Considering the light source makes for super accurate shading!

When creating art, light and shadow is an intrinsic part of the process.

Have you ever felt that your work lacks a certain sense of reality or weight? There’s a chance this is because you’ve not applied the shading correctly.

The position of shadows is determined by the light source. This might be the sun, or an artificial source like a light bulb or candle. When drawing a picture, you must first decide where abouts the light source is in your work.

Remember, the purpose of shading is to create a three-dimensional effect! Let’s see how we can do this with various lighting angles.

No specific light source

If you plan to draw an image with no shading whatsoever, there’s no need to decide on a light source.

Soft light from the top left

We add in minimal, lightly shaded areas of shadow, to match the gentle light source. Just enough shadows to bring out the three-dimensional shape of the subject.

Strong lighting from above

Here we want to use some darker shadows, to match the stronger lighting. Remember to add in the shadows cast by the hair on to the face.

Strong lighting from the left

Adjust the darkness of the shading to fit with the strength of the light source. If we made these shadows lighter in colour, we could represent more gentle lighting.

When lighting a character strongly from one side, remember to have your shading fit the contours of the face, to give the character more depth.

Lit from below

If we light a character from below, we can create a scary atmosphere in our work. Characters in horror movies are often lit this way!


When the character is lit from behind, almost the whole face is cast into shadow. Adding in some slight highlights around the sides of the face and hair will help add more realism to the scene.

Backlighting a scene can help create a dramatic or serious atmosphere.

I hope this rundown of different lighting styles has helped you further understand how to shade your own work. When shading, always think first about where the lighting is coming from, and how strong that lighting is. Shadows will always be darkest on the side of the subject that’s opposite to the light source, and how deep the shading is will depend on the strength of the light.

We go into much more detail about all different shading styles on our courses at Anime Art Academy, so be sure to check them out!

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