I always start by shading the face first. It’s the most important part of the drawing,
so if you mess up now, it's still not too late to start over. I like to use mechanical
pencils in 0.5 mm and 0.9 mm for the details, and a variety of regular pencils for
covering larger, less detailed areas. To find out more about the brands I like to
work with visit the Materials section.
I define the shadows lightly with a 2B pencil, and then darken them to desired Intensity
by adding more layers and blending to a smooth finish (more on blending later). Here
I've pretty much finished the face (I may come back to it later though) and started
working on the neck and hair. I don't use a gazillion different grades of
pencil for my graphite drawings; I only use 2H, HB, 2B, 6B (for the darkest areas),
and 4H (for those really subtle, barely there shadows). I also use 4H for softening
the darkest parts.
I also use a variety of smudging tools when I shade: rolled-up paper stumps, tortillons,
q-tips, but more often just my fingers. Yes, I know technically it’s a no-no: our
skin contains oils that can affect the drawing. However, I find to be much more in
control when I use my fingers, and the results far better than those achieved with
other tools. If you choose to use your fingers for blending, make sure they are always
as clean as possible. I keep a jar of water and a towel next to me so I can clean
my hand frequently throughout the process.
I also use a sheet of paper under my pencil hand to prevent unnecessary mess. The
graphite residue can get onto your skin and get tracked all over the surface, soiling
the drawing. The sheet doesn't prevent this completely, but it does diminish the
mess, since graphite doesn't cling to it as much as it does it skin. If any smudging
does get into the areas that are supposed to be light, I just get out my good old
friend kneaded eraser. It gets rid of the mess easily and without the annoying residue
regular rubber erasers are infamous for.