Reflected Light: A clear-cut explanation for painting reflected light 2022

Reflected Light - A clear-cut explanation for painting reflected light

Welcome to Reflected Light with CecelyV!

Hello and welcome, fellow artists! Thank you for taking some time to read my article on reflected light.

There is a lot to understand about The Fundamentals of Light and The Fundamentals of Art, and sometimes it can all feel large and overwhelming. In this article, I’ve broken out reflected light, a small and vital piece of light fundamentals, to explain and demonstrate what it is and how it works.

I hope to help you build your understanding of light one small step at a time, so it all feels less daunting. To make this article helpful, I’ve kept the focus narrow. This article is only about reflected light. I’ll explain what reflected light is and how it’s different from other light effects, and I will give examples and demonstrate how to paint reflected light.

Understanding light

To fully understand how light works, we need to study it. In my Fundamentals of Light article, I explore and explain the basics of light fundamentals. But, first, let’s review a few points that will help with understanding reflected light.

Light source

A light source is anything that produces its own light. Typically, we draw and paint light effects from familiar natural sources such as the sun and fire and artificial sources like light bulbs.

Each light source has its own properties and characteristics, and most produce a lot of heat to emit light. A couple of exceptions are bioluminescence and chemiluminescence, which see light photons produced without much or any heat (“cool light”). We see bioluminescence in fireflies and jellyfish, and we see chemiluminescence in glow sticks.

Reflectors

Objects and organisms that do not create the light that comes from them are called Reflectors. So, for example, our moon, mirrors, eyes, and other things with reflective surfaces are all reflectors–they all reflect light from a light source but do not emit (or produce) any light of their own.

Understanding light means exploring light sources as well as objects that act as reflectors.

Light rays

reflected light - light rays
Rays of strong sunlight

Light always travels in a straight line called a ray. However, the direction of light rays is changed through reflection and refraction, and what I’m covering is fundamental light reflection.

Direct light and Indirect light

For a surface to receive direct light means there is nothing between the light source and that surface. Therefore, the lighting is directly contacting the surface with no interference to affect the direction of the light rays.

Indirect light is light that is being diffused or reflected in some way before it reaches the lit surface–its direction is changed. This means before light hits an object’s surface, there is quite a lot of light bouncing around off other surfaces.

A sunny day experienced through a bedroom window is an example of indirect light. The sun’s light is being diffused and reflected off clouds, the atmosphere, the ground, the window glass, and the bedroom walls and objects to light the bedroom. The light source, in this case, the sun, is not shining its light directly into the bedroom, but its light is illuminating the room in an indirect way.

Primary light source

In the example of a bedroom on a sunny day, the primary light source is the sun. There aren’t any other light sources acting on the bedroom in this scenario. When light bounces off so many surfaces to illuminate an area like that it’s also an example of ambient light.

When lighting a scene, the primary light source is the strongest (most intense and bright) light source that is responsible for most or all of the light and shadows occurring. A primary light source can be any type of light as long as it is the main source of lighting.

Secondary light sources tend to be smaller, closer to the subject, less intense, and less bright.

What is reflected light in art?

Reflected light in art is the same as reflected light in nature. The only difference is nature doesn’t need tutorials like we do 😉.

Reflected light happens when light emitted from a source bounces (or reflects) off objects and surfaces and illuminates other areas/surfaces/objects with that reflecting light.

Here are some examples of reflected light.

What is the difference between light and reflected light?

Context, intensity, and whether or not absorption is happening are the main differences between the terms “light” and “reflected light.”

Light and reflected light in context

When we refer to light, we’re usually talking about a light source–something that is producing and emitting its own light that we can see. So, when we say, “turn on a light”, “light a candle”, or “hand me that flashlight” we know we’re talking about light sources like lamps, candlelight, or a flashlight.

If you were to walk into a bedroom ambiently lit as in the earlier example, you’d probably say the room appears “bright” because of the light falling through the bedroom window and light bouncing off various reflective surfaces. It’s not likely you’d say, “what a nice bedroom with reflective light.”

So, the context is important. Typically, we don’t refer to most lights as reflected lights unless we are specifically calling out the fact that light is being reflected.

Intensity

There is a significant difference between the intensity of source light and that of reflected light. Source light loses most of its intensity when it begins bouncing around off surfaces and objects, so reflected light is much weaker than the source that creates it.

An exception to this rule happens when light is bounced off a highly reflective surface, such as glass or water.

Absorption

Let’s use direct sunlight as an example. When it is reflected (or bounced) off highly reflective surfaces such as water, glass, or a mirror, direct sunlight loses little to none of its intensity because almost none of the sunlight is being absorbed by those materials. It is all being reflected.

Most reflected light we see has been bounced off surfaces with considerably lower reflectivity than water or glass, meaning much of the light is being absorbed. The absorption results in lost intensity for the bit of light that gets reflected, which is why reflected light appears so much weaker than source light.

What is reflected color in art?

This isn’t really a thing. “Reflected color” is really just light that has reflected off a colored object and taken on the local color of that object, or it’s colored light that is being reflected or both. We cannot see color–or anything else–without light, so there is no such thing as “reflected color” only reflected light that has a color.

What is reflected light in drawing?

Reflected light is the same whether you’re drawing or painting, or observing light in real life. The medium you use to describe light in your image doesn’t change the behavior of light. Reflected light in a drawing is still light that is coming from a source and being reflected off an object or surface to illuminate another area, surface, or object with the light reflected.

The main concept to understand with reflected light is the light’s behavior when it is being reflected, and the materials it is reflecting off of. Technique changes with the medium used, but the behavior of light will remain consistent and predictable.

What is the difference between reflections and reflected light?

The reflectivity of the object/surface material and the light intensity involved is what separates reflected light from what we usually call a reflection. The behavior of the light is the same for both, but the refractive index and reflectivity of materials play a big role in how light’s behavior is conveyed to our eyes.

With reflected light, we see an indication of an object’s reflection on a matte surface, whereas we see clear to mirror-like forms with reflections.

Examples of Reflection vs. Reflected Light

Differences and changes in materials’ characteristics can alter light’s direction and the appearance of reflections. As you can see in the images below, the quality of reflected light and reflections is noticeably different as materials, form, and light intensity change.

Below are more images to demonstrate the differences between reflected light and a reflection.

In the first image, everything above the horizon–sky, clouds, mountains, and treeline–is reflected perfectly on the mirror-like (specular) flat surface of the lake’s still waters.

In the second image, we have much the same effect but with even more reflections happening on the glass sphere. The spheric form and highly reflective–and transparent!–quality of the glass further alter the direction of the light through refraction as well as reflection, so there’s a lot going on there.

The same is true of the third image, but the soap bubble has an additional characteristic of iridescence that drastically alters the appearance of the reflections cast upon its surface.

All three images show highly reflective materials, each with its own sets of characteristics that greatly impact the quality and appearance of the reflections.

The next three images show how changes to the materials can alter the specularity of the reflections, creating more of a Lambertian effect.

In the first image above on the left, we have an evening/night scene with artificial light reflected on the surface of a large body of water. In our earlier example of light reflected off water, we had a daytime scene and still water that created a mirror image of the objects above the horizon line. In this image, the water is not still and the light sources are smaller and less intense.

This change to the material and light intensity creates a Lambertian reflection rather than a specular reflection. The main difference between the two is the texture of the surface material receiving the reflection. The water is still highly reflective, but it is now choppy and textured instead of still and smooth and that creates more of a matte (diffusely reflecting) surface on the water.

Smaller, lower intensity light that is bouncing around more on a now matte surface means we see reflected light on the water rather than reflections of forms.

The next image with a person’s reflection on wet sand applies the same principle. The surface material here is actually wet sand, not water. Sand is not reflective, but soaking wet sand on a shore when the tide is in? That scenario combines the texture of the sand with the reflectivity of the water, and we get a reflection that is somewhere between Lambertian and Specular.

The last image shows a wooden cylinder next to a purple plastic cup. The cylinder has a matte surface, the plastic cup shiny and reflective. When lit and placed near each other, we see reflected purple light (Lambertian reflection) on the wooden cylinder, and a more specular form reflection on the plastic cup.

Notice on the cup we can clearly see the reflection of the wooden cylinder, the light source, and a couple of other items on the shadow side of the cup. All of the reflections on the cup also have a purple tint, reminding us that local color for each object is always a factor.

Understanding how reflected light works

First things first, let’s review some basic light and shadow terminology, shall we? In the image below, I’ve labeled all the stuff and gubbins and you can always refer to my Fundamentals of Light article if you need an in-depth explanation.

We’ve discussed materials, reflectivity, and light intensity as a few factors that affect how light reflects. A couple of other factors to consider when we’re studying reflected light are distance and position.

The next few callout images demonstrate how the distance between objects impacts the amount of reflected light that is able to reach the subject.

In this next round of callouts, I’ll demonstrate more about how object position and materials affect reflected light.

You might have noticed that most of the time when we observe light bouncing onto an object or surface it does so in the form shadow (dark side, shadowed areas) and/or in the cast shadow areas. The reason is all about positioning. When one object is in front of another it will cast a shadow on that object, reflecting little to no light onto it. This is because the light falling on any object will reflect out at the same angle it came in (Law of Reflection).

In the image with the red box and the wooden cylinder, we see a slight exception because of the proximity of the objects. The intensity of the light, and the proximity of the objects to the light source and to each other, means the light is able to bounce around from the source to the cylinder, to the box, and back onto the cylinder giving the red box’s cast shadow a red tint.

Since materials play such a big role in how light interacts with objects, it’s worthwhile to examine a few more instances of how changes to material characteristics affect everything from form shadows to cast shadows, to the tint and shade of reflections and shadows, and the edge of a shadow or reflection.

Light transmission is a separate but obviously related light effect. When materials are translucent or transparent light is allowed to pass through to varying degrees, and can then bounce around on other objects and surfaces. Since it is a separate area, I won’t lose focus by delving into it here, but I thought it would be helpful to offer a few examples so you’ll know the differences in the light effects you observe as you study and practice the Fundamentals of Light.

How to paint reflected light

I created a basic demonstration that I hope helps bring all this together in a simple example. My demo uses simple matte forms so the focus remains on reflected light. Painting reflections and specularity are a whole other demonstration and require a lot more explanation of additional factors like global illumination, so I’ll save that for another time.

Just a few more points

I wanted to mention a few things about local color, colored light, and shadows. In my examples and demonstration, I focused on how light reflects onto objects rather than in shadows or on surfaces. It’s important to mention that the same behavior happens in shadows and on surfaces as on objects. Even a dark shadow can be illuminated with some reflected light, and create interesting visual tonal contrast.

One exception to this, however, is occlusion shadows. The absolute darkest part of any image is where no light can reach– and bounce light is far too weak to penetrate occlusion shadows. Darker shadows will still have color and temperature even if they aren’t illuminated in any way (shadows aren’t really black), and they are still impacted by the local color of the object casting the shadow and the surface the shadow is being cast upon.

When the light source is a colored light, like blue light or the yellow light of the sun, the hue and temperature of the shadows and bounce light will be affected. Of course, we must still account for light intensity and changes to materials.

These are all things we should keep in mind as our understanding and practice of lighting effects grows, and there are a lot of moving parts. If it feels overwhelming, just break down your practice into smaller steps with fewer factors and build up over time.

At first, I recommend tackling basic lighting and simple bounce light on objects, in forms shadows, and in cast shadows with matte materials.

Another Light and Shadow installment, signing off!

As always, Thank you so very much for stopping by my site and reading what I hope you found to be a great article. If not a great article, I hope you found it helpful. If it wasn’t helpful, then yikes! Please let me know that, too, so I can find areas to improve.

If you have any questions, need guidance, or have feedback for me, please send them in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.

Good luck and best wishes on your practice! Stay safe, take care, and happy drawing!

How to draw a football – A Fun & painless football drawing tutorial for 2022!

How to draw a football

Welcome to how to draw a football!

Hello and welcome!

In this how-to-draw, we’ll be learning how to draw a football using shapes, forms, and lines.

American football uses a very differently shaped ball compared with other sports. It is more oblong and looks a bit like a short drum with cones attached to each end.

Its odd shape can make football drawing a little awkward, but I’ve come up with a couple of useful tricks to keep our football drawings from looking wobbly. I’ll go over the basic shapes and forms of footballs and show you the basic construction steps.

I’ll show you how to draw a football step-by-step, how to create a football drawing in perspective and talk about some of the ball surface details.

As always, let’s start by learning a little about what we’re drawing. The better we understand what we’re drawing, the better our football drawings will be.

Let’s learn about footballs!

American football is hugely popular in the United States and Canada. Cheering for your favorite team and tossing around a football with the kids is a lot of fun. And who doesn’t enjoy those creative Superbowl ads?

Where it’s most popular, a football is also known as a “pigskin” and used to play gridiron football. There are 32 teams in the American National Football League (NFL), with each team using 11-player teams. In the Canadian Football League (CFL), teams feature 12 players.

For the professional collegiate leagues, footballs are most often made of brown tanned cowhide leather and stamped with a pebble-grain texture for easier gripping. Balls for average recreation or youth leagues may also be made of composite rubber, plastic, or rubber.

