In this post, we will demonstrate how to draw a dog using graphite pencils. As always, starting with the appropriate tools is essential to successful artwork. For this particular piece, I have used a pencil sharpener to create graphite powder for shading, a mechanical eraser, a blending stump, a facial tissue or cotton swab, and graphite pencils (2B, H, H3/H4 and HB). Let’s look at some of these tools in detail.
Shading with Graphite Powder:
With a pencil sharpener, you can make graphite powder from your range of graphite pencils. I made a powder from 2B graphite pencils for the darker areas of my sketch, and powder from an H graphite pencil for the lighter shades. It is important to try to avoid touching the sketch with your fingers, as graphite will leave a visible fingerprint. To help, you can spread the graphite powder on your page in even circles with a tissue (Kleenex) to give a more even shade. You can also use a piece of paper when laying your arm over the paper to avoid smudging your work.
You can “draw” with an eraser over shaded areas using a simple eraser that has been cut with a knife for a sharper edge or with a mechanical eraser like the one seen below. Additionally, some artists use a kneaded eraser which can be molded in different shapes to allow for more flexibility.
When you draw with graphite pencils the work will typically look rough, even when it’s drawn on the smoothest paper. Using a blending stump is good way to soften the look of your drawing. In the image below you can see the lower portion of the image looks smoother as it is blended with blending stump, compared to the choppy, rough look of the shading on the top of the image. Blending stumps can also be used to draw objects that are hardly visible and need just a very light shadow. They are made from paper and are really cheap, useful and long lasting; a necessary item in any artist’s toolbox!
To begin the dog sketch I have used the below photo as a reference. My sketch is not a direct replica of this photo, but more a variation.
As a starting point, draw a guide outline of the dog and try to make it as proportional as possible. Take your time drawing the sketch as this serves as the base of your drawing and needs to be good. When drawing outlines, use lighter graphite pencils that will be easy to erase, such as H shades. You don’t want to leave any trace of the outline as you work your way through your sketch and begin to shade.
Using a facial tissue, spread the darker graphite powder all over the background (2B powder). If you like, you can even put pieces of paper over the dog to avoid getting dark powder on it. Make small and large circles when spreading the graphite until you get a consistent texture.
Next, gently spread graphite with a tissue over the dog where it is meant to be shadowed. For lighter parts you can use a cotton swab and lighter graphite (H powder). Some areas you can press harder or lighter and this will make darker and lighter shadows. It is preferable to practice this type of shading on scratch paper so you can see how it behaves. All in all, the shading can always can be erased and improved; we are just building the foundation at this stage.
With a 2B pencil, start to draw the darkest parts of the dog, adding in features to define the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. First, draw them with lighter pencils and press lightly. Once you are happy with the initial lines, draw over them with darker pencils to add depth. I always recommend drawing first with an H pencil, particularly if you are not 100% comfortable with your initial outline. Then, press hard with a 2B pencil and go over the areas twice to get a very dark color. Draw the pupils of the dog, but be sure to leave areas of the eyes untouched to demonstrate the shining of the eyes. Draw the nostrils and the parts of the nose where light is not reflecting. You can also draw any other parts of the tongue and ears that are in shadow.
Now we’re starting to look like a dog! With a 2B pencil, add any remaining detail that is not particularly dark, yet darker than the base shading of the dog’s fur. Draw the fur around the dog’s eyes and the fur that is in shadow. Sometimes I prefer to use a dark gray colored pencil instead, as unlike graphite pencils, colored pencils are not shiny. Caution: draw very carefully with colored pencils because they cannot be erased. Now, with the HB pencil draw the rest of the nose, keeping in mind to leave lighter areas where light may be reflecting.
With H pencils draw the irises of the eyes, leave white for light reflection to achieve a realistic look. Draw the rest of the nose with H pencils and blend the edges of light and dark to achieve a smoother nuance. Don’t forget to shade the rest of its tongue with graphite on a tissue.
Now with an H3 or H4 pencil, draw any remaining fur using short lines in one direction. The dog’s face has very short hair with little detail, so you don’t have to draw it, but be sure to add shadows where appropriate. As you can see, the light falls over the dog from the right, so the left side of the dog’s head and body should be much darker than the right.
Finally, as explained in the introduction, go over the highlighted parts of the fur with an eraser to add a 3D look. Be sure to leave only the shine in the dog’s eyes absolute white, every other nuance is gray. Therefore, after erasing the parts where you want highlight, be sure you have gone back and lightly shaded to give the appropriate blended look.
Isn’t it so cute! It’s always fun to draw animals, especially your own. These techniques can be used on many different animals, not just dogs. So play with shading on scratch paper until you obtain the desired effect, and have fun drawing you own pets or other animals in the future!
Here is a time-lapse video that the wonderful artist Jasmina made for us here at thingstodraw.org:
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