This tutorial explains how to shade basic 3d shapes such as cubes, spheres, cylinders and cones. These shapes can considered the “building blocks” for drawing more complex objects.
Learning to correctly draw and shade basic three dimensional shapes is very important for beginner artists.
Please note that in order to keep the tutorial accurate all of the examples were drawn from real life objects. As a result this also created some small variations in the lighting conditions between them due to the main light source (the sun) moving through out the day. This is simply stated so that you know why some of the lighting is slightly different and has no real impact on the tutorial. All objects still have one main light source coming from the top left and slightly to the front of them. If you were to have one of these in front of you in a similar lighting setup then the light would be coming over your left shoulder.
Before getting started on this tutorial you may also want to learn about different types of shading strokes by looking at:
Also please be aware that different artists may prefer different shading methods. For example some may use simple one directional strokes while the method in this tutorial is to apply the strokes in such a way as to help emphasize the shape of the object.
How to Shade a Cube
Start by make a in perspective light line drawing of the cube. You can see the Perspective Drawing Tutorial for Beginners for an explanation on how to do this.
Before applying the shading there are a few things you should be aware of. One is that generally cubes tend to have a light, medium, and a dark side. Another is that each side will also tend to have a light to dark gradient of its own. In the above example the top side of the cube is the lightest and the right side the darkest. The gradients on the left and right sides of the cube are lighter towards the bottom and darker towards the top. This is caused by the reflection of the main light source from the surface that the cube is sitting on.
The cube will also cast a shadow directly opposite the light source. In this example it will be to the right and slightly behind it. As the main light source is fairly bright and high up above the cube it will create a well defined short shadow. Because the cube is white the shadow will also be significantly darker.
For the actual process of shading the cube you can use straight crosshatch strokes. For each side first make a set of strokes parallel to it’s perspective lines and afterwards apply another set of strokes at a different angle. The first set of strokes will help reinforce the shape of the cube while the other set will help blend the shading making it appear more natural.
You can use a crosshatch for shading the shadow as well. Start by making strokes along it’s general direction and then add a second layer on a slight angle to the first one. Make the shadow darker at the base (near the cube) and lighter as it moves away form it. You can also make the edges of the shadow more blurry the further away it is from the object.
How to Shade a Sphere
Start the drawing of the sphere by simply making a circle.
For the “one light source” basic setup we are using the surface of sphere will gradually transition from it’s lightest point (top left in this case) to dark and then to light again. The second transition will be due to the light reflecting from the surface it’s resting on. It’s also important to note that the light area created by the reflection will not be as bright as the area lit by the main light source.
The darkest area is the point at which the curve of the sphere faces the farthest away from both the main light source and the reflection.
Similar to the previous example the shadow will be cast opposite the main light source (to the right and slightly behind the sphere).
When shading a sphere a good option may be to use lightly curved crosshatch strokes as the curves can help emphasize the spheres round shape. You can apply the first set in any random direction. Apply the second set on an angle to the first one.
Unlike the sphere you can use straight crosshatch strokes for the shadow. You can also apply the first set in any direction you like with the second set on a slightly angle in relation to the first one.
Make the shadow darker towards (right underneath the sphere) and lighter as it moves away from it. You can also make it’s edges more blurry the farther it moves from the object.
How to Shade a Cylinder
Start by making an in perspective line drawing of the cylinder. You can see the How to Draw Cylinders in Perspective Tutorial for instructions on how to do this.
Shading the cylinder will be somewhat of a combination between the sphere and the cube. In the lighting setup described earlier it will have a light top with the rest transitioning from light to dark and then to light again.
As the curve of the cylinder gets farther away from the main light source it will become darker. Past that it will get lighter again as it curve turns more towards the light reflecting form the surface. The darkest area will once again (like the sphere) be the point of the curve farthest from both the main light source and the reflected light.
As the two previous examples the shadow will be cast opposite the main light source (to the right and slightly behind the cylinder).
You can apply the shading strokes in a curved crosshatch that wraps along the shapes of it’s top and bottom curves.
Shade the shadow by making straight crosshatch strokes, darker at it’s base and lighter and more blurry as it moves away from the object.
How to Shade a Pyramid
First make an in perspective line drawing of the pyramid. For instruction on doing this see:
Shading a pyramid drawing like the one in this example is fairly simple as there are only two visible sides. The side facing towards the light will be lighter and the side facing away from it will be darker.
Similar to the cube each side of the pyramid will also have it’s own light to dark transition due to the reflection of the main light source from the surface that its sitting on. In a lighting setup such as that in the above example each side will transition from a lighter bottom to a darker top.
Same as the other examples the shadow will be pointing directly away from the light source. In this case to the right and slightly behind the objects.
Again similar to the cube apply a two sets of straight strokes to create a crosshatch. Make the first sets follow the perspective lines of each side of the pyramid with the second set being on a slightly angle to them.
Make the shadow darker at the base and lighter and more blurry toward the tip.
How to Shade a Cone
Make a perspective drawing of the cone. For instruction on doing this see the How to Draw a Cone in Perspective tutorial.
As mentioned earlier the lighting conditions for this particular example are slightly different in that the main light source will be a little more in front of it than in the other examples. This will move the lightest area of the cone slightly more towards it’s middle and create a gradient on its left going from left to dark. The right side of the cone will transition from light to dark and then to light again (from the reflected light).
The shadow will again be pointing to the right and slightly behind the object (a little more to the back in this example).
Shading the cone is very similar to shading a cylinder the only difference is that everything will get narrower as it goes towards the top. Just like the cylinder you can shade it with a curved crosshatch strokes. Make the first set with curves somewhat matching the curve of it’s bottom and the second set on a slight angle in comparison.
The shadow will be pretty much the same as that of the pyramid. Shade it with straight crosshatch strokes darker towards the base and lighter and blurrier towards the tip.
How to Shade an Octagonal Prism
Start by making a light line drawing of the octagon prism. To do this you can first draw a rectangular prism and then “trim” it’s sides to get the octagon. You can again see the Perspective Drawing Tutorial for Beginners for help.
In the lighting conditions described earlier the lightest side of the octagon prism will be on the left and the darkest on the right. The left side in this example is facing almost directly towards the main light source and therefore is bright enough that it does not really need any shading.
Same as the other examples the other sides of the prism will have their own light to dark gradients. The light reflecting form the surface will again make these gradients lighter towards the bottom and darker towards the top.
The shadow will be cast opposite the main light source (directly opposite the left section) to the right and behind the prism.
As the sides of the prism are fairly narrow you can use a single set of one directional strokes or a crosshatch for shading them. In this example the middle section is done with one directional strokes while the darker right side is done with a crosshatch.
Shade the shadow using crosshatch strokes with the first set along its general direction and the second set angled in relation to that one.
For shading another similar object you can also see:
These 3d shapes are the basic building blocks of many more complex objects. Learning to properly draw and shade them can make it much easier to move on to drawing things that are more complex.
For more similar tutorials also see: