Shadows-Diffused Light from a Single Point

Shadows- Light from a single point: This is a technique to use when light does not hit from one single direction. A single light source radiates out and casts shadows in a circle. Here are some examples of the differences between light sources.

A few things to understand:

Light from the sun hits all objects from the same direction- Your shadows will be consistent if the sun is shining in your composition.

In this diagram of a holiday centerpiece, the light from the sun is casting highlights and shadows in one direction. However, what would happen if it were dark and the light source was a candle?

Light from a single source radiates out and casts shadows in a circle- Objects in a dark space set next to a light source will have highlights in the directions close to the object.

On the centerpiece, the bottles on either side are casting shadows in the opposite directions because the light is between them.

Keep in mind- The contrast will be stronger the closer you get to a single light source. In our diagram above, all of the objects are close to the candle, so everything has a good contrast. If there was another bottle on the other side of the table, it would be more shadowed with softer/darker shading because it is far away.

Here is another way to shade with a single light source:

In this image, the window acts like the candle. Because the light is coming from the window, we know anything close to the window will have highlights, and anything further from window, with have shadows.

Basic Shadows with a Cube

Here is an example of shading using cubes. Cubes are great objects for practicing shading. They can be simple, or complex, depending on the composition.
In compositions, light usually travels in a straight line. Any object blocking the light will block it in a straight line.

The side of a cube that is closest to the light will be the lightest. However, we need to show a slight color difference between the top and the side. In this case, the front is colored lighter than the top, showing the light is strongest from the front.
Next, think about the shadow that the box casts on the ground. The object will cast a shadow shaped like itself. The corner points out, so we have a pointed shadow.

The edges closes to the front will catch more light. Add highlights with Opaque White, or a white colored pencil along the front edge. In real life, the shape would not have black lines defining the edges, so this strong highlight along the edges is very important.

Color in Light and Shadow

Sketchbook page by Ken O’Connell

Light and dark

We use shading from light to dark as a way of helping describe the three dimensional shapes of things and their location in space in our picture. Our eyes can detect over 50 values or shades from the whitest white to the darkest black. In photography we try for 10 values or shades from black to white. This is called the Zone System of 10 values.

In drawing and painting our tools can allow the development of only about 2-6 values on paper. It depends on the paper, how much you mix and the tools that you use. The Copic color system is based upon about 10 values from darkest to the lightest shades of a color. You can see it in the numbering of the grays (0-9) as well as many of the colors where the darkest color has 9 (as the last number like BG09 and the lightest has 0 or 00 or even 000 as the last numbers.

Color in light and dark

The first mistake most people make in shading light and dark areas of an image is to think the light areas are white or whiter and the dark areas are black or blacker. This is rarely the case. Both Light and Shadows have color. Look closely. It is easier to see it in the light as it allows us to see the color better than dark shadows, but if you lighten the shadows you can see it clearly.

Basically Sunlight is yellowish and shadows are bluish. Why? Because the sun lightens ares that it shines on and the blue sky illuminates the shaded areas that block the sun. Sometimes the surface for a shadow has color and that combines with the shadow color to mix another color. Grass in the sun will be yellow green and grass in the shade will be blue green. The deeper the shade the deeper the blue color.

So light sources are often warm and shaded areas often cool but, the opposite is also true. In snow at night the moon light is quite blue and often the shadows are warm, especially if there are street lights to lighten up the shadows.

If you are at a bookstore this season, look for the children’s book “Snowmen at Night” by Caralyn Buehner. It features lots of illustrations of snow people in moonlight with shadows using a warm orange. It shows the light source of the moon (bluish) as well as the street lamps (yellowish). These two sources of light play a role in the light and shadow on the color of the snow, which we always think of as just white.


The rule of thumb is that the color of the shadow is the opposite of the color of the light source.



This is called simultaneous contrast.


The eye looks for and sees the opposite color on the color wheel in the shadow compared to the light source. This can be seen in Theater lighting. The next time you are at the theater and sitting close to the stage look at your program and hold up a finger or two to cast shadows on your program. If the light is green the shadows will be red. If the light is yellow the shadows will be purple.  If more than one colored light is shinning on your program you may see a variety of colored shadows.

