Drawing: Understanding Light and Shadow


This lesson will help you gain an understanding of light and shadow by closely observing and drawing basic shapes under various lighting conditions. 



  • pencil & eraser
  • sketchpad
  • still life setup 


  1. We will review some terms related to light and shadow.
  2. I will give you a technical explanation on how light and shadow works.  
  3. After that,  I will demonstrate how light and shadow actually functions in reality by using a spot light and some basic shapes.  
  4. Later we will observe and draw several shapes under several different lighting conditions. The subject matter includes a sphere, cylinder, cube and a 3D hexagon.

That's me drawing some three-dimensional shapes.


  • center light - the exact point where light hits an object, perpendicular to it's surface
  • highlight - the part of an object that is hit with light, not quite perpendicularly
  • halftone - the part of an object that is exposed to a light source but even less directly
  • terminator - the dividing line between the light and dark part of a spherical object
  • core of shadow - the part of an object that is not in contact with direct light
  • reflected light - light that is bounced off of objects and reflects onto other objects
  • occlusion shadow -  the part of the shadow that is almost completely blocked from light
  • cast shadow - dark area, usually on a flat plane, where light from a light source is blocked by an object
  • light source - things or devices that produces natural and artificial light
  • composition - the placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art