How to Draw 3D Shapes with Shading

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In this lesson we will cover how you can draw 3D shapes with shading.

It is all about pressing the pencil down on the paper with different strength, so that the color is stronger or lighter. If you spread these different values correctly, you get an awesome 3D effect.

Shading is time consuming. I needed about 8 Minutes for each of the shapes above. (They were about 5cm tall in reality.) Please keep this timeframe in mind when you start to shade yourself. It is certainly not something that you do quickly. But the result is always worth the time investment.

We are going to take a look at three basic geometric figures: The cylinder, the cone and the sphere. When you learn how to draw these three, you will be able to shade about everything else in the world, because all other shapes are combinations or deformations of these.

How to move the pencil

So the goal of shading is to spread different values of color smoothly across the paper, going from dark to light or vice versa.

The easiest way to do this is to move the pencil in a zigzag fashion.
When you make the zigzag movements narrow enough, the single lines will blend into one another.
Just through pressing the pencil down harder and softer while doing this you will shade the area darker or lighter.

Different Pencils

What sort of pencil you use is very important here!
With the right pencil it will be easy to shade, with the wrong one almost impossible.

The mines in pencils have different degrees of hardness.
This is indicated with letters on the pencils.
A "B" stands for black, meaning that the pencil is soft and can draw dark colors easily.
An "H" stands for hardness.
The softer your pencil is the better you will be able to shade.
Take a look at these shading examples of different pencils.

5H: Although I pressed the pencil down violently at the left side, you still only see a very slight darker tone.

2H: A bit softer, but still pretty hard. You can see that I was able to achieve a greater range of tones from dark to light.

The problem with these hard pencils is not only that they can't produce dark color values, but also that they really mutilate the paper when you press them down strongly.

HB:This pencil is just in the middle between hard ("H") and soft ("B").
I was able to go from deep black to white smoothly, but I still had to press the pencil rather hard for the dark values.

4B and 8B:It is very simple to produce the dark black tones with these pencils.
You don't need to press them down hard.

Note the difference of the texture that you see in the shading with the soft pencils and the harder pencils.
In the squares of 4B and 8B you see many little white dots in the shaded areas.
That happens, because the mines are so soft, that they don't press down into the little pores of the paper.
This gives such a nice grainy effect.

The general rule:
The softer the pencil, the easier it is to shade from very dark to light with little pressure.
The soft pencils leave a white grainy texture on the paper and the graphite can be easily smudged.

Shading Step by Step
With a decent pencil in hand (I used 2B below), now take a look at the single steps how to achieve smooth shading.
If you like, get out a piece of paper and try to do it along while you read.

0. Let's give this empty square some shading to think about!

1. Press the pencil down with a bit of pressure at the left and then draw narrows zigzag lines to the right while letting go of pressure over time.
I stayed away from the margins so that I didn't draw over them.

2. I filled the margins with the same strength of color as the area below or above them.

3. Then I did step one again, but this time with much more pressure, so that I really got all the pencil has to give in color.

4. I filled in the margins again.

5. And one last time I went from left to right, smoothing and filling the shading where necessary.

So I shade in several movements from left to right, instead of a single one.

As soon as you can shade smoothly like that it will be a breeze to draw 3D figures!

And that's exactly what we're going to do now!

How to draw a Cylinder

The graphic shows it all.

1. Draw a square.

2. Draw two rectangular axes in the middle of top and bottom line.
Be sure that you make them shorter than top and bottom line.

3. Draw ellipses around these axes.

4. Erase axes and upper arc of ellipse at the bottom.

5. Just apply shading!
Either you start with the dark value at the edges and go to white in the middle of the cylinder, or you start with black in the middle and blend it out into white the more you go do the side.

6. You can even turn the square 3D right away without adding any ellipses.
Just shade it and it will look like a cylinder anyway.
You just look at it directly from the side.
Pretty plastic, and you don't even have to add one additional line!

How to draw a Cone

1. Draw the bottom line and a vertical middle line.

2. Connect top of middle line with edges of bottom line to get triangle.

3. Insert axis in the middle of bottom line.

4. Draw ellipse around axes.

5. Erase axes and upper arc of ellipse to get cone.

6. This picture indicates how you have to move the pencil.
Let the zigzag movements always point to the cones top.

7. The area for each shading value gets narrow at the top and broader at the bottom.

8. And you can turn a simple triangle into a cone too, of course.
Just through shading it like a cone.
No ellipse necessary!

9. To draw a cone from a top view, start with a circle.

10. Then shade the circle while pointing the pencil movements towards the cones top.
In this case it is the circle's center.

11.Let the darkest and lightest values oppose each other in the circle and blend them smoothly into another in the areas between.

How to draw a Sphere

1. Draw a circle

2. Move your pencil still in a zigzag line as always, but now you make it curved around the sphere's highlight.

3. Draw these zigzag lines so narrow that they blend into another and fill the circle with them.
Press harder at the left underside and leave a white spot on the right upper part of the circle.
Make a smooth transition from black to white and you get a sphere.

4. If you want to strengthen the 3D effect even more you can add a shadow below the sphere.
Also let a small white rim at the underside.
This is due to light that is reflected from the surface the sphere lies on.

At the beginning of the page I said that almost any shapes are a combination of cylinder, cone, and sphere.
Here I'm going to show a couple of examples.

In this picture the glass on the left is just like a cone that was decapitated and then put upside down.
I shaded it according to the "cone rules" with a colored pencil.
Shading isn't just for black and white, of course!

In the cup on the right side, the brown parts are also decapitated cones, and the golden rings are nothing but cylinders.

Shading can be applied anywhere and is a great way to let your pictures really shine.

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