learn how to create shading for metal and glass textures




Shading Metal and Glass

Drawing shading for metal and glass could be both fun and frustrating. These surfaces are usually smooth, so they should be fun and easy to render, but they're also reflective, which could be frustrating. Metal is oftentimes a reflective surface, you can see the world being reflected back at you like in a mirror when you look at a polished metal surface. So if you want to be as realistic as possible when drawing the shading of a metal surface, you should also draw the reflections you see too. Glass also can have a reflective look as well - that's the whole concept of a mirror after all - reflection. But if you're looking at glass that is translucent, glass that you can see through like a window, or a translucent glass object like a drinking glass, then you're not really drawing reflections, but rather whatever is seen behind, below and around the glass object.

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Let's look at metal first. I'm going to use cars to illustrate drawing metal, and first up is a 1931 Ford Model A. The image to the right is the upper metal bracket that holds the side window. I chose this object because it's not an intricate object with lots of surface variation. First draw your contour drawing of the bracket. When I draw objects that have lots of straight edges and lines, if I don't have to be precise, I'm not. With this object I eyeballed the measurements and I drew the straight lines slowly to get them as straight as I could. Once you have your contour drawing done go ahead and start lightly shading in the dark shadow areas. Again, don't blacken the shadows completely, you can always go back and darken them if you think they're too light. Unlike the previous shading examples we've created, when drawing reflective surfaces like metal, you don't have to lay down a base middle grey shade over the entire object. This is because often with reflective objects, the contrasts are pretty high; the highlights are very white, and the shadows are very dark. So you can use the white of the paper to be your highlights - that's less drawing! I also will draw in what I call "reflection shapes" - the shapes that you see the shadows and highlights creating on the object. It's the same idea as shadow shapes from drawing fabric shadows. So draw your reflection shapes and shade in the shadows and midtones. Keep going with the shading by darkening the shadows as you add the midtones. The last step in shading metal is to use your blending stump (or your finger). You'll notice that since the contrasts are pretty high, the edges of shadows are often very sharp. But since your drawing reflections, in some areas the shadows may be soft. It's in the soft areas that you want to use your blending stump and blend and soften the softer shadows on the object. IN this particular object, the top of the arm and the top of the hinge have softer shadows, so I used the blending stump there. Click the picture above to see the process. Generally, the softer you make the shadows on a reflective metal object, the less shiny the object will appear. A really shiny object will have very sharp shadows and high contrasts.

Now let's look at shading glass by drawing a, well, glass. Drawing shading on glass is similar to drawing shading on a reflective metal object because in both cases you're drawing reflected objects. But when you're drawing a clear glass objects, you're drawing the reflections of the objects behind the glass because you can see through the glass. An interesting observation about drawing glass is that the shadows on the edges of the object are heavier than the shadows in the middle of the object. This is because as the contour of the object curves away or towards your eye, you begin to see the side of the glass, the glass appears to become more dense because you're looking at it's side, and so the shadows become more dense as well.

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Begin by drawing the contour of the glass. You'll notice in my contour drawing there's an S shaped curve about two thirds the way down the glass. That's the horizon line as seen through the glass. The horizon line is being distorted as seen through the cylindrical shape of the glass. Next begin to lay down your shadows. In this drawing you can lay down a middle grey tone through the whole glass and leave the paper white where you see the highlights in the glass. Keep gradually darkening your shadows. As you darken, the highlights will begin to pop out more. because most of the shadows in this example are fairly soft, you can use your finger or a blending stump to smudge your shadows. Notice that the shadows in the thick base of the glass, and along the sides are pretty sharp, so you shouldn't smudge those shadows. If you've blended away the highlights, take your eraser and erase the excess blended graphite so that your highlights pop again.

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So this has been a pretty intense look at shading in drawing. In realistic drawing shading is what really makes the drawing pop off the page. And if you get really good as shading, you can make any drawing look like it was done by a trained artist. Shading is my favorite part of drawing, and maybe now it's yours too! If you'd like, you can practice shading by drawing the wheel here. This drawing will require you to use a few different shading techniques that you've learned.

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