The above sketch of some Biscotti in Italy was drawn with the only tools I had (Sepia pen, Yellow brush pen, Blue-violet Sketch marker and regular pencil). I made sure to put yellow in the top part of the biscotti and blue in the shadow on the table.  Please try this the next time you are shading and play with the number of colors you can add to both the light and darkened areas. See how alive it makes your sketch. Color gives life and energy to light and shadows. Without color you miss using a tool that can make a difference in your work.

This post was written by Kenneth O’Connell, professor Emeritus of art, University of Oregon. Mr. O’Connell is president and founder of Imagination International, Inc. and teaches drawing throughout the Pacific Northwest. Check out his sketchbook blog here.

Cross Hatching Part I – Multiliners & Pen Sizes

Copic’s inking pens are ideal for basic line illustrations. Between the disposable Multiliner and the refillableMultiliner SP, there are 14 pen sizes:

0.03, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.35, 0.5, 0.7, 0.8, 1.0, Brush Small*, and Brush Medium, F01, and F02

*the BS tip is slightly different between the two pen styles

With the wide variety of Multiliner sizes, you are bound to find the perfect pens for your illustration work. A good range of sizes, at least 3 pens, allows for great illustrating flexibility.

1. Varying Line widths give the illusion of dimension. A simple circle becomes a ball by making one side of the line thicker.

2.    Varied line widths give the illusion of weight.An object becomes grounded or heavier when you have a thicker line on the bottom.

3.    Thick and thin lines give the illusion of lighting. When you see thick heavy lines, you can feel the shadow and where the light is hitting something.

4.    Line variation is dynamic and attracts the eye. If you write a word with a regular pen, it is not nearly as interesting as if you write the same word with a calligraphy pen. The eye is attracted to a line that changes widths.

When you are working in inking pen, you have only black and white to share the ideas of weight, dimension, and light. How do you share the feeling of “gray” or in-between black and white without using color or a gray pen?

A traditional technique for shading with inking pens is Hatching.

What is Hatching/Cross Hatching? Hatching is a way of drawing lots of lines close together to show volume or shading. Older illustrations used this technique commonly before technology changed the way people illustrate. Cross hatching is when you draw more thin lines in the opposite direction to darken up an area.

Depending on how fine your pen is and your technique, you can deepen your cross hatching from very light to almost black. The trick comes in learning to keep a steady hand and making your lines consistent and even. Illustrators a few hundred years ago created beautiful, detailed, and meticulously drawn work.

When used in conjunction with thick and thin lines, outlines show the full range of grays using simple black lines. This is the same concept computer illustrations are based on with pixels.

Below is a cube shaded using the cross hatching technique. The skill and effort good hatching takes, makes an exquisite illustration!

Cross Hatching Techniques Part II – Basic Technique

Cross Hatching Techniques Continued:
Cross-hatching can be very simple or very tricky. Here are some more pointers and techniques to help develop this skill. The tricky part of cross-hatching is keeping a steady hand.

Start by drawing short lines. Don’t worry about having perfect lines, the more you practice, the more “perfect” they will be. Start by doodling on anything handy as an exercise. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, they are part of the learning process! Practice until you can confidently add hatching that meets up with a line. Doodle practice with hatching helps build relaxed natural hand-eye coordination.

Find an angle that feels natural for making these strokes, and work consistently from this angle.

1.    To get another angle for the hatching, turn the paper so you can make the same line strokes.

2.    Practice, practice, practice! Try drawing lots of little areas that are cross-hatched. Use whatever materials you have near you, mechanical pencil, ballpoint pen, the more comfortable you are with cross-hatching, the better it will look.

Layer Cross-hatching Technique
Practice making lines that are parallel. It is easier if your starting edge is even, so that you can gradually lift your pen up at the end of the stroke. Turn your paper so that when you are adding the marks, the crisp edge feels natural to your hand and you work from the edge, out.

When adding the second layer of hatching, keep working from the starting edge, out, or it will look strange. In the example, the trailing edges meet up smoothly, the opposing strokes are not balanced. They do not give a fluid effect. In an area between two outside lines, this would not matter as much as in an open area.

