Toad Hollow Studio's Drawing Tutorials And Classes by Carol Rosinski

How to Draw a Scallop Shell in Six Steps

You probably have all the supplies you need to complete this drawing right now. If you don't have the exact pencil and erasers that I mention, you can experiment with what you have and make them work by using a little creativity.


  • Drawing Pencils - 2H, B, 2B (For more info, read my pencil reviews)
  • Sketching paper marked "medium" or "smooth." (Here are my paper reviews.)
  • A Kneaded Rubber Eraser
  • Paper Mate Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick

It's good practice for beginning pencil artists to draw subjects at a one to one ratio. It's easier to take measurements if you're drawing the subject at its real size, and it's easier to "see" where your drawing is "off" when it looks wrong.

I sat this shell directly on my pad of paper and made the drawing right next to it. With this set-up, I could easily take measurements from the shell and transfer them to the drawing area.

The following steps explain how I drew this scallop shell. You can draw along with each step from your computer screen, but to get the full benefit of this lesson, find a similar shell and draw it from life as you follow the steps.

Step 1

shell drawing step oneI took four measurements from the shell by marking each distance on my pencil with my thumb, and then I transferred those measurements to the drawing paper.

I measured how wide the shell was, how tall it was, at what point the "fin" shaped joint flange joined the shell, and the point of the curve "break." I also marked the middle of the shell.

I drew an outline drawing of the shell by recreating its shape using my measurement marks as guides.

Step 2

shell step 2I erased my guidelines and lightened the line drawing by tapping it lightly with a kneaded eraser. I added a small guideline at the center top of the shell for reference. Then I filled the entire shell to a medium value with hatching made with the tip of my pencil.

I knew I was going to draw this shell's form by erasing highlights of out of and adding shadows to this "fill" or "base" value, so I chose a value that was in-between the lightest highlight value and darkest shadow value on the shell.

To help create a more realistic looking texture, I radiated the hatching out from the bottom center of the shell in the same direction as its ridges.

Step 3

shell step 3I measured the distance between the top center downward ridge and the two lowest upward ridges and marked those measurements on my drawing.

I used a stick eraser to lift out the main highlights of the shell's ridges. I made the ridges wider near the upper edge of the shell and tapered them thinner as they merged at the center bottom.

Most of the ridges curved slightly to the left or right, and I used my pencil as a straight edge and sighting tool to see those curves so I could mimic them.

Then I used the sharp point of the pencil to draw the lines of the shadows beside the ridges and along the bottom edge of the shell.

Step 4

shell step 4At this point, the major highlight and shadow shapes were blocked in and I took a moment to look at the overall shadow pattern by squinting my eyes at it.

The light was shining on the shell from above and slightly in front, so, over all, the shell's details (both highlights and shadows) were lighter at the top, where the light hit it directly, and darker at the bottom.

To duplicate that value pattern, I used short strokes with a stiff brush to darken in the bottom part of the middle of the shell in an arc shape.

You can see that the brushing didn't obliterate the details I'd created in the last step, but it did darken them in an over all way that mimicked the lighting on the shell.

Step 5

shell step 5I started to create more realistic looking details by paying attention to and drawing sharp and soft edges. (Sharp edges end abruptly and soft edges taper off in a graduation.)

Near the top and side edges of the shell, I used an eraser tip to lighten the edges of the ridges so that they looked softer and less distinct. I tapped the edges with the pinched end of kneaded eraser to create that effect.

At the center of the shell, I softened the edges of the ridge highlights and darken some detail areas in a smudgy and indistinct way. Near the bottom of the shell, I used a sharp pencil tip with medium pressure to draw the dark shadows cast by the ridges.

Step 6

shell step 6To finish the shell, I added shadows to the joint flange, darkened the shadow cast on the paper, and erased a few nicks into the bottom of the shell's fin. Then I added the parallel detail stripes to the sides of the shell near the fin.

I darkened the details of the ridges near the bottom of the shell, added arcing details across the middle fan of the shell, and made the shell's edge uneven and scalloped. Finally, I erased the lightest highlights across the highest part of the shell at the middle.

Carol Rosinski
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