How to Draw Rendering: for Makers




Hey there! I'm recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's Industrial Design program and a fo...

This instructable will cover the basics of adding shadows and dimension to drawings as well as some basic rendering techniques.

The previous Instructables in this series covered the basics of selecting drawing tools, drawing posture, making a straight line, and drawing in 2-point perspective.

Here are my other drawing Instructables:

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Step 1: Casting a Shadow

The easiest way to cast an accurate shadow from a simple figure is by dropping the top face of the figure to the ground plane and shifting it back as long as you'd like your shadow. (the higher the light source is the shorter the shadow is. Just like how your shadow is smallest at noon when the sun is directly above you and gets longer as the sun sets.)

Start with a simple shape like a cube or cylinder.

Redraw the top surface on the ground plane shifted back and to the side about half way.

Connect the front corner of the shadow to the leading bottom corner of the figure.

This area is your shadow.

If you're having a hard time visualizing this in perspective try first drawing it from a top down or side view.

Practice this technique from different angles with cubes and cylinders.

Remember that shadows still follow the rules of perspective and recede to vanishing points.

How does the shape of the shadow change when you move the light source?

Step 2: Adding Dimension With Line Weight

Shadows help add dimension to a figure, another way to make your drawing pop off the page is by varying your line weight.

Line weight is a simple but powerful tool.

Drawing tools are available in a variety of line weights.

A thicker line weight can be used to imply shadow, ground the figure on the page or give an object visual weight.

Thin line weight and breaks in a line can be applied to give the impression of lighter areas or highlights.

When doing a quick sketch or orthographic drawing (straight on view front, back, sides, etc) I will often skip shadows and instead only use line weight to add dimension.

Varied line weight can also be used to emphasize or de-emphasize certain information on a page.

For example you can let structure lines fall back by using lighter marks to build your drawings and emphasize your final form with a thick line weight.

Or you might want to call out a certain part of your figure like a feature or part. This can be brought into focus by applying a heavier line weight to it than the overall form.

To imply shadows and a light source with line weight consider what edges of your form are in direct contact with the light source. These lines will be drawn with the lightest line weight.

The edges that don't see the light source will be the heaviest line weight.

If you want to add a third mid-line weight apply it to any edges that may see partial light.

On a cube and cylindrical shape it looks like this.

Step 3: Tone

Shading your drawings can also make them appear more realistic and three dimensional.

Apply tones of different value to the faces of a figure to imply shadows, suggest material surfaces or emphasize curves.

Test out your drawing tools and see what kind of tone they can create.

Doubling up marker strokes can be used to create subtle tone variations. (try not to go over move than three or four times while the paper is wet because it might tear or warp)

Hatching pen lines can also create a variety of shapes.

When creating hatch marks focus on keeping your marks parallel and evenly spaced. Avoid placing hatch lines perpendicular to each other. Instead tilt them on a steep angle. This will avoid creating a checkerboard effect.

The tighter your lines make darker tones than wider lines.

Try using these techniques to add tone to the shadow and dark side of a cube.

Step 4: General Rendering Techniques + Tips

Rendering curved surfaces is a bit different than rendering flat surfaces.

Generally speaking flat surfaces can have an even tone applied across them.

Curved surfaces however are a continuous face with no edge breaks for tone changes. This means you must transition the tone from light to dark to give the illusion of a highlight.

These tone strokes are best applied perpendicular the the direction of a curve to ensure even coverage.

Depending on the type of material you are rendering your tone transitions and highlights will vary. they may be soft and muted, sharp and harsh, or somewhere in between. Soft transitions are best for matte finish materials such as wood, matte plastic, or concrete. Harsh transitions work well to replicate mirrored or glossy finishes like metal or polished surfaces.

The best way to practice rendering different materials is to find objects in real life (not from a photograph) and draw by observation under different lighting conditions. Stick with simple shapes at first and focus on accuracy not complexity.

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    11 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I have a mechanical design background but never learned to freehand sketch. I feel terribly clumsy without a ruler and compass or a 2D cad program. Now I'm in the final running for a lighting designer job, and 3/4 through a 2 week test assignment and I REALLY wish I had these skills. Any suggestions for learning this in a day or two? ;-)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Unfortunately this isn't a skill that can be picked up in 1-2 days (though I really wish it was). Go through all my drawing Instructables (they should only take a day) and you'll get a better grasp of the concepts as well as some practice developing good drawing habits.


    5 years ago

    I want to get into Industrial Design, and I love these tips!
    are you planning on doing more?

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Do recommend any particular brand of markers for this style of rendering? I've always heard Prismacolor or Copics are the way to go, but I haven't gotten that far yet with any of my ideation sketches.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Those are the brands I use. I also like microns and sharpies for line drawing. Nice markers can be expensive but if you're serious about developing your rendering skills buying a set of markers is a good idea. Having the right tools for the job can make a real difference.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry to be critical of what I otherwise think is a great series of instructables, but I think your 3D shadow example is potentially confusing. The top and side 2D views correctly show how the light source and the corners of the object project to the corresponding corners of the shadow, but the 3D view just before it doesn't honour that. If you do the reverse projection on the 3D view, the apparent light source is actually much, much higher than is shown. I think a novice might struggle to reconcile that and determine where the shadow should really go.

    See below for an illustration of what I mean.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The 2D views actually have an issue too. Individually they seem reasonable, but they're not consistent with each other. The side view is telling us what the length of the shadow should be (since it knows the heights of the floor, the top of the object and the light source), but the top view ignores that. The top view tells us the direction of the shadow, but we need to project from the side view to see how far the shadow should extend.

    If the 3D view is updated to have a shadow that large, it will now be consistent with the light source shown and all will be right with the world. Well, this little bit of the world :-)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    id give my one of my toes just to draw like this , its an art in its self, renderings

    1 reply