Toolbox: Shadows

Well not all about them, but this should help point you in the right direction.

I’ve had a few people ask about the construction of shadows. I’ll talk about two types here and I’ll be up front here – I won’t cover every situation or even more complex scenarios, but the principles here will help you construct fairly accurate and believable shadows when sketching.

Shadow?

Shadows occur when an object obstructs the path of light. The shape of the shadow is determined by the shape of an object and is a direct result of light passing the edge of the object casting the shadow. Typically, there are two types of shadow that I sketch – Sunlight, and Drop Shadows. Drop shadows are shadows cast directly below on a plane by the object  as seen below

dropshadow

Since drop shadows are simple enough, I’ll cover another kind here – the Artificial Light Shadow.

Before we continue, if you’re into the more technical of explanations, you can check out this website.

Natural Light Shadow

Technically speaking, there is no difference between an artificial light source and a sunlight source. The sun is so far away that the rays emanating from that light source though, converging at the source, appear parallel on earth. Check out the photo below. Fortunately, I had a sunny day in San Francisco and a chance to take some good photos.

See more after the break…

sunlight

Since the difference is negligible, we will assume the light rays in our sketches to be parallel as well. Check out the video below the post to see how it’s constructed.

Basically, lines are projected from each corner of the top surface as well as the corresponding corners of the bottom face of the cube. The intersection points are connected and voila! We have a shadow! Simple enough right?

sun-shadow

Artificial Light Shadow

Artificial light shadows are basically the same as a natural light shadow, however, our light source is alot closer to us – millions of miles closer to us. Check out the example shown in this photo -

pointlightb

With an artificial light source, lines are projected from the center of the point light source (in this case, a lightbulb) as well as the base of that light source as it intersects the plane on which the object rests.

Since the lines projected aren’t parallel as with the sunlight example, the shadow that is projected will appear to get wider, the further away from the object you go. In the above example, the shadow spreads out wider to the right of the picture.

lamp

Check out the video below as well as the sketches to see how to construct simple shadows on paper.

Well, hope this covers some simple shadow tips. Try applying this to some more complex shapes and experiment. As always, experiment and have fun, and if you have any questions, contact us in the forums or post your work for critique.

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  • Mike

    Videos don’t seem to be working on web site. Keep getting error on page. Is this on your end or mine?

    • Cute23baby

      vedios don’t seem to be working on web sit.

  • Mike

    Videos don’t seem to be working on web site. Keep getting error on page. Is this on your end or mine?

  • http://www.idsketching.com Spencer Nugent

    Sorry. We’ve been having some trouble with our video provider over the last two days. we’re looking into it.

  • http://www.idsketching.com Spencer Nugent

    Sorry. We’ve been having some trouble with our video provider over the last two days. we’re looking into it.

  • http://instantcapture.blogspot.com rodrigo

    you should get together a book with all your tips and tutorials on sketching. that would be epic

    • http://www.idsketching.com Spencer Nugent

      I’ve thought about it. Would have to have enough people interested tho.

  • http://instantcapture.blogspot.com rodrigo

    you should get together a book with all your tips and tutorials on sketching. that would be epic

    • http://www.idsketching.com Spencer Nugent

      I’ve thought about it. Would have to have enough people interested tho.

  • Luber

    i think that would be AWESOME!!! please please!!, make a book!!! the way you explain everything is so simple and cool!!, i think it could be a best seller in design books!! :) :) :)

  • Luber

    i think that would be AWESOME!!! please please!!, make a book!!! the way you explain everything is so simple and cool!!, i think it could be a best seller in design books!! :) :) :)

  • headplow

    I’m a sucker for for any good book on sketching. As there are an endless number of styles when it comes to analog sketching, it’s great to collect these styles when books are published. I’d venture to say an ID sketching.com book would do well. Hell, consider CafePress and sell books with on demand printing. You’d make some bucks!

  • headplow

    I’m a sucker for for any good book on sketching. As there are an endless number of styles when it comes to analog sketching, it’s great to collect these styles when books are published. I’d venture to say an ID sketching.com book would do well. Hell, consider CafePress and sell books with on demand printing. You’d make some bucks!

  • http://notfornow Eric Njanga

    Hi,

    I really do like your work and I think you should write a book. Why? because many guys out there want to draw like you but don’t have the possibility to attend a school. This is my case for example.
    So, yes buddies, go for a book.

  • Jared Burton

    Yes! a book! a book!

  • Jared Burton

    Yes! a book! a book!

  • Scott

    If you make it, we WILL buy…

  • Scott

    If you make it, we WILL buy…

  • http://www.framkallningbilder.se Framkallning

    Hello, that was definitely an awesome article. I had actually been looking for a photo printing related article for a while now. Thanks! Is there a way to subscribe? because I can’t seem to locate the details anywhere.

  • http://www.framkallningbilder.se Framkallning

    Hello, that was definitely an awesome article. I had actually been looking for a photo printing related article for a while now. Thanks! Is there a way to subscribe? because I can’t seem to locate the details anywhere.

  • Bluefly

    I love doing shadows. I tried to view your movie but it didn’t do anything. seems to be broken.

  • Bluefly

    I love doing shadows. I tried to view your movie but it didn’t do anything. seems to be broken.

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  • http://www.fajascolombianas1.com fajas colombianas

    I cant get your video to play, would you please reupload it?.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5ZEUGCDHGPBWIHYUMIJ4MDAO3M Dan

    Thanks so much – this was really helpful. One thing that still confuses me though – the lines you draw at 0:16, projecting out from the bottom corners: how to do you know what direction to draw them in?

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  • Jmcgove0

    architecture students make the best art-school drop outs.

  • Shivani Acidpops

    @yahoo-5ZEUGCDHGPBWIHYUMIJ4MDAO3M:disqus  same question !!!! how r u gettin those bottom lines ??? 

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  • http://milano.xincontriadulti.it/ Bakeca Milano

     This is great!

  • http://www.vedettestore.com/ Vedette

    Thank you for this

  • Cat

    thank you, thank you, thank you! This technique is very helpful for conceptionalizing where the shadows will fall.

  • moshe

    excellent!!! i really like the presentation!

    best

    Moshe

  • http://www.facebook.com/oloosh.hasson Oloosh Hasson

    what the different between shadow and shadow cast

  • Rossie

    Thank you! :)

  • phd student

    Hello sir!,

    I hesitated that the base of the cube is a part of shadow? Is it correct or not?

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