Exercises for Figure Drawing - Shading

We're finally going to finish the figure with the exercise demonstration for Figure Drawing - Shading. In the previous post, I talked about the key concepts and shared some of the best resources I know. Now, I'll be showing how you can put everything you learned into practice. After you do the exercises, there's a form at the end of the post where you can submit your drawings for feedback!

As always, there's also a video where you can see me drawing. So, I recommend watching the video first, and then using this post as a reference.


1. Recap of Key Concepts

If you remember well, last week I mentioned four key concepts of shading and then an additional three key tools of measuring for proportion. Let's start with shading. Planes are the different sides of the forms that we studied, except that the body has a lot more intricate planes than what we can draw. This is what dictates which areas are being hit by light and which areas are in shadows, so knowing what are the basic planes of the body is fundamental. We saw that the core shadow is the key shadow to make our drawings look nice, it marks the transition between planes and is generally the darkest shadow you'll see. Cast shadow is the shadow cast by an object blocking the light source. Finally, reflected light is the light that is reflected back onto the object due to the other surfaces present in the environment.

Then, we have the three tools for measuring. Comparing parts: When the body parts are in perspective, their size won't follow the proportion guides we studied. In this case, we can compare the body parts to one another. Measuring angles: To maintain proportion, it's good to measure how far different parts of the body extend compared to each other. For example, you can measure the angle between the head and the shoulder, or between the feet and the head. Lastly, Negative space is the space between the body parts. We can get too obsessed staring at the body that looking at the negative space can give us a fresh look of the reference image.

So, let's see how to use all of that to draw the complete figure!

2. The Demonstration

The steps will focus on shading, for measuring, there are two ways you can do it, as I mentioned in the previous post. You can apply one method to each step (step 1: compare parts, step 2: measure angles, step 3: negative space), or you can do all of them in one drawing following that same order (start by comparing the parts, then measure the angles, then look at the negative space).

I recommend doing first one technique at a time so that you don't get too overwhelmed by having to keep in mind all these techniques at once. As you get more acquainted with them, you can start applying them all at once. The main difficulty is not even measuring accurately, but actually remembering to measure in all these different ways. So make sure to keep that in mind.

Step 1 - Planes and Core Shadow

In the first step, we're going to shade the same drawings we did in Form, specially step 3, which was the complete form drawn with volumes, including the joints, hands, and feet. However, if that is too difficult, you can start with step 2, which was just the torso plus limbs. After you shade using the drawings you already had, you can draw new ones using the measuring techniques.



We're going to shade using a hatching style, which can be done vertically or horizontally. So, either following the longest axis of the form, or across from it, as you can see in both examples. However, we're going to do it in a simplified style with thick lines because the focus isn't the hatching itself. What we want to get out of hatching is making the plane changes clear and evident. Which is also why we're only applying the core shadow, as it marks the transition between planes.

You can also complete the rest of the shaded areas adjacent to the core shadow, but it's not necessary. Just make sure the core shadow is very pronounced and strong and it really shows if the change between the planes is sharp or soft. For example, since the legs are very rounded, the core shadow should be soft. But in the arms, specially near the elbows, the planes are sharper and so should be the core shadow.


Remember to do the different levels of iteration and draw from imagination too, doing whatever level you feel more comfortable with. In this case, I did level 2 which is combining two references together. I did it without looking at the references, just recalling, but you can start with peeking at the reference and then work towards not needing it.

Step 2 - Cleaning and Cast Shadow

Now we want to try to clean our drawings of the construction lines we used, like the lines for gesture or for the forms. To achieve a clean final drawing, you can start by drawing very lightly and then erase what still shows through. We're also going to add the cast shadow now, but you can draw in whatever style you want, doesn't have to be hatching. The cast shadow will also be sharp or soft depending on how diffused the light source is and how far the object blocking is.


From Reference


From Imagination Level 3 vs. from Reference