How to make shadows in a drawing? learn how to give volume and realism to your work!

Do you think your portraits look flat and boring? Nothing like making shadows in a drawing to give life to your next projects! To be a great artist, you must know all the possible techniques to enhance the result of all your portraits, don’t you think?

However, before starting this note, it is important that you know which are the lighting techniques that will allow you to create authentic works of art. With them, you will be able to illustrate spectacular sceneries, so that the process to learn how to make shadows in a drawing that we will describe here will be easier for you to do.

So, once you are aware of the types of lighting in drawing, read on to discover how lights and shadows work in a drawing, and where you should place each one of them. Finally, you will learn how to make shadows in digital and paper drawings.

let’s get started!

how do lights and shadows work in a drawing?

In order to learn how to make shadows in a drawing, the first thing you need to know is how lights and shadows work in a drawing.

Paula Bugueño, teacher of the complete kawai illustration techniques course, tells us the following: “in drawing, we reduce light and shadows to give certain areas more value than others, as well as to generate a 3D effect”.

According to the expert, to recreate light and shadow in a drawing, it is important to pay attention to the objects around us. In this way, we can determine how light behaves when passing through them and what shadows it leaves in its wake.

In addition, Paula tells us that it is important to identify 3 elements: the light source, the shadows and the shadows cast, since, together, they serve to create volume in a drawing subject, whether it is an object or a character.

Below, we tell you what each of them consists of:

1. Light source

The techniques of light and shadow in a drawing start from here. The source of illumination refers to the direction from which it comes to land on the drawing. it is of utmost importance to take it into account so that the other two elements have coherence.

2. Own shadows

Now, to learn how to make shadows in a drawing, you must start by knowing what are the proper shadows. In short, they are those that are determined by the shape and volumes of the object itself, which are produced directly when they come into contact with the first element: the light source.

By generating cavities and indentations in it, they create the depth of the object.

3. Projected shadows

Finally, if you want to know how to shade a drawing, you should also pay attention to this element. According to the Claret Institute of Chile, cast shadows “are those that are produced on the surfaces neighboring the object”, for example, on the floor or on the wall, depending on how the drawing is composed.

In other words, this is the effect that is generated in the background due to the impact of light on the protruding objects.

how to know where to place the shadows in a drawing?

The direction of the light in the drawing is nothing more than the position in which the light sources are placed with respect to the elements of the drawing.

You may not think that this is something relevant when learning how to make shadows in a drawing, however, depending on the direction of light, the drawing is able to express a myriad of feelings or emotions. this is essential to reinforce the message you want to convey through your illustration.

To make shadows in a drawing, you only have to darken the side opposite to the direction of light, that is, the areas where the illumination does not reach due to the “obstacles” in its path. According to L’atelier de Canson, thanks to these contrasts of tones, it is possible to represent the volumes of an object.

Some ways in which you can position the direction of light in a drawing are as follows:

Front light: this can be combined with any of the following light directions. This is placed in front of the subject and generates shadows behind it.
Side light: comes from the left or right of the drawing and shadows are placed on the opposite side as appropriate.
Diagonal light: the light source comes from one of the corners and the shadows are placed following that direction, but on the opposite side.
Zenithal light: the lighting is placed above the subject, illuminating it completely and generating shadows below it.
Backlighting: the light source is placed behind the subject, illuminating it sparsely at the edges and contrasting its figure with the background.

So, if your biggest doubt is how to give shadows to a drawing without the result looking artificial, check very well each of the light directions to correctly portray the lighting path in your portrait

how to make shadows in a drawing on paper?

Now that you understand how lights and shadows work, let’s look at some techniques that will help you discover how to make shadows in a drawing on paper.

To do any of them, we recommend you to have some drawing tools, such as ink, pens, markers or paints.

take note of the ways in which you can shade a drawing!

1. Lines

This technique to make shadows in a traditional drawing consists of drawing a series of lines parallel to each other to represent the lack of light.

