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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

How To Shade A Sphere With A Pen

Drawing and shading spheres used to be one of my biggest weaknesses, and when I started working with a pen instead of a pencil, it only got harder for me at first. While the sphere is indisputably one of the hardest shapes to master shading and drawing with a pen, some planning and practice, combined with easy-to-learn techniques, will have you shading them like a pro in no time!

How do you shade a sphere with a pen?

Unlike pencil shading where shading gradients was as simple as varying how much pressure you apply, pen shading relies on lines and dots placed in varying ways to alter a drawing’s value.

In today’s article, we’ll go over a step-by-step guide to learning how to shade spheres and then briefly discuss different pen & ink shading techniques.

I. Step-By-Step Guide

This easy to follow step-by-step guide is designed to help you learn the basics of shading a sphere. It is by no means a fast or efficient way to shade, and might not be the most practical, but going through each of the steps slowly and closely examining your work will allow you to fully understand all the nuances that come with working on a three-dimensional object with no flat surfaces.

1. Preparation

Before you start, you’ll need a pencil, your preferred pen, drawing paper, a compass, and a ruler. Decide ahead of time what shading technique you wish to use (more on those later) and place your paper on a flat surface.

If your compass has a sharp needle or you have a wooden desk you don’t want to scratch, consider using a clipboard or folder for the first step.

2. Draw A Circle And Indicate A Light Source

Using the compass, draw a moderately large circle on your paper, ensuring that it is big enough so that you can easily work inside it. If your compass uses graphite to draw, trace the circle with your pen.

Next, decide where your light source will be coming from in relation to the circle. It can be helpful to draw a flashlight or sun as a visual reminder of where this is.

Using the pencil and ruler, draw a line from your light source through the center of the circle. This axis line shows the direction of light through the sphere.

3. Draw Contour Lines

Next, we will use the pencil to draw contour lines across the circle to guide you on where and how to shade. Start by placing a small dot on the axis line away from the circle’s edge, this is where your longitudinal lines will radiate from.

Next, draw a set of lines radiating out from the dot, moving away from the light source. The latitude lines are drawn almost perpendicular to the axis, following the contour of the sphere.

Just like the lines you see on a globe, these lines will help divide up your sphere so that you can clearly see which areas should be shaded darker.

For even more detail in shading, you can add an additional gradient line, which is drawn at a roughly 45-degree angle from the starting point of your latitude lines.

If you have a better grasp of how light plays on spheres, or if you want to be less precise, simply omit the longitude lines.

4. Fill In The Grid

Now it’s time to begin shading the sphere! Each contour line you placed down earlier will mark off an area of the sphere, allowing you to easily see which areas should be shaded in what way.

The further away from the light source, the area is, the darker you should shade it.

Using the contour lines as a guide, take your pen and shade your sphere from dark to light. Remember that since there are no flat surfaces on a sphere, you will be shading in gradients, so try to make each shaded area blend into the next one.

If you’ve ever practiced shading with a value scale before, it’s quite like that.

5. Celebrate

Congratulations! After the ink dries, erase the pencil lines and now you can fully appreciate your newly shaded sphere. Remember that after every practice, it’s important to be honest in the self-evaluation of your work. Look for mistakes you made where things can improve and work on them the next time around.

Though the process we’ve been through might seem tedious, it is simply a set of training wheels to help you learn the basics. As you practice more and become increasingly familiar, experiment with different shading techniques and fewer contour lines until you’re satisfied with your work.

II. Pen Shading Techniques

We’ve discussed 5 Different Shading Techniques for Pens in-depth previously, but I thought it would be a good idea to briefly discuss them in direct relation to sphere shading. In this section, I’ll very briefly describe each technique and give you some tips and tricks for using them when you’re shading spheres.

When practicing all things drawing, it’s best to start out with simple forms like squares, cubes, triangles, etc.

However, spheres are arguably the most difficult simple shape to deal with, since they are three-dimensional objects with no sharp angles and no flat surfaces. This means that practicing different shading techniques on spheres can be quite difficult, especially right at the beginning.

The gradual curve of the sphere requires you to blend Value seamlessly, and the technique we learned earlier can leave some gaps that need to be fixed after you erase the initial contour lines.

Hatching - or the process of altering a drawing’s Value by placing down parallel lines is one of the simplest shading techniques to learn since making an area darker is as simple as drawing in more lines, however, you might have some difficulty making the areas blend well if you place your lines too carefully inside the areas marked off by contour lines. For smoother value transitions when using this technique, I’d recommend not being scared to draw over the contour lines when Hatching, so that the value on your sphere will appear to more seamlessly progress from dark to light.

Cross-Hatching is just like hatching, with an extra layer of parallel lines drawn over the first at an angle. Try placing down an extra set of light strokes after you’ve erased the penciled contour lines. By adding in extra lines that cross over the previously marked borders you’ll make the value transition more smoothly on your sphere.

Stippling or pointillism is a technique where you place down individual dots, clustering them closer together to insinuate darker shadows. Though it’s very time consuming, it can look really amazing when used to shade spheres, as it is quite easy to see the progression from light to dark. Though it is very labor-intensive, take your time with this technique, as the slower you go, the easier it will be to spot mistakes and correct them.

Scumbling is arguably one of the easier and more intuitive techniques that adds value to your drawing by the condensed application of small circular strokes or “squiggles” in a particular area. It’s very simple and easy to pull off, and the circular strokes you use can complement your sphere. An easy way to fix up places on your drawing where the transition of values is too abrupt is to simply add more squiggles on the border of the two zones, using light strokes and stopping to check the drawing regularly.

III. Conclusion

And that’s a wrap! It was amazing fun making this article, and I hoped that you learned as much reading this as I did writing it. At this point, I’ll quickly summarize the main points of the article:

The step-by-step guide that you learned today is a wonderful tool for teaching yourself the ins and outs of three-dimensional object shading by taking a complex form like a sphere and breaking it down into simple segments that you can take one step at a time.

Though we did not cover every pen shading technique out there, we also gave tips for Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Stippling, and Scumbling; how to pull them off cleanly when practicing them on a sphere.

The sphere is considered by some to be the pinnacle of simple-form drawing and shading, and I hope that this article has brought you one step closer to mastering it.

In the end, however, the mountain that you’re climbing is your very own personal goals, not those imposed by anyone else. Practice well what you learn, and never be scared to try new things.

Never stop putting one foot in front of the other.

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