A Beginners Guide to Light & Shadow : Part 1


Cezanne, Oil on Canvas, still life with seven apples, 1878

Ever felt frustrated having worked so hard on a drawing – only to find it still looks ‘flat’?

Is it the proportions? The perspective? Perhaps the composition?

Whilst these all play an integral part, the most effective method of making your drawings appear three dimensional, is understanding how light logic works.

If line drawing creates the proportions, handling of tone creates the form.

The theory seems simple and the changes in technique small, but applying the principles of how tone, light and shade work, will improve the illusion of form in every drawing you do – regardless of the subject.

And the exciting part about it is, once you ‘get’ lighting, the principles never change.

In Part 1 of this 3 Part series (Part 2 – Drawing shading demonstration) we look at the theory, the drawing and then paint a simple form focusing on shadow, light and edges.

You might find it isn’t your drawing technique that’s wrong, but your lighting…

How does light behave when it hits a form?


If we’re using one single light source.

The problem is most of the time at home, you don’t have one single light source, you have a comfy chair, a cup of tea and 10 minutes to sketch your dog. There’s multiple lights coming from above, window lights and maybe lights from a t.v or reading light.

Just by the nature of the lighting setup we have in our homes, it makes it really difficult to achieve a dramatic drawing successfully.

To make something look three dimensional, you need the light to do the work for you – rather than your pencil.

Now I’m the first one to be drawn to my sketchpad whilst enjoying a brew in my lounge, but note the word ‘sketch’.

Sketching really helps you to keep your eye practiced and your creativity flowing and I do it every day.

But when I want to work up one of my sketches into a more developed drawing, I would have a more conscious approach to the lighting setup, composition and design of the piece.

Creating the illusion of form using multiple light sources is difficult because the effect of the light falling on an object is more confused, softer and introduces new shapes that don’t behave consistently with the object we’re looking at.

So I’ve found the easiest way to learn about light and shadow is by using one hard, single light. It could be the sun, a light through a window or an artificial light.

A hard light clearly 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.

So for this 3 Part Series, we’ll be looking at single lighting set ups demonstrating the theory of form on a sphere.

Learning simple form principles will enable you to see the fundamental shapes of which all of nature is comprised. The cone, the cube, the cylinder and the sphere.

The principles we’ll look at on the sphere, can be applied to the curve of a cheek, the fullness of a teapot or vase and I’ll be putting them into practice on a drawing of an apple next week.

Light Logic Using a Single Light Source


 drawings shadows

Light always travels in a straight line.

The shadows that are made by the light are always in a direct response to whatever the light hits, whatever angle the light is coming from and the intensity of the light source.

So if bright, high sunshine hits a tree directly from above, it makes a short shadow shape, that doesn’t necessarily help you as an artist to describe the subject.

Later in the day when the sun is very low, it will make a longer more interesting shadow shape, usually more representative of the essence of the tree and the presence of light.

If a single light hits a cube, it will make a square shape – if a single light hits a sphere, an ellipse shape.

This is called ‘light logic’ and the shadow produced is called a Cast Shadow.


Cast Shadow

The characteristics of the cast shadow are dependent on the intensity of the light source. A hard light will produce a cast shadow with a sharp edge, a soft light will produce a cast shadow with a more blurry edge.

The longer the cast shadow is from the object, the softer the edge of the shadow becomes. Notice how the cast shadow is darkest right underneath the sphere and then it gets lighter and lighter as it goes out further away from the light source.

Also a cast shadow behaves predictability when on a flat surface, but when there are other levels or surfaces in the shadows path, the shape can be altered depending on the surface over which it falls.


This is one of the first things to check on your drawings and paintings. Do the shadow shapes logically sit with the subject and the lighting?

It’s all about being aware of where the light is coming from and is it consistent with your picture.

Once you understand the basics of how light behaves, it is quite encouraging to think that a small amount of information can give you the knowledge needed to convincingly portray the illusion of form with any subject.

The 3 areas of a form:

When you’re first starting you just need to think of the three simple areas of the form:

1. Light side – This includes the Highlight and the Halftones.

The Highlight is the lightest part where the light directly hits the object.

The Halftones are always going to be lighter than any value on the shadow side and blend into the shadow side (sometimes they can be split into light half tones and dark half tones)

2. Shadow side – This includes the Form Shadow, the Form Shadow Core and Reflected light.

The Form Shadow Core is the darkest part of the shadow, the rest of the Form Shadow is made up of dark tones that blend away from the core shadow into the reflected light, if there is any.

Reflected light is the light reflected onto the subject, from the surface it sits on or ambient light around the object.