Construction of each football requires four panels of leather or plastic, and two of the panels are laced together. Each ball weighs about 14 to 15 ounces.

If you’d like to see how footballs are made, check out this helpful Youtube video:

Drawing a football is almost as easy as watching it, so let’s explore its shapes and forms. This will help us learn how to get a football shape so we can draw an easy football (and learn how to draw a football for kids, too!)

Exploration and study: Football drawing focused on shape and form

When I’m learning how to draw something, I begin by looking for references. It’s always helpful to create your own reference board to help with creating your exploration and study sketches.

If you need some help learning how to create your own reference board, I made a video guide to show you how.

A good reference board is really important because it helps us learn how to understand and draw our subject. The ref board I created for this how to draw a football tutorial is below.

Feel free to use it for your sketches!

If you’d like some extra help with wrapping your mind around the fundamentals before “tackling” a football drawing, check out my article Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners.

Once I have all my refs, I begin my study sketches.

During this phase, I use pencil, pen, and colored pencil on a sheet of paper to break down the major shapes and forms of a football. I observe the location of the curve lines, stripes, laces, and stitching along the middle and center of the ball.

I visually measure the length and size of the curved lines, middle circle shape, and all the other lines and elements to see which are the same length and where each lives on the ball’s surface. Each of these things serves as a marker that helps us with our football drawing.

This is my messy phase, and it’s a lot of fun! 😁

I encourage you to let yourself make a big ‘ole mess on your page as you learn how to draw a football. Here are my first wobbly, messy sketches:

One of the first things I noticed as I began sketching for this how to draw a football tutorial was how awkward the transition from the middle of the ball to its tip is. Visually, it looks normal. But when I started to connect my shapes and forms to create that area, it felt odd and wobbly my first several tries.

At first, it seems like a simple circle is enough to define the center shape of the ball. I started that way before going on to connect the ends, but more often than not it made my football drawing come out funky, bumpy, and wobbly–which is totally fine at first! This is the phase for making a messed up messy mess as you learn how to draw a football. Don’t despair at your wobbles and bobbles–It’s all good! This is all a normal part of the learning process, I promise!

When I run into this kind of thing at any point, I take some time to re-evaluate my shapes and forms and look for ways to improve my form construction process.

How to draw a football: form construction

After a bit more sketching exploration, I came up with a solution I like better. I added a cylindrical drum shape to help firm up my construction, which helped keep my football shape from turning wobbly.

After several more sketches, I found that using more construction lines, shapes and forms helped a lot when it came to getting my football drawing to have that recognizable football shape.

Adding more structure to a drawing you’re having a challenging time can go a long way toward helping you understand and draw your subject better.

Shape breakouts and variations

Normally, at this stage of my how-to-draw tutorials, I like to give examples of the natural shape variations that occur in the subject, but…that’s not really a thing with footballs 😜

Unless they are deflated, deformed, or damaged in some way, the overall shape of a football–and any sporting ball, really–remains the same. The variations we see with a football are found in the materials it’s made with and its surface designs with things like logos and coloring.

Other variations that might interest you as you learn how to draw a football can be found in how the ball has evolved over time and how it compares to other sports’ balls, such as a soccer ball (which the rest of the world calls a futbol).

There is some speculation that the ball of choice for America’s Game started out as an inflated pig bladder, but that is hard to verify–though I did a search and found some fun pictures from places like The Smithsonian Magazine and Scoutlife.org!

I don’t own these images, but I’ve credited their sources as best I can. For more information, and to see the source of each photo, just click on the images below.

how to draw a football_how footballs have changed over time
Evolution of the American football
how to draw a football_inflated pig bladder football
Inflated pig bladder football.
how to draw a football_football vs soccer ball
American football compared to World Futbol (soccer)
how to draw a football_ball from 1874
A football from 1874.
how to draw a football_american football vs rugby ball
American football vs Rugby

How to draw a football step by step tutorial

Now that we’ve found our references and done some sketching, let’s jump into how to draw a football step-by-step!

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 1

How to draw an easy football, Step 1

First, draw a line guide on your page. This line represents the unseen middle of the ball from tip to tip. This kind of guiding or action line helps orient the rest of your curved lines, shapes, and forms.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 2

Step 2

Next, draw another line perpendicular to your first guiding line. This second line helps you start to place the round center area of the ball.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 3

Step 3

Now, connect each line point to create a diamond-shaped envelope. This establishes the basic area where your ball will “live” in your drawing.

Remember, these are construction lines. We won’t keep all of them, but they help us develop a solid drawing.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 4

Step 4

Begin rounding off the overall football shape inside your envelope by drawing curved lines near each corner as shown.

Here, I started with rounding the center area of the ball.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 5

Step 5

Next, I drew small circles on the ends of my first and longest guiding line. This helps with making the ball’s tips rounded instead of pointy, and gets us closer to a football shape.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 6

Step 6

Use more curved lines to start defining the shape of your football drawing.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 7

Step 7

Now, you have a football shape!

The line and shape guides helped keep it from going all wobbly 😉.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 8

Step 8

Add some stripes to help your drawing look more like a real football.

Be sure to use curve lines as you go around the surface. Making the stripe lines too straight will make your drawing feel flat.

These surface details help us identify our object. This is a good stage to add any other designs or personal touches you’d like for your drawing.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 9

Step 9

Some finishing touches with a marker or pen help the football drawing stand out.

how to draw an easy football_how to draw a football for kids_step 10

Final step

Erase your construction lines and, tada!

A completed football drawing!

So, how was it? Not too bad, huh? These steps came from my how to draw a football exploration and study phase. I came up with a couple more versions for this how to draw a football tutorial in case you could use some more structure help as I did.

Football drawing in Perspective

Knowing how to draw a football in perspective will be helpful if you’re drawing from a game you just saw played or from your imagination.

Here are some examples of how to draw a football in one and two-point perspectives.

The Details of footballs

Another part of learning how to draw a football is understanding how to construct the stitches and laces that make the ball so recognizable.

The next group of images will visually take you through the steps of how to draw a football’s lacing and stitching details.

Thank you & Farewell!

Hey, look! You made it to the end of this how to draw a football tutorial! There are a lot of choices out there, so even if you just took a few seconds to scroll through my article to find the bits you need, I appreciate you stopping by!

I’m always working to improve the quality of my content and to make sure I’m creating content that helps artists like you on their art journey. I’d love to hear from you! If you have any feedback, questions, or comments for me, please leave them in the comments section below! If there’s an art topic you’re looking for guidance on, please feel free to message me in the comments or email me at cecely@cecelyv.com.

If you liked this article, please share it! Sharing helps us all grow together as artists.

Stay safe and healthy, and Happy Drawing!


How to draw Scales (Coming soon!), 2022

Welcome All about Scales Making reference boards Exploration and study Observations Shapes, forms, and construction Natural variations How to draw Scales step by step Rendering scales Materials Light Colors Creatures with Scales In our world, there are a …
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How to draw wings (Coming soon) 2022

Welcome to my how to draw wings drawing tutorial! Let’s learn about wings! Exploration and study: Drawing wings focused on shape and form Shape breakouts and natural variations How …
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How to draw a Donut: Delicious donut drawing made easy for 2022

how to draw a donut

Welcome to my how to draw a donut tutorial!

Hello and welcome to how to draw a donut on cecelyv.com! In this how-to-draw tutorial, we’ll discuss and demonstrate how to make a tasty donut drawing and learn about the shapes, forms, and variations of a donut.

If you’re familiar with any of my other how-to-draw articles–like how to draw a snake or how to draw a mushroom–then you know I like to emphasize form and structure. I’ll cover the basic shapes and forms that help us create a donut drawing, and I’ll explain the distinction between the donut itself and its delicious topping details.

First things first, let’s make sure we understand what we’re drawing a bit more.

Let’s learn about donuts!

A donut (also spelled “doughnut”) is a sweet treat food made from leavened fried dough. Donuts are popular, yummy to taste, and have a world full of variety, with just about every country and culture, from A to Z, having its version.

Donuts are most often deep-fried from a flour dough, with the two most common types of donuts being the ring donut and the filled donut. The ring donut has a circle shape with a hole cut out of the center, and filled donuts are injected with fruit jelly, cream, custard, or other delectable fillings.

Donut toppings vary wildly, from icing and glaze to sprinkles, frosting, chocolate, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and fruit. The hole from the center of a ring donut is often cooked as a donut hole.

Other shapes include twists, balls, buns, and thick and flattened small loaves. Donuts are also divided into cake and yeast-risen types and can be purchased everywhere, from grocery stores to cafes to donut shops and gas station convenience stores.

The History of Donuts

A cookbook published in 1485 gives us the first mention of fried dough cakes (as far as we know), so donuts have been around for quite some time. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the donut, here are a few sources to check out:

How Donuts are made

We like to eat them, and we’re making donut drawings, so we might as well look at how donuts are made, right? It’ll give us another good visual and insight for our drawings, and that’s always a good thing 👍🏽.

Time to make some donut drawings!

Okay! You’re probably like, “Finally, she gets to the point!” 😜😁

I know it can seem like a lot of extra stuff, but how can we draw what we don’t understand?

Now, let’s learn how to draw a donut and have some fun!

Exploration and study: Donut drawing shapes and forms

We know enough about donuts and their variations to make some drawings, so let’s start with reference boards and sketches!

If you need help making your reference board, I have an article and a video to help.

Donut reference boards help us sketch!

By studying references, we can develop a good idea of the basic shapes and forms as we begin making sketches and drawings. I like to do this for each of my drawing tutorials. Shapes and forms give us structure, and structure is vital.

How to draw a donut – My exploration and study sketches

It’s essential to do all the study sketches you feel necessary to be comfortable with your subject.

Donuts have relatively simple structures, so most of the drawing work is in the details of toppings like coloring, glaze, icing, sprinkles, shadows, and light, whether you put it on a drawing of a plate or with fruit in the middle, etc.

Here are my study sketches from my how to draw a donut explorations:

Compared with study sketches in my other tutorials, this one is pretty light on drawings–and that’s okay. If the subject is simple, it is easier to understand and draw.

Shape breakouts and variations

By studying my reference boards, I delivered the outlines and edges of an entire list of common donut varieties for us to draw. These outlines and shapes give us the basis for the forms we need as we learn how to draw a donut, and the form provides us with the structure we need so the delicious icing, glaze, and coloring have something to live on top of in our donut drawing.

Next, let’s have some fun with forms by tackling the form construction for each of these shape outlines.

How to draw a donut: basic form construction

To learn how to draw a donut, I started with the most common and recognizable type–the ring donut.

For beginners, I recommend starting with the most basic shapes and forms. Starting from simple shapes will help you grasp each edge, oval, circle, and line as you make your sketch.

This approach works for everyone from kids to hobbyists and professionals and can be applied to any medium from pencil and paper to crayons, colored pencils, or a digital format. Of course, if you need to trace at first to get started, that’s okay too!

Let’s have fun with donut forms!

How to draw a donut – more form construction!

I mentioned earlier that I identified more than one example of common donut shapes. Whether there’s a wavy line, curved lines, or straight lines, each shape gives us an example of how to start building our donut drawing forms.

It’s essential to my mission to emphasize form and structure in all of my drawing tutorials, so I created visual form construction examples for several of the common donut types to help you learn how to draw a donut of any style you choose.

To practice these form construction steps and learn how to draw a donut in different ways, follow the visual form construction steps below!

When in doubt, remember to lead by drawing an entire shape, like an ellipse, circle, oval, etc. It serves us better than individual lines or edges when we have a whole shape.

The twist type is less round than a basic/traditional donut, so I start with a box shape to capture its overall soft boxy form.

The churro is very tubular in its construction, essentially made of one long cylinder.

Learning how to draw a donut that is a cake type is a little more complex, but we can handle it! The cake types tend to be the ones with more complex top forms and toppings, so it makes sense that their form construction is a little more involved.

How to draw a donut step-by-step tutorial (from my sketches & Imagination!)

Next up in how to draw a donut, I will go through the “official” step-by-step tutorial for drawing a basic ring-type donut.

What you saw earlier with all the form construction was essentially a collection of visual step-by-step tutorials. I wanted to make sure I shared multiple ways of how to draw a donut with you so you can choose for yourself which type of donut you want to create.

Follow along with me, and you’ll have a realistic donut picture, complete with a slight indication of shadows. I won’t delve too deeply into the shadows and light or details in this tutorial because that crosses into the realm of painting and rendering, and we need a solid drawing to paint on top of first 😉.

This step-by-step should work for kids, too. So let’s get to it!

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 01

How to draw a donut, Step 1

Start with a horizontal oval, also called an ellipse. Extend two lines straight down from each end of your oval.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 02

Step 2

Connect the straight lines you extended with another oval/ellipse.

You’ve created the form for your donut hole!

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 03

Step 3

Now that we have the empty middle of the donut, it’s time to construct the ring donut itself.

Add two large circles on the horizontal ends of the donut hole form you finished in step 2. Make the circles as large and as round as you’d like.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 04

Step 4

Connect the outside bottom edges of the circles with a large ellipse as shown.

