.

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply October 18, 2012

      Thank you, Jean.

  • ronald

    Reply Reply October 17, 2012

    great site gives me a lot to learn im not good in shading

  • Faye

    Reply Reply October 17, 2012

    Ethan you explain how to do blending in terms that we can understand. I had tried previously to do it but it was not smooth and flowing like his. Thank you..

  • Nadiya

    Reply Reply October 13, 2012

    Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply October 13, 2012

      Yes, of course! Please feel free to share anything on this site with all your friends. Thank you.

  • Johnathon Mckeithan

    Reply Reply October 5, 2012

    Perfect. Thank you.

  • Robert Devoll

    Reply Reply October 3, 2012

    As we say in England – spiffing! Great work!

  • Xochitl

    Reply Reply October 1, 2012

    Wow! Great teaching skills..i recently got interested in drawing and i am sure i will learn alot from you..Thanks!! I will start practicing tomorrow!

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply October 1, 2012

      Thank you Xochiti,
      Nice to have you join us.

  • Deborah Duffield

    Reply Reply September 29, 2012

    Will be practicing tomorrow! I have read Lee Hammonds book and she has you make the dark cast shadow and then take the tortillion and gradually blend to the light area. I like yours better in that you place the lines from dark to light and then blend them.


  • Ton

    Reply Reply September 28, 2012

    Gostei muito!!!

  • Sabina

    Reply Reply September 22, 2012

    Realy interesting, I like it.

  • Van Ubl

    Reply Reply September 20, 2012

    I just want to tell you that I’m beginner to weblog and truly enjoyed your blog site. Probably Iโ€™m going to bookmark your blog post . You definitely have awesome articles and reviews. Thanks a lot for revealing your blog site.

  • Hermes Belts

    Reply Reply September 17, 2012

    I have recently started a site, the info you provide on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time & work.

  • Joaquin a perez

    Reply Reply September 16, 2012

    Thank you may bien me gusta

  • Irwin Keitt

    Reply Reply September 14, 2012

    Helps me. I was looking for that. i get an error but i think its a firefox error but ill throw it out there just in case.

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply September 14, 2012

      Hi, can you tell me more about what kind of problem you are having? Thank you.

  • Jana

    Reply Reply September 12, 2012

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow!

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply September 12, 2012

      You are welcome! Thanks for watching.

  • marlene

    Reply Reply September 9, 2012

    Very helpful

  • Danielle

    Reply Reply September 8, 2012

    Love it!

  • Jazzie

    Reply Reply September 8, 2012

    good so far

  • tony bawden

    Reply Reply September 7, 2012

    enjoing it so far .great videos

  • Jayson Herrera

    Reply Reply September 7, 2012

    Wow this actually helped alot.

  • Micheline van der Beken

    Reply Reply September 7, 2012

    This is the most helpful drawing lesson I have come across in years – it is simple, doable and the results are tenfold more satisfying than most book and video advice on shading. Thank you so much, Ethan Smith, for sharing this knowledge.

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply September 7, 2012

      Wow, you have know idea how much I appreciate that. Thanks you Micheline!

  • Dennis Woods

    Reply Reply September 6, 2012

    Great info, Thank you

  • john bentley

    Reply Reply September 6, 2012

    very good tutorial

  • Jazlin

    Reply Reply September 6, 2012

    I liked the theory of light and shadow, gradual blending, and its translation from the sphere to the shading of the nose.

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply September 6, 2012

      I think you’re really going to like tomorrow’s lesson then, Jazlin. Thanks for watching.

  • sue holland

    Reply Reply September 6, 2012

    liking it thanks

    • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

      Reply Reply September 6, 2012

      Thanks for the LIKE, Sue!

  • Hermes Spencer

    Reply Reply September 1, 2012

    You are a very bright person!

  • Ethan [My Drawing Tutorials]

    Reply Reply September 21, 2012

    lol, I like your sense of humor ๐Ÿ™‚

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