This mandala shading exercise turned out so large that I’ve split in into two parts. This week I’ll give you the template, gradation stages, simple instructions, and a supply list so you can give it a try.
Next week, I’ll show you how I shaded the mandala step by step.
Mandalas are geometric designs that represent the universe, unity, and the sacred center to some, but I chose the form for this exercise because I think they’re pretty, and because shading one is a fun way to sharpen your drawing skills.
Gradations Create Three Dimensional Form
Although it may seem like you’re just filling in the template outline like a coloring book or a paint by number set, you’ll have first hand knowledge of these drawing skills when you’re done with this exercise:
How to make consistent gradations.
How to see and create value.
Precise pencil control practice.
See how value creates depth.
See how gradated value creates form.
(You can learn more about drawing gradations here.)
Don’t Jump In Too Soon – Sketch It First
The mandala’s gradations run in different directions and are confusing (ask me how I know), so I made a rough sketch of my mandala to get a better idea about how to draw them. Sketching it also gave me a clue about the grades of pencils I needed to use. I suggest that you start with a sketch too.
A pre-sketch will help you plot out and practice these things:
1. Direction of gradation.
2. Point where gradation ends.
3. Values (Learn more about value.)
4. Grade, or hardness, of pencils needed.
The Template – Gentle Draftsmanship Required
Trace The Outline
- Use B or HB pencil.
- Make the outline light. If it’s too dark, the outline won’t blend into the shading.
- Your tracing will be wobbly and need correction if you’re a human and not a robot, so clean it up afterward with French curves and a ruler.
Draw the outline gently. Trace it from the computer screen or print it and use a bright window as a back light for tracing, but however you do it don’t press too hard and dent the paper. If you do, the gradations will skip over those embossed lines and you’ll have a heck of a time getting rid of them. (Once again, ask me how I know!)
Here are the shading stages:
These images show you how the complete shading would look by itself in each stage so that you can see where the gradations begin and end, what shape they are, and how their angles and directions run.
Here’s how each stage will look as you shade it in around the other parts of the mandala.
The supply links below take you to Dick Blick, who is my affiliate sponsor. I’ve been ordering my art supplies from them for over twenty years, so I can vouch for ‘em.
Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pads – I use this paper a lot because it can take a lot of erasing and has enough tooth to hold deep values. It has a medium rough surface that could be challenging for beginners drawing this mandala though.
Canson Classic Cream Drawing Pad – This paper is smoother and not quite as tough as Strathmore 400 drawing paper, but it’s an inexpensive paper that would work well for this exercise, and it would be a good choice for beginners.
Staedtler Mars Lumograph Drawing Set – In this set, you get all the pencils grades needed to shade the mandala plus a small sharpener and a plastic eraser. These are very good quality drawing pencils.
Design Kneaded Rubber Erasers – I order several erasers in the small size at the same time because they become dirt magnets when they hit the floor, they stick to the bottoms of shoes and get squashed beyond recognition, and every creature in our house loves to carry them off when I’m not looking.
Helix Automatic Cordless Eraser – You’ll need an electric eraser for precise and thorough erasing inside and around the mandala. This one is inexpensive, so buy some eraser refills while you’re at it.
C-Thru Set of French Curves - I have this set of French Curves and I use them a lot. When a curve needs to be as perfect as I can make it, or when I’m working with any geometric shape, they always save me a lot of time and frustration.
Until next week, happy drawing!