Hyper Real Skull Study in Pencil – Shading in the Background

In this session we will just be focusing on the background – shading it all in and darkening the shadow cast by the skull to make it start to pop off the page.

  • Using a soft leaded but sharp pencil, lightly shade in the background.
  • Try to keep your tone even.
  • An easy way to do this is to work in several lighter passes, rather than trying to go as dark as you can straight away.
  • If you see any light patches, just make them a bit darker to match the rest and eventually you will have a fairly smooth and darker background tone.
  • After you’ve added the general background tone, you can start to darken the cast shadow below the skull.
  • This will need to go as dark as possible right under the bottom of the skull, to help make the form pop off the background.
  • You can also start to soften the transition between this darker shadow and the rest of the background.
  • Remember! The further away the cast shadow is from an object the softer it will be (the technical term for this is ‘penumbra’).
  • That’s it! Your background is now blacked in and you can start working on the shadows in the skull.

The materials you will need for this course are:

  • Paper
  • Range of pencils (H, HB, B, 2B) – ideally a few mechanical pencils as well as regular ones.
  • Kneadable eraser

You can download the source image for the series here:



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