In my latest post, I explained the importance of highlights and shadows, and the main rules you need to know about it. But this post is going to be about highlights, shadows and cast shadows in drawings, with a lot of different examples about cast-shadows. I am going to explain the geometry behind the process if you want to give a sense of realistic volume and depth to your drawings.

Do not forget to download the PDF where you can try these examples by yourself! It took me some time to finish this post I am not gonna lie! I really wanted to make it clear and easy to understand. But here it is finally!

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings
highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

Look a this ball, this is actually how it looks when a light hits it. There are three simple area of a form that you need to know.

– Light side : The Highlight is the very lightest part. It’s where the light directly hits the object so is the best indicator when you look at your subject to determine where and at what angle the light is coming from. I usually make this part very white.

– Shadow side : It is the dark side on an object not facing the light that reveals the form and mass of the shape.

Cast shadow : is situated right under the object and is attached to it. It gives the physical presence of the object and it makes it look heavy set in the environment it’s in.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings
highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

How It Works

A. Light source (street lamp)

B. Object (cube)

C. Ground mark of the light source (position of the light source on the ground)

D. Lines, connecting the ground mark of the light source and the corners of the object touching the ground.

E. Lines, connecting the light source and the top corners of the object.

F. The intersection of 4 and 5, which is the end point of the drop shadow on the ground.

How to add Cast-Shadows?

A Step by Step Guide

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

1- Let’s draw the cast-shadow of a cube! In this case, the light source is a street lamp (which is directly on the ground), so you don’t need to define its position on the surface. I recommend you to draw the object with the ”see-through sides” (like it is made of glass).

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

2- First, connect the ground mark of the light source with the corner of the object touching the ground (black lines). Use a pencil so it would be easier to erase the helping lines.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

3- Now, connect the light source with the top corners of the object (yellow lines).

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

4- The intersection of the black lines and yellow lines are the points that form a shadow shape on the ground. All you have to do is to connect the dots!

In case you need to draw a shadow that falls on multiple surfaces (like floor and walls), follow the same steps.

Let’s say your box is close to the wall. The drop shadow will fall on both the floor and the wall. Just bend the line when it hits the wall!

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

How to add Cast-Shadows?

Using a Natural Light

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

1- In this case, the light source is the sun (natural light). First thing to do is to trace the horizon line. As the sun is far away, we define its position (reference point) on the horizon line. Just draw a straight line down.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

2- From the Sun reference point, draw lines through the bottom corners of the box (black lines). As I said before, I recommend you to draw the object with the ”see-through sides” (like it is made of glass). This is going to help to trace your lines in an easier way, at least, until you understand it clearly.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

3- From the light source, draw lines through the top corners of the box until they reach the ground line.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

4- Mark the crossing points and connect them.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

5- Connecting all points will create a shadow outline.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

6- Try with different object and different light positions.

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

→ When the object gets more complicated, I usually divide it in few shape and then add their cast-shadows.

→ Do not forget that the difference between natural light (sun,moon) and artificial light (street lamp, flashlight…) is that the natural one’s reference point position is located on the horizon line.

→ Practice with different objects and lights until you get familiar with it, after a while, this is going to be so easy and logic!

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings
highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings
highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings
highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings

The reason why I made this post about highlights, shadows and cast-shadows in drawings is because learning this will take your art to a higher level. I know that this subject always look difficult but it is not. As I said it for the Perspective Rules, once you know it, you know it!  Once you get used to these rules, you will be able to add shadings in an easy way and this will become so much fun!

Do not forget to download the PDFs I prepared, so you can directly try on them and do not hesitate to show me on Instagram! Also, check out my latest post!

highlights shadows and cast shadows in drawings