3. Cast shadow – This has 3 parts.

The darkest part that sits directly under the object, the mid tone that makes up the majority of the cast shadow shape and the lightest, softest tail of the cast shadow

Creating the shadow line

sphere shadowline

The shadow line is the transition between the light side and the shadow side.

This can have many names, bed-bug line, shadow line, terminator, form shadow line to name a few. The main thing to remember is to keep each area clearly defined.

Keeping your light tones in the light side and your darks in the shadows whilst maintaining a soft transition between the two is what we’re trying to achieve.

This seems obvious but making the smooth transition between the lights and the darks is no mean feat as the shadow line actually falls over quite a small area and not forgetting probably the most tricky thing – retaining the fullness of the globe shape.

What can happen is you gently lighten your pencil marks and try to build up a nice blend.

The problem is the darker side spreads, it creeps, you work harder and harder, you then think your eraser will fix it.

It didn’t.

Now the darks have a too severe edge and you’ve started to lose the lovely shape you first had. Your shadow line has gone North, your light logic has now become illogical and your light side has become darker with all that flurry of blending!

It is tricky but it just requires practice and a few techniques that we’ll look more in depth at next week.

The Light Side


The Highlight is the very lightest part. It’s where the light directly hits the object so is the best indicator when you look at your subject to determine where and at what angle the light is coming from.

Highlights make the drawing come to life.

The Halftones blend into the shadow side and make the highlight appear white. They are always lighter in value than the lightest value on the shadow side.

The Shadow Side


If a Cast Shadow is always hard (albeit with blurry edges sometimes) a Form Shadow is soft.

It is the dark side on an object not facing the light that reveals the form and mass of the shape.

The very darkest point within the Form Shadow is called the Form Shadow Core.

It falls under the Shadow Line (or Terminator) on the dark side and is where there is no light hitting the surface.

It blends into the rest of the Form Shadow which is lighter in value because reflected or ambient light within the scene.

The Allure of Reflected Light


Reflected light is when the light is reflected onto an object, from the surface it sits on. White or shiny surfaces reflect the most light, dark or black surfaces reflect the least amount of light.

The sphere above is sitting on a matte white piece of paper.

When you’re first starting drawing it is easy to become obsessed with reflective light, it seems sophisticated and so subtle.

More often than not, what happens is you ‘look into your darks’ too much and over exaggerate how light that area actually is.

You then lose that initial simple light concept we had first established when ‘mapping out’ from a light and shadow side.

Value Strip

You can print out this guide and practice matching the tones with your pencils

When you’re turning a form away from the light, using the tonal value strip above will be invaluable.

Because you will be really tempted to try to use a lighter tone than you need, being able to check your values will enable you to keep the illusion of light consistent.

When reflected light is handled well, it can give your drawings that ‘How did you do that?’ response – so it’s worth taking the time with.

Next week we’re going to put these theories into practice in my studio, where I’ll set up and draw an apple.

When working on three dimensional drawings, the two things I focus on are form and edges. We’ll also create some quick sketches to map shadows and cover drawing techniques on turning a form.

Get the kettle on, your pencils out and as you sketch, start to observe more carefully the light fall and the shadows that are being created and join me next week in the studio.

You Might Also Like:

1. A Beginners Guide to Light & Shadow : Part 2 – Practical Drawing Tutorial 

This Post Has 238 Comments

  1. Very important info. Thanks!

  2. Thanks again Will for another great post! You are such a gifted artist and teacher! Enjoy your studio time…..Cheers, Liz

    1. Thanks Liz, hope you’re keeping well,


  3. Will
    Thanks for your generous instruction. You are a gifted teacher as well as artist.

    1. Kind of you to say so Norah, hope you find the article of help.



  4. Good advice I didn’t know light is only straight line

  5. Also should we but a coat of some kind on acylic paint

    1. I’ll add a materials list for the painting at the end on next weeks lesson.


  6. This has been really helpful. You explained it so simply. Thanks Will :)

    1. Pleased to hear it Aggie, really hope it helps in your paintings.

  7. Thank you Will, great and wonderful information.

    1. Hi Virginia, hope you’re keeping well, thanks for you kind comments.


  8. Thank you for the insight. To the shop I go to try and put it into practice, and looking forward to part 2.

    1. Good one Vicki, looking forward to hearing how you get on,

  9. Thanks for all your usefull information Debbie

  10. Such rich content in this instruction Will. Clearly laid out – beyond helpful and much appreciated. It’s this kind of generosity that is so helpful to all of us who have chosen this challenging and wondrous path. Look forward to Parts 2/3. Thanks. Lesley

    1. Kind of you to say so Lesley, modelling form can be a bit of an daunting subject, so pleased you found it helpful.



  11. Thank you. It is information I need to know if am to learn how to draw three dimensionally. B.

  12. Will,
    I have just begun painting, and must say I so enjoy your instruction. It is evident that you have enormous skill. I just love your teaching technique, quite enjoyable….thanks!