The more lines there are, and the closer together they are, the more intense or darker the shadow of the drawing will be. On the other hand, if you draw a smaller number of lines, with more distance between them, the darkness of the shadow will result less intense.

como hacer sombras en dibujosImage: Pexels

2. Crossed lines or Cross hatching

Another way to make drawings with easy shadows is to resort to the technique of shading with crossed lines or Cross hatching, which is very similar to the line technique. The difference is that, in this method, the lines do not go in one direction but cross each other diagonally.

3. Pointillism

To achieve drawings with shadows, you can also make use of the technique known as pointillism, which is very popular among drawing artists. Basically, it consists of making small dots in all the shaded areas of the drawing.

As in the two ways to make shadows in a drawing, the greater the number of dots, as well as their proximity in the same area of the drawing, the greater the intensity of the shadow, and vice versa.

4. Circulism

This technique for shading a drawing consists of coloring with circular shapes in the areas that lack light on the canvas.

For example, you can choose to vary the intensity of the shadow with the pressure you exert on the paper when coloring, or you can use layers of color to achieve a similar effect. You will just need to go over the same area several times to intensify the tone and make a gradation of color.

como hacer sombras en dibujosImage: Pexels

5. Blurring

Continuing with the techniques to learn how to make shadows in drawing, we must now focus on blurring, which integrates the shadows evenly with the rest of the drawing.

But, how to blur a drawing? Very simple! To make shadows using this technique, you can make a soft coloring in a normal way with the colors and tones you need, trying to integrate them and generate a gradient .

In addition, there are some tools that could help you to make a softer blurring if you use graphite, such as, for example, sphuminos.

6. Flat shadows

The technique of flat shadows is mainly used when we draw with wet techniques such as ink, watercolor, acrylic paint, etc. Although, it is also possible to draw shadows in a drawing with this method using other tools such as colored pencils.

This technique consists of making solid color spots to shade the drawing. drawings that use this shading technique are usually dichromatic, that is, they only have two tones, one for the base and one for the shadows of the drawing. However, you can employ more colors if you wish.

como dar sombras a un dibujoImage: Pexels

how to make shadows in digital drawings?

To make shadows in a digital drawing, you can use any of the above techniques, since, thanks to the possibilities offered by design programs, it is possible to replicate any traditional technique in a virtual environment.

However, as you know, digital painting also has its particularities. Therefore, below, we will share with you other ways to generate shadows, specifically in digital:

1. Blending modes

This is a function that digital drawing and design programs usually have to make shadows. Blending modes are used to apply a kind of filter to the layers of your project and thus change the way the colors look.

Before using it, you should keep in mind that this tool affects how each stroke or brushstroke interacts with the layer below .

Using them and experimenting with them is useful to find new ways to shade and lighten your digital drawings, although, in general, the most commonly used for shading a digital drawing is the Multiply mode.

como hacer sombras en dibujos digitalesImage: Pexels

2. Painting and shading

The most common technique for shading a digital drawing is to paint all the base colors and then paint the shadows on a new layer. To do this, you can use the darkest color in your color palette or use the Multiply blending mode and adjust the opacity as you see fit.

3. Shading with shadows

This technique to shade a digital drawing is useful to represent night scenes or scenes with a lot of darkness and consists of doing something similar to the previous technique. Follow these steps to perform it:

Paint the base colors of your drawing.
In a new layer, select the Multiply blend mode and, with the color of your choice, shade your drawing.
Then add a new layer and fill it completely with a dark color.
Use the Multiply mode and adjust the opacity so that it blends with your drawing in a natural way.
Finally, with the eraser, erase the brightest areas of your drawing.

The final step of this procedure will help you achieve a drawing with personality, as well as a nocturnal atmosphere in your illustration.

Finally, if you use this technique to make shadows in digital with a warm color, you can set your drawing in another context and with other lighting, such as a sunset. It’s just a matter of experimenting.

dibujo digitalImage: Pexels

that’s it! Now you know how to make shadows in a drawing with traditional and digital methods. So, it’s time to start practicing the ones you liked the most in order to improve your technique as the days go by.

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