5 Tips to Enhance Shading in Anime/Manga Art
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Use a variety of pencils for different shades
  2. How to create texture with shading
  3. Use light sources to guide shading
  4. How to blend shades for smooth transitions
  5. Use shading to add depth and dimension

Ever puzzled over how to add that extra dash of realism and depth to your anime or manga artwork? Don't fret, you're not alone. The key lies in mastering the art of shading. Let's discover together how to enhance shading in your anime and manga drawings. Our journey starts with the humble pencil, a powerful tool in the hands of an artist.

Use a Variety of Pencils for Different Shades

One of the simplest ways to improve shading in anime/manga is by using a range of pencils, each offering a unique shade. Let's break down this idea:

The Pencil Spectrum

From 9H to 9B, pencils offer a spectrum of shades. H pencils give you lighter shades, perfect for areas hit by light. On the other hand, B pencils provide darker shades, ideal for shadows and depth. Here's a quick guide:

  • H Pencils (Hard): These range from H to 9H. The higher the number, the lighter the shade. Use them for sketching and light shading.
  • B Pencils (Black): These range from B to 9B. The higher the number, the darker the shade. Use them to add depth and shadows.

How to Choose Your Pencil

Choosing the right pencil can feel like a daunting task, but you can make a smart choice based on your shading needs. For instance, if you wish to create a subtle shadow, opt for a lighter B pencil like a 2B. For deeper and more intense shadows, you might reach for a 6B or higher. It's all about understanding the effect you want to achieve and picking the pencil that can help you get there.

Experiment and Practice

Every artist has their unique style and preference. Don't shy away from experimenting with different pencils and techniques. Sure, it might take time to find your comfort zone, but that's part of the fun in learning how to improve shading in anime/manga. So, go ahead, try different pencils, and with a bit of practice, you'll start to see a distinct improvement in your shading skills.

How to Create Texture with Shading

Creating convincing textures can add a whole new dimension to your anime/manga art. And guess what? Shading can be your best friend in this journey. Let's see how you can do this.

Understand the Texture

Before you start shading, it's important to understand the texture you want to create. Is it the silky smoothness of a character's hair or the rough grit of a brick wall? This understanding will guide your shading techniques.

Control Your Pressure

The pressure you apply to your pencil can affect the texture created. For example, lighter pressure can create a smooth texture, while heavier pressure can create a rougher texture. So remember, how to improve shading in anime/manga? The answer might be as simple as controlling your pencil pressure.

  • Smooth textures: For smooth textures like skin or silk, use a lighter hand and a B pencil for a soft, even shade.
  • Rough textures: For rough textures like wool or brick, use a heavier hand and an H pencil for a more textured shade.

Use Different Shading Techniques

Different shading techniques can create different textures. For example, hatching (drawing closely spaced parallel lines) can create a rough texture, while blending (smearing the pencil lines together) can create a smoother texture. Don't be afraid to mix and match techniques to create the texture you want!

Practice with Purpose

Creating texture with shading isn't something you'll master overnight. But with purposeful practice—focusing on different textures and shading techniques—you'll gradually see improvement. So pick up that pencil, embrace the learning process, and watch your anime/manga art come to life with texture and depth!

Use Light Sources to Guide Shading

Mastering the art of shading in anime/manga involves a lot more than just picking up a pencil and sketching away. One key aspect to consider is the source of light in your artwork. Let's explore how to use light sources to guide your shading.

Identify Your Light Source

The first step is to identify where the light in your scene is coming from. Is it a bright afternoon sun from above? A soft lamp light from the side? The direction and intensity of the light source will drastically affect your shading.

Shade According to the Light Source

Once you've pinpointed the light source, you can start adding the shadows. Here's a simple rule: the parts of your subject that are closer to the light will be lighter, and those further away will be darker. This approach will lend a sense of realism to your artwork and is a fundamental aspect of how to improve shading in anime/manga.

