Drawing, shading light and shadows
Drawing, shading light and shadows illustration

Shading, Light, and Shadows in Drawing

Most people want their drawings and painting to look as natural as possible. However, there are many things you need to do if you want to achieve perfect results. You need to understand how light and shadows logic works if you want your drawing to appear lively. Proper lighting also changes the mood of your picture.

When drawing or painting, you need a source of light. However, it can be challenging to make a perfect drawing if you have multiple sources. To make a more developed drawing, you need to be conscious of the lighting setup, design, and composition.

Using a Single Light Source

Light travels in a straight line, and when it hits on objects, it forms shadows. Remember that shadows are formed depending on the angle it’s coming from and the intensity. For example, when the sunlight hits a tree from above, the shadows formed will be shorter. On the other hand, if the same tree is hit by the sun in the evening when the sun is very low, the shadows will be longer. For example, when only the sunlight hits on a cube, you will see a square shadow.

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Understanding the cast shadow

How a cast shadow appears depends on the intensity of the lighting. When hard lighting hits an object, it will form a shadow with sharp edges. If soft lighting hits the same object, it will produce a shadow with little blurry edges. For example, if sunlight hits on a sphere, you will see that the shadow underneath is darker and gets lighter as it goes further from the source.

Light and shadows in drawing illustration
Light and shadows, (Image credit: RALPH S)

The 3 Areas of a Form

1. Light Side: This includes the Halftones and the Highlight. The highlight is the lightest part after the sunlight hits the object, while the halftones are even lighter and blend well into the shadow sides.

2. Shadow side: This side includes the form shadows core, the reflected light, and the form shadows. The form shadows core is the darkest part, while the form shadows are slightly lighter and have dark tones that blend away into the reflected light. Remember the best online class is available at Draw Like a Master Artist.

3. Cast shadow: This is the darkest part and is found rightly directly under the object. For example, in astronomy, the shadows are named umbra, penumbra, and antumbra. The name umbra is given to the darkest part, while the penumbra part is the lighter part.

Light and shadows in drawing illustration
Light and shadows, (Image credit: RALPH S)

How to define the shadow line

Have you ever heard of the shadow line? It is a line formed between the shadow side and the lighter side. When drawing, you need to clearly define the line to keep the dark tones in the shadows and a lighter tone in the light side. Ensure you maintain a soft transition between the two so that you can achieve a more realistic picture. Maintaining the fullness of the shape can be challenging, and you need to practice more until you reach the desired goal. You can achieve that by gently lightening your pencil marks until you get a nice blend.

The Light Shade

The Highlight part is where the sunlight directly hits on the object. It’s the best indicator you can use when determining the angle that the lighting is coming. Including highlights in your drawing makes your picture come to life.

Light and shadows in drawing illustration
Light and shadows, (Image credit: RALPH S)

What about the Reflected light?

Reflected light appears when the object is seated on a surface. The shiny the surface, the higher the reflection rate. For example, if you place a sphere on a matte white paper, you will find a lot of reflection, which can exaggerate your drawing. Ensure you manage the reflected light so that you can keep the correct illusion. To avoid any mistakes check professional tips in the ultimate course for beginners and advanced artists. It makes learning faster and more fun!

Light and shadows in drawing illustration
Light and shadows, (Image credit: RALPH S)

Value schemes and mood

When drawing or painting, you need to create a mood by combining different values. For example, when you limit the value contrast to a small range of different tonal variations, your results will appear calm. On the other hand, if you choose sharp value contrast, you will evoke strong emotions in your viewers.

Light and shadows components are essential because they make your drawing or painting to be visually believable. Most artists use composition functions of value in their pictorial composition. Value contrast is used to establish mood, create two-dimensional patterns as well as produce spatial unity. There is even more about it, for details visit the complete course.

Now when you have learned all about light and shadows in drawing, you can move to the next important step and learn about the finishing techniques:


The next step in the drawing tutorial after light and shadows in the drawing.

Thanks to RALPH S. for helping with the tutorials.

Title Image, (Image credit: Shimaa Essam)

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