What are the Five Elements of Shading?

When people look at drawings and remark at how realistic they look, it usually has everything to do with the shading.

Pencil shading requires the artist to consider every stroke, in order to properly recreate how light hits an object. Read on for the five elements of shading which will help you create your most realistic drawing yet!

Cast shadowPencil Shading Elements

The cast shadow is the darkest point on your drawing. It falls opposite the light source and represents where the object prevents the light from penetrating.

Shadow edge

This is where the object is turning away from you and is lighter than the cast shadow.


This is the mid-gray of the object. It’s neither in direct light or shadow.

Reflected light

The reflected light is a light-gray tone. It’s found along the edge of an object and separates the cast shadow and shadow edge.

Full light

This area is stark white and shows where the light source is directly hitting the object.

When you understand how shading can affect how we perceive light to be drawn, your artworks will reach a stunning realism.

Interested in learning more?

Hunakai Studio of Fine Arts in Foxboro, Massachusetts has offered art educational lessons and workshops to hundreds of members of the greater Boston community. Learn more about our studio workshops and art classes for adults and kids and call us at 508-543-5665 today to learn more about enrolling!