How to shade a drawing (Light & Shadow : Part 2)

by Will Kemp

in drawing

finished apple drawing tutorial

In this light and shadow series we look at the theory, drawing and painting of a simple form focusing on shadow, light and edges.

in Part 1 we looked at the theory of light and shadow.

This week we’re going to put pencil to paper and see how the theory works in a simple pencil drawing of an apple…

Understanding your light source

The different characteristics of the light hitting an object can completely change its appearance.

For this demonstration I’ve created a lighting set up using one single light source which gives us a predicable fall of light.

This set up demonstrates each distinct area to be aware of, exaggerating the widest tonal range and when you’re a beginner it’s the simplest way to see the difference between the tones.

My lamp has a diffuser on it called a Softbox.

The Softbox gives us the fall of light we’re after, yet slightly softer edges on the shadows.

Why?

One of the key lessons from this demonstration I want you to come away with, is to understand the importance of soft edges in your drawings.

lighting a still life

 Softbox single source lighting set up in my studio

The importance of Hard & Soft edges

An edge is where two objects or two surfaces meet together.

The term a ‘hard edge’ can describe two very hard surfaces, such as a tabletop with a metal cube on top of it or most commonly in drawing, we talk about the hard edge being an area that has a sharpness to it or a focal point of the drawing.

So, it could be a crisp line to indicate changes in shape or angularity.

Or it could be an area of high contrast (light and dark) to draw the viewer’s attention.

A ‘soft edge’ is more flowing or fluid and tends to be more low contrast. Soft edges suggest the idea of roundness and a gradual transition.

In photography, lighting can often be called hard light or soft light. Hard light is harsh light so creates strong shadows and harder edges.

Soft light is very diffused, creating softer shadows and softer edges. So if you wanted to photograph somebody in the most flattering light, you would have soft light. If you want to increase the dramatic quality of the scene you would use a hard light.

This one piece of information that can drastically alter your drawings and paintings.

So as we go through the next demo, I’ll indicate the areas to keep soft and the areas to keep sharper.

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make in drawing, is keeping all of the edges the same – most commonly, all of the edges are kept sharp and crisp.

If you can learn to alter the weight of line and to incorporate more soft edges in your drawings, it will make a massive difference to the realism and style of your work.

Shadow Edge

Below are two photographs to illustrate the subtle differences in the shadow strengths when I altered the lighting slightly.

The first one used direct sunlight, because it’s not diffused it has created a harder, more solid shadow line and cast shadow.

Also see how you can judge the angle of the sun via the length of the cast shadow and the bright highlight.

direct sunlight

Low angle, hard lighting from direct sunlight.

The second one used a slightly higher lighting position with a softer light creating a softer cast shadow edge.

appledrawingreferencephoto

High, softer diffused lighting from a single light source Softbox

The image above is the final reference image I’ll use for this demonstration.

It can be ‘right clicked’ and ‘Save image as’, so you can use it as a reference for your drawing.

Home Set up

A small table lamp without a shade is a good choice for setting up your still life at home, if you want to work from life, rather than the photograph above.

An opaque bulb will give you a light source inbetween the two examples above. O.k – you won’t have a diffuser to mimic a Softbox – but it won’t be as hard as direct sunlight either.

Simplifying your drawings by mapping the shadows

Before we get started on the main event, here’s a really quick way of practicing looking for the shadow line.

Don’t underestimate its importance because of its simplicity.

It’s often the first sketch that is the most effective at conveying the sense of form rather than an overworked, detailed drawing.

However, working with pencil, subtleties can get added into the scene (that are there) too early on and the simple distinction between light and dark gets lost.

During this exercise you have to make a clear distinction between light and dark because you are using a pen – helping to prevent the separation becoming muddled.

Pro tip: Working with a permanent marker pen is the best method I’ve found for practicing this technique. It forces you to make a clean decision in your mind before committing pen to paper.

shadow mapping drawing

This sketch is based on the Cézanne painting from last week. I’m using a black, fine line gel pen. This one is 0.5 mm from Muji.

