Separating shadow shapes from light shapes on your figure is the first step towards making it into a 3D drawing with complex forms. If you’ve made an accurate line drawing, it shouldn’t be too hard to block in the shapes by eye, the tricky part is figuring out where the dark halftones end and the shadows begin.


Tips for finding the shadow shapes


  1. Look at the Relationship Between the External Contour and Internal Forms

The shape of the outside contour (the line drawing) will always relate to the shapes and forms within the figure. So, for instance, you will notice that the lines bulging out where the bicep is will relate to a shadow on the arm that creates the foundation for a rounded form.

There are also shadows cast by one part of the body onto another part of the body. In the video tutorial (link above) you can see a strong shadow cast across the legs from one of the figure’s arms.


  1. Find Negative Shapes and Positive Shapes

If you’re having trouble with a particular shape, it can also help to avoid thinking about exactly what you’re looking at when blocking in. Try to abstract the shapes and focus on them individually rather than thinking about what they connect to on the body. Each shape has a unique character and is likely surrounded by other light or dark shapes, try to focus on how these light and dark shapes interlock. If you find a light shape within a dark shape, then you can think of it as a negative space, it can be easier to draw shapes accurately if you are able to separate shapes from the whole in this manner.


  1. Spot the Bedbug Line and Follow It

The ‘bedbug line’ is the line that separates light from dark (supposedly ‘bedbugs’ run along the line between the light and dark to avoid being spotted). This line is usually the darkest part of a shadow because it does not receive light directly from the light source and it also receives the least reflected light as well. Try to find the bedbug line at a point where it’s prominent and then follow it to find the shape it describes.