This creates the bottom plane of your donut.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 05

Step 5

Draw another ellipse to connect the outside top edges of the circles. This creates the top plane of your donut where all the toppings will live.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 06

Step 6

Now, it’s time to erase some of your construction lines to prepare for the next stage of drawing some tasty toppings.

It helps to emphasize the inside edge closest to you in your drawing. When drawn next to your donut hole, it adds a sense of depth and three-dimensionality.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 07

Step 7

Sketch in some ellipses around the ring of your donut to help you visualize how the form turns.

This will give you a guide to help make your toppings look more realistic.

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Step 8

Sketch in the basic shape, size, and directionality of your toppings.

I chose a simple icing with light sprinkles, so here I blocked that in here with a different colored pencil.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 09

Step 9

To make room for the detail shapes and forms, I took some time to erase my construction lines more carefully.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 10

Step 10

I continued the detail phase’s block-in step here by adding the shapes and forms of each sprinkle.

I made the sprinkles out of tiny circles, 3D curls, and itty bitty cylinders. They may be small, but they still have form and mass!

I also added a little bit of color to the bottom of the donut. Using brown, I decided to make this a chocolate donut with icing and sprinkles on top!

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 11

Step 11

To make the drawing clear, and to keep from accidentally erasing my work during clean-up of my construction lines, I went ahead and did a trace of everything in black marker.

how to draw a donut_step-by-step tutorial 12

Step 12

The last step is color, shadow, and light!

I didn’t want this how to draw a donut tutorial to turn into a painting tutorial, so I didn’t do much with the light or shadows.

Still a slight indication of shadows under the icing is enough for our purposes here.

Congratulations! You’ve completed my how to draw a donut step-by-step tutorial!

The Details and coloring of donuts

Now you know all about how to draw a donut!

I want to offer a little more clarity on what constitutes “details,” so I created a short video to explain (COMING SOON!)

A warm farewell with encouragement

Thank you for visiting my site!

I hope you enjoyed my how to draw a donut tutorial, and I hope you had fun making donut drawings with me!

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many times you need to erase, or whether you need to trace or start again on a new piece of paper several times. It doesn’t matter if your donut drawing is round or if the donut hole you drew is a little wobbly. Learn the process, find your way of drawing. Keep at it! Art isn’t about being “good”, it’s about how making art makes you feel.

Try this with crayons and other media, try it with kids–or other kids if you are a kid!

Have fun and keep drawing! The rest will come.

If you enjoyed my how to draw a donut tutorial, please share it! I’d love to hear your feedback, so if you have a comment or question for me please leave it in the comments section below! If you didn’t like my how to draw a donut tutorial, please tell me that, too! Part of my site mission is to help as many other artists as I can with my content, so I’m open to feedback that helps my content improve.

How to draw a circle: A thorough exploration of a simple and subtle shape 2022

How to draw a circle

Welcome to my how to draw a circle drawing tutorial!

Hi and Happy drawing to you all! 😉

Welcome to my how to draw a circle article!

The first thing to know about a circle is that it’s a tool. Each of the two-dimensional shape tools and lines we learn to recognize and draw as kiddos are the foundation for all other forms, patterns, and designs.

In my Understanding Form in Art article, I go into this concept of shapes and lines as building blocks a bit more.

The most common building blocks for everything we draw are the circle, the square and rectangle, and lines. Most other shapes can be created from these base shapes, similar to how each color can be mixed with the base colors of red, yellow, and blue. The only elements simpler than any of the base shapes are the line and the point (or dot).

Without getting too technical, let’s explore what a circle really is.

Let’s learn about circles!

A circle is a shape whose points are all equally distant from the center.

When points are not equally distant from the center point, you will get something different. This is where we find the main difference between a circle and its team of similarly round shapes: the oval and the ellipse.

Circles have been a known shape since before the start of recorded history, and the study of circles in mathematics helped the development of other disciplines such as geometry, astronomy, and calculus. Thankfully, we don’t need to get into the weeds of circumference, diameter, radius, distance, etc in order to draw circles.

Now, let’s look at some examples of natural and man-made circles.

Exploration and study: Natural & Man-made Circles.

A circle is an easy thing to find. Here are a couple of reference boards I created to demonstrate how prolific circles are in our lives.

Shape breakouts and natural variations (ovals and ellipses!)

Normally at this stage of my how to draw articles I like to cover the explorative study sketches I create, and break out all the naturally occurring variations in shape and form, but…that’s not really a thing with circles 😅.

The ways of how to draw a circle are so simple and subtle, and a slight change to any point on a circle brings you into different shape territory. So, let’s all agree that you guys don’t need me to break down or dissect an already simple shape 😉. We’ll just agree, as the intelligent and sensible people we are, that circles are circles, and when you stretch them out a bit they become ovals and ellipses.

How to draw a circle step-by-step: Several methods and tutorials

There are several different methods for how to draw a circle. There are a few that I don’t find terribly practical, such as the paper clip, string, and compass methods. Nevertheless, I’ve created or found an example for each method to offer you a variety to choose from.

PSA for this article: I am not teaching you how to draw a perfect circle. Why? Because it’s not practical or necessary. If perfect circles are your goal…this probably isn’t the best drawing tutorial for you. The wonderful search services of Google will get you to content all about ways to draw a perfect circle, but I’m not the one–sorry 😅.

Okay, moving right along! Let’s get into my how to draw a circle tutorials! I have come up with several methods of my own, and I will cover a few of the others I’ve come across (like the string, paper clip, compass, and rubber band methods). Each of the methods that I came up with emphasizes how to draw a circle freehand.

In my humble opinion, when you’re sketching and pulling out ideas, it’s cumbersome to need an additional tool for simple shapes. Plus, a sketch isn’t meant to be perfect; it’s a vehicle for your expression and problem solving.

I will now jump off my soapbox and list the methods I’ll be covering for how to draw a circle.

Methods for How to draw a circle

  • Square method
  • Crosshairs or ‘X’ method
  • Parallel lines method (my favorite!)
  • Shapes method
  • String and paper clip methods, and more!
  • Rubber band method
  • Compass method
  • Rectangle method (for ovals & ellipses)

The Square Method

The square is pretty straightforward and freehand. We use a square as a bounding box to help us learn how to draw a circle. Here are some step-by-step visuals for this learning project.

how to draw a circle_square method step 1

Square Method, Step 1

Draw a square as your first step. I like to find the middle point on each side of the square and mark it with a line or a spot/dot because it’s helpful in the following steps.

how to draw a circle_square method step 2

Step 2

Next, begin drawing your circle by connecting those middle points with curving lines/arches, as shown.

how to draw a circle_square method step 3

Step 3

Once you’re happy with your circle, begin darkening it.

how to draw a circle_square method step 4

Step 4

Lastly, erase your square leaving only your completed circle.

The Crosshairs or ‘X’ Method

Using crosshairs (like a plus ‘+’) or an ‘X’ to practice how to draw a circle is another super simple method, and it also allows you to vary the size of the circle as much as you like–and still draw freehand!

how to draw a circle_crosshairs or 'x' method step 1

Crosshairs or ‘X’ Method, Step 1

Begin by drawing a simple plus sign (‘+’) or ‘X’.

how to draw a circle_crosshairs or 'x' method step 2

Step 2

Next, begin connecting the end points of your ‘+’ or ‘X’ using curved lines/arches.

how to draw a circle_crosshairs or 'x' method step 3

Step 3

Continue connecting the end points.

how to draw a circle_crosshairs or 'x' method step 4

Step 4

Complete your circle by connecting the last end point.

how to draw a circle_crosshairs or 'x' method step 5

Step 5

Erase your crosshairs or ‘X’, leaving your completed circle.

The Parallel Lines Method (my favorite!)

This method is my favorite for line work and circle/ellipse drawing practice. The parallel lines offer just enough support while leaving plenty of freedom for practice and experimentation.

how to draw a circle_parallel lines method step 1

The Parallel Lines Method, Step 1

Begin by drawing a series of straight parallel lines with a ruler, as shown. Varying the distance between the lines helps you practice drawing circles, ovals, and ellipses of different sizes.

how to draw a circle_parallel lines method step 2

Step 2

The parallel lines act as guides for placement of the top and bottom of your circles/ovals/ellipses.

Staying within the lines, freehand draw as many circles/ovals/ellipses as you can fit onto each line, as shown.

how to draw a circle_parallel lines method step 3

Step 3

Fill up all your parallel lines with circles, ellipses, and/or ovals. This is excellent line work practice, and a great warm-up exercise.

Here are a few videos to help make this how to draw a circle method more clear:

Using my trained right hand 👍🏽. A ruler works, but any straight edge will do.
Using my mostly untrained LEFT hand, Eek!
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below or in the comments section of any of my videos!

Shapes method

This is essentially the same concept as the square method. The point is to use your chosen shape as a bounding “box” from which to create your circle. Shapes create a contained space, so most of them lend themselves quite well to circle drawing. The simplest to use are the square and the triangle, but other shapes can be used just as well.

how to draw a circle_shapes method step 1

The Shapes Method, Step 1

Draw any shape to create a bounding “box”. Here, I’ve used triangles and trapezoids. It helps to mark the midpoints of each side on all the shapes.

how to draw a circle_shapes method step 2

Step 2

Using curving lines/arches, connect the midpoints of each side.

how to draw a circle_shapes method step 3

Step 3

Erase your shape bounding “boxes”, leaving only your completed circles.

String & Paper clip methods, and more!

I found a helpful YouTube video from DaveHax that demonstrates several examples of how to draw a circle, so I’ll share it here:

Rubber band method

Here’s a YouTube video from DrawingWithDeeArtist on how to draw a circle using the rubber band method. The idea behind all these “hacks” for drawing circles is to get perfect circles, not freehand circles.

Compass method

This next YouTube video comes from Lorri at Sunshine22854. In it, she’s kind enough to cover how to draw a circle using a compass.

Rectangle method (for ovals & ellipses)

Once again we’re utilizing the bounding box concept for how to draw a circle–we’re just using a longer box to create ovals and ellipses instead of circles.

how to draw a circle_rectangle method step 1

Rectangle Method, Step 1

Draw rectangles of any width and length you’d like, and mark the center point of each side (or at the corners for angled ellipses).

how to draw a circle_rectangle method step 2

Step 2

Connect your sight marks with curving lines/arches, as shown.

how to draw a circle_rectangle method step 3

Step 3

Darken your lines once you’ve achieved the oval/ellipse you want. Here, I also used this method to create a tear drop shape.

how to draw a circle_rectangle method step 4

Step 4

Erase your bounding boxes, leaving your completed oval/ellipse.

Drawing circles in Perspective

Learning how to draw a circle in perspective involves first learning how to draw planes and boxes in perspective. In this next video, I’ll demonstrate how I set up boxes in 1-point perspective and draw circles on the planes of each box.

Since circles are flat shapes, the process for drawing them in perspective doesn’t change, even when the perspective changes.

Drawing a circle from Imagination!

Drawing circles as part of your line exercises or warm-up is important training that is beneficial to do regularly. Then there are times we just need fun and interesting–and there’re other ways of practicing how to draw a circle.

In these last couple of videos, I demonstrate a few simple ways of practicing circle drawing by adding depth to transform circles into forms/objects, and by dissecting some forms built from simple ellipses and circles.

Thank you!

Thanks for hanging in there with me! I’m sure you came across lots of choices in your search, and I appreciate being the author whose content you chose.

I hope I’ve been able to do my part to help you see another side to drawing circles, and I hope my article has helped your art journey.

I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any feedback or questions for me please leave them in the comments section below. I hope we can meet each other again for another “how to draw” article!

Take care, stay safe, and Happy Drawing! 😊


More how-to-draw articles on CecelyV.com:

How to draw a cube

How to draw a sphere

How to draw a mushroom

How to draw a banana

How to draw a pumpkin

How to draw a snake – Draw dynamic snakes with this easy-to-use tutorial! 2022

How to draw a snake

Welcome to how to draw a snake drawing tutorial!

Thanks for being here!

In this how-to-draw, we’re talking about how to draw a snake!

At first glance, snakes look pretty simple. They don’t have the most complex shapes and forms in their anatomy, but there’s plenty of drawing excitement within the snake species’ natural variations.

To learn how to draw a snake, I’ll share some image references and go through my exploration and study sketching process to demonstrate how studying snake shapes, forms, and anatomy helps you create your own awesome snake drawings.

Next, I’ll cover how to draw a snake step by step, followed by drawing snakes in perspective. Then, we’ll use our references to explore the color and detail varieties in the snake species before sketching some snakes from imagination.

This will be a lot of fun, so I hope you’ll follow along and enjoy learning how to draw a snake with me!

Let’s learn about snakes!

We’ve all seen a snake at some point, right? They’re long, limbless, and covered in scales. They come in a staggering number of color and pattern combinations, and there are about 3,000 species of snakes! Snakes can eat prey much larger than their heads, allowing them to swallow their food whole–unless they’re venomous, in which case it’s fangs out first!

Snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and sea snakes are a real thing. 😳 Yikes!

