OCAD Studio: Basics of Form

What is Form?

In the context of representational drawing and painting, a form is anything that is 3D in your artwork. It could as simple as a ball, or something as complicated as a human figure.

Form drawings use a combination of light shapes and shadows shapes to create the illusion of an object being 3D. This explanation and accompanying video lesson will introduce how you can go about separating the light shapes and shadow shapes in your drawings, before adding simple halftones.

Light Shapes and Shadow Shapes:

How do you decide what is a light shape and what is a shadow shape?

Light shapes can be found anywhere that the light source is hitting directly. Everything else in your drawing is a shadow shape. There are two types of shadows; cast shadows and form shadows. These two different types of shadows happen for different reasons:

Cast shadows occur when one object in a scene blocks the light source from hitting another object. For instance, when we are standing in direct sunlight we cast a shadow of ourselves onto the ground. This happens because the light from the sun is blocked by our bodies as it travels towards the ground. Cast shadows often have sharper edges than form shadows.

Form shadows are a part of the object; like when the sun is shining on a ball and one-half of the ball is dark and the other side is light. The part of the ball that is in dark is a form shadow.


Halftones are grouped into the lights, so when you begin a drawing you leave them out and just focus on separating the shadows from the lights. Halftones are the in-between values that connect your shadow shapes to your lights shapes. They help to show what kind of form the object is. If a form is round like the sphere below, the halftones will change gradually, whereas a more angular form will have more abrupt halftone changes.


Check out the accompanying video lesson and exercise. Let me know if you have any questions.

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART


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