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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Step 9

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

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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 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.

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Step 3

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

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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.

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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.

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Step 6

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

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Step 7

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

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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.

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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.

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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!


The Pencil Grading Scale Explained 2022: A Comprehensive Guide to Graphite Drawing Pencils

The Pencil Grading Scale Explained 2021_ Absolutely Everything About Graphite Drawing Pencils

Understanding Your Materials

Understanding is a beautiful, and usually beneficial thing. On our journey for art knowledge, and as we study and practice the Art Fundamentals, we should make a point of understanding the materials we use. That is the goal of this article about the pencil grading scale. Even a basic grasp of the many factors that determine the quality and grade of our materials—such as graphite pencils and charcoal—will improve our skill in using them.

A basic knowledge of your materials’ origin, history, composition, grades, characteristics, and form varieties will improve your drawings and inspire a deeper appreciation and understanding for your art craft. Understanding which grades of graphite pencil to choose as we create a still life or a portrait allows us to make drawings with confidence and access the full range of values needed for our projects.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graphite Pencils

Some of the most frequently asked questions about graphite pencils are related to graphite itself (what is it, anyway?), the pencil grading scale, what the numbers and letters on pencils mean, how to sharpen pencils, when and where the pencil was invented, how pencils are made, why graphite sticks are called “lead”, and the safety of using graphite (can one get lead poisoning from pencil lead?).

I want to give you a heads up here that this is a more technical subject. I’ve tried to keep it succinct, clear, and interesting without adding too much fluff or going into information overload, but facts based in science don’t lend themselves to word artistry or prose so hang in there with me, ok? Besides, it’s the information we’re after so our improved understanding can begin to shine through our art.

So, let’s dig into the science, history, life, making, and safety of pencils so we can answer as many of those questions as possible.

The Science—What is graphite?

Graphite is a naturally occurring form of crystalline carbon, and the most stable form of carbon. Graphite is a mineral, and its extreme properties (extremely soft, extremely heat resistant, etc.) give it a wide range of uses in metallurgy and manufacturing. It is highly conductive for heat and electricity, and flexible but not elastic, which make it useful in electronic products like batteries. Graphite is primarily used in pencils and lubricants.

Graphite is composed of flat sheets of carbon atoms stacked on top of one another, which slide apart easily because the bonds between them are weak. This means natural graphite has incredibly low hardness, so when we drag our graphite pencil across paper those flat sheets of carbon are left behind and create a mark.

A Mark Maker: The History of Graphite

In a place called Borrowdale, near Keswick in the Lake District of England, a large deposit of graphite was discovered by locals after it was revealed by a storm in the 16th century. Due in part to its resemblance to lead in color and appearance—and the infant state of relevant sciences like Chemistry and metallurgy at the time—the substance we know to be graphite was at that time named plumbago (Latin for ‘lead ore’) because it was believed to be a form of black lead rather than carbon.

For many years, the graphite deposit in Borrowdale was the only large source of graphite, which gave England a monopoly on graphite sticks. Trade embargos during the 18th century Napoleonic Wars forced the French Republic to come up with their own version of the graphite sticks that did not rely on imports.  French army officer, painter, chemist, and balloonist Nicholas Jacques Conté had the idea of mixing powdered graphite with clay and water, and then firing the mixture in a kiln.

Conté’s innovation ended England’s monopoly on pencil production, and he continued to develop his manufacturing process by varying the quantities of clay and graphite to change the hardness of the graphite core. Conté’s experimentation and refinement of his process lead to the range of graded pencils we enjoy today, which use the alphanumeric grading scale we’ve become familiar with.

Graphite Pencil Grading Scale Explained

I have never been a fan of standardized testing, but I liked those spiffy #2 pencils. You know you have a maker’s heart when freshly sharpened pencils make you smile, but I digress. When we were filling in our answer bubbles on those tests, we were unwittingly being introduced to the middle of the graphite pencil grading scale.

The #2 pencil is part of the American system for grading “lead” hardness, and it corresponds to the HB pencil on the European grading system. HB is the middle grade pencil, meaning that it contains equal parts graphite and clay for a balance of softness and harness.