    1. Thanks Amy, really hope you’re finding the lessons helpful in your artistic journey!

  13. Thanks for this lesson Will. Just what I needed – I’ve not been drawing for very long and my drawings were looking very flat.

    1. You’re welcome Marilyn, hope it helps to bring some form to your drawings.


  14. Thanks Will. I definitely picked up some tips on lighting and shadows.

    All the best


    1. Good one Steve, pleased you found it helpful.

  15. Good ibnformation. Thank you for publishing this. I look forward to the next installment.

    1. Thanks Gherry, pleased you enjoyed it.

  16. Invaluable information Will – thanks again!

    1. Cheers Cath, how are your portraits going?

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generous instruction!

    1. You’re welcome Patti, really hope you find it helpful.


  18. Hi Will,
    I’ve been receiving your emails for some time and have followed several of your painting lessons. I have done watercolors for several years, but your tutorials inspired me to trying acrylics, and I am loving them. Thank you!

    Your email today was timely because I have been having troubles when working on landscapes or flowers in photos or when working from my head with deciding what to do about lighting. When I do a still-life with a single light source, I do fine (though I know I’ll gain much more needed information from your lessons.) What I hope to learn, as well, is how to create the proper lighting when it’s not evident and there are several light sources.

    Thank you so much for all you’ve taught me. It took me awhile to write, but I want you to know how much I appreciate your generosity with your expertise.


    1. Hi Donna,

      Thanks for your lovely comment, and pleased you’ve been enjoying experimenting with acrylics. Multiple light sources can be a bit harder, and creating proper lighting from memory can take practice, but as with most things a step at a time and those flower studies will be singing!

      Thanks again Donna,


  19. Dear Will.

    Thanks very much for the lesson.
    After I bought your on line course” Aclylic Landscspe Paintinh”
    I then happened to encounter Henry Hanche,Charles Howthorne,and
    Camille Przewodek. I really like their color stle and light but I cannot grasp
    Their teaching. Could yu someday touch/guide those impressionist style art by your style of teaching?

    Thanks again for yr sharing.!


  20. You explained this topic very clearly. Now if only I can put it into practice!

    1. Thanks Elika, just go through each stage a section at a time and your drawings can really come together.




  22. Excellent information as always! Cheers Will!

    1. Thanks Tony, hope you’re doing well.


  23. Thanks for clear instructions.

    1. You’re welcome Suzi, pleased you found them easy to follow.

  24. Thanks so much for the info. It was enlightening and uncomplicated to read. Thanks again.

  25. Really good instruction. This is encouraging me to get out my pencils and paper EVERY day! Thanks Will

  26. This is so important and the way it is presented is so simple that no way you won’t get it.
    It was extremely helpful. Thanks.

    1. Really pleased to hear it Yona,

  27. Thanks for this valuable information. Looking forward to following your articles and lessons.

    1. You’re welcome Judy, pleased you found it helpful.

    1. Thanks Helene, hope you’re keeping well.

  28. Hi Will
    Thanks so much for the great tips. Very helpful. Just what I need to get to grips with.

    1. Great to hear it Geraldine, looking forward to seeing your results.

  29. Dear Will, thanks for the clarity of writing. the concept of core shadow solves the problem for me. look forward to your style of teaching in the next article.


    1. You welcome Mumtaz, really pleased you enjoyed the article, can’t wait to next week!


  30. Wow, I’m giving you the gold crown. I always hear “define your light source” then that was it. Thank you for this info and your brilliant way of explaining it and laying it out so that I can understand it. So looking forward to what comes next. Cheers-

    1. Thanks Darlene, so please you found it easy to follow and understand.



  31. Fantastic awesome article with so much essential information. Many thanks Will~ you are a champ! so awesome!
    Best always

    1. Thanks very much Noleen, pleased you enjoyed the article.



  32. Hi Will, Thank you so much for putting your information out in a way that is easy to understand and follow. I’ve been trying to paint for a couple of years now but haven’t liked anything I’ve done. Some of the books and other reading I have looked at tend to “lose” me with their technical jargon and I just switch off. This is the first email I’ve received from you since subscribing and can see that your “teachings” might be what steers me In the right direction. I look forward to future posts. Many thanks again. Sue

    1. Hi Sue, great have you onboard. So pleased you found the article easy to follow. Lighting can get a bit technical at times but can be so helpful to you painting success. Really hope this lesson can help you to achieve a painting you can be proud of!



  33. Hi Will
    This is my first time receiving your posting. I like the way you approach the subject, you made it simple and easy,
    Thank you .


    1. Hi Khaled, thanks for taking the time to comment, and so pleased you enjoyed the simple approach to the subject of form. Hope you’re looking forward to next week’s lesson.



  34. I’ m new here, and enjoying it already!

    1. Hi Christine, nice to have you on board, really pleased you enjoyed it.



  35. Hi Will, thank you for such a detailed lesson on shadows. I usually skip these basics, but now after reading your tutorial find it very useful, and will do the exercises! Thanks again, Prabha

    1. Hey Prabha, nice to hear from you, really pleased the article is helped to show the importance of the basics, especially when trying to model form with drawing.



  36. Hello Wiil,
    Your sphere has a very immediate weight and presence, which I am enjoying looking at. It is so good!! I shall give it a try as well. Appreciate your explanation of the light. Thank you!

    1. Thanks very much Lynne, looking forward to hearing how your sphere turns out.



  37. Very helpful guidance Will, has broadened my understanding and can’t wait to apply this, cheers, Jan.

    1. Great to hear it Jan, good luck with applying the techniques.


  38. Precious information. Yipppeeee can’t wait for next week. It sounds great thank u so much

    1. Thanks Annelise, really pleased you found it helpful.


  39. A very timely post, and thanks for it! I seem to do fine with shading a sphere or cube that is smooth. But I have been working with textured surfaces… the bumpiness of an orange, the ridges and tears in a red onion, the lumps and brown spots on potatoes… and I find that creating those textures is a real challenge. Any suggestions? Please keep the great tutorials coming!

    1. Hi Kathryn,

      So please you found the article to be timely for you, the added complication of textures can appear to take away from the smooth sides of an object, but as long as you think about the underlying form of the subject you will be able to add texture, and more mark-making into your drawings yet still create a compelling realistic effect.

      Hope this helps,

  40. Thank you so much for sharing this information so clearly making it easy to follow.
    bye for ow – Althea

    1. You’re welcome Althea, so pleased you found it easy to follow.


  41. This is what we’re doing in my art class right now so it was a tremendous help to me, thanks, and it was perfect timing also!

    1. Perfect timing Renee! you’ll be ahead of the art class!


  42. Thanks wery much, I enjojed to following your lesson.

    1. Thanks Gloria, very kind of you to say so.


  43. Bonjour Will,
    I’m struggling with two portraits at the minute (they will be birthday presents) but will plod on. I won’t post a link until I’m finished as they look awful right now. I have until August thankfully to finish the first one. Hubby has started with colour now and doing very well – better than me actually. :-)

    Thank you for another great lesson. I’ll print it out for my group. Having a try at pen and wash while waiting for the oils to dry. Interesting!! We cannot see the kitchen table anymore – we are squashed up one end to eat. But, it’s fun!

    À la prochaine

    1. Bonjour Kryssy, sounds like a hive of creative activity! Pleased you’re enjoying the portraits, I’m working on a new colour mixing course for portraits that should be out soon to help give you the edge on Hubby!

      Really hope your group is all doing well,

      Speak soon,


  44. OMG! This is the exact project we were asked to work on for our next lesson. Will, have you been reading the mail!!!

    Thanks a million for all this most useful knowledge you are imparting to the frustrated artist out here wading through the frustrations of completing the picture.

    Light, Peace and Laughter,

    1. Hi Mairead, so pleased to hear the article is perfect timing for your project. Really hopes it helps in your drawings success.



  45. Hi Will, Fantastic exercise, as I am also doing a Colour In Oils class and struggling a little trying to equate a simultaneous contrast between a blue and a yellow, for instance. Even squinting it’s hard to determine how dark the yellow must be to equate with the same tone in blue, which appears relatively quite light in it’s own scale of light to dark.
    Does that make sense to you? Gaye

    1. Hi Gaye, yes it does make sense to me, seeing the tonal value of colours (especially light colours) is one of the hardest things to do, so I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Making a tonal values strip with the colours can be very helpful in achieving an awareness of the differences in value between different pigments.

      Hope this helps,


  46. Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for a very helpful information. I did not know that the shadow always travel in a straight line and good tip about reflected light.

