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 on the video!

Pyramid, Half Round, Column To Shade

Pyramid, Half Round, Cylinder To Shade

Here’s a photo reference for you.

And there’s a supply list with my suggestions below, but if you’re already stocked up on supplies, all you really need are 2H, 2B, and HB pencils, a medium surface drawing paper, a kneaded eraser, and probably a pencil sharpener.

Shapes Copy

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.

Line Drawing Lightened

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

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

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

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!

Refining The Hatching

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

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?


There are Blick Art Supply affiliate links below. If you hate them, ignore them. But, I’ve put a whole lifetime of effort into finding drawing supplies that work and here’s what I use.

I used Polomino drawing pencils for this drawing, but I highly recommend that you try Derwent Graphic pencils. They’re easier to find, come in a wider range, consistent, and they’re what I currently use and why. Here’s what you need for this lesson.
Derwent Graphic 2B

Derwent Graphic HB

Derwent Graphic 2H

This is the best pencil sharpener I’ve found. It has two holes. One takes off the wood, the other sharpens the lead. Makes a really long sharp point. You get extra blades too, they’re in the back of the sharpener.
Kum Long Point Pencil Sharpener

Kneaded erasers have to be the right degree of squishiness for you fingers to easily flatten and roll while you’re gazing off into space or contemplating your drawing. These pass the squish test. They’re small. Get two, you’ll lose one.

Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser

This is a pretty good sketching paper. It does dent if you are too heavy handed with it, but the medium surface has a good tooth for graphite, and it erases well. It’s inexpensive too. Just take it easy on it. If you’re looking for it in an art store, make sure to get the “medium”surface. The smooth surface is not as good for graphite.
Canson Classic Cream Drawing Pad

If you are heavy handed and you know it, that’s ok. But you might want to try this paper. I use it myself, but some people find it too “grainy” for their taste. I think the texture is beautiful though, and a lot of other artists do also. Anyway, you can destroy it by really digging into it with a very sharp lead, but it’s pretty tough stuff and it erases very well. Make sure to get the “medium” surface though, because the smooth surface just sucks for graphite work.
Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pads

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