I sketch out the outline of the object and then put in both the cast shadow and the shadow line.

mapping the shadows

I can then indicate the shadow side by hatching lines with the pen.

pen drawing techniques

I’m keeping the lines evenly spaced and changing the direction of them, depending on the direction of the form. Notice how all of the cast shadows on the table are hatched in the same direction.

cast shadow line drawing

I then draw in any darker accents on the bottom of the objects.

cast shadow pen

And once I’m confident with the general shapes and shadow patterns, I work with a thicker pen (this is a Staedler whiteboard marker) to indicate the very darkest cast shadows within the drawing.

shadow mapping darks

So now I have three tones, the lights, the form shadows and the cast shadows.

line drawing sketch

This has just given me a really good idea of the shadow patterns within the scene. It can be a great exercise to do if you’re out in bright sunlight as you can get really distinct shadow shapes.

So now your eyes are tuned in, let’s get on with the form drawing using a pencil.

How to draw a Three Dimensional Apple

appledrawingreferencephoto

Materials you will need:

  • White paper, either regular computer paper or cartridge paper
  • 2B & 6B pencil – I use Staedler Mars Lumograph
  • Eraser – I use a putty eraser
  • A round object to draw around (approx 7cm wide)
  • A tortillion – I use a paper stump which is very similar compressed paper.

drawing a circle

Find a circular object to draw lightly around, this helps to give you a starting point so we can easily put into practice the theory of the sphere from last week. I’m using to 2B pencil (Staedler Mars Lumograph)

drawing an ellipse

I then make a mark indicating the furthest point of the cast shadow.

drawing an ellipse2

Lightly draw an ellipse shape to indicate the cast shadow. Notice how the ellipse cuts through the shape of the circle.

angles on a form

I now use a hard line and add slight angles to the circle, to represent more accurately the shape of the apple.

detail drawing of an apple

Lightly draw in the shape of the stalk.

drawing mapping high lights

And then the shape of the highlight.

drawing in a cast shadow

Reinforce the cast shadow shape noticing – the darkest part that sits directly under the apple, the mid tone that makes up the majority of the cast shadow shape whilst keeping a lighter line as you get towards the lightest, softest tail of the cast shadow.

shadow line

Lightly draw the shadow line, it has a slight curve to it.

shadowline2

The curved line below the shadow line indicates a band where the form shadow core falls within. This will be the darkest area of the apple.

core shadow

I then shade a mid tone along this form shadow core. Even though it’s going to be darker than this eventually, it will help you to judge the different tones within the drawing.

starting to put in shadow tones

Shade the apple stalk as dark as you can get it, it’s practically black on the reference image and it doesn’t need to blend into any other tones – so we can afford to go as dark as possible.

cast shadow shading

Now I swap to a softer pencil (a 6B) and begin to shade in the majority of the cast shadow. Notice how the angle of the shading is the same as when I hatched the cast shadow in the shadow mapping drawing using a pen.

combining shadow tones

Continue the shade over the edge of the apple, this is called combining the shadow shapes.

combining shadow tones2

I fill in the form shadow, working over the first, form shadow core band.

the dark accent

It’s at this point I swap back to the 2B and draw the hard, sharp line at the base of the cast shadow.

darkest darks

Using the softer 6B pencil I reinforce the cast shadow depth of tone.

softening a cast shadow edge

Holding the pencil lightly I gently indicate the softer, lighter tail of the cast shadow.

reinforcing the core shadow

Now I feel confident to go heavier on the form shadow core as I have both the dark cast shadow and the dark stalk to judge against.

adding shape to a sphere

Changing hand position, I can follow the shape of the form.

halftone in drawing

Lightly work across the whole of the light side to indicate the half tone.

terminator drawing

form shadow

Now we have established all the elements.

paper stump

Using our secret weapon, our paper stump I start to blend in the tones together to achieve the soft transition between the light side and the shadow side.

tonal darkening with blending

Notice how when you shade with the paper stump, it slightly darkens the tone.

occulision shadow

I continue to work between softening and sharpening and blending.

blending across terminator

sharpening up and darkening down

hatching reflected light

cleaning up edges

Using a putty eraser I take back any of the shape that has gone slightly out.

softening the cast shadow

Soften out the tail of the cast shadow.

pulling back the high light

Pull back the high light on the light side of the apple.

finished apple drawing tutorial

The finished drawing.

