Marker Sketch Technique: Cylinder

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See: Marker Tutorial: Cube

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Last week, I did  a quick sketch render of a cube. This week, we’ll take a look at a cylinder. If you ‘d like to follow along, simply download the cylinder sketch here and print it out. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can run some marker paper through the printer and have the sketch part of this exercise taken care of. That should be easy enough, but if you’d just like to follow along, continue reading on!

As always, when sketching with marker, it’s important to determine and define your light source. While in more complex situations such as environments, you may have more than one light source, it’s easier to just pick one for our purposes here as well as when you are sketching up concepts for presentation. I’ve picked the left side of my drawing to be the source of my light and the right side consequently as the dark side.

Now, the cylinder below isn’t perfect, but the principles and technique are sound. If the sketch isn’t up to par, just look the other way :-)

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Since we don’t have clearly defined planar sides on our cylinder, we have to think about it a little differently when adding tone and value. I typically use the above diagram to help me when shading. it’s a little more technical and if it fries your brain, forgive me, but sometimes understanding and seeing the technical helps you understand why we do something.

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Shadow cores happen when light passes the far side of the cylinder, and highlights when light reflects toward the viewer from the side of the cylinder that’s closest to the light source. For those into the more technical side of things, the angle of incidence being equal to the angle of reflection results in us seeing the cylinder as the way it is when rendered (if this is confusing ignore what I just said :-) ) Just remember that the highlight will be to the left in this case, and the shadow core to the right of the cylinder.

The width, brightness, and intensity of the highlight will depend on the material you’re trying to represent as well as the intensity of the light source and direction of the light source.

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As always, I start with the lightest marker in my set of three – in this case, a Copic C3 Marker (Equivalent to a prismacolor 30% cool gray marker) and block in my shadow core using even vertical strokes on the outlined cylinder. Starting with the lightest marker is important since your mistakes with a darker marker are a harder thing to cover up or alter.

Once the lightest strokes are down, I can switch to a 50% grey marker (in this case, a prismacolor marker) and further add contrast to the sketch.

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When stroking with the marker, I try to make sure that the long, flat side of the marker is parallel or touching the line defining that side of the sketch.

I’ve also purposefully left the highlight area of the cylinder white. Whitespace is a good thing when using marker, since there is no opaque white marker.

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I continue now with the 50% grey marker to add contrast to the shadow core, and well as using my lighter 30% grey marker to blend the tone of the cylinder from right to left. Doing this helps me get a nice smooth gradation of value from the dark side of the cylinder to the lighter side of the cylinder reinforcing the form and helping it pop off the page some more.

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Once you’re satisfied with the contrast of the sketch (the shadow core and highlight should read well when you stand back from the sketch) you can start to outline and fill in the shadow. cyl_step06

Remember, there really should be about 3 – 4 key values in your sketch –

  1. Highlight
  2. Midtone
  3. Shadow
  4. Cast Shadow

The cast shadow is what you see projected on the ground there. It’s the darkest value in the sketch and is applied with the darkest marker you have.

If you’re working with marker or bond paper, it pays to be patient. If you apply marker in an area and the tone isn’t dark enough, you can let the marker dry, then apply marker again in the same spot to get a deeper or darker tone.

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Once you’re at this point, you can add some tone to the top of the cylinder. I work with my lightest marker again, gradating from dark tone to light tone as I move to the right of the cylinder. This gives me the most contrast where it needs it in the drawing. Why? It helps the opject have some depth and contrast on the page and pops it so that it reads better. If the contrast is too low on your sketch, the form won’t be communicated as well.

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Time for the background . . . I outline as always, drawing with my shoulder and being quick, yet careful with each stroke I make.

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My background is now completed and the color helps contrast the object in front of it. The background complements rather than complicates the presentation.

Once again, using markers shouldn’t be in the same way you color in a coloring book. The entire shape of object need not be shaded in all the way most of the time. There are exceptions to the rule however depending on the material you’re trying to represent.


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  • Jason

    Thanks Spencer for all the tutorials!

  • Jason

    Thanks Spencer for all the tutorials!

  • Julio César Padrón

    gee’s man, this is wonderful, I’ve just started to colet my own set of marker´s, hopefully I won´’t get obcessed with it, ha, got this weird passion for sketching, and as an industrial student, got to make a difference, this is not such a very recurent technique between my partners, well…

    nice tutorial, I’ll try to keep in touch, by the way, this seams so far my favorite industrial designer’s web site by now, greeting’s from mexico

  • Julio César Padrón

    gee’s man, this is wonderful, I’ve just started to colet my own set of marker´s, hopefully I won´’t get obcessed with it, ha, got this weird passion for sketching, and as an industrial student, got to make a difference, this is not such a very recurent technique between my partners, well…

    nice tutorial, I’ll try to keep in touch, by the way, this seams so far my favorite industrial designer’s web site by now, greeting’s from mexico

  • mitra

    thanx for niceeeeee teaching :) I should know alot about rendering so please continue

  • mitra

    thanx for niceeeeee teaching :) I should know alot about rendering so please continue

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WIIT7GPPT63TVIPRHK3DA2AJXI Shaparak

    It is very very goog , thanks a lot.