Thankfully, most snakes possessing venom use it to kill or subdue prey rather than for biting us when we unwittingly scare them, and most snakes aren’t venomous, which is a relief. The nonvenomous snakes swallow their prey alive or squeeze it to death. 😱

We’re bigger than snakes…mostly…so, I think we’re okay. I hope 😅.

Snakes generally have a negative reputation, but they are wild animals with very sharp fangs and dangerous venom, sooo…I’m gonna say their reputation is deserved.

Still, there is a lot more we can learn about snakes, but for learning how to draw a snake we need to study its shapes, forms, and variations.

Regardless of their hunting and eating habits, snakes are pretty cool and gnarly looking, which makes them fun to draw! Let’s get into our references and start exploring how to draw a snake.

Image reference boards

Each curved line, point, shape, and form we practice in our exploration and study phase adds to our own personal tutorial for learning how to make snake drawings. So, our first step must be to gather references.

I created several reference boards to deliver the information needed to complete your snake drawing. Below you’ll find visual information that will inform you of each step, line, and curve that we need and where they all go proportionally.

You’re welcome to use the reference boards I made, but I encourage you to practice making your own as well. Out of respect, and due to copyright protection, all the references I create for my tutorials are limited to what I can find for free commercial & creative use, create myself, or purchase (which isn’t really a thing on a shoestring budget 😂).

For guidance on making your own reference boards, please check out my Art Reference board tutorial.

Snake body reference images

In keeping with best practices, let’s begin with the largest shapes and forms, which, in most cases, means studying the main body of our subject first.

Here in how to draw a snake, we begin with the snake’s body:

Looking at each reference image of a snake body, what are the first things you notice?

The first things I observe are the curved lines of the body, the forked tongue, the mouth and jaw, the body forms and lines, and the extremely wide variation in coloring, patterns, and head shapes.

A snake’s body is a simple, tapering cylinder. The way the width, length, and scales vary from head to tail and across snake species is what adds interest, variation, and complexity to the body design.

If you’d like a deeper dive into forms and forms and shapes, check out my Form in Art article. This variation linking across the world of snakes gives us lots of fun shapes to use in snake drawing.

Next, let’s continue learning how to draw a snake by taking a look at the second-largest shape/form on a snake: its head.

Snake head reference images

The head shape, scales, and patterning of a snake hold nearly all the creature’s design interest and variation. In this how to draw a snake tutorial, I’ve intentionally focused more on the head because a snake’s head offers more room to play and invent than its body.

Knowing where most of a subject’s interest lies helps our design. When you make a snake drawing, you’ll know from your study that the head is where you ought to put most of your shape and form details to draw your audience’s attention.

Snake skeleton

A snake’s head and skull give us clues about how its mouth opens and closes, the shape and direction of its scales, and its size. A snake skeleton reference image is useful and necessary in this area.

Even a brief study of snake anatomy is very useful for constructing realistic, chilling snake head designs. Understanding a bit about a snake’s bone structure helps us ground our snake drawing in reality by connecting the dots between design and believability–and the same can be said about snake fangs, underbelly, and tails.

More snake shapes and forms: fangs, belly, and tail

If we look closely, we can see that snakes often have a completely different look and feel to their belly scales. The departure from the look of the rest of the scales is important to note before you work out the scales part of your design.

It might seem like I’m trying to spam you with each reference image, but studying and exploring from reference and from life will ultimately benefit your snake drawing immensely.

Exploration and study: Snake drawing focused on shape and form

Once you’ve gathered all your references, it’s time to draw from them.

Eventually, you’ll establish your own version of this study and exploration process. I will take you through mine to offer a springboard, so to speak.

Snake head studies

As I mentioned earlier, the head of the snake holds most of the shape and form information. So, for this how to draw a snake tutorial, I decided to focus my studies on the head–especially since the body of a snake is quite easy in comparison (at least, until you get to the scales 😅).

Notice that each study includes not only a sketch of the snake head I was referring to on my boards, but also a rough sketch of the overall shape/form envelope. By understanding the larger forms that create and support the head, it becomes much easier to build smaller forms like eyes, horns, scales, etc on top.

Shape breakouts and natural variations

Once I felt comfortable with my understanding of the basic anatomical forms of a snake, I was able to break out the most common natural variations. I complete this step in each tutorial because when we understand what we’re drawing we can draw it much better, and invent from imagination more easily.

How to draw a snake: body form construction

Even though a snake’s body is a simple tapering cylinder, it’s important to practice all the basic forms of our subject and try to understand its variations.

As shown in my shapes breakout sketches, there are some slight natural variations in the cylindrical form of snakes. As I was working out how to draw a snake body, I kept those variations in mind and tried to have some fun with it as well.

Here are a few of my sketches for the snake’s body forms:

The example above should help clarify the process of how to draw a snake body. Even though it’s a simple form, clarification on construction always helps.

The process for both of these examples was exactly the same. The only difference was my use of different shape language. This second example of how to draw a snake body offers more of a sense of design and detail, and I achieved that simply by tweaking the overall shape used to create the body’s form.

This is something you can do in your design as well, so have fun with it! Try some sharper shapes for a more aggressive-looking snake, or softer ones for a cute-looking snake.

It helps to put your sketches side-by-side for comparison to see how the altered shape language changes your design.

How to draw a snake step-by-step tutorial

Now that we’ve explored each shape and visual bit, we’re snake ready to draw! A bit of an odd turn of phrase, I know, but I had to give it a try. Okay, next up here in how to draw a snake we’ll dive into drawing a snake step by step.

To be clear, this is my own imagination and it’s a finished sketch not a rendered image. I encourage you to follow the process explained within each step. It is not necessary for your snake step by step drawing to look like mine. This how to draw a snake tutorial is for you, so draw your way. Do you and enjoy!

how to draw a snake_step 1

Drawing a snake step 1

I started with a gesture line to define the snake’s pose.

A gesture line gives us a starting-off point by essentially offering us two dots or points for the start and end/top and bottom of our subject.

It’s also a long curve, with a second curve at the end for the tapering tail.

how to draw a snake_step 2

Drawing a snake step 2

After placing the gesture line to indicate the pose, I began building the shapes and forms for the head.

My selection for each line, form, and curve of the head is informed by the lines I remember from my study sketches.

Before you start roughing in the head, decide on its basic shape. It will be most helpful if you drew from your studies and reference boards.

how to draw a snake_step 3

Drawing a snake step 3

In this step, I began filling out the body form.

My goal in this step was to roughly match the thickness and length of the body to the head forms I’d created.

It’s okay if it’s not quite right immediately. Remember, it’s a sketch to get your ideas out. As you’ll see, I made some adjustments further along in my process.

how to draw a snake_step 4

Drawing a snake step 4

In this step, I decided I need to elongate the main body. The length and detail in the head I’d created needed balancing, so I made adjustments to the body.

I decided not to show the tongue, but I had fun giving my snake a ridge-like nose.

I also continued refining the head forms in this step.

how to draw a snake_step 5

Drawing a snake step 5

This step is about continuing to develop all the forms we drew.

As you can see, there are plenty of places where I erased and redrew my lines to make adjustments and changes.

Remember, it’s a sketch which is basically like a workout–you’re working out the design, the shapes, forms, lines, curves, etc. If you’re not happy with it, start another sketch and keep going!

how to draw a snake_step 6

Drawing a snake step 6

When I reached the point that I was happy with how I’d developed all my forms, I completed my sketch by darkening my final line work.

I do this last step to help make the sketch more readable online, but it’s not a necessary part of the how to draw a snake process.

Snake drawing in Perspective

When we learn how to draw a snake, we need to know how to put it into any perspective our image or story needs.

Next, you’ll find a video covering the process of how to draw a snake in one-point perspective.

The most commonly used perspectives for drawing are one and two-point perspectives, so up next in how to draw a snake I’ll go over the two-point perspective process.

The Details and colors of snakes

While each line and curve helps us define our forms, the world of snakes is very well known for several other features–especially their scales, forked tongue, and patterns.

The scales and patterns are designs unto themselves and so a bit too much to add to this how to draw a snake article (we’re almost done, I promise!). I’ll create a separate article all about drawing scales and designing patterns, but we can still talk a bit about the commonalities in these areas.

Snake scales

Collectively, snake scales are known as snakeskin. Scales serve a variety of functions, which I explore in my article How to draw scales.

The range of variety in scales is amazing, going from these:

…all the way to this:

The image above is from a Dragon Snake. Isn’t that one of the most gnarly things you’ve ever seen?! It impressed me anyway 😂. This volume of possibility, and the fact that far more creatures than snakes have scales, means I need to treat How to draw Scales as its own thing.

As I was learning how to draw a snake, I did a research overview of their patterning, and, oh boy! Lots of variation, but without any particular rhyme or reason beyond identifying snake species. This is helpful for us because it means you can design your snake’s skin any way you want 👍🏽.

A lot of scientific pigmentation language is involved with explaining snake coloring, and you can find one source for that here. For our how to draw a snake tutorial, we don’t need the science. Snakes present with just about every color there is along with iridescence, so choose whatever color scheme suits you.

How to draw a snake from Imagination!

Process: Curved lines, shape, form, and drawing through

I mentioned earlier that I chose to focus on snake heads for my demos, so what I have next is a video showing the entire process of me drawing a snake’s head from my imagination. It’s not a cute snake or a particularly good design, but that wasn’t the point 😉. The point was to share my thought, creative, and imaginative process with you.

A warm farewell and finishing touches

Congratulations! You drew some fun snakes today! I hope you feel good about the new knowledge and practice you drew from this article.

Snakes really are pretty simple to draw in a basic sense, and I hope this how to draw a snake tutorial helped you with your snake-drawing goals.

I’m always happy to hear from my readers, so pretty please leave your questions and comments for me below. I’d love to hear what you think about this article and answer any questions that may have come up for you.

Stay safe and Happy Drawing!

How to draw a palm tree: Awesome easy-to-use drawing tutorial 2022

How to draw a palm tree_featured image

Welcome to my how to draw a palm tree tutorial!

Hi!

Welcome to another article in my how-to-draw series. This article is all about palm trees and how to draw them! If you want to add more beach and “fun in the sun” feel to the ocean and sand of your art, draw palm trees! A simple palm tree, coconuts, and some tropical fruit can create moods for your drawing that say “vacation and Mai Tais” or “building sandcastles with the kids.”

As you go through this article, you may notice that I’ve changed my format a little bit this time by leaving out the lighting (shadow and light) part. I’ll clarify that choice toward the end here, but, first, let’s focus on learning how to draw a palm tree!

Once you learn to draw a palm tree with all its parts and detail–from the silhouette to the curved lines of the tree trunk, and the round crown to a palm tree’s leaves–you can render your finished drawing however you choose: realistic, cartoon, anime. You’ll be covered by what you learn how to draw here!

First, we explore and study all the shapes and forms that make a palm tree look like a palm tree. Then, we’ll start constructing the basic shapes and forms, move into practicing with palm tree silhouettes, dig into some step-by-step palm tree drawing tutorials, and draw a palm tree in perspective.

I’ll cover the basic shapes, forms, & silhouettes of palm trees and all their parts, including the palm tree trunk and palm tree leaf. Our first step is the same as always: references!

Let’s learn about palm trees!

Palms, including palm trees, are from the family Arecaceae. They are a family of flowering plants with several growth forms, all commonly known as palms.

Most palm species, characterized by large evergreen leaves called fronds, are found in tropical and subtropical environments.

As one of the best known and most cultivated plant families, palms show extensive diversity in physical characteristics that allow them to inhabit nearly every kind of habitat. Being so well cultivated means palms, from their wood to their fruits, have several uses in human society, including palm wood, carnauba wax, palm syrup, dates, oils, jelly, and coconut products.

Exploration and study: Discovering a palm tree’s basic shape

Study sketches help us build our design process. In this step, we must take the time to understand the “thing” we’re drawing. Without this step–or without spending enough time with this step–drawings and designs will likely fall flat.

Since we’re not interested in polishing turds, let’s learn about the shapes and forms that make a palm tree!

Shape breakouts and natural variations

Palm trees have fairly basic overall shapes. To begin an amazing palm tree drawing, choose a few simple shapes and forms.

I started outlining the basic shape breakdowns first because it communicates our goal in this step more clearly. However, it’s important to note that exploration doesn’t start with the shape breakdown sketch you see above; it starts with a messy and thorough exploration of your subject with all its parts and variations.

Here are my exploration study sketches:

First, I explored all the parts of the palm tree: palm leaves, the palm tree trunk, the different directions of the fronds, and individual leaf construction information for several types of palm leaves.

The challenge and complexity arise when it’s time to draw all the details and textures–a lot of small and irregular shape details– that give palm trees that recognizable feel and character.

My hope and encouragement for you are that you don’t forget or skip the exploration drawings stage before jumping straight into the palm tree step by step tutorials coming up.

Trust me, your step-by-step practice will level up much further the more you study palm trees through sketching exploration.

How to draw a palm tree: form construction

Completing our palm tree exploration sketches gave us a decent grasp of the parts of the palm tree. We have a solid idea of the lines, outline, silhouette, and edges that we need to create our own palm tree drawing.