  • Light areas: These are the parts of your subject that are directly hit by light. Keep these areas lightly shaded or even completely white.
  • Shadow areas: These are the parts that are blocked from the light. Use darker shades here.

Consider the Shadow's Shape and Size

It's not only about where the shadows are but also how they look. The shape and size of the shadows depend on the angle and distance of the light source. A light source closer to the subject will create long, sharp shadows, while a distant light source will create softer and shorter shadows.

Remember the Reflections

Finally, don't forget about reflected light. Even in the shaded areas, some light might bounce back onto the subject from surrounding surfaces. This will create subtle variations in the shadow, making your shading even more realistic.

By using light sources to guide your shading, you'll not only enhance the depth and dimension in your anime/manga art but also create a more immersive and believable world for your characters to inhabit.

How to Blend Shades for Smooth Transitions

When it comes to improving shading in anime/manga, creating smooth transitions between light and shadow is key. Let's dive into how you can blend shades for a seamless transition that adds depth and realism to your art.

Choose the Right Tools

The tools you use can greatly impact the smoothness of your transitions. For anime/manga art, graphite pencils, charcoal or even blending stumps can be great choices. Don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you!

Start with Light Pressure

Blending is all about creating a gradual transition from light to dark. Start by applying light pressure with your pencil for the lighter areas, gradually increasing the pressure as you move into the darker ones. This will ensure a smooth transition and help avoid harsh lines.

Use the Right Technique

There are a few techniques you can use to blend your shades smoothly:

  • Circular motion: This involves making small, tight circles with your pencil. It's a great technique for blending without leaving any visible lines or marks.
  • Cross-hatching: This technique involves drawing a series of intersecting sets of parallel lines. It's perfect for creating textured shadows in your anime/manga art.
  • Gradient fill: This method involves gradually decreasing or increasing the spacing between your lines to create a smooth gradient effect.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Like any other skill, blending shades smoothly takes practice. So, don't get discouraged if your first few attempts don't look perfect. The more you practice, the better you'll get at it, and soon you'll be creating smooth transitions like a pro!

By mastering the art of blending, you'll significantly improve shading in your anime/manga art, creating softer transitions and more lifelike images. So, grab your pencils and start practicing!

Use Shading to Add Depth and Dimension

Now that we've covered blending, let's shift our focus to how shading can add depth and dimension to your anime/manga art. Shading is not just about making parts of your drawing darker; it's a tool to make your art pop out from the page. Let's explore some techniques to help you add depth and dimension through shading.

Understand Form and Structure

Before you start shading, it's important to understand the form and structure of what you're drawing. Is it a round object? Does it have sharp edges? These characteristics will dictate where the shadows and highlights go. So spend a bit of time studying your subject before you even pick up your pencil.

Consider the Angle of Light

Light doesn't fall evenly on all parts of an object. Some parts will be brighter and some will be darker. The direction and angle of the light source will determine where these bright and dark areas are. Imagine a light source and how it hits your subject. The parts facing the light will be brighter, and the parts away from the light will be darker. Simple, right?

Create a Value Scale

A value scale is a gradient of shades from light to dark. By creating a value scale, you can easily see the different shades you need to use to create depth and dimension in your drawing. It's a handy tool to have by your side while you're shading.

Apply Your Shading Gradually

Start with your lightest shades and gradually add darker shades. This will help you maintain control over your shading and prevent you from making areas too dark too quickly. Remember, it's easier to add more shading than it is to take it away!

Shading is a powerful tool to make your anime/manga art jump off the page. By understanding form, considering the light source, using a value scale, and applying your shading gradually, you can create depth and dimension that will take your art to the next level. So why not give it a try?

If you're looking to further improve your anime/manga art, especially in the area of shading, we recommend checking out Carolina Vázquez's workshop, 'How to Bring Your Illustrations to Life.' This workshop will provide you with even more techniques and guidance on how to enhance your illustrations and make them truly stand out.