The Alphanumeric Scale

Now let’s talk letters and numbers so we can understand this alphanumeric system. The letters used are “H”, “F”, and “B”.

“H” stands for hard; “F” stands for fine, because it can be sharpened to a fine point; and “B” stands for Black.

Higher numbers in front of the “H” mean a harder pencil, while a higher number in front of the “B” means a softer pencil. The harder the graphite core of the pencil, the lighter the mark it makes, and the softer the core, the darker the mark.

Together the numbers and letters create the alphanumeric system used to describe the pencil’s hardness or softness, also called a grading system. This system refers to the ratio of binder to graphite present in the mixture of the pencil’s graphite core, commonly called “lead” (a persistent misnomer, as there is no lead in graphite pencils). The variety of ratios for this mixture is what Nicholas Jacques Conté innovated, and it is what gives us the 24 graphite pencil grades—and full value range—we enjoy today.

The harder the pencil (the “H” end of the scale), the more clay is present in the mixture recipe. Graphite, not clay, is the mark maker of this mixture, so less graphite means less mark making material is present. Marks by pencils from the “H” side of the scale will stay on the lighter end of the value scale.

The opposite is true for the “B” side of the grading scale. The more graphite is present in the mixture, the softer the graphite core will be. More graphite means more mark making material is present in the pencil, keeping marks from “B” pencils on the darker end of the value scale.

Graphite Pencil Grading Scale

How the mixture of graphite powder and clay powder are formulated determines a pencil’s “lead” grade. Below are the charts for both the European and American hardness grading systems.

European Grading System (alphanumeric):

Harder Graphite Core = Lighter Marks

10H ◀ 9H ◀ 8H ◀ 7H ◀ 6H ◀ 5H ◀ 4H ◀ 3H ◀ 2H ◀ H ◀ F

Middle Grade = Balanced

F ◀ HB ► B

Softer Graphite Core = Darker Marks

B ► 2B ►3B ►4B ► 6B ► 7B ► 8B ► 9B ► 10B ► 11B ► 12B

American Grading System (with corresponding equivalents to European System for clarity):

#1 – B

#2 – HB

#2 ½ — F

#3 – H

#4 – 2H

The American grading system is much more abbreviated and appears to have been conceived primarily for pencils used for general writing and drafting purposes. The more expansive, full range of values of the European grading system is preferred and used by artists.

Binders

As you begin learning about artist materials, you’ll hear the term “binder” mentioned, especially when discussing paints. Binders, or binding agents, are substances or materials used to hold or bring together other materials so a cohesive whole can be formed to create the tools and surfaces we use. Binders are part of the mixture (or recipe) for creating art materials, such as graphite and charcoal “leads” and sticks, pastels, paints, etc.

Binders are often liquid, powder, or dough-like substances that bind other materials together through mixing and then hardening via a chemical or physical process. In the case of artists’ materials, binders are used to hold together pigments and other materials—like graphite powder—used to create the tools and supplies we need for our art-making.

Binding agents include materials like wax, linseed oil, natural gums, proteins (egg white or casein), and clay—which is the binding agent for graphite “leads” and is usually a mixture of calcium bentonite and kaolin.

When the world was younger, materials like egg, wax, honey, lime, casein, linseed oil, or bitumen were mixed with pigment by artists to form paints. From the Middle Ages through the early 16th century, egg-based tempera was a popular binder in Europe. Oil and acrylic polymer have been the binders of choice for paint for quite some time, with oil beginning in 15th century Belgium and acrylics getting their start in 1953 (aww, like a baby paint compared to oils!).

A Pencil’s Life: Making Marks and Keeping Its Edge

The grade of pencil leads affects not only our choices about their use in our work, but also how frequently they must be sharpened, their smudge resistance, strength, smoothness, and pigmentation. Harder pencils retain a point longer and require less sharpening, while softer pencils lose their point faster and require more frequent sharpening. So, if you have a drawing with a lot of dark and velvety blacks, you are likely to run through your softer leads much more quickly.

