Top Tips Series 2: Graham Bradshaw – Feb 2013

Graham Bradshaw returns with some more fantastic tips for drawing in graphite.


These days pencil artists are using techniques which make pencil lines disappear & as a result you get a much more photo realistic look to your portrait. We use tools such as torillons, cotton buds or even tissue paper. Some artists use graphite dust & paint brushes; this is known as the dry brush technique. Personally I use tortillons so this is the method I’ll explain in more detail.

A tortillon is otherwise known as a blending or paper stump which is made of compressed rolled up paper & used to blend graphite after you’ve applied it to an area. To get the best results you’ll need to apply the pencil as smooth as possible keeping your strokes close together (fig1).



Whilst doing this you’ll have to also create the shade & depth you need for the specific area which is not only done by the grade of pencil you’re using but also the pressure you apply to the pencil (this does of course take practice & can only be determined by the artist’s eye & ability). Once you’re happy with the rendered area use the blending stump in a circular motion to smear the graphite (fig2). Use as little pressure as possible to begin with then gradually build it up to a nice smooth area. Be careful of graphite build up on your tortillon because you’ll soon find it will no longer

be effective. You can either clean it on a scrap piece of paper or more effectively on a piece of sand paper.



This method of rendering is really effective on skin tones, around eyes, noses & ears. I also use it for creating hair which appears blurred & out of focus.


Creating dark areas with a pencil always seems to become the topic of conversation whenever I upload images of my work online. Some artists use charcoal which is a great way of getting dark black areas without the graphite shine. They still consider themselves graphite artists which is fine, although in my opinion the drawing has now become mixed media. I have been thinking about using this method myself at some point but at present I use the dreaded 9B to create my dark areas. Using the 9B in such a way will always cause graphite shine unfortunately it’s unavoidable; I’m not going to lie. So the best way to deal with this is to try & control it the best you can by drawing in deep circular motions instead of scribbling long deep lines; this will help the appearance of the drawing when you look upon it directly (Fig1). Applying 9B to paper is very similar to the methods used by tattoo artists when applying colour & shading to skin; deep circular motions.


I will stress that without using charcoal or a black pencil this shine will always be the downside to using graphite pencil.



Graham will be back next week with another set of top tips. Visit Graham’s website for more inspiration.

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