Whether you download and use the reference image or set up your own study, just take it a step at a time, look out for the soft transitions and I hope you get some fantastic results!

Next time we’ll be back in the studio where we’ll develop this apple study into a simple contemporary painting.

You might also like:

1.  A Beginners Guide to Light & Shadow : Part 1
2. The 3 reasons why you can’t draw (and what to do about it)

 

{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Patsy Ann April 6, 2014

Will
Thank you for making something rather complicated seem so simple and actually be something I am proud of completing. Your instructing skill is accomplished. Being retired and having the time to experiment in drawing is made so much more satisfying using your examples.
Thanks, again!
Patsy

Reply

Will Kemp April 6, 2014

Hi Patsy,

So pleased you’ve found the lessons easy to follow, and are enjoying your drawing time.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

Tania April 6, 2014

Hi Will,
What’ s a great lesson! Thank you very much! It s very interesting, informative and so easy to follow.
Tania

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Will Kemp April 6, 2014

Great to hear it Tania,

Cheers,
Will

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Greta April 6, 2014

Very helpful guide. Thank you Will

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Will Kemp April 6, 2014

You’re welcome Greta,
Cheers,
Will

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Carole Pivarnik April 6, 2014

You have a real gift for explaining things in an encouraging way! This is a great lesson on shading. Thanks!

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Will Kemp April 6, 2014

Thanks Carole, hope you find it helpful,
Will

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Connie Hurley April 6, 2014

I have enjoyed many of your tutorials and always look forward to the email notifying me of new content at WillKempArtSchool.com. You are my go to source for art instruction and this latest series just goes to show why. Your instructional abilities are a gift, thank you for sharing it to so many of us. Can’t wait to put pencil to paper!

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Will Kemp April 6, 2014

Thanks Connie, kind of you to say so, good luck with your drawing.

Cheers,
Will

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Sarah Harvey April 6, 2014

thank you once again for a great lesson–well presented and simple to follow. You are a fabulous teacher!

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Will Kemp April 6, 2014

You’re welcome Sarah, pleased you found it easy to follow.
Cheers,
Will

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Tasnim April 6, 2014

You explain things so well and give me the confidence to try things which might seem really difficult but you break it down into simple manageable steps. Thank you!

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Will Kemp April 6, 2014

Good one Tasnim, great to hear you’re being inspired to step beyond your comfort zone with your drawings!
Cheers,
Will

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Tasnim April 7, 2014

How do you determine/measure the furthest point of the cast shadow?

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Will Kemp April 8, 2014

Hi Tasnim,

It is subtle but it varies depending on the angle of the light source.
If you get your eyes tuned in you’ll be able to see the very softest part fade out.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

Tasnim April 8, 2014

Thanks, I gave the drawing a go. Here’s a link to the image:
http://instagram.com/p/mdpDIIhB9i/

The top one is the first attempt, but I wasn’t happy with it so I did it again straight after – the lower image is the second attempt.

It’s the first time I’ve done a still life drawing and I’m seriously impressed with the result because although it’s not perfect it’s still so much better than I thought it would be. It just goes to show that practice is key!

Thank you once again.

Vidhya April 6, 2014

Will your detail explanations are simply excellent. It forces me to perfection.

Reply

Will Kemp April 6, 2014

Cheers Vidhya,
Will

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Margarete Koepfer April 6, 2014

Very good information! Thanks !