On the flip side, while softer leads do require more frequent sharpening, they also offer a softer and smoother application on your surface. Comparatively, harder pencils can feel a bit rougher and scratchy, but they’re helpful when you need lighter values.

Drawing Further: Journey to Modern-Day Pencils

There is a bit more history involved to bridge the timeline between the Conté process and the pencils we use today. When it comes to whose idea it was to place the graphite core between to half-cylinders of wood, I have found competing information. Some sources say Conté had the idea, while others say the addition of a wooden casing was first conceived by an Italian couple by the names of Lyndiana and Simonio Bernacotti.

If it was indeed the Bernacottis, that would mean many of those British sourced graphite sticks were finding their way into rudimentary wooden casings as early as the 1560s. Conté, on the other hand, received a patent for his invention in 1795 and formed La Société Conté to produce his pencils. That is a time gap of over 200 years, but I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Regardless, the pencil manufacturing process has evolved over time to use the wooden casings we’re familiar with and to include the range of 24 leads so helpful to our art.

How Pencils Are Made

It is during the early stages of the manufacturing process that a pencil’s degree of hardness is determined. The first stage in making graphite pencils is to create a mixture of graphite powder, clay, and water. The variation in the degree of hardness (the graphite to clay ratio) is what gives us so many grades of graphite pencils, most commonly ranging from 9H to 9B in a set.

As I mentioned earlier, softer and darker graphite pencils are created when the mixture contains increasing amounts of graphite; hard grades are created when the proportion of clay is higher than that of the graphite powder.

Making the “Leads”

Once the desired mixture is created it is then pressed through a machine to create the cylindrical core shape (“lead”) and cut to a consistent length before being set to dry. Once dry, the leads go through a firing process and then on to a wax bath. Before the pencils are complete, the wood that will create the casings must go through its own process to be ready to hold the leads.

Making the Wooden Casings

To become the casing for graphite “leads”, pre-cut wooden slats have grooves machine milled into them. Glue is applied in the grooves, the leads are then inserted into the grooves, and a second milled slat with glue is applied on top to close the “slat sandwich”. These “slat sandwiches” are then placed into a large drying wheel before being sent through another machine to mill (cut) the individual pencils from the sandwiches.

The pencil cylinders are available in multiple shapes, such as hexagonal, circular, and rounded triangles. The hexagonal shape is the most common casing shape and keeps pencils from rolling off our desks.

The next step is to paint and stamp the pencils. Paint is mixed and each pencil receives a coat of it through a lacquering head machine before being stamped, dipped, and finally set to dry in a drying room. The finishing process for pencils involves a series of quality tests, including withstanding pressure, sharpening, and visual inspection before packaging.

The pencil making process I have been describing here refers to artists’ drawing pencils. The process is largely the same for standard writing pencils, like the #2 HB pencil, but there are a few differences. Primarily those differences involve the additional step of attaching a ferrule and eraser to one end of the pencils through a rubber tip assembly machine.

Here are a couple from FaberCastell USA, Insider, and NPR’s Skunk Bear of videos that illustrate the pencil making process:

Some Fun Bits About Pencils

It is important to understand our materials, but there’s no reason we can’t make it fun, right? Here are some fun tidbits I found about pencils, their history, and people who have used them:

The average pencil can draw a line 35 miles long, write about 45,000 words, and be sharpened 17 times.

Graphite’s ability to leave marks on paper and other objects is what earned it its name, which was given by German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789.

Graphite comes from the Ancient Greek γράφειν (“graphein”), meaning to write or to draw.

Breadcrumbs were used to erase mistakes before erasers were invented.

The average size Cedar tree can be used to make about 300,00 pencils.

Pencils have been to space! They can write in zero gravity and have been used on space missions by astronauts.

Pencils can write underwater! (I’m skeptical, but it sounds cool)

Henry David Thoreau used to design pencils at his father’s pencil factory.

Thomas Edison liked to use specially made pencils that were shorter and thicker, 3 inches instead of the standard 7.5 inch size.

Hymen Lipman was the first person to attach an eraser to the end of a pencil on March 30th, 1858. Bye-bye breadcrumbs!