Our study into how to draw a palm tree allowed us to wrap our minds around where we need to be drawing curved lines vs. horizontal lines or a straight line and showed us which basic shapes and forms we have to work with.

As we continue to learn how to draw a palm tree, let’s jump into practicing the tree’s form construction.

The bulk of form construction on a palm tree lies in drawing the trunk while drawing a palm leaf–called a frond–calls for drawing slightly curved planes without much volume apart from the palm frond base.

Most of the trunk is a simple long cylinder, but the portion at the top that resembles a fat cylindrical drum (and sits between the leaves and the trunk) has much more volume and thickness from the forms of dozens and dozens of pruned/shaved fronds.

If you could use more help with drawing forms, please check out my Form in Art and Art Fundamentals for Beginners articles.

A word about research…

Looking up palm tree drawings or palm trees on Google images gives the impression that most palm trees are just long and skinny with a few floppy fronds and a sprinkling of coconuts. This impression is mostly true of young palm trees or palm trees that have been more heavily pruned through shaving.

To learn how to draw a palm tree, I took a look at how trees get that shaved, skinnier look:

Here’s what I see around my neighborhood:

The point I’m trying to make here is: Always do your research and then find the best references you can because a basic search will only get you what everyone else has drawn, and that’s never the whole story of all that’s available for your designs.

Palm tree silhouette

I mentioned at beginning of this tutorial that I’d changed my format a bit for this article, and here’s why:

When you start exploring palm tree drawing (or any tree…or hair…or fur…really any highly textured thing, you get the idea 😅🙃🤯), it quickly becomes clear that drawing the leaves of a palm tree one at a time is a huge pain in the butt!

The studies alone that I drew showed me the last thing I wanted to do was draw the fronds one at a time. So, when the shapes are small or many and squished or layered, what tip can we use to save us pulling out our hair? Introducing, Silhouettes!

How to draw a palm tree with silhouette, step-by-step tutorial

There isn’t one right way to draw silhouettes. What I’m showing below is only one way to approach it. Please approach this in the most intuitive way for your drawing process.

Here are a few I drew by hand during my exploration stage.

Drawing with silhouettes helps us visualize our overall subject and its gesture without allowing us to get bogged down in details.

Since most of what we see of trees is their general silhouette and light effects on their shapes and forms (small shapes make textures!), using silhouettes to draw palm trees gets us further along without all the hair-pulling 😉.

Once we’ve experimented with a few silhouettes (they should totally be messy, not precious at this stage!) and chosen what we like, we can flesh out the internal shape and form information by drawing over our palm tree silhouette.

Palm tree silhouette draw over, step by step

To do this digitally as I have:

  1. Create a new layer over your silhouette and fill it completely with white, and then lower its opacity until you can clearly see your palm tree drawing silhouette enough to draw and trace over it.
  2. Create another new layer on top of your white trace layer and begin sketching the internal shape information over the top of your silhouette, including texture information.
  3. Use as many layers as you’d like to experiment with as many interior shape designs as you can. Simply hide the layers of your other design iterations to help you focus on the current layer’s work.

If you started traditionally on paper, you can also complete this step by photographing/scanning your drawing for your base palm tree drawing layer and then follow the steps above.

To do this traditionally:

  1. Get some tracing paper and overlay it onto your drawing.
  2. Begin sketching the internal shape information over your drawing onto the tracing paper. I recommend using pencils for this so you can easily make changes as you sketch. It’s also fun and useful to have multiple pieces of tracing paper for trying different interior shape designs.

A light box, if you have one available, is also a useful tool for this step when you’re working traditionally. Here are a couple of options from Blick & Amazon.

I found this to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable steps for how to draw a palm tree, and I encourage you to work loosely and have a blast with it.

Easy steps palm tree drawing

Now, we come to the how to draw a palm tree step by step parts of this tutorial. This is the easiest version of this tutorial. I plan to create a more advanced and involved version in the future.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step-thumbnails

Step 1

Since the planes and lines of a palm tree can get overwhelming quickly, I break the drawing process down into lots of digestible steps.

First, choose the simple shapes you want for your leaves and trunk and create a simple silhouette as shown here.

If you want to add some fruits, like coconuts, now is a good time to add their shapes as well.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 01

Step 2

Next, we begin to construct the forms from our thumbnail.

Here I drew the middle “drum-like” part that sits between the fronds and the trunk.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 04

Step 3

Draw the long trunk attached to the “drum-like” part.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 05

Step 4

Draw the overall container or “envelope” shape you want for the palm tree leaves. This step helps you begin blocking in the gesture and direction of your leaves.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 06

Step 5

Overlay the palm leaf gesture lines onto your envelope shape. This gesture line step helps you place the tree’s leaves in the position and direction you want them.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 07

Step 6

On top of the gesture lines from the last step, draw your leaf shapes.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 08

Step 7

Begin adding texture details to your leaves by using lines to “cut” into the edges/contours of each leaf.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 09

Step 8

Next, I added simplified oval shapes to represent the shaved/pruned fronds on the “drum-like” part of the tree.

More texture adds to the palm tree feel of the drawing.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step 10

Step 9

Almost done!

Before cleanup, add some texture to the trunk.

The highly textured feel of a palm tree trunk comes from lots of frond leaves that were pruned/shaved as the tree grew.

how to draw a palm tree_step by step - Final

Final Step

Once you clean up your lines and edges, erasing where there is some overlap of shapes and lines you don’t need, you’ll be all done!

Palm tree drawing in Perspective

Knowing how to draw a palm tree in perspective is useful for placing your trees in any scene you want. Below is a quick visual demo for drawing palm trees in two-point perspective.

Color and light and palm trees

I know there’s a lot more to cover to help you understand how to add color and light to a palm tree, but that’s a whole other discussion trust me. I will write another article to cover the color and light area on its own so it’s not confusing 😉.

In the meantime, if you’d like to add some light to your tree, please try out my Fundamentals of Light article. It will help you get started with the basics of light and shadow in art.

More details and coloring of palm trees

Without getting into the weeds too much, I thought it would be useful to do a quick visual once over of the textural details palm trees possess.

Here you’ll get an idea of the other textures and some very useful references for your drawing! For quick color experiments, I recommend using colored pencils or pastels.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not own these images! I found them on Google Images under the “Creative and Commons” usage rights filter.

Palm tree trunk dissection reference

Palm tree trunk texture reference

Palm fruit reference

Fond wishes and a warm farewell until next time!

I hope you found this to be one of those easy drawing tutorials, and I hope the art and explanations here have helped you digest the more difficult aspects of how to draw palm trees.

Thank you for spending part of your day with me learning how to draw a palm tree! I appreciate you stopping by, and I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have any questions or ideas for improving this article, please leave them for me in the comments below.

Stay safe, and Happy Drawing!


How to draw a basketball: Fantastically fun step-by-step tutorials, 2022

How to draw a basketball

Welcome to my how to draw a basketball tutorial!

Two teams meet with one ball in the middle, and today our focus is on basketball. In this basketball how to draw tutorial, we’ll focus on the ball itself. Its current design is quickly and easily recognizable, with its view of four lines that join at each end of the ball.

First, I’ll go over a little bit of the ball’s evolution because a bit of history is always helpful to our process. Then I’ll show you how to draw a basketball by breaking down its design to demonstrate that those lines we see are three shapes.

I’ll cover how to construct a sphere, the form of a basketball, and then take you one easy step at a time through drawing the shape, form, and curved lines to create your basketball drawing.

Let’s learn about basketballs!

Basketball was invented in 1891 and began with a soccer-like ball, which wasn’t dribbled. Basketball didn’t receive its ball design until 1894, getting a brown four leather-paneled ball with stitching similar to a football. The dribbling technique was introduced into the game in 1897, and by 1937 basketball was popular enough to have its own league, which began as the NBL–The National Basketball League.

With its growing popularity as a sport, basketball needed a redesigned ball because fans had difficulty following a brown ball on a brown court. So, around 1950, the ball was redesigned to be the orange color we’re all familiar with today. Then, in 1971, the NBA redesigned the basketball again, evolving it from four leather panels to eight leather panels which improved players’ ability to grip and dribble the ball.

I’ve included a helpful video I found below. If you’d like to see how the basketball design has changed over the years, and if you’d like to learn more about basketball’s history, click here.

In this drawing tutorial, we’ll focus on how to draw a basketball with its current design.

Exploration and study: Basketball drawing sketching

Whenever I draw something new, I start with study sketches to help me understand my subject’s shapes, forms, lines, and other features. Since this is how to draw a basketball, I did a few sketches to learn what makes a basketball look like it does, and as always, we start with a few references to help us get familiar with basketballs.

Typical basketball features: Curved line and horizontal line

Each curved line on a basketball is part of three shapes. First, it appears to have a vertical and horizontal line bisecting its middle, but they’re vertical and horizontal circular bands around the ball.

How to draw a basketball: form construction

A basketball is a hollow sphere made of eight leather panels. To learn how to draw a basketball, first, we must understand how to draw circles and spheres.

Help with drawing a circle or a sphere can be found here: how to draw a circle and a sphere article.

Here are a couple of videos for a quick recap:

How to draw a circle
How to draw a sphere

Now that we understand the basketball’s sphere form let’s briefly look at its insides with form dissection.

How to draw a basketball: Form dissection

I mentioned earlier that basketballs are hollow. So if you need to draw a deflated or cut open basketball, it helps to practice dissecting a sphere.

Here are some step-by-step images for sphere dissection. In addition, I have more on how to draw a sphere, and here is an example I created for a hollowed-out sphere half.

How to draw a basketball step by step instructions

Now that we’ve covered the essential part of how to draw a basketball, its form, we can move on to the other most recognizable feature: the lines, pattern, and texture.

As mentioned earlier, what appears to be a curved line or a set of lines is three shapes: one verticle circle, one horizontal circle, and one that resembles insect wings or a band-aid.

Drawing a realistic basketball

A simple circle is clear enough to draw, and we covered that in a previous step. Keep in mind that the circles needed for the pattern must go all the way around the ball, create thickness, add depth, and take on much darker shades. The other shape that wraps around the ball and resembles a wing takes more effort and concentration.

I’ve created a video to demonstrate how I draw each from two simple views to clarify this shape.

Basketball drawing step-by-step

Next, I’ve created a set of step-by-step images for how to draw a basketball. It helps to remember that the curved lines that create the shapes and patterns have depth. They are not level with the rest of the ball’s surface but instead make a slight depression. It’s important to indicate this for a realistic basketball drawing.

Drawing a cartoon basketball

Cartoon basketball drawings need to emphasize lines and shapes more because they are the opposite in their execution to a realistic drawing in that they don’t focus on three-dimensional form. Of course, some form will still be indicated because of the way the line will curve around the body of the ball, but overall it will still have the “flat” cartoon look.

For cartoon basketball drawings, it’s also helpful to include an outlining contour and emphasize the orange color and cel-shading method of applying light and shadow. Here are some examples of cartoon basketballs on Google Images and a few step-by-step images for how to draw a basketball in a cartoony way.

The significant difference between how to draw basketball realistically vs. as a cartoon mostly comes down to depth, texture, and handling of light and shadow. The cartoon style starts with a circle, is fun, quick, and purposefully simplifies realism. It lends itself very well to exaggeration and stylization and can be appealing to all ages.

The texture and colors of basketballs

I’m not gonna lie; drawing the texture on basketballs with pencil and paper, even if it’s just a sketch, is a tedious pain in the butt. However, digitally, it’s easy-peasy. If you prefer to learn how to draw a basketball in a hyper-realistic way, you’ll need some texture reference. I’ve included some below and a trace (more imprinting) image to offer a clearer idea of the small shapes that create the ball’s texture.

How to light a basketball

I made a basic lighting example for how to draw a basketball for light and shadow reference with a pencil (graphite) and paper. The ball is drawn the same as in the earlier steps, I just added basic lighting.

Lighting a cartoon basketball with Cel shading

The steps for lighting a cartoon basketball are simple as there’s no need to blend with cel-shading. Using a curved line or two helps create a guide for placing the flat tones that create the cel-shaded look.

Basketball drawing in perspective – start with a sphere!

To learn how to draw a basketball in perspective is the same as drawing a sphere in perspective. As long as you make sure you have a cube rather than a rectangular box in perspective, you’ll get a nice round sphere to start creating your basketball from. After that it’s just a matter of practice, practice, repeat!

Thanks for joining me to learn how to draw a basketball!

Thank you so much for stopping by my how to draw a basketball article! I hope you found this helpful and fun. I’m always happy to hear from my visitors and readers, so if you have any comments, questions, or feedback for me please leave them in the comments section below.

Take care, stay safe, and happy drawing!


How to draw a cube: A creative and comprehensive look, 2022

How to draw a cube with CecelyV

Welcome to how to draw a cube!

Happy drawing, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and ready to learn how to draw a cube with me today 😊 .

Cubes are one of the five basic forms. Drawing cubes freehand and in perspective are important skills to build on your art journey. Every form you need, for anything you want to draw, can be carved out of or built from a cube.

