Shade A Pyramid, Half Sphere, And Cylinder

There is a video that goes with this, so you can see how I go about shading these shapes. The close-ups on this page are much clearer though, and the written text is much easier to follow than my rambling voice in the video!

Pyramid, Half Round, Column Photo To Shade C. Rosinski

Pyramid, Half Round, Cylinder To Shade

Here’s a photo reference for you. (Just click the photo.)

And there’s a supply list with my comments below.

Line drawing of half sphere, pyramid, and column. C. Rosinski

Shapes Line Copy

Step 1 – Here’s my line drawing. I turned up the brightness on my computer screen and transferred the drawing directly to my drawing paper from the photo on the screen. Hey! I’m old. I get to take shortcuts. :)

I like to draw at a relatively small size. If you don’t, try copying from step six from your screen, or print it. Use an sharp-ish HB pencil with light pressure. I had to draw mine fairly dark so you could see it.

Lightened line drawing of half sphere, pyramid, and column. C. Rosinski

Line Drawing Lightened

Step 1 1/2 – Lighten the line if you need to.

If you drew the shapes too darkly anyway, you’ll end up with a darkly outlined drawing. So make the lines about the same value of the shapes by tapping or rolling a kneaded eraser over them. They’ll lighten gradually. You can see how I lightened mine in a few places here.

I also, shaded these shapes from the photo on my computer screen. If you haven’t tried this, give it a try. I like the glowing contrast myself, and the convenience of the camera to computer to drawing work flow, but it may not be your thing. If not, either print the photo reference, or use step six.

Small Flat Pencil Tip C. Rosinski

Small Flat Pencil Tip

Step 1 3/4 – Yes, I know you really really want to start drawing, but you need to know how to make a consistent texture over the entire drawing or it’ll look like chicken scratches.

This is an illustration of the flattened tipped pencil point that you’re going to use. It’s simple to make. Just rub the pencil back and forth a few times on scrap paper to flatten it.

Practice hatching with it to get a feel for the grip, pressure, angle, and the pencil grades you’ll need to use for various values. The only thing you need to do consistently is flatten the point every time you change pencils. If you don’t do that, you’ll use the wrong spot and screw up the texture. You know how I know that, don’t you?

First Hatching of Line drawing of half sphere, pyramid, and column. C. Rosinski

First Hatching

Step 2 – This first shading layer is just a light fill. Don’t make it much darker than what you see here. Just use it to get your feet wet, and then you’ll build darker layers on top of it.

Use the 2H pencil for the half round sphere, the cylinder, and the front of the pyramid.

Use the HB for the left side of the pyramid.

Use the 2B for cast shadows.

Finding Form With Highlight And Shadow C. Rosinski

Create Form

Step 3 – Shading with highlight and shadow creates form.

While looking at the pyramid, sphere, and cylinder, use various grades of pencils to shade the shadows on their bodies. Look for shadow and highlight “shapes” and draw them, or draw around them, as you work.

Check to see which pencil you need to create the correct value. You should be creating a palette of values to choose from on the scrap by now.

Keep all the values lighter than reality. It’s always easier to darken than lighten.

Correct any mistakes with taps from a kneaded eraser shaped into a point. This will blend well with your texture, and you can hatch over it again too. Don’t pull it across or the graphite or it will smear, and that’s very hard to fix.

You should see some form starting to appear, and that’s always a magical moment. Lean back and appreciate how shadow pushes the form past the paper surface and back into space, and how highlight brings the form forward. Amazing!

Refined hatching of Line drawing of half sphere, pyramid, and column. C. Rosinski

Refine The Hatching

Shape-4 – Refine the hatching.

Work on bringing the values closer to their true darkness. If your hatching has been very loose, fill between the lines to get a more consistent texture, and that’ll darken the value also.

For thin dark shadow lines around the bottoms of the shapes, turn the flat point of the tip to the sharpest side and draw with that. Try the HB before you reach for the 2B. If they need to be darker, save it for the last step.

