Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How to Shade a Drawing

Difficulty: 0

Its the one weve all been waiting for!! SHADING!

Stan Prokopenko here, youre watching proko.


First lets talk about form, because form is what we are trying to indicate when we


In order to effectively shade form, you first need to understand the form youre shading.

In the structure video I talked about the basic building blocks of form - spheres, cylinders

and boxes. Organic forms found in nature, like humans, animals and trees could and should

be constructed from these simple forms to capture the character of the subject. The

primary form, such as a cylinder for an arm, should be dominant over any secondary forms,

such as the bicep, tricep, deltoid, forearms muscles. And these secondary forms should

be dominant over tertiary forms, like a vein or wrinkles. You dont necessarily have

to draw them in that sequence, just make sure that your shading primarily reveals the largest

forms, and the smaller forms act as details - icing on the cake.


Planes can be thought of as flat tiles, arranged in 3d space to create a form. For example

this sphere has a front plane, top plane, side planes, and many more between that together

resemble a sphere. They create the illusion of form. Though really a sphere is rounded,

without any flat planes, thinking of it in this way will help to imagine the sphere as

a 3d object and aid in the shading process. You can think of each section and imagine

which direction that plane faces. Then compare it to the direction of the light source. The

plane facing the light is the lightest and progressively get darker as they turn away.

This gradation of tone on the planes gives a sense of light on the form and helps to

show the 3-dimensionality of the sphere. If you want to round out the edges to indicate

a softer form, then soften the edge between these planes! Though sometimes leaving the

edges between the planes hard even on what looks like a rounded form can help to illustrate

the structure more effectively. Consider the 3-dim

ensional form rather than just blurring edges for techniques' sake.

I also want to point out that when youre simplifying a form, what youre doing is

decreasing the number of planes which that form consists of. This 3d model consists of

millions of planes, 3d artists call them polygons. When we lower the polygons down to a few thousand,

we get something like this. Much more manageable for our brains to process. This is the level

I'm usually thinking at when Im observing the planes on an organic form like a figure.

Shade these planes with soft edges and it gives the illusion of millions of planes.

But in my mind, Im only thinking of a few major planes for a given area.

If you lower the polycount even further, basically what you have is the robo bean and the mannequin.

Its good to imagine each form as a block and identify each minor plane as either being

part of the top, bottom, front, back or side planes.. The simple planes of a block are

the most important ones. George Bridgman saysAvoid all elaborate and unnecessary tones

which take away from a plane appearing to be on one of 4 major sides.”

Light on Form

When an object is lit by a direct light source, you will get a very predictable pattern of

lights and shadows. We can make a form feel 3d by indicating all the parts of the lights

and shadows correctly.

Lets do a little example. An elongated rounded form with some thinner cylindrical

ends. This can be a generic muscle, similar to a bicep. You have the rounded belly of

the muscle with tendons on both ends.

First determine the angle of the light source. Lets say top right.. And imagine the planes

that make up this form. All the planes that face the light will belong to the light family.

All the planes that face away from the light will belong to the shadow family.

Core Shadow

As a divider of the two families youll usually see a core shadow - a darker strip

at the edge of the shadow. This core shadow shouldnt be the same all the way the down

the form. In the rounded belly part of the form, the core shadow will be thicker with

a softer edge. As the form transitions to the thinner tendon, the core shadow will also

get thinner with a sharper edge. Make sure you pay attention to what youre indicating

with the core shadow. Avoid drawing racing stripes down the form. This usually happens

when people think 2-dimensionally and don't consider the 3 dimensional form they're indicating.

Is it cylindrical, cuboid, or somewhere between the two? Draw a soft, firm or hard edge accordingly.

Reflected Light

Fill in the shadow side with a clean dark value, but lighter than the core shadow. This

is called the reflected light. Its lighter because of bounce light and reflections from

the environment illuminating this area. I always start with a flat value first, even

if I see variations of value caused by plane changes inside the shadows. The most important

part is to separate the shadow family from the light family.