    1. Hi Tania, really pleased it helped, reflected light can be tricky to balance right.

      Hope you’re well,


  47. You make my happy, I would never notice such detailes.
    Thanks Will

    1. Hi Svetlana, pleasd the article helped you to notice extra details in objects.

  48. Thank you very much. It helps!

  49. Hi Will,
    The other Kemp Here! Hope you are keeping well. Thanks for such helpful information…if you remember my lighthouse (I painted) it needed more shadow and tone it was such a challenge for me ! Am still painting and still trying… So Giant Thanks for your help ..it is such an encouragement from an Amazing Talent!!
    So thx
    Adrienne. :)

    1. Oh hi Adrienne, lovely to hear from you, I’m doing really well thanks. So pleased you found the article helpful. The lighthouse would be a perfect subject to check some of these principles against, judging the way the shadows and tones appear from the sun light.


  50. This takes me back to my first lessons…I found this aspect of approaching drawing and painting absolutely invaluable. For me it is still the most important thing to focus on in painting. I remember looking at objects and people’s faces with an entirely different eye… Marvelous, thank you for bring this one up…

    1. Your welcome Katja, you’re right, you really can open your eyes to the different ‘shapes’ hidden within the subjects around you. hope you’re doing well.


  51. Morning Will,
    Thanks for the easy to follow advice. I am at the end of stage 1 of the Still Life Master Class and so I will try and incorporate this info into the next stage.
    I’m really enjoying being a student of your great school.
    All the best,
    Peter B.

    1. Hi Peter, yes it’s a good principle to look at when you get to painting the oranges, just bear in mind the reflection will behave slightly differently on the cast shadow, as we have the added complication of the reflective mahogany table, but that’s another story! Looking forward to seeing your results.



  52. I have just taken some of my work to a gallery for constructive criticism and was told to work on my lighting. Your lesson comes at a most opportune time for me. Thanks so much. Looking forward to the next lesson.

    1. Well sounds like perfect timing Terryll, with a few form principles under your belt you can go back to the gallery and get your work hanging on the walls!



  53. Thank you for this great lesson about understanding light. this is just what I need. I am hoping to order the portrait lessons soon. Will you be giving a lesson on how, what angles to put light on a live model to start portrait practise

    Thank you

    1. Hi Pauline, really pleased you found it helpful. I won’t be covering angles for lighting a live model this series, the great place to start is a classic ‘Rembrandt lighting’, which is 45° out from the model and 45° up from the model. It will help to model the form on the face. The thing to look out for is the illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face.

      Hope this helps,


  54. Hi Will

    Do you remember the comedian who had a catch phrase with “it’s how I tell em”. after getting a huge applause. Well that says it all about your teachings. Its the way you spell out your advice. You make it so understandable simple. It makes it such a pleasure to get your regular guidance on pretty important subjects. Uncomplicated, totally clear and a knowledge that does not patronize people and is so useful to everyone no matter their skill sets. Many thanks again Will.


    1. Ha ha, hi Charles that really tickled me, as my Dad always say’s “it’s how I tell em” to his no doubt hilarious tales! So pleased you found the article uncomplicated and clear to follow.



  55. Can only say:

  56. Will:
    Thanks, again for your tutorial. Even though I’ve heard or seen comments on shadows before, it is good to refresh it again. More important, there are some of your comments that were new to me. Thanks again,

    1. Pleased to hear you got some helpful information out of the article Larry.


  57. Thanks, Will. Great information.

    1. Thanks Sara, pleased you found it helpful.


  58. Hi Will: I am so glad I found you! As so many others have said, you are an extraordinarily gifted teacher. You manage to communicate with both clarity and humour and you are incredibly generous with all you share. I plan to sign up for one of your courses this Summer – I MUST get a better grasp of colour theory and those books I bought just don’t do it for me!

    Meanwhile, I will eagerly absorb these great posts!



    1. Hi Susanna, thanks for your kind words on the teaching, really please you find it easy to understand the concepts.


  59. Thanks for this very useful information Will its brilliant that yo
    Take the time to help others thanks

    1. You’re welcome Lesley, I always found the concepts of form the bit technical when I first started so pleased to be able to help out anyone else just starting out.


  60. WOW. You are gifted as an artist, instructor and writer. I was a Federal Law Enforcement Agent for many years – and some would say that writing the reports was the most critical part of a serious crime & arrest. Many educated people needed the information to be succinct, accurate, complete to the minutia of evidence and information. Also, and very importantly, grammatically correct. It must also be correct to stand the test of time because there might be many appeals and/or re-trials. In this genre of teaching, your writing is excellent in terms of content, completeness, and skill at putting things on paper in a logical, easy to understand way. Thanks-it’s mostly all new to me, but I’m coming along and all of your tutorials will help me improve.
    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Debbie, lovely to hear from you, and thanks for your kind words on the writing, I would say grammatically correct might be stretching it for me though! Really pleased found the article logical and easy to understand.