I’ll be demonstrating a few different methods for cube drawing here with step-by-step images and videos. I’ll show you how to draw a cube freehand, as well as cube drawing in perspective.

Learning how to draw a cube is simple and straightforward. It gets challenging when you need to turn them in perspective, but that’s a bridge to cross later 😉. For now, let’s take a look at what cubes are.

Let’s learn about cubes!

The most helpful description I found of a cube comes from a website search on Kiddle:

“A cube is a block with all right angles and whose height, width and depth are all the same. A cube is one of the simplest mathematical shapes in space.”

https://kids.kiddle.co/Cube

The main thing to understand is that a cube is a three-dimensional shape, meaning it has Volume. While a square has width and height, it has no depth–no volume. A cube, and all other three-dimensional forms, have width, height, and depth.

The sides of a cube (also called faces) are squares. Each side is connected to the others by straight lines (called edges) and by corners (called vertices). Each of a cube’s corners is at a right angle. A cube has 6 faces, 12 edges, and 8 corners.

If you’re interested in a more mathematical explanation of what a cube is, you can find it here.

You might have heard people refer to all kinds of boxes as 3D cubes, especially when they’re talking about drawing in perspective. Technically, not all boxes are cubes, but for drawing purposes, it really doesn’t matter one way or the other 😉.

Exploration and study: Natural and man-made cubes

Interestingly, there aren’t a lot of examples of naturally occurring cubes. Since it’s such a basic visual building block, I thought that was a little surprising, but 🤷🏾‍♀️. Naturally occurring cubes are found primarily in rock, mineral, and crystal formations, and it’s super easy to find examples of man-made cubes in almost anything.

Here are a couple of reference boards I created to illustrate both natural and man-made cubes.

Shape breakouts and natural variations

Normally, I would make a bunch of exploration and study sketches of my subject and break out all the different shape and form variations. But…cubes are pretty simple, so that’s not really a thing for this drawing tutorial 😅.

The shapes on a cube are just squares, and the variation is limited: we’re either drawing a cube or a rectangular “cube” (box). When we learn how to draw a cube, those are our base options. But simple is good, right?

Okay, let’s dig into this how to draw a cube business. I’ll go over a few freehand methods I came up with, and I’ve included a few video demonstrations about drawing cubes/boxes in perspective and showing the drawing process for the methods.

How to draw a cube step-by-step tutorials

I made up names for the freehand cube drawing methods I came up with 😁:

  • The basic method
  • Upside-down L’s
  • The Headless stick figure
  • Connect the squares method

The basic method

This way of drawing a cube is one that I learned early on in my art journey. It begins with a simple square shape and builds into a cube by adding depth with additional lines.

how to draw a cube_basic method step 1

The basic method, Step One

For the basic method of how to draw a cube, step 1 is drawing a simple square of any size you’d like.

how to draw a cube_basic method step 2

Step Two

Next, start creating depth by drawing lines out from each corner. This begins to give you the edges of the cube.

(I missed the bottom left corner here, but I’m sure you’ll rock it 😉).

how to draw a cube_basic method step 3

Step Three

Begin connecting the edges of the cube you drew in the previous step. The goal here is to create each square face of the cube, so each complete connection should give you a square face.

how to draw a cube_basic method step 4

Step Four

Connect the last edges and vertices, and you will have completed your 3D cube.

Upside-down L’s

This is just a spin on the basic method that allows us to shift our thinking a little bit. Instead of starting with a familiar shape, we begin with an upside-down letter ‘L’. This way we start out thinking in terms of edges and vertices rather than shapes and faces.

how to draw a cube_upside-down L's step 1

Upside-down L’s, Step One

As its name suggests, step 1 is drawing two upside-down capital L’s. Their size and how far you space them apart will determine how your cube looks.

how to draw a cube_upside-down L's step 2

Step Two

Connect the two L’s to complete the first face of your cube.

how to draw a cube_upside-down L's step 3

Step Three

From the two bottom vertices of the square face, draw edges back in space that each run parallel to the tops of the original upside-down L’s, as shown.

how to draw a cube_upside-down L's step 4

Step Four

Begin connecting the ends of each of the edges you added in the previous step to create additional faces for your cube.

In this example, the bottom and left faces were created.

how to draw a cube_upside-down L's step 5

Step Five

Finish connecting the last three vertices to create the last three faces of your cube and voila! You now have a completed freehand cube!

The Headless stick figure

This how to draw a cube method is straightforward like the others. We begin with the back corners of the cube and work our way forward in space until the cube is complete, and starting with a headless stick figure gives us that back corner start as you’ll see in this next demo.

how to draw a cube_headless stick figure step 1

Headless stick figure, Step One

We have five edges and two vertices. If we were to add a circle at the top, we’d have a stick figure. Without the head, we get the back corner of our cube.

how to draw a cube_headless stick figure step 2

Step Two

Connect the “arms” and “legs” of our headless stick figure to get the first two planes of our cube, as seen here.

how to draw a cube_headless stick figure step 3

Step Three

Connect the top two outside corners with straight edges to create the top plane of the cube.

how to draw a cube_headless stick figure step 4

Step Four

Drop an edge down from the front-most corner of the top square plane. This sets us up to complete the last three planes of the cube.

how to draw a cube_headless stick figure step 5

Step Five

Connect the two bottom outside corners to the end of the vertical edge you dropped earlier and boom! You have a completed cube 😉.

Connect the squares method

The focus of this how to draw a cube method is connecting corresponding points (vertices) of the squares. This way of drawing cubes is a lot of fun and opens up possibilities for more interesting cubes and boxes.

how to draw a cube_connect squares method step 01

Connect the squares, Step One

Drawn any size square you’d like to begin.

how to draw a cube_connect squares method step 02

Step Two

Draw a second square with roughly the same dimensions as the first, and consider its position in relation to your first square since you’ll be connecting them.

Here I chose to overlap them slightly to make the connection a little more intuitive.

You’ll notice my second square is a little smaller than my first, and that’s okay. The point is to understand and practice the process.

how to draw a cube_connect squares method step 03

Step Three

Choose a square corner to start with and connect it to its matching corner on your second square with a straight line (edge).

how to draw a cube_connect squares method step 04

Step Four

Continue connecting the matching edges of both squares to each other.

how to draw a cube_connect squares method step 05

Step Five

After connecting the last corner, you’ll have a completed freehand cube drawing!

How to draw a cube medley!

To make this how to draw a cube tutorial more clear, I created a couple of videos to demonstrate the process for each method shown above. Establishing our processes in our work is extremely important, and my goal is to make the processes I use as clear as possible to help you decide on your own.

How to draw a cube: 3D cube drawing.
Cube drawing by connecting squares.

How to draw a cube in Perspective

Perspective can get a little hairy and confusing when you try to explain it with words and images alone, so I think the best approach for this particular art fundamental is a video demonstration.

To be clear, I didn’t make this video to explain drawing in perspective point by point, but the setup and process stay the same whenever you’re drawing basic forms in perspective.

How to draw a cube: 3D cubes in perspective.

You may have noticed from the video that I did the entire demo on a 3-point perspective grid–meaning a three vanishing point setup. For practice like this, it doesn’t matter which perspective you use so long as you have each vanishing point you need. I find it helpful to work from a 3-point perspective grid even when I’m not drawing in that perspective because it gives me the option of drawing in three different perspectives without having to change my paper format.

As long as you use the appropriate vanishing point, or points, for the perspective you intend to use on your object/form, then you’re good to go! 👍🏾

How to draw a cube: Form dissection

Normally, at this point, I would go over how to draw a cube with a dissection demonstration that dives into interior forms. However, with basic cubes and boxes, which aren’t representing anything specifically, there aren’t any interior forms to explore.

Still, a demonstration on cutting into/cutting away/dissecting the cube form is still helpful and useful, so that’s what this next video shows.

How to draw a cube: 3D cube dissection.

More cube drawing – building other forms

As I mentioned earlier, all manner of forms can be built from or carved out of cubes and boxes. Here are a few simple examples to demonstrate what I mean:

Freehand forms from cubes.

How to light a cube

Rather than get into an entire discussion on the fundamentals of light, I decided to show a few photographic examples of lighting on a cube. With a few simple art supplies and wooden 3D shapes, I photographed some images to use as a visual tutorial for how light falls on a cube.

This first set of images were taken in my make-shift still life box. It’s an old diaper box whose inside I’ve covered with black butcher paper. I cut out a couple of holes on each of the short sides and partially cut away the top so I can control the lighting. The cube in these images was lit with white light from a spotlight.

These next set of images demonstrate the light on a cube from my overhead studio light. It’s a small ceiling fan with a light kit, which essentially functions as a large diffused light source for these examples. Once again, you’ll notice that the shadow gets longer as the cube moves further away from the light–however, the shadows (shading) are different with a different light source. There are multiple shadows because the light source is composed of 3 light bulbs.

This gives us multiple shadows that are also brighter and quite soft.

In this last set of lighting/shading reference images for how to draw a cube, I used a candle–a much smaller, but quite bright, light source–to light the wooden cube. A candle would be a point light source, and it makes for much darker and more crisp shadows.

For some of these, the candle (point light) was low and closer to the cube, while at other times it was positioned above the cube. As usual, the closer the cube is to the light source, the sharper and darker the shadows are.

Here are a couple of examples of how to light a cube and place the cast shadows using a traditional medium, graphite pencils.

How to draw a cube from Imagination!

Let’s practice how to draw a cube from imagination 😊.

There isn’t really much to explain or guide you through here. Just grab a pencil and some paper, and let your imagination fly! I chose to draw some everyday objects to keep things simple and clear, but the sky is the limit with cubes. Go for it!

How to draw a cube from imagination – demo.

Happy cube drawing!

Well, that’s everything I have on how to draw a cube for now.

Thank you so much for hanging in there with me! It’s my goal to write for beginners, students, experienced artists, and hobbyists alike on this walk of art life, so I hope you found the content of my cube drawing tutorial helpful.

I truly appreciate the opportunity to be a guide and participant in your artistic journey, and I hope I’ve helped you make your cube drawing pop! I know you have a lot of options when you search the web, so thank you for spending some time on my little side line of the internet ❤. I hope you enjoy your cube drawing!

I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any feedback or questions for me, please leave them in the comments section below!

Take care, stay safe, and happy drawing!


More how-to-draw articles on CecelyV.com:

How to draw a circle

How to draw a sphere

How to draw a mushroom

How to draw a banana

How to draw a pumpkin

Light and Shadow in Art – The Fundamentals of Light, Part 1: The Science & The Basics Made Clear

light and shadow in art

The Science & The Basics

I’m not sure many people fully appreciate the nature of what artists attempt to do each time we set out to render light and shadow in art. I know I haven’t, even when I’m in the middle of rendering, and I love light and shadow in art!

As I continue to dig into what light and shadow in art really is, I am awestruck and so thankful to all the scientists and artists who came before me—the giants upon whose shoulders we stand—because the subject of light and shadow in art is huge, and I am glad they already figured all this stuff out for us 😅.

It is difficult not to get philosophical here because what we are really doing when we render light and shadow in art is re-creating the properties and behaviors of light in a 2D space—and those behaviors and properties encompass several sub-branches of modern Physics, including: Quantum Physics, Modern Optics, Geometric Optics, and Physical Optics.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that different aspects of light behavior and properties come under several different categories of Physics that are each quite involved areas all their own.

That was my not-so-subtle warning that The Fundamentals of Light–light and shadow in art– gets quite technical.

The understanding we gain for our art is totally worth it, and we need three things for sure: 1) Patience, 2) Plenty of visual examples, and 3) More than one post to go through the massive amounts of information.

For any of you who are much better scientists than I, please forgive any inaccuracies in my scientific understanding or explanation. I endeavor to be an expert artist, not physicist 😋 , but I do try to be as accurate and as clear as possible. If I get something wrong, please let me know in the comments and I will do my best to make corrections.

I hope you will hang in there with me as I break down the technical bits (that’s the patience part), I hope the examples and information I share help your practice, and that you’ll find it useful enough to look forward to the future posts in this series. Since this is the first, let’s start digging into to the science of light and shadow in art, shall we?

The Science—What is Light?

To understand how to render light and shadow in art we must grasp the concept of what light is and how it behaves.

Light is a type of energy created by the emission of photons within the electromagnetic spectrum. If that sounded like gobbledygook, fear not, I shall explain.

A photon is a “small bundle” of electromagnetic energy and the basic unit that makes up all light. Thus, photons are the building blocks of light.

Electromagnetic energy describes forms of energy that are reflected or emitted from objects as electrical and magnetic waves that can travel through space. The Electromagnetic Spectrum shown below describes these energies as frequencies and wavelengths.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

The light effects we paint represent a fixed and narrow range of the Electromagnetic Spectrum called the Visible spectrum, which is a narrow group of wavelengths between approximately 380 nm (nanometers) and 730 nm.

As illustrated in the diagram above, The Electromagnetic Spectrum contains several other forms of light, however most of them are at frequencies we can feel but not “see”.

