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How to shade 3D shapes with markers

By Chameleon Art Products
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Don't wear yourself out by sitting through a 30 minute tutorial on YouTube showing you how to shade 3D shapes where it can be impossible to keep up. Let's keep it simple today and focus on a sphere and not something too challenging. We're gonna show you some principles that, once you get right, you can apply to any 3D shape.

You need to think about highlights, the light source and shadows. Combining all of these techniques with the right marker will help you achieve some brilliant blending results. We'll be creating a shaded sphere along the way but will use other images to illustrate any relevant theory.

So, let's start the process.


Pick your light source

Shading a leaf with a green Chameleon Pen

We know, it's not a sphere. But ignore the leaf for a minute and focus on the graphic of the sun. For the illustration above, the light source has been clearly identified and that's obvious because the lightest color is closest to the source.

That means the further away you are from the light source, the darker you're going to want your 3D shape to be. When using a Chameleon Pen, to get the best results try and color away from the light source. So, start with the lightest color and then work your way to the more saturated (richer, deeper, darker) color.

Put it this way. No light source consideration, no realistic 3D image.


Infuse your Chameleon Pen with its Mixing Chamber (Exciting times await!)

Time sheet showing the different effects a Chameleon Pen can create by changing the infuse times with the Mixing Chamber

Use the above graphic as an estimate. 

How long you hold the nib of your Chameleon Pen in the Mixing Chamber determines how light or dark the color will appear on your paper.

In this case of shading a 3D sphere, start with a lighter color. This means you'll want to infuse your Chameleon Pen with its Mixing Chamber. When doing this, it’s important to think about the size of your sphere. In our example, the pen was fused for around 10-20 seconds. But, it’s really up to you to decide how much of a highlight you would like, so play around with what effects shorter and longer infusion times give you.

However, if it's a much smaller sphere or any other shape, then the infusion time will be even less. If it's a much larger sphere then you'll have to infuse the nib in the Mixing Chamber for much longer.

This also depends on the paper you use. If you're using very absorbent paper, you might find that you need to infuse your Chameleon Pen for longer to achieve your desired length of blend. With high quality paper or card stock, such as Yupo paper which isn't as absorbent, you might not need to infuse the pen for as long. 

You also need to consider the probability of ink bleeding through the paper. We recommend you use higher quality paper, which has been designed for alcohol-based markers and helps minimize bleeding. This will help you get the best results.

Now the fun can really begin.


Add the natural highlights

Adding highlights to a sphere using a Chameleon Pen

Once you have your sphere drawn out and infused the marker in the Mixing Chamber, look at the light source and work away from there towards the shadow area.

Use the lighter tones to show where the light source hits the 3D object. By slowly building this up, you'll be creating volume and form which gives it a more true-to-life appearance. So, start with the light source and begin coloring towards the darker area. You'll notice that the lower you get on the sphere, the darker the color becomes.

There's no right or wrong way of shading. You might find coloring and shading in circular motions is easier, or even slow, side-to-side strokes to achieve the most realistic blending is best for you. Play around with your own personal technique and use different strokes to suit you and what you're coloring.

Remember, you need to shade according to the shape. Because it's a sphere, you'll be looking to work in almost a semi-circle motion while coloring.


Add some depth and begin shading

Shading in a sphere using a Chameleon Pen

Then it's time to add some depth to your 3D sphere and include some more shading.

Carry on working side to side in a semi-circular fashion. Don't panic when the ink begins to darken and it returns to its original color - that's exactly what we're hoping for here. When the marker starts to turn dark again, the darker tones are adding extra shade and more dimension to the sphere.


Top tip: when shading spheres or other round objects, move the pen in a curved, semi-circular motion. The sharper the curve on the object, the shorter and sharper your strokes should be.


At this stage, you may want to go over the darker areas again. This is important if you're chasing realism, because you want that dark, rich tone to really make it pop out and look like it's about to roll off the paper.


Add dimensions and create cast shadows

Adding dimensions to create more shadows on a sphere using a Chameleon PenWe're almost there - now it's really beginning to take shape!

To add more dimension to your 3D shape with a marker, create more shadows. To do this, infuse the Chameleon Pen back into the Mixing Chamber so that you're using a lighter tone again.

Then go begin shading under the sphere to create the cast shadow effect. Thought that was it? There's one final way to make this 3D sphere and your other 3D objects really stand out. 


Make it even more realistic with an overlay tint


Sphere overlay tint using a Chameleon Pen

Now you’re ready for the final step – experimenting with different color overlays. In this case, a yellow tint makes sense as we’re imagining the sun is shining down on our sphere. If your sphere was next to, for example, a reflective red object, then there’d be hints of red being shown instead.

To achieve this, infuse whichever color you're using for the overlay tint with the Mixing Chamber for around 20-30 seconds. Make sure you test on a piece of scrap paper too so you're 100% sure it's the right tone you want before you use it in your artwork.

However, your fuse times can vary depending on the color you use. If you're using a darker color, such as a deep red or blue, then that timing is okay. But if you're using a much lighter color such as our Bubble Gum or Bisque (PK3 and NU1), then the timings would be shorter.

Then start coloring over the top half of the 3D object to create this realistic look. Watch the tone carefully and stop coloring before the tone gets too dark. Infuse the ink in the Mixing Chamber again to regain that tone and then continue coloring.

Check out the video below as an example. While pebbles aren't exactly a sphere, it's still a good look at how the shading gives the object more depth. Plus, it shows how you should shade according to the shape.  


Take your coloring to a new level with Chameleon Pens

If you've enjoyed this blog post, you'll love our free download guide which is filled with ideas, tips and tricks to inspire your next project. Whether you're a creative crafter looking for something new or an aspiring fashion designer ready to fill your designs with color, or anyone in between, our guide will really get you coloring like never before. Get the guide below.

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Tags: back to basics, shading

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