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The Concept of Light and Shadow

Perfecting your artistic skills

If you are familiar with the series that we have started, you will know that in our previous blog, we have talked about all the basics that you need to know if you want to start your journey in fine art. Now that you already know your basics, it is time to push yourself a little bit more and acquire new skills that will help you in this journey of growth and development in the field of art.



The concept of light and shadow is not new. If there is an object obstructing the path of any light source, there is going to be some kind of shadow. This is responsible for the three dimensional appearance of any object around us in plain sight. Look around carefully and study different shapes and the shadows caused by them!

Image of light and shadow

In drawing, knowing the concept of light and shadow is absolutely necessary, as it will solely determine the dimension of the drawing you just made and make it look more realistic.

Look at the drawing given (taken from pinterest, Artists Network). As you can see, with appropriate positioning of some pencil shades and proper balance, how wonderfully the artist made the ball look realistic and three dimensional. With little knowledge of the techniques and practice, you can do it as well.

Now, I will explain each term given in the picture (boring but necessary)-

  • Center light- It is the light that falls on the side of the ball that is facing the light source, thus making the surface lighter (and hence brighter) than most of the surfaces.
  • Highlight- Do not confuse the central light with the highlight, highlight is actually the reflection of the light source on the ball’s surface.
  • Halftones- Halftones help us determine the start of the curve, acting like a mediator between the end of the light zone and start of the dark zone.
  • Core shadow- This is the dark part that actually determines the dimension and shape of the ball.
  • Cast shadow- This is the shadow cast by the ball on the surface (where it is kept). This is the result of the obstruction of light.
  • Occlusion shadow- this is the darkest part of the picture where the ball touches the surface it is put on.
  • Reflected light- this is actually the light reflected from the surface into the ball.

So, there might be this misunderstanding that shadows are black, this is not correct in all cases. Shadows are generally darker shades of the color of the object, usually cooler in tones. It actually depends upon the situation of the light and the surroundings. Now, understand the role of light in this. When we talk about light, we are usually referring to white light. If you know color theory, you will realize that adding white to a color would make them lighter and brighter, whereas adding darker colors would make them darker. Our eye usually first falls on a lighter area, as it is more highlighted, which makes the darker areas more hollow. So, when you darken any area, you are actually pushing it back into the space, thus making the highlighted areas come out into the space. That is how to give shape to your drawing on a flat piece of paper. Does it make sense now?


Now that you are familiar with shadows and lights, it is important that you start observing things around you and see how different shapes create different shadows and how the tone of white light can change the color and contrast of the shadow.

We have found out this amazing step by step pictorial from pinterest,that you can try.

As mentioned in our previous blog, never give up! Complete the drawing that you started, even if it does not turn out like you thought it would. And, keep practicing!

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