How can I improve my drawing shading

Draw shadows

In order for a drawing to appear realistic and three-dimensional, the line drawing must be converted into a shaded image. Quite simply, if you have a sketch that consists primarily of the outline of the subject, you have to draw the shadows.
Only when shadows are displayed do objects appear three-dimensional and therefore also realistic. While the line mainly describes the contour, the shadows give the viewer information about the real shape of the motif.

Different techniques are available to the artist for drawing shadows, such as hatching, wiping, shading and others. The direction from which the light comes is of great importance for the shape of the shadow.
But first one after the other. In order to have a basic understanding of shadows, it is first important to know how shadows are created in the first place and what types of shadows there are.

A body with and without drawn shadows

Basic knowledge of shadows for drawing

Shadows can only be created by light. They arise where little, hardly or no light comes in. The parts of a body that are fully facing the light source are also completely illuminated. If less light reaches a point because this point is turned away from the light source or is covered by another object, a shadow is created there. The less light reaches a point, the more pronounced and therefore darker the shadow becomes.

Drawing basics
The basic knowledge of drawing technology

Learn the basics of drawing! This book describes the most important basic knowledge about drawing technique, drawing means, representation methods, drawing styles and much more.

The book is aimed primarily at beginners who have just started or want to start drawing. But even advanced draftsmen will find what they are looking for in this reading, as more in-depth knowledge about the graphic representation of motifs is conveyed here.

Differentiation of types of shade

A distinction is made in art between body shadows (also own shadows) and cast shadows (also outside shadows).

Different types of shadows on a sphere

Body shadow

Body shadows are those shadows that a body creates on its own surface. They best describe the three-dimensional shape of the body.

Light and shadow lead to a high degree of plasticity in a drawing
Replica of Dürer's "Praying Hands"

Drop shadow

Cast shadows are shadows that a body casts on the ground. They also give the viewer information about the shape of a motif - but more indirectly than the body shadows. However, cast shadows are the best way to show which side the light is coming from and at which angle it is incident. Especially in the area of ​​perspective drawing * many methods are known with which drop shadows can be modeled.

Representation of a drop shadow in a perspective drawing

Draw shadows

If you draw directly from a motif, you can reproduce shadows mainly by carefully observing the drawing object. Take a close look at your subject and analyze the shadows that arise. Approach it completely impartially and try not to think about what you have stored in your brain about the respective object.
It is also difficult to determine exactly how dark a shadow is. Finding the right tone plays an important role if a motif is to appear realistic and authentic.

You then have to work with great care when drawing the shadows. Be careful not to hatch too dark. Areas that are too bright can be darkened easily, but areas that are too dark can be brightened up much more difficult. The normal eraser should be used with caution, as it can smudge the drawing. In most cases, a kneaded eraser is the better choice.

Techniques for rendering shadows

As already described in the intro, there are various drawing techniques that can be used when shading a motif. We will briefly explain the most important ones.


Hatching is the first choice for many artists. It can be used with all drawing tools such as pencil, ink, ballpoint pen, charcoal pencil, fineliner, marker, etc.

When hatching, thin lines are drawn next to each other, which can run at different angles to each other, but can also be completely parallel. By reducing the line spacing, shadows can be drawn darker; by widening the spacing, lighter shadows are displayed. Also by drawing another hatching over an existing hatch that is oriented at a different angle, the mesh is condensed and the area becomes darker.
What sounds relatively complicated in theory is actually quite easy to understand and can also be implemented very intuitively with the pen in hand.

Here are three types of hatch:

Different hatching techniques - from left to right:
Simple hatch, cross hatch with two directions, cross hatch with three directions


By wiping you can draw very even tone gradients and shadows. Shaded or hatched areas are smeared with a finger or a wiping tool. An estompe is best for this.

Wipe coal with an estompe

By using the wiping technique, however, you have already reached the border between drawing and painting. Because when you wipe, lines and points become invisible, which make up the original basic feature of the drawing.


If you hold a pencil at an extreme angle to the paper - that is, with its broad side, so to speak - you call this type of drawing Dumb. It is a technique with which you can quickly reach your goal and also fill in larger areas with a tonal value in a short time. When drawing a shadow, you can also display beautiful gradients and no lines are visible.

dim shadows on a rock

The disadvantage of shading is that drawings can become a little blurry. In addition, the typical character of a drawing is lost because no - or hardly any - lines are visible. Drawings that have been shaded by shading often look a little "unclean".