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Chameleon Pen shading tips and tricks

By Chameleon Art Products
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When it comes to shading, everyone has their own unique methods and techniques. Using a pen which can produce seamless color gradations and blending, like the Chameleon Pen in the video, can step your shadow and highlight game up a level instantly.

To begin with, we're going to show you which shading technique can be used to shade hair - but the principles apply to shading other things too (and a few are listed out further down this post). Let's see how, professional Manga artist, Sonia Leong uses her shading techniques to color the hair of her Manga character below. Depending on your artistic style, you may need to alter these tips slightly. Let's do this!


Choose a main base color & infuse

Portrait drawing of a woman with a hand in the foreground holding a Chameleon Pen

Basic first step - choose a color that isn't too light or dark to use as your main base.

Remember, Chameleon Pens work best shading light to dark. So, infuse the pen for a generous amount of time. In this case, maybe 5-10 seconds. The larger the area you're shading, the longer you want to hold the nib in the Mixing Chamber.


Cut across the middle locks for a nice highlight

Shading highlights using a Chameleon Pen

Like Sonia, you want to aim for a nice highlight which cuts across the middle of the locks of hair

From the middle of the lock of hair, begin shading towards the roots because the pen will start off with a lighter tone in the middle before the fully saturated color appears the closer you get to the roots.

No need to rush. Slow, short strokes are best here.


Quick tip: The easiest way to get smooth gradients is to take your time and color slowly in a side to side motion, slightly overlapping with your previous line. Make sure you go right to the edge of the section being colored with every stroke and keep your pen pretty upright. 


Repeat & reverse

Portrait of a woman which has been colored in using the technique of  shading highlights on the hair

Then, you want to do the exact same thing again. But this time, it's for the other half of the hair to finish coloring the same section.

So, infuse the Chameleon Pen for around 5-10 seconds again, then start coloring from the middle section of the hair and shade downwards away from the root, this time. The closer you get to the tips of the hair, the darker the color will get - which is what we're aiming for.

The aim of shading in this way is to make a highlight which starts wide in the top left and tapers thin as you go across towards the right side of the image.


Shade in remainder of the locks

Shading highlights using a Chameleon Pen on manga character

Remember to take your time and focus on one section at a time, just like Sonia has.

So, carry on shading by working on each lock at a time. That means you need to continue infusing the nib with the Mixing Chamber, start in the middle of the lock and work towards either the root or the tip where it becomes darker.

Once you've shaded like that, you should have something like this...

Shadow effects pen shading on a manga character drawing

As you can see, the middle sections on each of the hair locks are white. This is due to our light source being on the upper left hand side. It's important to take this into account because some sections of hair are going to be completely in shadow. This means you won't be shading them in like you will with the rest of the hair.

For the light source, imagine that there's light shining on the illustration: this helps with bringing your art to life, rather than making it look flat and uninteresting.


Shade remainder of hair with minimal highlights

Minimal highlights shading on a manga characters hair using a Chameleon Pen

To conclude this basic shading technique, finish off by shading in the rest of the hair. Again, slowly, with short strokes and following the quick tip above.

This section won't need as much infusion as the others, as it's furthest away from the light source so make it darker and more saturated (i.e. don't use the Mixing Chamber for as long or at all).

However, you can still advance this hair even further by adding textures with more Chameleon Pens.

Watch the video below to see how Sonia used different shading techniques to add more texture to the hair.

Oh... you thought that was it?

We're not going anywhere just yet. Sure, shading for hair is one thing but it can be different for other objects. Let's look at some examples of shading and how you can achieve similar results when using a Chameleon Pen.


3D shape shading

Sphere cast shadow using a Chameleon Pen

As you color from light to dark on a 3D shape like a sphere, go over the darkest areas numerous time to add more shading and therefore added dimension. By doing this, you're giving it a more true-to-life appearance. When coloring circular objects, it's best to use a crescent-like pen stroke - try repeatedly coloring in a letter 'U' shape.


Circular motion shading

Bear drawing being colored in using a brown Chameleon PenFrom our Violet the Bear tutorial

Another shading tip is to stay in one area and work light to dark. Try a circular motion technique to achieve this - as you can see above. What you'll need to do is dilute the nib in the Mixing Chamber until you get a light enough color, then begin working in a circular motion towards the darkest point. The further out you get when circling, the darker the color will be. Then use the Mixing Chamber again and repeat the process on a fresh bit of the paper.

The circular motion will create a textured feel.


Long blend shading for drawn out gradients

Leaf drawing created using a long blend shading effect with a Chameleon Pen

Try creating longer blends and achieve longer, smoother transitions by shading side to side with longer strokes across a wider area, as opposed to using shorter strokes shown in the initial example. In this case, you should overlap each pen stroke ever so slightly and be prepared to be super patient.

This is a great technique to practice and add to your coloring skillset.

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Get plenty more ideas, tips and tricks

Shading has many benefits and by following these tips and tricks, your work will come to life. Without shading, your drawings will look flat. It gives it more volume, form and generally a more vibrant finish that adds to the quality of your work. If you've tried the techniques in the post and unlocked your shading potential, share your work on #ChameleonPens or join in with the Chameleon Creative Community over on Facebook.

We've got loads more of these handy tips and artist tutorials for you to enjoy in a free unique guide.

Unlock Your Potential With Chameleon Pens Guide CTA

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