Art Lessons with Lianne

Blending Graphite - for smooth looking skin

This Tutorial will teach you about circulism which is a technique i use for smooth looking skin. I particularly use this technique on women and on children... I only use it as a base for men's skin... further steps are needed to create a more rough, pore marked,masculine and stubble textured look for men.


 The skin on each of the portraits above as well as the other drawings in my portfolio were created using a technique known as Circulism. Circulism was invented by Maggie Toole in 1992 and is now a very popular technique amongst Graphite and coloured pencil artists alike. 


The idea behind Circulism is that there are no solid lines at all... rather - the technique uses varied, unending, overlapping and entwining circles... one on top of another to build up transparent layers of graphite. If used the correct way the viewers eye merges these layers of circles into realistic looking, smooth but imperfect shades of human skin.


You can see from this picture how I lay down the graphite in the first layer. At this stage it just looks like scribble. The scribbles don't need to be perfect. Hold the pencil very lightly, don't push down, let the weight of the pencil work the graphite onto the page for you. Carry on in this way until you have built up layers of these circles. the more layers you use the darker the shaded area will look.


In the picture above you can see how easy it is to transition from light to dark shading with no hard lines using this technique. The depth has been achieved without having to press down on the paper. The lighter area on the left has less layers than the darker area on the right.  The transition isn't perfect, just like its not perfect on skin. Pores and facial discrepancies interrupt the transition, however, just like skin, when seen from a distance the transition looks smooth however imperfect.


Once i am happy with the amount of layers I have put down, I then take a cotton wool bud and blend using the same circular motion, as demonstrated above. This ensures that the skin remains smooth but imperfect. You can of course at more layers on top of this and then blend again until you have achieved the desired effect. NEVER EVER blend using your finger. The natural oils in your skin will absorb into the paper and muddy your artwork.

Artists often make the mistake of trying to achieve absolutely perfect blending when drawing skin, but in reality skin is not like this. perfect shading will only serve to make your picture look cartoony and unreal. Circulism creates the flawed but smooth effect and that is why it is one of the most favoured skin blending techniques used by most portrait artists around the world.

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