All light has both a frequency and a wavelength, and all light can behave as both a particle and a wave depending on the situation. In fact, both light and matter have particle-wave duality in their properties and behavior. It’s important for artists to understand this duality because it affects our thinking and problem solving regarding light at different stages during rendering.

When we begin to invent our images we must also invent our lighting. When we are mentally calculating the direction of our light source, its reflections, and fall off, it is helpful to think of light as particles, or rays, that travel in straight lines.

This helps us figure out how much of our object will be lit, how to place the form shadows and cast shadows, and where the bounce light will land. When objects are opaque, I have found considering light primarily as rays helps me best determine how to render the light.

When objects are translucent, transparent, or have variable reflectivity, things start to get more complex because light is not simply being absorbed and reflected but also transmitted through the object. Transmission of light through objects gives us more to consider and calculate because it gives us more to paint, like subsurface scattering, refraction, and more reflections.

Let me put your mind at ease and say it is not necessary to do any complex mathematic calculations to paint these effects, just some additional concepts to understand and visual calculations to make.

When we think about reflection, refraction, and absorption, it helps to think of light first as a particle or ray (for determining the light’s intensity, direction, and bounce) and then as a wave—for determining which wavelengths are reflected off, absorbed by, and/or transmitted through the object and the ground.

That was a huge mouthful, I know. I will be going over all of these more nuanced areas in other articles in this series.

Understanding the particle-wave duality of light begins to give us a clear view of how light’s behavior changes as it interacts with different materials. Watching the videos below helped me gain a clearer understanding of this concept, and I hope you find them useful, too.

As we bring together the elements we need to understand, we start to define the contours of The Fundamentals of Light (light and shadow in art) so that we can start filling in details and particulars—and don’t worry, there will be photographic examples and demos so all of this becomes more clear.

Properties of Light & Matter for Artists

I know this has been a little science-heavy so far, and that’s intentional. It is how I make sense of complex topics, and I hope you find it helpful. Now that we’ve covered the basics of what light is, I’ll change things up a bit to keep everything digestible. I’ll cover a little science and do some explaining, and then use photographic examples or demos to clarify how the information helps in creating art.

Next, let’s dig into the properties of light, but first I want to give you a list of all the properties to keep in mind whenever it’s time to render light. This is a list according to me, and they’re based on my experience rendering light in both 2D (Photoshop) and 3D (Maya).

Light PropertiesMatter Properties
Number of SourcesForm/Shape
Type of Light(s)Local Color
Size of Source(s)Material Type
Distance from object/picture planeDensity
Angle/Height of Source(s)Reflectivity
Temperature/ColorTransmission
Exposure/IntensityRefractive Index
Fall OffEmission

Some of these are straightforward, so let’s talk about those briefly. The number of light sources is an important consideration because we need to know how much light information we’re working with. More light sources in a scene makes for a brighter image, but how each source affects the picture plane depends on all the other properties on the list.

The size and angle/height of each source are also straightforward properties and they ask questions like: Is a light source large, small, or medium? Do several small lights make up one larger source because of how closely grouped they are? Do these sources sit high or low on the picture plane? Are they even visible in the image, or are they shining from somewhere out of frame?

Under properties of matter, shape, form, local color, and material type are the most straightforward. We must know what shapes and forms make up the volume of the objects we’re rendering, and we need to know what color and material type they are. After all, there is quite a difference between painting a shiny chrome ball and painting a shiny colored plastic ball. Sure, they’re both shiny; but one is metal and ridiculously reflective while the other is plastic, softer, and much less reflective.

The Two Ways Our World is Lit

Despite all the science, properties, and moving parts involved with understanding how objects are lit, there really are only two ways anything receives light in our world: directly or indirectly.

Objects are either lit directly by a light source or indirectly by reflected light when the rays from the source bounce off some surfaces and objects to illuminate others. This kind of indirect lighting is also called Ambient Light and it is much weaker in comparison to direct light. Most lighting schemes will involve both direct and indirect lighting.

Next, we’ll go over the categories that light sources fall into.

Properties of Light – Types of Light Sources

There are 3 types of light sources:

  1. Key Light
  2. Fill Light
  3. Rim Light

Key Light

A key light is the strongest light source in your scene. It defines the emotional impact of the scene and is the primary descriptor of forms and drama. When you decide how to “key” your scene, you are choosing the overall mood and tonal range that will define it.

Fill Light

A fill light is not as bright as a key light and is often softer and a lot darker. Fill lights support your scene and subjects by adding light and color information in the shadows, which can illuminate an area of interest you wish the viewer to see or just provide added interest or balance to your scene. Fill light can be ambient (reflected) light, as I’ve done in my examples below, or it can come from an additional light source(s).

Rim Light

A rim light travels the outer edges of objects. Rim light helps define shapes, add dramatic appeal, and can be a helpful tool for adding compositional information and/or emotional impact.

No matter what kind of mood a story or scene calls for, any lighting scheme will have at least a key light and, likely, some combination of all three light source types.

Okie dokie, how’re you doing? I know this has been a lot to get through, and I hope you’re still hanging in there with me. Deep breaths, we’ve got this!

Now, it’s time to go over some terminology to help keep things clear as we continue to move through the Fundamentals of Light (light and shadow in art).

Defining Terminology + Sphere Tests

Think of this as the glossary section of this post. Here I’ll define the frequently used terms that will show up quite often from now on in both my writing and the call-outs in demos and examples.

Light Source

Anything that creates and emits light. Light sources can be natural, like the sun, moon, and fire, or artificial, like lamp posts, flashlights, and device screens.

Light Direction & Angle

The orientation of a light source relative to the picture plane. For example, low and out of frame on the left, or mid-level and in frame on the right.

Exposure

The intensity or strength of a light source. A high exposure light source makes for a brighter, “high key” scene, while a lower exposure light will make a scene appear less bright. I tend to use exposure and intensity interchangeably.

Center Light

The area of a form receiving most of the light; the lit side of a form.

Highlight

The brightest area on a form. This is usually a small area that is receiving the most direct light and reflecting a bit of it back.

Half Tone

The area on a form that has begun to turn away from the light source, resulting in a transition area of light to shadow. This area is receiving some light, but not nearly as much as the parts of the form facing the light source more directly.

Reflected/Bounce Light

Light that bounces off a surface and then lands on another form or surface is Reflected or “bounce” light. Reflected light is much weaker than direct light and can occur on any part of a form, except occluded areas.

Terminus/Terminator

The point at which light cannot land on a surface. This is where the shadow side of the form begins.

Shadow Core

The darkest part of the form shadow. The shadow core on a sphere typically looks like a dark band right next to the terminus, a clear separator between the light and shadow. The core shadow is also the part of the form shadow least affected by reflected light.

Form Shadow

The areas of a form that are in complete shadow and receive no direct light.

Occlusion Shadow

Occlusion shadows are the darkest areas in shadows and on/within forms where absolutely no light can reach. When something is occluded it is completely obstructed or blocked, so when light is occluded you have complete darkness.

We see occlusion most often in narrow areas right beneath forms before the cast shadow begins, and with narrow openings, cracks, and crevices of surfaces/forms. Occluded areas are not sufficiently open enough to the environment to receive any light, so there is only shadow.

Cast Shadow

Cast shadows is created when an object’s form blocks light. Objects block light adjacent to themselves and in the shape of their contours. There are three distinct parts to a cast shadow, the Umbra, Penumbra, and Antumbra. Much of the time, in art, we are only painting an umbra and penumbra. When multiple light sources of different intensity and direction/angle are involved, we begin to see examples of all three parts of a cast shadow.

  1. Umbra: Umbra is Latin for “shadow”. The umbra is the innermost and darkest part of a cast shadow, where the light source is completely blocked by the form creating the shadow. [i]
  2. Penumbra: Penumbra is Latin for “nearly” and “almost”. The penumbra is further from the object and lighter than the umbra. Further away from the object light from the source and the environment can influence and brighten the shadows.
  3. Antumbra: The antumbra is the lightest and softest part of a cast shadow. The technical definition is confusing and unnecessary for our purposes, but if you’re curious click here.

Now, I’m going to show a few sphere test examples to visually illustrate the terms above so we can make practical sense of all you’ve been reading.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 06-add highlight-reflected light
Basic Light and Shadow Demo 07-Sequential
light and shadow in art, lighting a sphere demo step-by-step.

The Distance of Light Sources & Why It Matters

Each property of light and shadow in art plays a role in affecting the mood of our scene and the light effects we paint. The appearance and quality of shadows are determined by the light and forms that cast them. How near or distant a light source is to an object has a significant impact on the appearance of an object’s form shadows and cast shadows, so let’s get into that next.

Distant Light Sources (Sunlight, moonlight, spotlights, etc)

We can group lights into categories based on their characteristics, like size, distance, and how intense they are to get a starting place for how those lights would interact with the objects in our scenes.

Distant light sources are things like sunlight, moonlight, and powerful spotlights like those in stadiums and theaters. Distant lights tend to:

  • Be neutral lights.
  • Cause soft-edged form shadows.
  • Create cast shadows that are the same size and shape as the object because their light rays are parallel.

As one example, we know the sun is a huge, very distant, powerful light source, and from observation we know that light from the sun strongly illuminates everything it reaches. That means light is bouncing around everywhere in our atmosphere and reflecting a lot of light, so we can expect brighter and more colorful shadows when the sun is involved.

Playing with exposure also makes a big difference, so an overcast grey sky lowers the exposure, diffuses the light, and makes the sunlight seem much less energetic than a clear and cloudless sky, and creates lighter, softer, and less colorful shadows.

The Sun is also larger than our Earth, and any object we would light with it, so we must also consider the sun as an “oversized” light, which we’ll get into in a minute.

Nearby Light Sources

Nearby light sources are things like lamps, candles, device screens and monitors, lighters, matches, lanterns, etc. Nearby light sources tend to create:

  • Larger cast shadows because the light rays are no longer parallel.
  • Shorter and sharper (harder edged) cast shadows the closer they are to objects, longer and softer cast shadows the further they are from objects.
  • A higher terminus and a larger form shadow.
  • A more active or energetic feel and added tension to a scene.

When nearby light sources are also quite small (like candlelight or a lighter), they tend to cast hard-edged cast shadows. They present an additional composition challenge because they can become distracting if not handled carefully. Nearby light sources tend to become a focal point in a scene, so it’s important to be mindful of that and use it to your advantage for your chosen lighting scheme and compositional design.

Oversized or Diffuse Light Sources

Examples of oversized or diffuse light sources are the entire sky on an overcast day (sky light), light coming through large windows, and any light that is scattered by being translucently covered or blocked (like a paper lantern, a light sheet or cloth, an umbrella, or frosted glass covering for light bulbs). Oversize or diffuse light sources tend to:

  • Cause an object’s terminus to move further away from the light source (the larger the light source is larger relative to the object).
  • Create softer edged shadows.
  • Make environments and characters feel softer, warmer, and more friendly.

In the case of light sources that are larger than the objects they illuminate, the light rays are travelling out in random directions, reflecting off the atmosphere and other objects and surfaces, and filling in the shadows, which softens them. Shadows become softer edged because light does not reach each part of the shadow area equally, and because the object blocks (occludes) part of the light area behind it.

Ambient Light

Ambient light is created when light from a source is reflected off the ground, other objects, and the environment. It is possible for objects to be exclusively lit by ambient light, but a key light (which is usually a direct kind of light) is still needed to emit the light that will be reflected.

Terms like indirect light, reflected light, and bounce light all mean the same thing: they are all ambient light. Ambient light is most noticeable in shadows because of the contrast, but it is present whenever and wherever reflected light lands on an object or surface.

Light rays lose most of their strength and brightness (90%) with each bounce, and they are bouncing around multiple times. This loss of strength is why ambient light is generally weak and cannot reach into occluded areas.

You may have come across the term ambient occlusion, especially as it relates to lighting in 3D modeling apps like Maya and Zbrush. In drawing and painting, if zero light can reach an area, I simply refer to this as an occlusion shadow or an occluded area.

For a bit more on ambient light and ambient occlusion, here’s a video by Marco Bucci (awesome artist!) that I found helpful.

light and shadow in art, occlusion shadow/ambient occlusion.

Light Direction & Angle: How They Affect A Scene

In any lighting scheme, cast shadows are a compositional and mood element that should be considered and planned. Choosing the light’s direction and angle is an important step in setting the emotional tone of a scene as well as defining forms and helping viewers to understand how to react to what they are seeing. Cast shadows can add drama and mystery to a scene, particularly when the object or character casting the shadow is off-camera.

Different light directions and angles offer a variety of mood options, and I’ve listed a few here:

  1. Direct Overhead Lights:
    • Tend to read as unnatural.
    • Can help create tension and drama, and how much depends on the light’s exposure and temperature.
  2. Angled Light from the side:
    • Defines form.
    • Reads as active and energetic.
    • Adds dramatic tension.
  3. Frontal light (slightly to the side and above, not directly in front):
    • Comfortable way of positioning light.
    • Keeps an object/character from being in too much shadow.
    • Good at defining form.
    • Reads as soft and friendly.
  4. Under Lighting:
    • Is the most unnatural of all the lighting directions.
    • Feels dramatic in spooky, creepy, threatening, and unnatural ways.

