How to Draw Shadows: Basic Things Every Artist Should Know

How to Draw Shadows Basic Things Every Artist Should Know
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As an artist, it is important that you know how to draw shadows. Shadows give your drawing depth, dimension, and character. Images drawn without shadows make it seem as if the artist lacks technique and skills. When drawing shadows, you ought to use the right type of pencils and tools. Shadowless images can be described as being two-dimensional, but images with shadows help to make your drawing come to life as they are three-dimensional.

If you know how to draw shadows, you can make your image come to life on a flat surface. Light and shadows are two elements that work well together. Before you attempt to draw shadows, you need to understand how they both work together and how they can work against each other. There are several terminologies that you should be familiar with such as values, hatching, and shading. You also need to know about the different types of shadows and how they operate.

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Phrases You Should Know and What They Mean


Shadows can be explained in terms of the amount of light an object receives. On an object, certain areas will receive little or no light. There are two types of shadows, form shadows and cast shadows. Form shadows are a part of the object and present the darkest tone as light is blocked. Cast shadows are those shadows that are attached to the object and can be found under it.


Light refers to actual light and how it is placed on the object. The light source affects drawing as it is where the light originates from. The light will affect the shadow.


Values are not numbers. As it relates to artistry, they represent the variations and mixtures of white and black that make the different shades of gray. Artists use shading to represent these values


It is a technique that is used for illustrating three-dimensional objects. Another variation, cross-hatching is also used.

A Guide to Drawing Shadows

Now that you know the various terms associated with drawing shadows, you can begin the process of drawing three-dimensional objects. If you want a brief idea of how shadows work, before you read the steps, you should place an object in front of you and just observe how the shadows are cast in front of you.

Try to identify the cast shadow and the form shadow. You should also try to look for the darkest part of the object and text. Below, you can read the steps that will help you learn about drawing shadows.

Sketch a Shape

Before you start drawing shadows, the first thing you need to do is have an image to draw a shadow for. So, you can sketch a simple image for you to practice shadowing. It will help if you start off by sketching an image of an object that you can see. That way, when it is time to draw shadows, you can look at the image to see how the actual shadows are cast.

Shade the Sketch

Before you start shading, look at your object and see where the darkest part of it is. If you have no object in front of you, you can imagine a light source and choose the darkest part of the object. The cast shadow of the object will be under it, and the form shadow will be on the object itself.

Remember when you are shading, you need to shade from dark to light and generally not shading certain areas. A pencil set with a variety of hardness (H) and blackness (B) will help you to get the right shadings and textures. So, you will not have to put too much effort into shading.

Fill in the Sketch

For this step, you will need to use your graphite pencil to blend all the shadings you did before. Lightly blend by filling in the middle so that the drawing is complete. Do not press too much on the pencil. If you use a pencil that is too hard, your object will be textured. If that is not the look you’re hoping for, then you should use a softer pencil. Sometimes, when blending, you can rub a piece of paper on your sketch pad, to smooth the drawing.

Learn to Layer the Sketch

If you have ever used Photoshop, you will be familiar with the concept of layering. If you have not, layering just means that you stack items one on top the next. In this instance, it means that you would add more strokes to the object that you are drawing. The intention is to make all your previous strokes appear smoother and not forced. So you will connect all the scratches together.

Add Texture

Once you have layered the sketch, for the final presentation, you can add some texture. Texture brings life and meaning to your drawing. Depending on the object, you may choose to add dots or to use the cross-hatching technique to add some drama and flair to your drawing. Once you are satisfied, you can clean up your drawing by using a kneaded eraser around the edges.

How to Draw Shadows: Conclusion

The ability to draw shadows is a fundamental skill that every artist needs to know. If an artist understands the science behind lighting and lighting sources, then drawing shadows will be easy. However, certain shading techniques also need to be understood as well as what pencil will be best for a certain texture or to shade a certain degree of darkness. Not everyone understands how important the write pencils are in achieving the perfect shadows.

If you are still uncertain of drawing shadows or you think that your shadows could be improved, and you learn better by visual aids, you should consider watching a full video tutorial on YouTube or asking an expert artist to help you to understand the concept.

Once you are able to follow the simple steps of sketching, shading, filling, and layering, you are well on your way to drawing good shadows. Remember that you also have to understand the concepts that relate to the different types of shadows, hashing, and values. All good artists have a basic understanding of these concepts. If all else fails, observing objects help.

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