OCAD Studio: Cast Shadows

Watch the accompanying video lesson to get a better idea of the concepts explained below.


  • The softness of cast shadows is affected by the consistency of the light rays.
  • If the object is very close to the surface it is casting a shadow onto, then the shadow will be harsh.
  • However, if the object is far from the surface it is casting a shadow onto, then the rays will be more scattered, resulting in a softer shadow.
  • Similarly if the source of light rays is strong and direct (like the sun or a spotlight) then the shadow will be more harsh.
  • If the source of light is diffused, causing scattered light rays (like an ambient light or overcast daylight) then the shadow will be soft.
  • Following on from this basic concept, as the shadow moves further from the light source, it will become softer. So you will notice that the edge of the cast shadow closest to the object will be sharp and the edge further away will be softer.


  • The first exercise is to just spend time observing cast shadows in your everyday life. You don’t need to draw or paint, just look at the shadows around you.
  • How do shadows look on overcast days vs. sunny days?
  • As an object moves closer to a surface how does the shadow change?


  • Once you spent some time observing shadows around you, try drawing some simple objects from life
  • For example; a piece of fruit on a table or a piece of furniture in a room.
  • Finally, try drawing some landscape, focusing on the types of shadows cast under different lighting conditions (sunny vs. overcast).

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