  61. Will;
    Can you use a grid to place your still life?
    Thanks for the information.

    1. Sure you can Connie, a grid can be really helpful in aligning your composition.

  62. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this lesson. Very helpful information, especially the part about the line separating the light and shadow parts. I’ve had problems with this exact thing.

    1. You’re welcome Bev, great to hear you found it helpful.

  63. I have been having trouble getting my shadows looking good, I have trouble with the colors. I am working on an old village scene and it was very flat. So this has helped me a lot.

    1. Hi Irene, pleased the articles helped you to reassess your village scene. Hope it helps to give more form and depth to the picture.

  64. Hi Wills,
    Thanks for another great article, very much appreciated.Cheers Isabel

    1. You’re welcome Isabel, hope you’re keeping well.

  65. Always a good lesson! It bears repeating over & over again for us beginners ! We usually just go for a gray shadow & forget about reflected light !!
    Thanks as always a good lesson from a great teacher.

    1. Cheers Sherrie, it can be easily forgotten when you’re engrossed in a drawing, pleased you found it helpful.

  66. Hi Will,
    Very many thanks for yet another amazing article. What a giving soul you are and a natural teacher. To have your skill and ability as an artist and yet still find time to enlighten and encourage those of us who have so much to learn is extremely generous of you. The way you combine light hearted fun with so much knowledge makes you my “go to” teacher and I’m proud to be your pupil.
    Best wishes, Sheila

    1. Very kind of you to say so Sheila, pleased to have you on board!

  67. I wish my previous water colour tutor had gone into this much detail.

  68. Hello Will, good to hear from you with another great piece of advice. You are keeping me on my toes with such informative lessons. I really must get the pencils and sketch pad out to brush up on my sketching and shading. All the best with your portraits.

    1. Thanks Shirley, good luck with your sketches!

  69. many thanks, i appreciate :)

  70. Hello Will,
    What a great lesson. I did not know about those subdivisions of shadows. And also how easily you explained the tricky parts! Everyone will agree that you are a great teacher besides being a great artist. You explained it simply. You have a nice penmanship too. As a reader it never seemed too informative or boring.

    I have few questions –
    Like you said – the knowledge of lights on a sphere can be used on a similar thing like a cheek. A cheek may have reflected lights? Last time a painted a portrait…the cheeks and the forehead turned out to be pretty flat…

    Also you said sketching everyday keep our inspiration flowing… I wanted to do that once- sketch everyday. But I got confused what to to sketch! There were lots of subjects individually around me but they were not interesting. Or maybe they were not interesting at that light or at that eye level…I dont know but I hardly found anything to sketch daily. So how you find what to sketch everyday?

    Thanks again.
    Waiting eagerly for the next lesson.

    1. Hi Swapniel, really pleased you found the article interesting on the subdivisions of shadows, it is definetly something to look out for in your drawings and paintings. A Cheek can have reflected light, look for in the dark shadow side of the face if you’re using a single light source. Not all cheeks of are rounded though, it varies from sitter to sitter. I wouldn’t try to overcomplicate the process, you could be drawing your shoe, the cup of coffee, the view out of the window. You might find Micheal Nobbs site – Sustainably creative of interest.
      He runs a course on drawing our lives and getting into the daily habit of drawing.

      Hope it helps,

      p.s Your jug still life has come out really well! good one.

      1. Hello Will,
        Thank you for the suggestions. I have started with simple things on my desk. I have windows on three sides of my room plus the wall lights.. so objects are creating very complicated shadows…
        And I will checkout the website too.
        I was practicing the tonal strip that you posted. I could get the darkest value with charcoal only. But couldn’t get the lightest value… (the 2nd from the left, 2nd row)
        By the way, what is tonal contrast?
        And thank you very much for the great compliment on the jug painting. It’s a great pleasure.
        Thank you.

        1. Hi Swapniel,

          Tonal contrast is the contrast between two tones. Black and white have the highest tonal contrast – a grey and a light grey would have a lower tonal contrast.



          1. I see. :)
            Thank you.

  71. Great Job.

  72. You are a clever sausage Will.
    I think you are like me…. you eat, sleep and breathe art
    You always talk such sense and add exciting new dimensions to art.