Pay special attention to shadow and highlight edges now. They can be soft and hard, and anything in-between. Hard edges end abruptly, like the tall side highlight on the right side of the cylinder, and the small round highlight on the top of the sphere. There are many soft edged shadows on the sphere and cylinder, as there are on all curved surfaces.

Here’s a workshop that targets soft and hard edges, if you want to see more examples.

Pyramid, Half Round, Column, Shaded Finished C. Rosinski

Shading Finished

Shape-5 – Finishing touches.

Compare, compare, compare as you work. This is your mantra: “is this lighter than, is this darker than?” Over and over. Peacefully contemplate each part of the whole, and then the whole. Get the picture, Grasshopper?

Hard lead over soft darkens slowly as it fills in the gaps in the grain. Take your time. Finishing deserves all your attention.

Quickly look back and forth between the reference and the drawing as you work. Your visual memory of value is pretty short, so glancing quickly back and forth lets you compare two values accurately.

Squint your eyes at your drawing to check values. Hatched graphite, especially this texture, leaves some grain of the paper exposed, and you need to see the value it makes when blended.

Relax a bit, and remember this. The values don’t have to be exactly right as long as they relate to each other in a similar way as the reference does. So, if your shadows are very dark and the top of your cylinder is very light, and the highlight on top of your sphere is the brightest point, then your drawing is probably going to look pretty darned good.

Line, form, texture, and value, are all things we can manipulate when we draw. Now, I’ve been pretty strict about this drawing, but that’s just so you’ll learn how to control them. Out there on your own, you can do what ever the heck you want to do. And I hope you do. Go out there and make ’em hear ya people!

Shape Shading Video

Attention art teachers: I’m not one. I’m an artist who teaches – huge difference. In this video I call the “sphere” a “ball” and the “cylinder” a “column.” So I don’t want to hear from you ’bout that, mmmkay?


I used Palomino pencils to draw the shapes in this video. They’re very good sketching pencils, but you have to buy a 12 pack of each grade. I recommend them if you sketch a lot and go through pencils at a good rate, but they’re kinda pricey to buy in those 12 packs.

These Palomino links take you to Amazon.
Palomino Graphite Pencils – 2H – 12 Count
Palomino Graphite Pencils – B – 12 Count (Substitute for HB)
Palomino Graphite Pencils – 2B – 12 Count

Derwent Graphic pencils are the same price as Palominos, but you can buy them individually. They’re a bit more finely graded than Palominos, meaning that you won’t have to touch-up your hatching quite so much if you use them judiciously.

The Derwent links, and the rest of the art supplies below, take you to Dick Blick, and I’m their affiliate. I get a bit of money when you buy from those links. If you do that, thanks!

Derwent Graphic 2B

Derwent Graphic HB

Derwent Graphic 2H

If one degree is out of stock, get the next softest.

Here are the rest of the supplies at Dick Blick too.
Kum Long Point Pencil Sharpener

Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser

Canson Classic Cream Drawing Pad

Draw well, draw strong, never stop!





About Carol

I’m an artist, an accidental author, and lover of life. I grew up in Yorktown, Indiana, and I’ve been writing (and drawing) this website since 1999.

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2 Responses to Shade A Pyramid, Half Sphere, And Cylinder

  1. Cindy Anderson says:

    Carol, thank you for that great tip of using your 2H over the 2B initial layer to even out the shading and darken in 1/2 shade increments! You saved me so many hours of blundering and frustration in my drawing practice. I love your book Getting Started, and it is exciting to have your coaching, encouragement, and product recommendations too. Graphite is an amazing medium in its simplicity. You have helped me to appreciate it!!

    • Carol says:

      Thank you Cindy! One of the things I love about graphite’s simplicity is that shadows and highlights are so emotionally evocative. Even a drawing of a potted plant can drip with mood and mystery. The trick is to catch the light when it’s gone all moody. Keep your camera handy at all times!

      And I’m glad you liked the product reviews. I was worried the affiliate links in them would put people off, but it’s so darned hard to find graphite drawing supplies that work. They’re cheap, but you can spend a fortune trying to them!

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