16 January 2011

Shades of (very subtle) grey

Kit's 2011 Calendar - January (so far)...

I made a fun discovery regarding shading, while playing with Nzeppel on my 2011 Tangle Calendar... which, of course, I'm going to tell you all about!


I like to use rolled paper tortillons to push my pencil shading around the paper. Tortillons have a firm tip that I find doesn’t need to be sharpened or reshaped as often as the paper stumps I've used in the past, and they’re so cheap I buy them one gross (144) at a time on eBay. The tortillons I buy are quite short, so I mount them in a pencil extender for more comfortable use. (I have used Amazon links for each of these items, so that you can see an image for each tool, but there are heaps of these items on eBay, and the latest Zentangle® kit I ordered came with a rolled paper tortillon in it.)

2011 Calendar: 

I have started a ‘one square a day’ tangle calendar this year, inspired by AC's beautiful calendar. I bought a lovely blank calendar, to which I add one tangle a day (my one and only New Year’s resolution for 2011). Mine is a blank, acid free "Keep a Memory" Do-it-yourself calendar. But, if you'd like a lovely, Zentangle inspired, blank calendar of your own, there is still one of these beauties left (at time of posting) from Open Seed Arts on Etsy!

Now, as they say in children's books, "on with the story…"

Shading Trick: 

On the 2nd of January, I decided to do a square of Nzeppel. When I had finished my tangle, I wanted to add a very light and floaty effect for such a small space, so I was loath to add too much pencil shading, which may have resulted in too much grey and too little contrast. So, as I was thinking about what to do next, I dabbed at the page with my tortillon ...a Eureka moment!!

The tortillon left a delicate, soft, light-grey shading mark on the page – just by dabbing it directly on to the paper (no pencil)!

I shaded the rest of Nzeppel using the same technique – and was very happy with the result.

There was enough graphite sitting on the end of the rolled paper tip of the tortillon to leave a lovely delicate shading and, when it began to fade away to nothing, I just ‘topped it up’ by running the tortillon tip along my pencil tip a couple of times. 

Initially, I suspected this would work best on the super smooth paper of the calendar… but I tried it on a Zentangle tile and it worked very nicely there too!

Thanks to Linda Farmer for encouraging me to tell this little story -
I would recommend all tanglers to read the tanglepatterns.com article about shading!
You can find more brilliant examples and shading suggestions at Mel's blog: Lone Creature.  Check it out to explore the differences between blending (or not), pencils of different softness, shading with white on dark cardstock/paper, shading using your Micron, and how to provide a sense of depth, shape, and 'outline' without using outlines at all. 

Phine has posted some great visual examples of shading techniques here. Check it out!

And yet more shading fun here at stART's blog - I'm going to find my Copic markers and give it a go!


  1. Great post about shading! This was my theme for todays post too ;-) .
    I often use the graphitrests sitting on the top to shade a very light grey scale…
    Thanks for the tip of buying them on ebay. Will have a look for it!

  2. Thanks for the post on shading and showing how it looks. I find that shading is the hardest part for me. I'm forever looking for examples on how others have shaded patterns.

  3. Great tip, and thanks for the Etsy shout out. I hope you post your calendar meanderings as you go. I't lots of fun!

  4. I am still trying to brave enough to shade. I am always afraid that I will "screw" up the whole thing if I shade "wrong." I appreciate the tips...

  5. @Phine: love your shading post - great contrasts!
    @JJ: keep playing with shadows - soon enough you'll get a feel for it (I ask myself, "If I were a shadow, where would I be?" - much to my partner's amusement).
    @Carole: if I'd seen yours before I'd bought mine (wistful sigh)... I'm surprised there was still one left, actually. Next year I'll have an official Open Seed Arts calendar. [grin] And, yep - I'll post each month as it's done. I ♥ that I'll end up with twelve banners at the end (thinking blog headings!).
    @Cat: look at your tile from all angles, turn it around... see if you can see which tangles seem to go over or under the others next to them... anything that goes 'underneath' will have a shadow on it where it disappears under the tangle next door. Or you can imagine a light shining from a corner of your tile and shade wherever the light can't reach (if that makes sense?). I'm not very good at describing the process, because I tend to do it rather instinctively myself.

  6. Hi Kit, thanks for the bundle of tortillions, they leave a beautiful smooth finish to shading. Tangles seem to come alive with a touch of shade!

  7. Hey, just seeing if this comment actually works. I learned from an amazing art teacher David Kittler that if you use the lead shavings from a technical pencil sharpener, dip a cotton puff into the lead, tap off and gently rub on the surface you wish to shade. Gives a very subtle and lovely effect.

  8. Thanks for posting this information about shading, Kit. Your calendar is looking pretty spiffy - lovely examples of patterns and shading!

  9. i never heard about tortillion ! i might try to make one! very nice shading !thanks for sharing !

  10. I'm glad you shared. It's by sharing that we all expand our skills and our artistic worlds become larger. NB - this works very nicely with soft charcoal, too!

  11. So glad that our paths have crossed! Thanks for following my blog and listing it on your side bar - very kind!
    Enjoyed reading this post. I have yet to really add any shading to a zentangle. So this information will be very helpful

  12. Thanks for sending me this link, Kit. I am going to try this technique :)


All comments welcome...