How you choose to render the light and shadow in art you create will always depend on the position and point of view of the audience, and the message that needs to be conveyed.

The Fundamentals of Light (Light and Shadow in art)—Breaking Down The Parts

Even though we learn in steps and stages, I find it helpful to get the “lay of the land” because it provides a road map, and it’s nice to at least have some idea of what we’re doing, right? With that in mind, I have listed the major headings that are part of studying The Fundamentals of Light (light and shadow in art) and broken out some detail for the area we’ve covered today.

Deep breath…

  1. Properties of Light
    • Light Sources
    • Types of Light
    • Terminology & Sphere Tests
    • Fall Off & Form Changes
    • Exposure
  2. Light & Surface Color
  3. Reflections
  4. Translucence & Transparency (Transmission)
  5. Light & Materials
  6. Atmospheric Effects & Atmospheric Perspective
  7. The Human Experience of Light
  8. Rendering/Visual Styles

Next Time: The Fundamentals of Light, Part 2!

Take a moment to think of your absolute favorite treat for relaxing and pampering yourself. See it, visualize it in your mind’s eye. Now…get yourself that treat! You have just made it through a massive amount of information in a relatively short(ish) amount of time.

Congratulations!

Thank you for hanging in there with me to learn about light and shadow in art! I’ve tried to keep things clear and concise, but I know this was a lot to take in. I commend you, I thank you, and I am sending you virtual high fives and fist bumps!

Congratulations! You got through an intro to light and shadow in art!

We need some forms before we render light and shadow in art, so if you need guidance in that area I have some articles covering Form and The Fundamentals of Art to help.

The next couple of articles in my Fundamentals of Light series will cover exposure and fall off, and then absorption, reflection, and refraction of light wavelengths.

If I’ve confused you or you have questions, or if I’ve gotten anything wrong, please message me in the comments and I’ll do my best to clear things up.

I hope you’ll join me for those as well.

Take care and happy drawing with light and shadow in art everyone!


[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbra,_penumbra_and_antumbra

Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners

Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners

Welcome fellow artists! Thank you for sharing part of your day with me to talk about art fundamentals 😊.

Since you’re here it means you are looking for answers regarding the fundamentals of art and other art concepts like painting, color, composition, anatomy, value, and many others I’m sure. When we start our art journey, we have tons of questions about art and its elements. I’m happy to share everything I have learned as an artist because I remember the struggle of becoming.

There are almost always pre-established paths, curriculum, video courses, books, and other avenues for getting whatever knowledge we seek. These avenues lay out what the essential or fundamental parts are for any discipline and stress the importance of learning those fundamentals to achieve success—and for good reason, as our work and understanding tend to fall flat without them. Everything there is to learn has fundamentals intended to serve as our foundation.

A foundation is our primary source of essential knowledge and skills, and once completely established it supports us as we grow from it and built on it. Have you ever heard the phrase “We stand on the shoulders of giants”? The artists that came before us, from masters to hobbyists, have already laid the groundwork for us. We don’t need to reinvent anything, all we must do is learn the basics, each art concept, and do the work to make our art.

Yes, it is a process. Yes, it does take years. That’s okay! It’s worth it, and so is your art dream.

What are the Fundamentals of Art?

Search for “art fundamentals” or “what are the fundamentals of art?” online and you quickly get a cornucopia of mish-mashed information about art and design.

There is a difference between a fundamental, a principle, and an element. A fundamental is something you start with and then build on. A principal is similar to a fundamental, but it can also be a set or list of things that make up one encompassing fundamental. I think about it this way: if there are multiple principles, then whatever heading they’re all listed under is the actual fundamental.

Take the Principles of Design, for example. There are at least seven of those, but Design is the fundamental. Make sense? An element is literally a component, one part, of a whole. All fundamentals have elements, but no single element is a fundamental on its own.

Why Learn the Fundamentals of Art?

Because you want to draw and paint awesome stuff without tearing out your hair, that’s why.

Making quality art requires us to understand all the fundamentals of art as well as their elements, including painting, color theory, composition, color mixing, anatomy, perspective, design, etc. Understanding each of the fundamentals, each concept, in depth is a process and an investment in ourselves as artists. You have goals as an artist that you dream of meeting, and your journey is about equipping yourself to get where you want to be and rocking it when you arrive. So let’s gear up by going over this list.

My Top 5 Art Fundamentals for Beginners

To be completely honest and transparent, this list represents the top 5 art fundamentals according to me. Others may disagree, but I have been working at this long enough—and I have classically trained enough—to present this list with confidence. The order I list them in is based off years of study, practice, and wall smacking.

  1. Forms
    • Line
    • Shapes
    • Structure (Construction)
    • Proportion (Illusion of Mass and Dimension)
  2. The Fundamentals of Light (Tones/Values, includes basic Color Theory & Mixing)
  3. Drawing from Life
  4. Gesture Drawing & Anatomy
  5. Perspective

My key reasoning for the order of this art fundamentals list is quite simple: Historically and to this day, most times when I hit a wall it’s in one or more of these five areas that I find the solutions I need. Had I built a stronger background in these earlier on, I would’ve hit fewer snags. The strength of our foundation plays an important role in how we navigate our way through any challenge, and no matter how experienced we become, problem solving and corrections will always be part of our creation process.

It’s good to get different perspectives on things, so here’s the awesome Bobby Chiu on what the fundamentals of art are:

With all that in mind, let’s start digging into these top five fundamentals and help you on your way.

1. Form

When we talk about Form in art, we’re referring to an object’s overall shape, volume, and contours which include line, depth, and mass. Seeing and constructing Forms are the first and most vital skills we must develop as artists.  Practicing the analysis, understanding, and building of Forms creates a strong foundation for developing and growing all other fundamental art skills. Line, shape, structure, and proportion are essential building blocks for anything you draw or paint.

The process of practicing each of these skills builds our visual library and the muscle memory needed to allow us to create whatever artwork we want. As artists we are in the business of communicating feelings, thoughts, impressions, messages, and stories, so let’s look at how developing our skill with Forms helps us.

Benefits of developing skill with Forms

1. We Learn to See

Practicing seeing and creating Forms helps us become familiar with the physical make-up of all the things that surround us and how all their parts come together to shape part of our experience.

2. We Learn to Analyze, Explore, and Take Risks

We begin to see connections, relationships, repetition, and similarities between and across forms and objects. This readies us to look more closely at each subject and better understand the fundamentals beyond the basics.

When you feel ready for more on Forms, I take a deeper dive into the topic in my Understanding Form post.

2.   The Fundamentals of Light: A Few Words on a Massive Topic

The study and practice of The Fundamentals of Light allows us to create Tones/Values in our work. Where Forms add the illusion of volume and dimension, light and shadow give objects a sense of mass, help further clarify surface texture and plane changes, explain the objects’ local tone and color, indicate mood, and show objects’ context within the picture plane.

Studying Light teaches us how it interacts with everything in the real world and helps us reproduce an illusion of its effects in two-dimensions. This practice helps us illustrate the properties, mood, and the character of the objects and people we draw and paint. With these two art fundamentals in our toolbox, we can create the illusion of any type of material, choose any level of detail, and guide the story to wherever it needs to be.

The process of practicing with light and shadow in art begins to bring us into other areas, such as color theory, color mixing, color key, light key, and painting. During this learning process, I recommend you to try to keep color simple. While color theory is relatively simple, a deft use of color takes years of practice and there are several elements involved when dealing with it. I also recommend using digital painting tools in addition to traditional painting to help with the study of color.

Digital tools are much more forgiving and are great for practicing and experimenting with value and color. My favorite thing about playing with color and value in a digital painting app, like ProCreate or Photoshop, is that they allow you to learn all the elements of color without having to mix color.

Mixing is its own thing–not a big thing, but still. Painting traditionally involves understanding the characteristics of each product (whether those are painting colors or mediums) and paint colors can vary wildly within a single color range and from brand to brand. Since traditional color mixing is so involved, it is best practiced separately from these five fundamentals.

Practicing each of these art fundamentals requires us to also practice Drawing from Life, which is the next area of fundamental practice I recommend for beginning artists.

3.   Drawing from Life: Growing Your Skills & Visual Library

Every time we make art from life, we are doing something very important for our art and for ourselves as artists. We are taking into ourselves the life around us and engaging with it. Sketching and Drawing from Life are how we have a dialogue with the object we are re-creating. The relationship we have with the world through this process develops and maintains our visual libraries.

To begin, I suggest starting small and simple.

Think of the different types of shapes and find objects from your daily life, and from nature, that include many of those shapes. Then, draw them a lot. Start with the basic shapes you see—i.e., circles, squares, triangles, etc.—to practice seeing the elements that come together to construct the forms, such as cylinders, spheres, cubes, boxes, pyramids, cones. Leave out details like the surface designs, textures, and colors for now, focusing only on the forms, local tone, and basic light and shadows.

Draw the objects from different viewpoints, at different times of day, in different positions, under different lighting conditions, on their own, and grouped with other objects. Some printer paper or a simple sketchbook and pencil are really all you need to get started.

Once you feel comfortable with the simple forms, take yourself to the next level of form complexity and alternate between organic and inorganic forms to help to keep things varied, fun, and to keep expanding your visual library. As you become comfortable with more and more complex forms, you will find yourself ready to begin tackling the most challenging ones: Humans and animals.

4.   Gesture Drawing & Anatomy: Massively Challenging, Awesomely Rewarding

For an artist, gesture drawing is essential for infusing a sense of motion, energy, and life into our artwork. As artists, we want to share art that feels alive, and gesture drawing and anatomy help achieve that. Gesture helps us add to the observation skills we build when creating from life by teaching us to see, accentuate, and exaggerate the motion in the poses of our subjects.

Every subject has gesture and motion; they are not exclusive only to humans and animals. Even when an object is static, like the trunk of a tree, it still has a gesture—it just doesn’t convey motion because it is not moving. Gesture is an area of study unto itself because creating the illusion of dynamic motion has its own set of terminology and guiding principles.

However, as with the other art fundamentals, gesture drawing builds on the other skills that were listed before it. Just as we construct our objects from lines and shapes, so too do we build our gestures. In a traditional gesture class (usually called Figure Drawing), we learn to identify the line of action for each pose and then build the forms around it. This also involves much practice in seeing, and accurately placing, the angles, proportions and distances between shapes and forms.

It is another form of drawing from life, with the specific life form being a human model.

Figure Drawing for Gesture Practice

At first, working with the figure feels quite daunting and challenging (and hilarious cuz there’s a naked stranger in front of you). I put it this far down on my list because it is a much more demanding skill. Even so, when you feel ready, I strongly encourage you begin adding gesture/figure drawing to your practice routine. It’s as fun as it is challenging, and it will help your hand and eye mature.

When I first started waaaay, back in 2001—OMG I’m totally aging myself—I was like all the rest of my first-time figure drawing artist classmates: giggly and terrible at drawing naked humans. I had no idea what I was doing, and that was fine. At first it’s quite humbling, but with a good instructor (Thank you, Professor Tacang!) I improved. If I can do it, so can you—with all the art fundamentals.

Remember, this is your journey so make it work for you and your art. I am here to act as a helpful guide and faithfully pass on what I learn.

The last skill in this first round of art fundamentals is one that helps pull everything together and adds an extra kick of believability to our creations.

5.   Perspective: Exciting and Technical…mostly.

The first four art fundamentals are all about building the solid drawing foundation we need to support us as we work to communicate through our art. Perspective is another powerful tool for our visual storytelling, and it is a bit different from the others. Whereas the other areas of fundamental study are focused on constructing, lighting and enlivening objects, Perspective focuses on the space the objects occupy.

It deals with how the orientation of each object changes depending on its position within that space, and where our point of view is set (POV). Perspective allows us to understand the spaces our objects and stories occupy, and to examine each from different points of view.

Access to any point of view in the story is the gift we gain by developing our skills with Perspective, and the impact of a story can change dramatically depending on the viewpoint from which it is told.

As with the other fundamentals of art, Perspective is an area of study unto itself and has its own set of terminology, rules, and ways of practicing. It is certainly one of the more technical areas of study in art.

Creating objects in perspective is a more guided way of working that calls for a lot of lines and points: horizon line, vanishing points, and construction lines. I think it can be exciting when it helps an idea come to life—but it can also feel dry and ass numbingly dull (or painfully frustrating) depending on where you are with it. Perspective is important to learn, important to understand, and, unfortunately, is also a skill many artists avoid early on. I know I did.

It made my head hurt, so I said “no, thank you”…to the detriment of my artwork. Eventually, I sucked it up and learned better (plus it really, really helps with composition!).

So…What About the Other Art Fundamentals? 

Believe me, there is no rush and the five we’ve just gone over will do the vital work of helping you build the foundation all your work rests on. The other art fundamentals: Color & Light, Principles of Design, Composition, and Line & Brushwork…they’re not going anywhere, and I’ll be here to help you make sense of them.

Thank you for hanging in there with me! I hope you have found this article helpful. If you have any questions, feedback, or if I have confused you at all, please let me know in the comments so I can help.