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Learning Resources: Exploring Line and Shading

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Learning Resources: Exploring Line and Shading

CMA Artist in Residence Noormah Jamal shares her line and shading lesson.

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This lesson is an introduction to drawing with graphite pencils. You will practice controlling line quality and to learn the differences between hard and soft pencils. You will also learn about B, HB, and H pencils, focusing on how pencil each affects your drawing. 


  • Pencils of various hardnesses (4H-6B) 

  • Drawing Paper 

  •  Erasers 

  • Pencil Sharpeners 


Step 1: Line Practice 

On the right side of the worksheet, fill in the first square with horizontal lines. Select a drawing pencil and fill in the square with as many lines as you can. Vary the horizontal lines by changing your speed and pressure. Feel the uniqueness of each line and how it changes with your movement and pressure. Try a pencil of a different hardness and note the differences. Does it write lighter or darker? 

When the first square is filled in, repeat the process in square 2; this time with vertical lines. 

Afterwards, fill in square 3 with diagonal lines. 

Step 2: Shading Techniques 

Move on to the shading boxes.

 In box 4, draw horizontal lines from the top of the box to the bottom. Try to make your lines start out darker at the top and gradually get lighter as the reach the bottom of the page. 

Step 3: Gradient Lines 

In the final box, your challenge is to create horizontal lines that smoothly transition from light to dark. The goal in this step is to practice controlling your pressure when drawing. 

Step 4: Pencil Maintenance and Understanding Hardness

Use sharpeners to keep your pencils sharp for precision. 

Pay attention to how different pencil types (H, HB, B) affect your drawing. This knowledge will guide you in choosing the right pencil for the desired effect. Through these exercises, you’re not just learning techniques; you’re learning to express yourself through every stroke!

Noormah’s Notes

When, drawing with graphite, pencil hardness is key.  Hardness determines how much graphite is deposited on the paper. ‘H’ pencils, being harder, produce lighter lines and are great for fine details.  Moving towards ‘B’, pencils get softer and darker, allowing for bolder lines. ‘HB’ pencils strike a balance, suitable for general drawing and writing. 

Understanding these grades helps artists achieve varied textures and tones. Initially, some students may hesitate to fully engage, concerned about the literal aspect of staying ‘within the box’. It’s crucial to emphasize that the primary focus is on the process rather than perfection. 

Encouraging students to move their hands freely, experiment with different pencils, and give their best effort takes precedence over strictly adhering to the confines of the boxes. The aim is to foster a sense of exploration and personal expression in their drawing practice. 

Examples From the Field:

Fifth Graders at Children’s Workshop School, NYC


Noormah Jamal at Children's Workshop School

Patterns and Pop Art

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