Shading in drawing: colors – part III

March 20th, 2019 / Illustrations Basics

With our shading series, we move to a higher level of initiation and this post will explain the techniques and principles of building illusion of depth in working with the use of color. We will discuss in it general principles as well as individual methods of obtaining such effects in various traditional techniques as well as in digital painting.

Remember that it is worth getting to know the basics first, so if you have not read yet, take a look at our previous posts in this series.

Let’s get straight to the point then. As for the colors, our present topic, a lot depends on what we shade and with what type of coloring we have to deal with.

First of all, you should avoid applying black and gray (especially black!). Such treatment often gives the impression of dirty, subdued colors – especially in watercolor painting. In addition, black shadows appear flat. Try to build them from several colors, especially if the shaded area consists of places with just a few colors. It will be strange to pull them all with one weird shade, one flat stain. Pay attention to your immediate surroundings – few shades have an authentic gray or black color. Usually it is just a dark tone of the neighboring color.

A very easy way to the shaded area is to change its tone.

shading with colors Turdus Concept

In many painting techniques we can wait a moment for the paint to dry and apply it again. This is so-called laundering (shading and applying layers of color). We use this method in water techniques (watercolors, ink), i.e. with paints with low opacity. It works well with alcohol markers and pastels (dry laundering). With acrylics and oils we can apply glazes and also apply thin layers of paint on top of each other – in the same way it will introduce a three-dimensional effect. By drawing with crayons, we can change the pressure of the crayon as well as the pencils and thus vary the intensity of the color.

We can also simply reach for a darker color pencil, pastel or paint, if we have them in a palette, or mix the right shade. In digital painting, we use a brush of the same color with increased transparency or change the color of the brush on the color wheel to darker in tones. These methods will work not only in the case of shading but also with the use of an air perspective, in which objects closer to us are saturated and clear, and these further become more pale and blurred.

It’s good to experiment with creating shades to get a bit of practice and try different methods. Depending on what we will be shading, one time or another method will work better. Here are a few more methods, less obvious than applying just a color with a darker tone:

  • shaded places can be marked by applying a complementary color (complementing) – we check it on the color wheel – if you do not know how to search for it, take a look here. The complementary color lies in front of the color used by us and it is to one another that if mixed together with it, it will reduce its saturation. In simple terms, the color used by us will be more subdued. If you mix 1: 1 complementary colors, it would turn out gray. If, for example, we paint a green leaf, we can use a cold shade of red. Why cold? Because the shades use to have a cool hues.
  • Following this lead, we go to the next way that we can try in our work: shading with blues and purples. Since the shadows are cool, sometimes the matter can be done simply by applying the aforementioned cool colors.
Petals were shaded in blue and leaves in red.
  • The shadow can also be applied using the related color (these are the colors lying on the circle next to the one we have chosen). For example, skin shading. If we paint / draw a person with a fair complexion, shadows can be made in brown. And if we add a bit of blue to it, we’ll get even more depth.
Shading with colors 3 Turdus Concept
Fire is also a classic example of shading with analog colors.

And here I will once again mention that the creation of shadows in colorful works must be simply learned by trial and error. All this to gain some sense of what will look good and what’s worse and which method to use in a given illustration.

It’s a bit simpler in digital painting, because with a reference photo, we can make life a little easier and choose colors by clicking on the color sampler (usually in the pipette icon) on our reference. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is another way – we can do all our work in shades of gray and only finally cover it with color, using the appropriate opacity layer (in programs without layers we can experiment with the transparency of a colored brush).

SHading with colors 4 Turdus Concept
In this vector illustration, shades have been applied with color patches.

In summary, shading is a process that requires a lot of work. If we are learning drawing – making a very complex hyperrealistic illustration will provide us with about 80% of the knowledge when building the composition, maintaining the right proportions and applying the outline of the shading. With accurate shading, we will learn about 20%, because it is simply tedious application of the right shades.

Nevertheless, it is an element of knowledge which we must also pay attention to at some point. How important it will be for you, of course, depends on which direction you want to go with your work. The hyper-realist must at some point only perform work absorbing from a few to several dozen hours. On the other hand, for the cartoonist it will not be that indispensable. All that is required is the basic rules of shading, because their works usually are not so complex in this area.

In this last aspect, I can give you only one piece of advice: listen to what’s playing in your soul and try to capture it in your sketchbook. Good luck! I look forward to seeing your work. Be sure to put links to them in a comment or share in the Drawing Support Group. If you are not there yet, be sure to join our community. To read in the next post!