5 Techniques for Stunning Surrealist Drawing Shading
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Technique 1: Use of Light and Dark
  2. Technique 2: Gradient Shading
  3. Technique 3: Cross-Hatching
  4. Technique 4: Stippling
  5. Technique 5: Contour Shading

Ever wondered how to improve shading in surrealism? Dive in as we journey into the world of surrealistic shading. We'll be exploring five incredible techniques that will instantly elevate your artwork, starting with the powerful play of light and dark.

Technique 1: Use of Light and Dark

One of the most effective ways to create depth and dimension in surrealistic drawings is through the use of light and dark. Believe it or not, this technique has the potential to dramatically transform your art pieces.

Understanding Light and Dark

Before we start, let's understand what we mean by light and dark. It's pretty simple: light areas are parts of your drawing where more light would naturally fall. Dark areas, on the other hand, are where shadows would appear. Here's how you can use them:

  • Light Areas: To create light areas, use soft, gentle strokes. It's like feathering your pencil on the paper. You can also use an eraser to lighten up some parts.
  • Dark Areas: For darker areas, apply more pressure to your pencil. The key here is to build up the darkness gradually. You can also use a softer pencil, like a 6B, to achieve a deeper shade.

Creating Contrast

Once you've got the hang of using light and dark, the next step is to create contrast. This is what gives a surrealistic drawing its 3D effect. Here's a fun tip: try using a combination of light and dark areas to highlight surreal elements in your drawing. For instance, if you're drawing a floating fish, you could make the fish darker and the surrounding areas lighter to make it pop.

Remember, the key to improving shading in surrealism lies in the balance and interplay of light and dark. So, don't be afraid to experiment and see what works best for your unique style.

Technique 2: Gradient Shading

Next on our list of how to improve shading in surrealism is gradient shading. This technique is all about creating a smooth transition from light to dark, mimicking the way light naturally interacts with objects. Let's explore more.

Mastering the Gradient

Creating a perfect gradient might seem daunting, but with a little practice, you'll get the hang of it. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Start Light: Begin with a light touch. The top of your gradient should be the lightest part.
  2. Build Darkness: Gradually increase the pressure on your pencil as you move down, making the bottom the darkest part.
  3. Smooth Transition: Ensure the transition from light to dark is seamless. You can achieve this by overlapping your pencil strokes.

Applying Gradient Shading in Surrealism

So, how does gradient shading come into play in surrealistic art? Well, it can be used to add realism to your surreal elements! Imagine a giant moon on a city street. Using gradient shading, you can make this moon glow with realistic light and shadow, making it a striking contrast to the city's flatness. The gradient helps create a surreal effect that feels tangible and believable.

Remember, gradient shading is all about subtlety and smooth transition. The better your gradient, the more realistic and surreal your artwork will look. So, keep practicing, and soon you'll be creating gradients like a pro!

Technique 3: Cross-Hatching

Our third shading technique on the journey to improve shading in surrealism is cross-hatching. This old-school method is all about creating texture and depth using intersecting lines. So, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of cross-hatching.

Getting the Hang of Cross-Hatching

Despite its complex look, cross-hatching is quite straightforward. Here's how you can start:

  1. First Layer: Start by drawing a series of parallel lines. This is your base layer.
  2. Second Layer: Draw another series of lines, but this time, make them intersect with your base layer at an angle. You've just created your first cross-hatch!
  3. Add Depth: Want to create a darker area? Add more layers of intersecting lines. The more layers, the darker the shading.

Using Cross-Hatching in Surrealism

Now, how can cross-hatching enhance your surreal artwork? Think of cross-hatching as a tool to create texture and depth. In a surreal drawing where a fish might be flying in the sky, using cross-hatching on the fish can give it a scaly texture, making it stand out against the smooth sky. It's the contrast between the hatch-marked fish and the smooth gradient sky that heightens the surreal effect.

With cross-hatching, not only can you control the level of darkness but also add a textural dimension to your work. It takes some patience and practice, but the results can be remarkable. So, pick up your pencil and start hatching!

Technique 4: Stippling

Our fourth stop on this surreal journey to master shading techniques is stippling. This technique calls for patience and precision, but the final outcome is worth every dot. So, are you ready to unravel the art of stippling?

Mastering the Art of Stippling

Stippling involves creating patterns and shades with dots, lots and lots of 'em! Here's how you do it:

  1. Start Small: Begin with small clusters of dots to create your light areas.
  2. Go Dense: Increase the density of your dots to create darker shades. Remember, the closer your dots, the darker the area.
  3. Practice Patience: This method might test your patience, but the detail and depth you can achieve are unparalleled.

Stippling in the Realm of Surrealism

When it comes to improving shading in surrealism with stippling, you're pretty much dotting your way to realism! Imagine a surreal landscape with a floating island. Use stippling to create a stipple-gradient in the sky, transitioning from dense dots at the top to sparse ones as you descend, creating an illusion of light emanating from the island.

The beauty of stippling in surrealism lies in its ability to create a sense of depth and texture through simple dots. So, if you're working on a surreal piece and want to add a unique touch to it, why not give stippling a shot? Remember, every dot counts!

Technique 5: Contour Shading

As we move towards the end of our journey, let's dive into the world of contour shading. It's like giving your surreal art a life of its own by adding dimensions. So, are you ready to give your artwork a 3D makeover?

The Basics of Contour Shading

Contour shading is all about understanding the shape and structure of your object. Here's how you can get started:

  1. Identify the Light Source: First, determine where the light is coming from. This will help you understand which parts of your drawing need to be lighter or darker.
  2. Follow the Form: Next, shade along the contours of your object. This will help to bring out the object's three-dimensionality.
  3. Smooth Transitions: Finally, make sure your shading transitions smoothly from light to dark, avoiding harsh lines.

Contour Shading in Surrealism

When you're looking for ways on how to improve shading in surrealism, contour shading can be your best friend. Imagine you're drawing a surreal creature. With contour shading, you can highlight the peculiar features of the creature, like the curves, edges, or any unique texture, accentuating the surreal and dreamlike quality of your drawing.

Contour shading allows you to play with light and shadow in a way that brings surrealism to life. So, the next time you pick up your pencil to create a surreal sketch, remember to add a dash of contour shading. It might just be the missing piece in your surreal shading puzzle!

If you're looking to further enhance your surrealist drawing skills, you might find the 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' workshop by Rachel Christopoulos helpful. While it focuses on acrylic painting, many of the techniques and concepts covered can also be applied to your surrealist drawings, allowing you to explore new shading methods and improve your overall artistry.