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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Shade in a Vintage Style

This post is part of a series called Learn How to Draw.
How to Draw a Crown
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Vintage illustrations, especially anatomical ones, have some magic in them—such a beautiful, complete shading is achieved with many thin lines. This style was developed to make the copying of drawings possible in a similar way to copying text. 

In this technique, called lithography, a drawing was created using a special "oily" pencil on a smooth stone. Later, the stone was etched with acid everywhere outside of the lines, and moistened. When the ink was applied to the whole surface, it stuck to the lines only, not to the wet stone. Now, a clean sheet of paper just had to be pressed to it to create a copy!

In this short tutorial, I will show you how to imitate this style, but I need to warn you: drawing in vintage style is like drawing a mandala. It's repetitive and you can't do it fast, but at the same time it makes the process very relaxing, because you need to stay focused. So you can use it as a meditation tool!

What You Will Need

If you're drawing traditionally, you'll need two things:

  • a thin (~0.1mm) ink liner
  • paper (preferably thick and textured)

If you're drawing digitally, pick a thin brush that has a little texture to it.

How to Shade in a Vintage Style

Step 1

Prepare a clean piece of line art. It should be drawn with very thin lines. If you want to follow this tutorial directly, you can draw your own skeleton.

skeleton line art

Step 2

Decide where you want to place your light source. Thicken the lines on the shadowed side.

skeleton side shaded

Step 3

Now, we're going to blend the darkness of these thick lines into the unshaded part. Draw a line right next to each thick line, optically widening the area of shadow. Draw slowly and carefully—be sure to follow the rhythm of that first line. Use this method for long parts only.

skeleton one line shading
one line shading skeleton full

Step 4

Draw another line, this time slightly farther. Lead this stroke very lightly—if your pen misses a part, creating a series of dots, it will only add to the authenticity.

skeleton two lines shading
two lines shading skeleton full

Step 5

Time for the last line. This time, draw it so lightly that it's not continuous at all. Let your pen "jump" in a natural way so that you barely touch the paper with it. This will create a nice blending.

skeleton three lines shading
three lines shading skeleton full

Step 6

To create a nice contrast, we can put some areas in complete shadow. Fill these areas with continuous lines placed very close to each other (the closer they are, the darker the shadow), mimicking the rhythm of the outline you're filling. Again, be slow and deliberate—this is the key to this style!

full shadow
full shadow full view

Step 7

Create some blending between these full-shadow areas and the rest, wherever necessary.

shadow blending
shadow blending full view

Step 8

We have shaded the long bones, but some elements are rounded and require a different approach. First, imagine the roundness—see the "sides" that you can shade. Then draw short, dense lines right next to the edge.

round shading
round shading full view

Step 9

As you go more towards the front, you can draw less densely, using slightly longer lines.

deeper round shading
deeper round shading full view

Step 10

As you finish, you can draw either not very dense, long lines (if it's full shadow), or non-continuous lines that will blend with the illuminated front.

complete round shading
complete round shading full view

Step 11

Now that the basic shading is established, copy its elements to other parts that are neither long nor round.

skull shading
pelvis shading
full skeleton shading

Step 12

Finally, if you want, you can add one more level of contrast by adding more lines in the darkest areas.

final shadows

Good Job!

Now you know how to shade in a vintage style! If you want to try other tutorials that involve ink liners, try one of these:

how to shade skeleton vintage style illustration
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