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How do you SHADE an animal that you’ve created from your imagination? There are two things I think about when shading imaginary creatures.

First, I imagine a light source, such as a sun, shining down on the object from either the right or the left. So in my example above, I have decided that the light source is in the upper right hand corner. So everything “close” to the light will be brighter and everything “far away” from the light would be shaded. (Shading done using a mechanical pencil.)

The second thing I think about is the areas where things (such as ears, eyes, paws) are overlapping, joined, or protruding. So, for example, I’ve added shading underneath the neck, between the legs, and at at the bottom of the bear (where it’s paws and body meets the ground). I also added shading under the eyes.

Sometimes, if I want to double-check my shading, I’ll find an image in my stash of pet books or online that is similar to the drawing I’ve made. (This is an optional step.) Here is a polar bear image that works well, and by looking at the photograph I realized that no matter what, the area around the bear’s mouth would probably be dark due to staining, so I darkened that area. The photograph also showed that the left half of the body was in a bit more shadow than I thought, so I added a little more shading there. The photograph also reminded me to add shading on the ground.

Finally, don’t stress too much if you go overboard with your shading and put it in “wrong” places. With Imaginary Animals, you can quickly adjust your thinking so that your ill-shaded areas are dark patches of fur, instead!

Art Giveaway!
Today I’m giving away this 7″ x 7″ flying tape bird, inspired by the “Animals in Tape: Instant Collage” chapter from “Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals.”

Leave a comment below for a chance to win this little original. I’ll pick the winner randomly on Tuesday, October 2nd.

And the winner is “Linda,” who wrote: “Hi Carla, congratulations on your new book. I appreciate the shadow/light source tutorial, too. Thank you.”

Thanks, everyone, for all the kind comments!


This post is part of a Two-Week Book Release Celebration for my new book, “Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim.” For the schedule, which includes book and art giveaways, contributing artists features, tutorials, and assignments, click here.