The darkest grade of artist’s graphite pencil is 12B, while the lightest is 10H.

Ernest Hemingway recommended writing fiction with a pencil because it “gives you one-third more chance to improve it [your writing].”

John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway both wrote their novels in pencil first.

The Best Lead Grade: Choosing Graphite Pencil Grades for Drawing

Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with some of the science, history, life and making of graphite pencils, it’s easier to understand how and why pencil marks behave as they do on paper.

“H” pencils are quite smudge-resistant because they contain more binder than graphite powder. This means they give cleaner lines and makes them helpful for lighter toned work such as technical drawings, outlines, light sketching, and under-drawings in preparation for painting. One tradeoff is their increased scratchiness the further up the H scale you go, but this can be remedied by pairing them with middle grade (F and HB) and B pencils.

“B” pencils are amazingly smooth to draw and write with. Their higher graphite to clay mixture means they smudge easily, but their marks are generally just as easily erased. Their softer nature offers artists the ability to make more expressive and brush-like marks, especially from the higher end of the B scale.

This knowledge and understanding helps us make decisions about which grades of graphite pencils to choose for our drawings.

If the goal for a drawing is to illustrate a frozen tundra in the arctic on a sunny day, the soft and dark leads won’t play much of a role in that project because the scene calls for light tones—and light tones are achieved with hard and middle grade pencils, not soft ones. Of course, the opposite is true for a scene with a clandestine meeting—the cover of darkness is best drawn with soft, B graded pencils.

I recommend having a set of 24 graphite pencils so you have the full value range available to you. It’s best to choose tools that serve the goals and stories of your art, rather than trying to make the story fit the supplies. Here are a couple of examples from my portfolio to give you an idea of what you can do with a full set of graphite pencils (or “leads” and a lead holder), tons of practice, and a healthy dose of patience.

Beyond the needs of your project, the other considerations primarily revolve around your own preferences, workflow, and budget. In my Drawing Tools & Materials for Beginners post, I discuss my recommendations for the supplies beginning artists need to practice the fundamentals of art. Still, at the start, a lot of practice sketches and finished drawings can be accomplished with a simple sketchbook, a pad of quality drawing paper, and a full set of drawing pencils.

Again, having tools that give you access to the full spectrum of values is incredibly important; after that, it’s a matter of tons of mileage and practice. Once you commit to that, nothing can stop you.

Safety & Toxicity: Can One Get Lead Poisoning from Pencil Lead?

The short answer is No. It’s impossible to get lead poisoning from graphite pencils because they contain no lead. Graphite and lead are chemically and atomically completely different substances and are only slightly similar in appearance—but even visually they are clearly different, as you can see below.

Graphite pencils are usually classified as nontoxic because graphite is a minimally toxic carbon-based substance when swallowed or drawn onto the skin. So, when you accidentally poke your hands with your sharpened pencil, you won’t be poisoned or infected by the graphite—but, as with any injury, you should immediately clean and tend to the affected area.

The biggest danger with pencils lies in where you poke or stab yourself (or someone else, but…let’s avoid stabbing people, shall we?) and how severely the resulting injury is. If you somehow are stabbed with a pencil forcefully enough to draw large amounts of blood, the bleeding and severity of the wound is a more immediate concern than the presence of graphite and immediate medical attention would be necessary.

Avoid having pencils (or any other tool) anywhere near your eyes, mouth, nose, and any other sensitive body part or orifice. It’s never a good idea to insert or ingest foreign materials, so if you tend to fidget please get a fidget toy instead of chewing on your pencil!

Working with graphite powder, rather than pencils, can get a little dicey. Powders and dusts always come with inhalation and respiratory risks, so when using graphite powder as a medium be sure to wear a simple mask or face covering and keep your workspace well ventilated. Inhalation of graphite powder can cause irritation to the respiratory tract, coughing, shortness of breath and black sputum.

Long term or chronic exposure to graphite powder has been associated with the development of a lung disease called pneumoconiosis. Ingestion of large amounts of graphite powder may cause gastrointestinal irritation.[1]

Basically, graphite pencils and powder are safe to use and minimally toxic so long as you don’t eat, inhale, or seriously stab yourself with them. Getting a bit of graphite onto your skin while you work won’t harm you at all, but do be sure to wash your hands when you’re done working.