Reply

Will Kemp April 6, 2014

You’re welcome Margarete,
Will

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Diana April 7, 2014

Thank you so much for your amazing tutorials, so so grateful for sharing your gift with us without asking for anything in return :)

Reply

Will Kemp April 7, 2014

You’re welcome Diana, hope it helps with your drawings.
Will

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George April 7, 2014

Nice will i like it,can you sometime give an example of how to draw a fallen object with its shade?

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Hi George, you would just apply the exact same principles to the fall of light to the object.
Cheers,
Will

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Gloria April 7, 2014

Thanks! Perfect

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

You’re welcome Gloria,
Will

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betty April 7, 2014

thank you so much,i started to learn painting,so is very apreciate your help

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Good one Betty hope you’re finding the tutorials helpful in your painting journey,
Will

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Maria kaeeny April 7, 2014

Thanks for good information .

Reply

Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Cheers Maria,
Will

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David April 7, 2014

Hi Will, Thanks for an excellent step by step drawing instruction. Regards David.

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

You’re welcome David,
Cheers,
Will

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Sydney April 7, 2014

Hi Will
Wow- what-a-step by step demo! …liked d paper stump effect :)
Many thanks
:)Sydney

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Thanks Sydney, the paper stump can be super helpful.
Cheers,
Will

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Dinkar Humbhar April 7, 2014

I like your amazing tutorials Thanks

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Thanks Dinkar,
Will

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Alison Stafford April 7, 2014

Top tutorial Will! :)

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Cheers Ali, hope you’re keeping well.
Will

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Prabha April 7, 2014

Another beautiful lesson, Will, explained so well. How come your pencil has such a long lead? Usually it breaks off! Is it a special pencil? Thanks, Prabha

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Hi Prabaha, no it isn’t a special pencil, just specially sharpened! I use a craft knife to have a longer lead rather than sharpening with a pencil sharpener.
Cheers,
Will

Reply

Swapniel April 7, 2014

Hello Will,
This was very helpful. I practiced it. Apple Shading
What you think about it? Any hope? :D

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Will Kemp April 7, 2014

Nice effort Swapniel, you could just make the shadow core slightly darker and erase the highlight shape line and it’ll be looking great!
Cheers,
Will

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Swapniel April 11, 2014

Okay I will do so.
Thanks a lot :)

By the way, tell me this thing – that different erasers make any problem? The eraser I use is called nondust eraser. It’s soft and doesn’t get dark after erasing even darkest lines. But I have seen many artists prefers kneadable erases or putty erasers (like you used it)- which I have no idea about. Do those have any different feature?
Thanks again.

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Will Kemp April 11, 2014

Hi Swapniel, I prefer to work with a plastic eraser and a putty eraser. The kneadable eraser enables you to work with it much like a drawing tool, rather than just to rub out your mistakes.

Hope this helps,

Will

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Millie Tse April 8, 2014

Dear Will,
Thanks so much, Very good and very helpful, and easy for beginner like me to pick up.

Cheers

Millie

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Will Kemp April 8, 2014

Great to hear it Millie!

Cheers,

Will

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Katja April 8, 2014

I just love this tutorial….this is important
Thank you

Reply

Will Kemp April 8, 2014

Hey Katja,

Glad you’re enjoying the series,

Cheers,

Will

Reply

josh April 9, 2014

Dear Will Thank You Very Much , its very informative and Also easy to understand for a beginner like me … cheers

Josh

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Will Kemp April 9, 2014

You’re welcome Josh, pleased you found it easy to follow.
Cheers,
Will

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Sandomingo April 9, 2014

Always great Will, always great …

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Will Kemp April 9, 2014

Thanks Sandomingo, kind of you to say so.
Cheers,
Will

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Marcia April 9, 2014

Thank you Will. Amazing lesson. You make me feel like a real artist!

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Will Kemp April 11, 2014

Great to hear it Marcia!
Will

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John carroll April 10, 2014

Hi Will

What are your thoughts on angled drawing boards as an aid. I have one with variable degrees. I got it a while back but have been painting more than drawing. Doing these shadow studies has me drawing more and I was interested to look at what you were resting your paper on.