Inking Pen Hatch Marks
When scanning in hatched work, use a 0.1 or 0.05 Multiliner. The 0.03 often does not show up on scanned images. In these examples, you can see the different effects that occur with different pen sizes. Cushioning your work with pieces of paper underneath, makes it so that you can push harder to get thicker or thinner lines from the same pen. When pushing hard, be sure you are using at least  a 0.1 or 0.2 mm nib.

In the example to the left, you can see the differences between pen sizes. You can also see that layering once, twice, and a third time gives you progressively darker tones. Layering pen sizes can get even darker tones. In the example below you can see cross-hatching with a 1.0 pen used to darken up the final edge of the area. It doesn’t look so clunky when layered like this, unlike when it’s used by itself. It adds dimension and shadow to the circle.

Have fun trying these techniques!

Advanced Feather Blending

Here is an example of feather blending colored mountains from purple, to warm gray. Blue and Warm Gray are opposites, in that Warm Gray is brownish toned and Blues and Blue Violets are across from each other on the color wheel.

Start by coloring the mountains with B41, stroking from the top of each peak, down to the base, flowing in the direction of the mountain. Lift up at the end of each stroke so that less ink is at the base and more is at the peak. At the closest peak, apply lots of light layers in slightly criss-crossing strokes for a proper feather, being consistent with the base looking feathered, and the top of the peak looking dark.

Feather with W3 from the bottom with exactly the same technique, this time making the base dark and the feathering going back up into the mountain. Add lots of very light layers to achieve a proper blend.

On the closest peak you can see the colors blending more and more, as the streaks disappear. Sometimes, adding the original color again after blending, smoothes out the streaks.

After feathering the blue and gray, add a faint layer of BV31 to achieve the effect you would like. You can see from these mountains that the more you layer the pale purple over the whole area, the more it shows through. The third mountain is colored as if it is in front, but it looks like it has more shadow than the others, so it could have been colored as if it were in back simply by adding more BV31. The purple is strongest in the middle because there is the least amount of dye on that spot on the page. This gives the purple a place to fill in.

To make the texture at the base of the mountains, dampen a rag with colorless blender, and blot the browns and grays on the mountain. It adds a hint of texture on the front of the rocks.

Beginning Feather Blending

Colors: Y17, Y11

Using a brush nib, work your way in from the tips of the stars with Y17. Leave the middle open.

Soak the middle of the star with Y11, pushing the edges of the darker yellow out. Lightly feather the Y11 as you get further into the tips of Y17. This way, your edges stay soft and blend smoothly. Push with the lighter color until you get a smooth blend. If the dark color gets too light, add more dark again, feathering to keep from getting harsh edges.

Any lighter color will push a darker color out if the dark color is soaked enough. You can always keep layering colors as needed until the blend looks right. While blending, always keep a layer of scratch paper under your work in case the ink soaks through.

Airbrushing with Copic Markers

When airbrushing, you can use either the Sketch or Copic markers in the ABS system. First take of the cap of the marker, each nib type will have a different affect in the system. If working with the chisel nib, have the chisel putting up and push it in until you feel it snap in. The ABS works by spraying air across the exposed tip of the marker. You can hook your system up to either special cans of air or an air compressor. To change colors you pull out the marker and put in a new marker.


Most commonly it is used for filling in large areas (backgrounds) or coloring 3-d objects. Wigs, fly fishing lures, paper boxes, teddy bears, metal, embellishments, clay are just some of the possibilities of things one can create.

Masking Your Art

If you want a fine line or crisp edges you need to mask your art. For any kind of crisp edge you need to mask your image in some way so the spray goes only where you want it to go.

Different Mask Types

1. Paper.
This can be as simple as holding a torn piece of paper in place with your finger, or cutting out detailed shapes in paper and spraying around them. You’ll want to make sure that your edges are securely held to the paper or else you’ll get the spray creeping under the edge of your artwork. Spray straight down over the paper or aim your spray so your air isn’t aimed up under the edge.


2. Adhesive Papers & tapes
This includes everything from standard masking or painting tape to low-tack stickers and sticky notes. You can even put down a few sticky-notes to make crisp straight lines without much fuss. Always test the surface you’re sticking to so you don’t ruin your artwork.