    1. Thanks Janette, very kind of you to say so, really pleased it all made sense.


  73. Hi Will,
    This is very good explanations regarding light sources, shadow and reflection. Your explanation is superb, so simple and so clear. I really enjoy a lot and am looking forward to the second and the third parts. I appreciate very much your generosity, it helps me a lot to understand and looking forward to applying it in my painting. Nualnapa

    1. Hi Nualnapa, Thanks very much for your kind comments, and looking forward to part two!

  74. Wow, you are so talented. Not only is your art great but you teach so well. Very easy to follow – thank you. I picked up a pencil for the first time last year so lessons like this are fantastic! I appreciate the time and effort that goes into your guides.

    1. Kind of you to say so Marg, pleased you found the article easy to follow.

  75. Good morning Will,
    I had a picture framing workshop and art gallery for over 30 years and thought I new most of what there was to know about the business,however,you’ve certainly proved me wrong.Keep up the good work.
    All the best

    1. Hi John, nice to hear from you and pleased you found the article of interest.

  76. Hello Will,
    Thanks for sending Part 1 of 3. It was enjoyable to read – made me reach around to get my sketch pad immediately. Looking forward to receiving Parts 2 and 3, and applying your suggestions.

    Happy art tmes,
    Richard Heinkel

    1. Great to hear it Richard,(and enjoy the Colour mixing Course!)


  77. Thanks Will

    the inspiration to paint again is thanks to you. I love your style!

    Keep up your fine work

    Nicky :)

  78. Thank you Will for your recent post you are so inspiring, being a good artist you are a good instructor as well. Bless you

    1. Thanks very much Bruno, it’s very kind of you to say so!



  79. Thank You very much,Will!
    Always interesting and useful!!

    1. Thanks Nadya, pleased you found it interesting.

  80. It was very important information. I appreciate it

    1. Pleased you found it helpful in your drawings Haylen,

  81. Thanks Will for another clear and easy -to- follow tutorial….. I very much look forward to the next instalment :) Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to post this, its much appreciated!

    1. You’re welcome Carol, hope you’re keeping well, just finished the drawing for Part 2, it’s looking a peach! (well an apple shaped peach) should be live soon.

  82. You are a great teacher, now for the first time I understand. My first oil was a pear with light from one side. It look like nothing. With this lesson the pear looks great to eat. Thanks Will.

    1. Thanks Uli, brilliant to hear you now understand the basics of light and shade and your pear painting has improved, great stuff.

  83. Guide to Light and Shadow: Where is part 2?

    Great Beginning.

    1. Hi Sa, should be live tomorrow!

  84. Thanks WIll. A very helpful. Can’t wait to get started putting your excellent lesson into action. Thank you, Pamela.

  85. Amazingly understandable lesson. You have genius in your instructing methods. Thank you for all the help.

  86. this is great info! I’ve been struggling with this for quite a while.

  87. One thing I’m curious about is slant line that seems to divide the light and dark. I’ve seen other teacher wanting to use a smooth variegated tone to show depth, or roundness.
    Are they teaching a more advance technique?

    1. Hi John, yes that’s right, from the article above:

      Keeping your light tones in the light side and your darks in the shadows whilst maintaining a soft transition between the two is what we’re trying to achieve.

      A smooth transition between the form shadow and the light side.


  88. I really enjoy how well-written your instructions are and how well the visuals illustrate the principle. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Elisa, really pleased you enjoyed the article.

  89. Thank you for great lesson,looking forward to the next one

  90. Will, u rock!!

  91. Cool!Thank you so much.Its really helpful.

  92. Thank you, I am working on this before I get to Part 2. :-)

  93. Hi Will,

    Your instructions for this lesson are very helpful. It has really helped in observing objects that are casting different shadows and also in different lighting.

    1. Pleased to hear it Joe, glad it’s helped you to start to observe objects with an artist eye.

  94. Thank you so much for your guidance Will. I’m having so much difficulty applying this logic on a canvas while painting. I need strict tutorial. I still find it hard to believe that there’s someone like you who teaches anyone who’s willing to learn. We’re lucky to have you. Good luck.

    1. Hi Vera,

      Thanks for your kind words, hope you’re finding the lessons helpful.

  95. Dear Will

    Light bulb moments keep happening when I read your lessons. Thank you very much I will try to put your information into practice. Drawing this morning so I will have the opportunity today. Lynette

    1. Great to hear it Lynette, good luck with your drawings.

  96. Thank you for distilling for us what could be a confusing subject, Will. I like the crisp way you presented the subject. I watched Part 2 as well. This augments what we’re doing now at my first drawing class. Practice cannot be emphasized enough… Over the years at my work I came up with this: “Work on it, but not too hard otherwise it becomes a chore.”