I assume it could be personal preference but any technical advantages would be useful to consider. I have always found the pics of yourself and another drawing the busts standing up with the paper at the vertical interesting.

Ta

John

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Will Kemp April 11, 2014

Hi John, I’m working on a piece of MDF board that I’ve taped the paper onto (Pro tip: add a few sheets of blank computer paper under the piece you’re working on for a smooth finish) and then I can angle the board to the subject I’m working from.

This makes the plane of angle of the board closer to the plane of vision I’m viewing the subject from – so it is easier for you to judge the shapes/angles of the subject.

Hope this helps,

Will

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John carroll April 14, 2014

Re drawing board….just to clarify. Does that mean when drawing an image on a table or bench etc, have the paper horizontal but if drawing something hanging on a wall have the paper more vertical? Which also might suggest drawing a standing figure on a more vertical board position

Also is it common for students do make a better drawing from copying the teachers/artists drawing than their attempt at the actual object itself?

Cheers

Cheers

Reply

Will Kemp April 14, 2014

If you have an object on a table, hold the board at an angle (about 45 degrees) as this is roughly on the same plane as your eye line. If you are standing up the drawing board can be vertical, as this is also on the same plane as the subject and your eye-line.

The less you can move your head (and just move your eyes) between the subject and your drawing the better. Try a few angles and try to notice if your head is moving or not.

Cheers,
Will

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Carolyn April 15, 2014

This has been very helpful. I have taken photographs on my phone and put them into black and white to get a clearer idea of shade values. All of your advice is excellent and encouraging. I am looking forward to the painting.

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Will Kemp April 16, 2014

Great to hear it Carolyn,the first part of the painting video should be going live in a few hours time!
Cheers,
Will

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Bill Colquhoun April 16, 2014

Thankyou,always good to have another resource .Bill

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Will Kemp April 16, 2014

Thanks Bill,
Will

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Haylen Gago April 17, 2014

Thank you very much. All of your advice is excellent and encouraging.

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Will Kemp April 17, 2014

Thanks Haylen.

Reply

Maria Carmen April 17, 2014

Good lesson, very clear, thank you for your teachings.

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Will Kemp April 17, 2014

Thanks Maria, pleased you found the lesson easy to follow.

Cheers,

Will

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Margarete Koepfer April 17, 2014

Very helpful Will! Looking forward to the next lesson!

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Will Kemp April 17, 2014

Thanks Margarete, you can watch the next lesson here.

Cheers,
Will

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moona April 18, 2014

Thanx will. It was v helpful and understanable.

I really love the way u explained it…thanx

Looking forward for some more interesting lesson.

I ve worked with oil paint many years ago but nowusing acrylic

Paint , i really need ur advice on how work with them propey.

Thnx.

Reply

Will Kemp April 18, 2014

Cheers Moona, pleased you’re finding the drawing lessons helpful.
Will

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Janet Siringwani-Nyabeze April 23, 2014

Dear Will

I was very pleased and impressed with the shading steps , i have also learnt a lot that will definately also improve my teaching skills in drawing and both myself as a practicing Artist. I realised my ashadings were actualy half done and not complete. Thank you once more, I look forward to recieving more of your lessons.

Thanks
Janet

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Will Kemp April 23, 2014

Thanks Janet, really pleased you’re finding your shading improving and have been enjoying the lessons.
Cheers,
Will

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jo April 24, 2014

Super drawing exercise.
Your instructions are well written and offer an element of humanity—an understanding of the student who struggles to achieve what seems so difficult at times. You take these students by the ‘virtual hand’ and encourage them to try again. Love it.
You are a great teacher.

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Will Kemp April 24, 2014

Thanks very much Jo, nice to hear from you, hope you’re keeping well.
Cheers,
Will

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Marion April 25, 2014

Thanks a heap for the easy to follow instructions, which I didn’t bother to scroll down to, initially, in my haste to start my apple drawing (oops!) but it turned out ok and halfway through, after eventually checking your post, the shading tips helped a lot!