Hey, look! You’re still here, and we’re done! Thank you for hanging in there with me. I know this topic was more technical, but I hope I was able to keep it interesting and answer your questions about graphite pencils, the pencil grading scale, and the safe use of pencils. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments below.

Further Reading

The History of the Pencil by Pen2Paper


[1] http://www.physics.purdue.edu/primelab/safety/MSDS/graphite%20%20-%20Mega%20Graphite.pdf

How to draw a sphere: A flexible approach to a valuable form, 2022

How to draw a sphere

Welcome to how to draw a sphere!

Hello and welcome fellow artists!

Thank you for visiting this article on my site to learn how to draw a sphere!

I’ll go step-by-step through a few methods for sphere drawing, and most of them focus on drawing spheres not lighting spheres. There’s a distinct difference between drawing forms and adding light and shadow to them.

Drawing solid forms should always come first, then light source, shadows, highlights, etc can come into your picture plane. The goal is to have a solid drawing first, with form space you understand. This makes adding light and shadow so much easier.

I don’t shoot for perfect spheres in all of my examples because there are lots of sphere-like or ovoid forms whose drawing process is nearly identical to spheres. These sphere-like forms are basically variations of a sphere, and it helps to know how to construct those as well.

Let’s dig in! We’ll start by looking at what defines a sphere.

Learning about spheres: The technical stuff and gubbins

Don’t worry, I won’t get too mathematical on you, I promise 😉.

Just as every point on a circle is equidistant from its center, so it is with a sphere. The major difference is a sphere is a three-dimensional form, while a circle is a two-dimensional shape. Shapes, edges, and vertices, and depth create forms, which we also call objects.

So, a sphere is a geometric three-dimensional form whose surface is composed of points that are all equidistant from its center. In general, we use the terms sphere and ball interchangeably, and that’s fine.

Exploration and study: Natural and man-made spheres

We need reference photo materials! We all know what a ball, sphere, sphere-like, and ovoid forms look like, so the value of a reference photo here isn’t really for learning how to draw a sphere. Its value is as a source of inspiration. After learning how to draw a sphere, we’ll want to add surface texture and light–which is where the reference photos come in handy.

Shape breakouts and natural variations

Most objects we see in day-to-day life are spherical or spheroid. That means things like apples, oranges, grapes, water droplets, the human skull, etc are three-dimensional forms that are round, or more or less round. They are not perfect spheres, but they’re visually close enough to be referred to as spheres or spherical.

Here’s a reference board for spherical/spheroid and ovoid objects:

How to draw a sphere step-by-step tutorials

There are three methods I’ll cover here that are strictly drawing only–meaning no tonal value, or light and shade, is used to create the spheres. The first two methods demonstrate how to draw freehand spheres, while the third covers sphere drawing in perspective.

The fourth method I’ll cover here goes step-by-step through how to draw a sphere using light and shadow, both digitally and using graphite. I will demonstrate how to add a light source, form shadow, mid-tone (or half tone), a core shadow, a cast shadow, and a highlight to a flat circle shape to model a sphere. I’ll also demonstrate cast shadow placement using the angle of the light rays from the light source.

In this first method, we’ll draw a sphere by using ellipses to add the illusion of depth to a flat circle shape.

how to draw a sphere_depth with ellipses method 01

Step One

Draw a circle of any size you like, and try to make it as round as you can.

how to draw a sphere_depth with ellipses method 02

Step Two

Draw horizontal ellipses within your circle. The band of each ellipse should look and feel like it’s wrapping around the surface of the sphere you’re creating.

This feeling of a contour line wrapping around a form is what ultimately gives our sphere drawing a sense of three-dimensional depth on our picture plane (paper).

how to draw a sphere_depth with ellipses method 03

Step Three

Next, repeat the same process from step 2 with vertical ellipses wrapping around the sphere from top to bottom.

how to draw a sphere_depth with ellipses method 04

Quick Tip!