3. Masking Liquids
Mask out the areas you plan to airbrush with masking fluids. Masking fluid can be applied with an old, worn-out brush to those areas that are to be protected then allowed to dry. Once the surrounding area is finished being colored, the masking fluid can be removed to once again expose the white of the paper underneath. To remove the mask, rub it gently with a clean dry finger.

4. Masking with Objects
Doilies, die cuts, lace, punches, gravel, and leaves, are all objects one can use to get a pattern. However, you will have the same challenges as plain paper in keeping your edges down to prevent overspray. Some objects, like the metal dies, can be cleaned afterwards with hand sanitizer. Other objects can be sprayed on as many times as you would life. Whatever you mask with be sure it’s something you’re OK with getting dirty.

Replacing Marker Nibs

Replacing Nibs

When you are refilling your markers this is also a good time to replace damaged nibs, so keep a supply of replacement tips and a pair of tweezers. Copic tweezers have little gripping teeth to get hold of the nibs better. There are nine styles of Copic interchangeable nibs, from broad to calligraphy, that provide greater freedom of technique in your renderings.

How to Change Marker Nibs

  • Using the tweezers pull the large nib out of the marker.
  • Insert the new nib slowly back into the marker.
  • The ink will wick form the inside out to the end of the nib. This may take a few minutes.

Blending with Copic Markers & Colorless Blender

Marker Blending on Paper

1. Color evenly, really soaking the paper. Color in circles to keep you edges wet and to avoid streaks.

2. While it is still wet, add your darker color to one side. Lift up at the end of the stroke, so you have more ink on the shadow side and less on the edge where it will be blending. You can do this step after your base color has dried, it is easier however to do it while the base is wet.

3. Go back over the darker color with your first color. Add a lot of ink and really soak it in. This is what hides those rough edges and mixes the two colors together to get a smooth blend. If this doesn’t work for you, try using colors that are closer in value to each other, or use lighter colors to begin with.

 Repeat steps 2 and 3, layering more and more ink until it gets as smooth as you want it. You won’t destroy your paper, don’t worry.

4. Add a third color if you wish, again, using the same technique. Start with your lightest, add your middle color, go back with your lightest to blend those two layers together, then add your darkest, then go back with your middle to blend the dark into the rest of the picture. Finish up by using your lightest color.

5. Use the colorless blender to add a highlight back in. For a stronger highlight, use Opaque White and paint a white spot back in.

Marker to Marker Blending

This works with any two Copic markers. If you want the color area to fade to white, use a blender pen as one of your colors. If you wanted it to fade to yellow, then choose a yellow as your  “brush” color. Always use the lighter color to pick up darker colors, that way you can see how much color you’re picking up.

Use the colorless blender as a paintbrush and pick up some of the color from your other marker, directly onto your  blender pen. Start with small dabs of color until you see how much/how quickly it will fade out when used. Next, choose a picture that you want to color, and touch your marker at the darkest point you want. Then color out towards the lighter side.  If you’re done blending with that color but your tip still looks dirty, just scribble onto some scratch paper until the color comes completely off.

Effects with the Colorless Blender

With the colorless blender, we expect blending, but it really does the following best:

  • Lightens Color
  • Pushes color
  • Fades color to white
  • Great for Special Effects
  • Blends Colors
  • Fade to white by pushing colors
  1. Start with an area that you’ve only colored the edges. Make sure you have good scratch paper under your work for this technique.
  2. Color from the lightest spot, out towards the edges. Don’t stop in the middle or it will give you ugly lines/streaks. Use a lot of blender, so it’s really juicy and is shoving that color around very strongly.
  3. Color almost to the edge, but not over. Remember, your color is getting pushed in front of your blender, so if you color up to the line it will go over. Also note how dark the color is around the edge. This is at least 1 or 2 shades darker than my original color, so try this technique with lighter colors until you get an idea of how it will react. If you need it lighter then let it dry and repeat.
  4. If you want a nice subtle shadow that fades out from your image then try the same thing, only use a lot less blender and a much lighter touch.

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