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Will Kemp April 25, 2014

You’re welcome Marion, hope your drawing turns out well.
Will

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Dale Lysle May 28, 2014

Hello Will, thank you for this guide, very helpful. My problem is that the acrylic lifts off if I go over work already done. What am I doing to cause this? I have tried a few different brands of acrylic paints with the same problem……

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Will Kemp May 29, 2014

Hi Dale,
Pleased you found the guide helpful. Standard acrylics won’t lift off when you work out the top of them, regardless of the brand. What surface the painting on top of? Are they definitely standard acrylics, rather than the Atelier interactive acrylics or ‘Open’ acrylics?

Cheers,
Will

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Dale Lysle May 29, 2014

Thanks Will, for replying so quickly…..I use standard acrylic paints…..Mont Marte (too thin), Kaiser colour (also too thin), and both lift either when wet or dry. Have started to use Mont Marte Dimensions which is thicker but have the same problem, and I use a standard canvas already treated at the supplier. Maybe I need to change paints to a different brand altogether!!!!! Any suggestions???????

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Will Kemp May 30, 2014

Hi Dale, when you say they ‘lift’ when wet, do you mean peel off, as in don’t stick to the canvas surface? or you paint a section, come back to it the next day, paint ontop and then the underneath colour lifts off?

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Dale Lysle May 30, 2014

Yes to the 2nd part…..when I come back to it to paint over more the new paint lifts off the older paint!!!!

sarah July 11, 2014

Hi, will i’ve seen your art it was beautiful. actually my problem in art are shading and the hard part is to shade hair can you help me?

Reply

Will Kemp July 12, 2014

Hi Sarah, You can use the same form principles with shading hair, just make sure you don’t lighten areas of the hair too much, often the tones in-between different strands are actually very subtle.
Cheers,
Will

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Nima July 17, 2014

Thank you for a great lesson. While shading the shadow, do the lines have to be in any particular direction or should they be parallel to the lines used to shade the object?

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Will Kemp July 19, 2014

Hi Nima, pleased you enjoyed the lesson, there aren’t any strict rules on the direction of line, I find having them go the same direction as the form shadow helps to subtly indicate the fall and direction of the light.

Cheers,
Will

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Tamara July 19, 2014

Very helpful, thanks Will!

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Will Kemp April 8, 2014

Great work Tasnim, the second drawing is a great improvement and is working really well. The edges are nice and soft, the cast shadow is looking good and the contours of the apple are looking great, really good job Tasnim!
Cheers,
Will

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Will Kemp May 30, 2014

Hi Dale,

Sometimes a ‘skin’ of the acrylic can move if you’re painting very quickly with thick applications of paint, but for thin applications this shouldn’t be happening.

Below is from the Golden Paints technical pages:

The Two Drying Stages of Acrylics

The drying of acrylic paints occurs in two very different stages, hence drying times must be thought of in two different time frames.

The first stage, a relatively short period of time, results in the formation of a skin over the surface of the paint. This is the time that it takes for acrylics to “dry to the touch”.

At this point, the flow of water towards the surface is no longer sufficient to keep the paint film wet. Very thin films can feel dry within seconds, while thick films may take a full day or more to skin over.

The second stage of drying is the time for the entire thickness of the film to be thoroughly dry. That is, the time required for all of the water and solvent to evaporate and leave the film.

This is a most crucial time frame, as the ultimate physical properties, such as adhesion, hardness and clarity, do not fully develop until the film is near complete dryness.

For very thin films, this time may be a few days, while films of 1/4 inch thickness or more will take months and even years to be completely dry.

Many artists are not aware of this more lengthy drying time. This is the reason that one may find that a rather thick layer of paint has not adhered to the surface when tested a day or two after application.

This same layer of paint will also seem very soft.

The skin may have dried sufficiently, but the paint in the center is still wet.

So I would try a few tests varying the thickness of the acrylics to help stop the ‘breaking of the skin’ of the paint film and see if the problem still persists.

Hope this helps,

Will

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