Later in the drawing we can work on the plane changes within the shadows if they are really

important. Though in this example there aren't really any plane changes, just a soft gradation

to show the rounded form. On a complex form like a figure, its usually a good idea

to keep the details within the shadows quieter than the details in the lights. Most of the

story is going to be told in the lit areas. Naturally the viewer will look into the areas

where the light shines, so you want to put the interesting detail work there, and keep

the shadows as the areas of rest. This drawing by Steve Huston is a really good example of

this principle. He keeps the shading inside the shadows very simple. Heres another

one. He kept the shading on the bottom of the feet so simple that he completely lost

it into the background. Same thing with the hair.

Centerlight and Halftones

Next, identify the point of the center light. This is the point where the plane faces directly

to the light. The halftones appear as a gradation darkest near the core shadow and lightest

at the center light. So, Im thinking about how these planes get lighter as they wrap

around toward the centerlight. Then down here, the planes start to turn downward, also getting

darker. Once we get to the cylinder of the tendon, the planes turn back to face forward.


The highlight is different from the center light, but sometimes appearing to fall very

close to the center light. Remember, the center light is the plane that faces the light and

the highlight is the plane that reflects the lights relative to the position of the viewer.

A simple way to remember the interaction between the center light and highlight is - When the

shadow is thin the highlight will be very close to the center light. When the shadow

is large, then highlight will be farther from the centerlight, moving closer to the shadow.

So, Ive established the shape of the highlight and gave it a sharp edge on the side and softer

toward the top and bottom.

Cast Shadow and Occlusion Shadow

So far we have a center light, highlight, halftone, core shadow, and reflected light.

Theres two more that were missing. These elements occur when theres an interaction

between two forms. So lets introduce a random cylinder into the scene. This cylinder

blocks light from hitting the surface of the muscle right here. Thats called a cast

shadow, because its cast by the cylinder. When I draw the cast shadow shape, I use it

to describe the shape of the object it is casting on to, not the object it is casting


The area deep under the cylinder will get less bounce light and so it will be darker.

Thats an occlusion shadow. Keep the edge at the cylinder sharp and the edge going away

very soft.

So, those are all the parts. Review all these elements and practice spotting them on directly

lit objects.

There are 2 other things that I look for that could affect the value of the form.

Local Value

The local value of the object itself shifts the value range. These 2 eggs are light exactly

the same way, but you can see how the value range is different. On the white egg the range

from darkest core to center light is pretty wide. On the brown egg the values get compressed

and pushed darker.

Interestingly, the highlight isnt affected as much. It still gets darker, but not as

much as the other parts. Because of that the highlight on the brown egg appears very bright.

The value of the highlight depends on the reflectivity of the material. A glossy surface

will have brighter highlights, whereas a highlight on a matte surface might not be visible at

all. The effects you see on these eggs are really close to what youd see with skin.

Intensity of Light

The intensity of the light also makes a big difference. Intense light will create more

contrast between the lights and shadows. Dim light, low contrast. The intensity of the

light can shift within the same object. For example in this figure drawing, the light

source is above the figure, so the light is intense at the top and drops off toward the

bottom as the forms get farther from the light source. And this is actually something you

can cheat. You dont have to see this on the model in order to do it. You can use it

as a compositional trick to guide the viewers eye to the focal point. In this case Im

guiding the eye to the upper back, which has the interesting light and dark design pattern

of the anatomy. Here's another drawing by Steve Huston, which illustrates this very


Detailed explanation of the process - available in the premium course...

What?! Im sorry! I gotta leave something for the paying students! Cant give everything

away for freeIts cheap anyway, just go to and you can have all

those figure drawing fundamentals extended lessons. And a bunch of examples and stuff

from the lessons. Do it!

If youre posting your own drawings from these lessons on social networks, use hashtag

prokoor tag me, @proko on facebook @stanprokopenko on instagram so I can see

your drawings.

If you like this video pass it on to your friends and classmates. And click this button

here to subscribe to the Proko newsletter so you dont miss any new videos. buh bye!

The Description of How to Shade a Drawing