The way your ellipses wrap around the edges, or outline, of the circle you started with, is very important.

The illusion of depth is created by giving the viewer the feeling the contour lines are wrapping around the form. This creates a sense of depth because it shows plane changes/turns on the form.

2D forms have no depth, so they have no plane changes to indicate a presence in 3D space. Plane changes are the realm of three dimensions.

how to draw a sphere_depth with ellipses method 05

Step Four

Once you’re happy with the sense of depth created by your ellipses, begin darkening the contour lines on the front-facing side of your sphere.

Darkening the contours on the front side, while leaving those in the back lighter, will add a greater sense of depth through value. Darker tones appear to come forward, while lighter tones appear to recede into the background.

To make this process as clear as possible, I created a video to demo the sphere drawing process for this method.

Another method for how to draw a sphere more or less does away with using a circle shape as a starting guide. I don’t find this next method as intuitive or helpful as the method above, but it is another option to consider. It begins with ellipses instead of a circle.

How to draw a sphere: Form dissection

I created the next few videos to demonstrate the form dissection part of how to draw a sphere. When we need to draw something broken, split open, cut up, etc., visual dissection drawing skills come in handy. It’s also useful for investigating and drawing internal shapes and forms, like the juicy insides of a sliced orange or the bloody bits of a battle wound or a sliced-off limb.

The most important thing to remember about the dissection of any form is to do it along believable contour lines, even if you’re not going for a clean look.

Getting a crescent shape from spheres.

Sphere drawing in Perspective

If you’ve visited any of my other how-to-draw articles, first of all, Thank you!

Second, you will have noticed that part of the way I craft these lessons is to demonstrate how to draw the subject in perspective. Perspective drawing is one of the fundamental drawing skills, so I give it a shout-out in each of these articles.

Next, I’ve created a video to demonstrate how some of the process for how to draw a sphere in perspective. As you’ll see in the video, the process is simple but requires quite a bit of repetition.

Below are some images from the video to act as another reference for how to draw a sphere in perspective.

How to draw a sphere with Light and shadow

The first thing to know about how to draw a sphere with light and shadow is that there isn’t a lot of drawing involved, per se.

I consider drawing to be the use of line marks and segments, shapes, forms, etc., which is a bit different than adding value/tones through shading. I think of light and shadow more like painting and coloring, which is why I’m not terribly fond of covering them in how to draw articles. I’m always concerned that it will cause confusion, but it is all connected so we gotta get into it at least a little.

Please try to bear in mind, for how to draw a sphere and anything else you draw, that you always want a solid drawing with solid forms first. Light and shadow, tones and shade, and color and paint all come after you have solid forms.

Okay, I promise I’m done ranting about it. For now 😜.

Know your light source

When you’re comfortable with how to draw a sphere, the next step is to add a light source to create light, shade, shadows, and the other values and tones.

First things first, you must know a few things about your light source.

Without diving into the Fundamentals of Light, the four things you must know (or invent and decide on) about your light source are its angle in relation to your object, its height, its color/temperature, and its intensity.

To help you practice, I recommend keeping it simple so there are fewer variables to juggle. I suggest sticking to black and white for now and using a simple light of average intensity. That leaves the height and angle of your light source to play and experiment with.

Here are a few references to help with visualizing your light source.

Form shadow and cast shadows

When lit, all forms will have at least three shadows: a form shadow, a cast shadow, and an occlusion shadow. Of course, in reality, the tones/values are much more involved than that.

Here are a few diagrams to illustrate most, if not all, of the areas and terminology involved in how to draw a sphere with light and shadow.

Lighting your sphere drawing step-by-step (digital)

Now that we’ve very roughly covered a few lighting basics, let’s dive into some demonstration. From experience, I believe the fundamentals of light are more easily practiced with digital tools–they’re much more forgiving. So, this example has been created in Photoshop.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 01-plain circle

Step One

Start with a medium-size flat circle. It helps to use one with some tone rather than a white circle. Here I’ve used a mid-tone gray circle.