    1. Hi Eduardo, so pleased you found the information on light & shade clear and easy to follow.

  97. Thank you for giving me the endurance and the will to keep going.

    1. You’re welcome Steven, really pleased it helped.

  98. Hi Will,

    Your instruction helps me a lot to understand the light and shade and to pay more attention when I paint. Thanks a lot!

    Nualnapa B. Brown

  99. Wow great information.I wish I had this when Imstarted to teach myself to draw! I retired in 2010 took a drawing class at senior center . I had always doodled but didn’t think I could draw. I have since taken up oil painting. Thank you so much for your lessons. I will reread thismto absorb all the great information! Thank you!

    1. Thanks Glenda, just following some of the basic principles with light can really make a massive influence on your drawings, really hope it helps you work.

  100. Hellooooooooo Will,
    Thank you for your timely information on lighting and shadows, very much appreciated.
    Have a great Easter,
    With Greetings from Mumbai

    1. Thanks Bruno, really hope you enjoy this series.

  101. Do you add purple to all shadows?
    Thank you for this information.
    Happy Easter

    1. Hi Connie, no, you don’t add purple to all shadows, it depends on the colour of the objects and the reflected light into the shadows.

  102. Thanks Will..this was very informative..your step by step analysis is great..it helped me in understanding how light behaves on an object..looking forward to applying these techniques in my paintings…it definitely makes a difference.

    1. So pleased it’s helped Prema,

  103. Thank you, Will.

  104. Will, Please keep your tutorials coming. I happily signed up on your website, I think you are one of the most gifted art teachers I have ever seen. Somehow, when I follow your instructions, my work comes out so much better than with other teachers. I don’t know how you do it, but simply put, you are great! Thank you so much.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments on my teaching style, so pleased you’ve found the lessons easy to follow and you’re creating some great paintings!


  105. Hi Will,

    just spotted the article titled “The curious tale of the economist and the Cezanne in the hedge” with now very familiar image (although a bit different apples here) and felt a need to share: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27226104

    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Nataliya, thanks for the link to the article, very timely!

  106. Thanks a lot for your lessons ,and I do a appreciate them there’s something I didn’t get into it even I reread it :why the Form Shadow Core is darker than the Form Shadow but logically it must be the same at least ?

    1. Hi Maha, it is is due to the reflected light in the scene, if you had a black box and the apple was within it the Form shadow core and Form shadow would both be the same.


  107. Thank you so much. You’re GREAT!!!

  108. Wow! I’m so glad I found your website. I’ve decided to do a large painting of hydrangeas and was looking for color advice when I found your “pinks” post. Wonderful! I’ve spent a lot of time and money on classes and workshops and not learned as much as I have on your videos. Thank you so much!

    1. Hey Martha,

      Nice to hear from you and so pleased you’re enjoying the website.
      Pleased the colour mixing post helped.


  109. This is a very helpful tutorial on shadows, I hope to see more as we go on, nice one Will.

  110. Wonderful tutorial, was searching for some theory on light and shadow. I loved this – “It is the dark side on an object not facing the light that reveals the form and mass of the shape”. Some really good fundamentals covered

    1. Thanks Rupa, pleased you found it helpful.

  111. Simple and very useful. Greatings from Brazil. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Alex, pleased you found it helpful.

  112. Hi will,
    I’m Akpabio Martins an undergraduate in the prestigious university of Uyo, Nigeria. I have found your lessons use full and will like to get more of this lessons via my email address. Thanks! Keep up the good work… greetings from Nigeria{Africa}

    1. Pleased you’ve been finding them helpful Akpabio.

  113. I don’t draw or sketch but I am attracted to art that uses shadow correctly. I enjoyed reading your explanation of how this is achieved.

    I have used the periscope app one time in my life. There was a person drawing and we the observers were as present as if we had been in the room. I mention this because should you ever decide to hold a class where you taught about light and shadow I would like to be in attendance. Just a thought.

    1. Thanks Richard, pleased you enjoyed the article and good to know the periscope app worked well for the lesson.

  114. Hi I am from Turkey. I am beginner now and I want to all learn details about drawing. thank you.

    1. Pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons Merve.

  115. Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for creating these wonderful tutorials. Your explanations are clear and easy to understand. And as a new painter it is wonderful to be able to learn online from a talented artist like yourself. I wish you great success and thank you sincerely for sharing your knowledge.
    Jane in Ottawa, Canada

    1. Thanks very much Jane, that’s very kind of you to say so, really hope you find the site helpful.

  116. Many thanks Will. all perfect and helpful

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