I've been trying to find a good technique for shading. I have the most trouble with shading faces. I do cross hatching and then use a stump to blend it, but it usually ends up being too dark and you can see the lines still. The lightest pencils I have are H, so would getting lighter pencils help with that?
If there's a better way to do this, I would love to hear it!
Take a look at this You Tube demonstration:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NbUfrp2OJ0This artist is suggesting the use of a bristle brush rather than a stump for shading. He employs a kneaded eraser as a part of the process.
Here are a few random thoughts on this:
The paper can play a big role in any pencil drawing. You might experiment with different types of paper. Hard papers like Strathmore plate finish can produce dark crisp blacks.
I feel it is best to slowly build-up tonal areas, especially in portraits. As you begin to indicate subtle contours, do so lightly. Make a chart of small squares from black to white to use as a tone guide as you are working.
It sounds like you are trying to produce smooth tonal areas similar to a photo. There is nothing wrong with that. There has been some amazing work created in that manner. However, keep in mind that a drawing can loose some of its charm as it starts looking less like a drawing. Seeing the pencil lines of a drawing is not something bad. The video indicated above may offer a way to produce blending and still look like a drawing.
Look at the drawings of Michelangelo. You can see how he builds up the tonal areas with directional strokes and then he comes in with cross strokes to capture subtitles of contour and value. In some of his drawings I can almost see him working. I doubt if Mike ever used a stump. Well, maybe.
The trick with shading is that you want to be very light and delicate in the beginning and then graduall bump up the values as you progress. Don't rush anything. I generally make light lines in one direction and build up the value until it's the darkness I want and then I generally blend with a blending stump. Then after I've used the stump for awhile u can use it to put in light to medium values without even using a pencil. The key here is delicacy. Don't make any rash changes unless you are experienced and know what the outcome will be before u do it. Trial and error is the name of the game. Hope that helped a bit. Take care!