In the case of how to draw a sphere with light and shadow, we need to start with a toned flat circle and build the depth with light and shade. Normally, I would not start lighting without a form.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 02-add light source and light guide

Step Two

We have a shape to add depth to, now it’s time to decide on the light source.

I chose to emulate the sun here, keeping the source up high, at about a 45-degree angle to the object, far away, and intense.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 03-add center light

Step Three

With the light source set, let’s make the first rough light pass on the object.

The focus here is on determining where your sphere’s terminus/terminator will be by judging where the plane change happens–where the sphere would begin to turn away from the light.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 04-add form shadow-terminus-core shadow

Step Four

Now it’s time to get into the shade and shading part.

Light helps us see forms, while shade and shadow give us form definition.

In this step, select a dark grey (about 80-85%, or a 2b pencil to 4b pencil if you’re working traditionally) and begin blocking in the form shadow.

The form shadow will begin at the terminus/terminator and cover all parts of the form facing away from the light.

This is also a good time to start blending in your halftone/mid-tone. The halftone/mid-tone area is where the form has started to turn away from the light but hasn’t turned enough to be in shadow. So, this area is roughly half the value of both the center light and form shadow combined.

It helps to remember these are all first passes. It will be necessary to go back over each area to darken, lighten, blend, and adjust as needed.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 05-add cast shadow-occlusion shadow

Step Five

With your form shadow roughed in, it’s time to add your cast shadow.

The shape and angle of your cast shadow are determined by the shape of your form and the angle of your light source.

It’s okay you’re a little off at first. I’m pretty sure my example here is slightly off, but it works.

A written explanation gets confusing, so I’ll include a diagram for placing cast shadows after this step-by-step tutorial.

Learning how to draw a sphere with light and shadow is a really good exercise for learning about the other important shadows, like the core and occlusion shadows.

You’ll see in the diagrams from steps four and five that I’ve labeled the core shadow. The terminus/terminator is where the light no longer reaches and the form shadow begins. Right next to that is the core shadow, the darkest part of the form shadow.

Occlusion shadow areas are places where the light cannot reach at all–they are occluded, obstructed. Occlusion shadows can be present on or inside of forms as well as part of cast shadows. Wherever the light does not reach, you should have occlusion level darkness of tone/value.

Basic Light and Shadow Demo 06-add highlight-reflected light

Step 6

The last step in how to draw a sphere with light and shadow is to add the reflected or “bounce” light.

Reflected light happens when light from the source bounces off other surfaces and is reflected back onto the object–in this case on its form shadow area.

How to determine cast shadow placement

Next, I’ve included a few images to demonstrate how to locate and place the cast shadow for a sphere. Here we’re looking for where the light rays meet the outer contours of the sphere and intersect the ground plane.

How to draw a sphere with light and shadow using pencils (traditional)

Not everyone is interested in working digitally, so I thought it would be helpful to demonstrate how to draw a sphere with light and shadow traditionally as well.

If you’d like to follow along with this demonstration, you’ll need a few pencils. I recommend a blend of the soft and hard leads: 4h, 2h, and h pencils; as well as an hb pencil and a 2b pencil. 4b and 6b pencils will help in the shadow areas. I like to go all the way up to 8b because I love velvety shadows, but usually, 6b is dark enough. I have articles about graphite pencils and drawing tools if you need more information in those areas.

As a rule, I don’t use a blending stump, cotton swab, or cotton ball for this kind of exercise. They smudge more than they blend, so I avoid them.

How to draw a sphere from Imagination!

Here is where those lovely references from the beginning of this article come in handy! While important, sphere drawing on its own isn’t the most exciting exercise. With some imagination and reference, you can create some fun and awesome things from spheres.

How to draw a Sphere, signing off!

Well, this one was quite a few mouthfuls, wasn’t it?

Thank you so much for reading how to draw a sphere and spending some time with me here. I appreciate you hanging in there and I hope you found this helpful and valuable to your artist journey.

I’m always trying to improve and come up with more useful articles to write, so if you have any feedback or questions for me, please reach out to me in the comments 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 cube

How to draw a mushroom

How to draw a banana

How to draw a pumpkin