oh where the shadow falls ?


i’m sure i’m not the only one with this problem, and through this thread i hope i can get some help. ok, i draw a lot of characters and i enjoy it alot, up until the time to shade :scream: i would stare at my drawing for a while and think now how in the world i can know where the shadow falls or how to shade it. I did have in mind where the light source is, but it’s still hard - especially when the character is quite complicated or wearing a complicated outfit. Most of time i will need a lot of reference and taking me so long to do this. I’m always wondering how you guys do it, what kind of practice do you do? is there any good reference book out there that cover this matter. thank you people, i really desperate to know about as this matter as it always slow me down and hold me back when i need to paint my character. :love:


yea i dunno how they do it either so until we learn i’ll just sit here
in the dark with u , kid



come on, don’t be sarcastic, he’s asking for help, he’s not just sitting there in the dark. (ok maybe he is)

well you can just look at objects and see how light affects them and you can look for the andrew loomis books pdf’s, they are very helpful.


One thing that helps is to imagine myself as the light source. I can then see what part of the background is hidden by the object. That becomes shaded.

And yes, there are books on the subject. Here’s a site that I found:



I wasn’t being sarcastic, i was waiting for help with him

thanks for the aid , dude :thumbsup:


One easy way to think about lighting/shading it to break shapes and volumes down to their most basic shapes first.
for example a head is just a sphere and an arm is a tube. you can get a pretty good idea what the light will do on those simple shapes and then you can get more complicated from there.
I was always told to work from big to small, and this fits in with that theory.

I hope that helps.


thanks for the reply guys i really appreciate it.

jean & kory - thanks for the advise, it really is interesting and never thought about it before, I’ll stay up late tonight and do the practice.

Squib - i’ve seen your 2d art , they are awesome! how come you stuck at the same stuff with me here haha…you’re suppose to set me free

i’ll try to get the andre loomis pdf book today and try to learn from it today…i gues i’ll be an all nighter tonight. please people, i need more more help in this. :sad:


Your best bet is to look through the “Art Theories and Tutorials” sticky thread at the top of this forum. They contain some of the best learning material out there. The Andrew Loomis books are especially great.


I can’t say I’m an expert on the subject, but I’ve certainly heard my share of menial art lectures. It may not be perfect, but I suppose it can’t hurt.

Light is both simple and erratic - it travels on a direct, open path from any source, and yet complicates it’s pattern depending on the surfaces it strikes. When drawing a figure, consider it’s surroundings as well as any potential light sources. For example: a man standing in an open space confronted with a single light source will have a number of clearly defined shadows playing across any area of his body concealed from the light. Meanwhile, a man standing in a room surrounded with clearly reflective surfaces, (white walls, hard wood - anything can effect the path of light) or confronted with multiple light sources will be struck from a number of directions, meaning any shadows on his body will be limited largely to concealed areas. (under the arms, beneath the legs, between folds in clothes, etc.) As well, the surface an object stands on may cast concentrated reflections on areas normally concealed from the light, producing inexplicable, abnormally lit spots.

Practice various lighting situations in your sketches - both simple and complicated figures in single or multiple light situations. Once again, photo references are invaluable - your current process seem sound enough. Try to use photos with complicated lighting situations; this should help you develop an accurate sense of how shadows develop on a figure surrounded by light.

I notice the majority of your sketches on your web site are dedicated to a surreal style - why not try your hand at a direct drawing from life? That ought to help a smidge. As ever, practice is the ticket - just keep at it, and you should get used to complex shading in no time.

I certainly hope my lengthy, mislead rant serves your purpouses. Good luck!

As for the Loomis series, http://www.saveloomis.org/ has a number of his best texts in one convenient location. They’re not in pdf form, but they seem to fit the bill well enough.

Maybe I should make this into a tutorial…



ok if you’ve ever seen like any correctly placed, cool looking shadowstuff in my
pics it’s either there by accident or is the result of such painstaikinly hard labor
that i was probably crying when doing it

tellin u



I cannot remember if it was Feng or anybody else who said you should think of light as water. When you throw a pot of water in the direction the light is shining…which faces would be wet (light)? Which ones would remain dry (dark)?


I think the key with these kind of issues are these three steps:

  1. Draw from life
  2. start as easy as possible, increase difficulty slowly and gradually (babysteps)
  3. do it a lot

To clarify: if you start today, and spend 30 minutes a day (or longer) drawing either a sphere, a cube a cone or a cylinder in a dark room with only 1 directional light, moving the light and changing the object (for instance from a cube to a cone) and changing your viewpoint between drawings, every day for a week, then draw 2 objects at a time for another week, then draw three for another week, then go back to 1 object but add 1 light or a bounce card… gradually work your way up to more complex objects and more complex lights - 6 months from now I guarantee you’ll see a huge improvement in yourself.


I don’t think that drawing from life is the best thing to rely upon. I find it more helpfull to draw the shapes from memory and work it out in my head. The way that shadows work is to do with logic, not a series of memories.


thanks for the reply & input guys i really appreciate it and it really help me big time - kind of enlighten my mind. steven thanks for the tips too.


I don’t think that drawing from life is the best thing to rely upon. I find it more helpfull to draw the shapes from memory and work it out in my head. The way that shadows work is to do with logic, not a series of memories.

in my humble opinion drawing things from memory is good , but only if you are confidence enough with it :slight_smile: i do believe that drawing from life is the best at least for me, but then again maybe it depends for each person . . . maybe my memory is just not good enough thts why i need lots of reference surrounding me . observation from real life is one of the best practice i’ve ever known so far .


im making a tut about it but for now all i can say is light above shadow below light left shadow right, logic is simple the problem is in controlling it when sketching keep things simple and lay down some basic shadows just to determine light source, in the tut ill show u the difference between the directional light and global each has great importance, later:thumbsup:


i’m so happy i could cry, thank you nebezial. i’m waiting forward to see your tutorial


Hi Dreamy Kid,

Certainly it is good to draw from real life but it is a good principle to draw to learn rather than learn to draw. It is good to form an understanding of what is going on to make something look how it does. So just copying a series of shapes doesn’t necesseraly help you learn.


Keates, maybe you expect too much of him, if he doesn’t have an instructor around it’s difficult to learn the way you mentioned.

it’s like learning a new instrument, or to drive a car. You start as easy as you feel comfortable, increase difficulty gradually, not moving on to the next level until you feel you’re ready.
‘Use logic’ is easy to say for an artist who’s got a grasp of it… for the beginner that’s like trying to learn to play the piano without a piano. Or to drive a car by imagining it.

You should also trace construction lines, like a vertical line from the lights down to the ground, and then from there to where the object touches the ground, to the shadows, and also directly from the lights to the objects to the shadows. Where these intersect is the edge of the cast shadow.
At first you do this after you’re done with a drawing, to check that it works, later you can see these lines in your head, no need to actually trace them. I think when you reach this stage, that’s what Keates meant by using logic.


Stahlberg, thanks for your advice! Your lesson sounds simple and straightforward, and sounds like I can do it by myself. I’ve been making progress with lighting, but it’s been a huge struggle.

Tutorials are great, but I think its lesson plans and projects that really clarify the concepts in art and design.

I will start tonight!