Plotting Cast Shadows in Your Drawing Successfully

Myra Naito
4 min readJul 28, 2022

Plotting cast shadows can make or break your drawing. It might not jump right out at you but your brain realizes that something is off. It’s very much like if your perspective is off in your drawing.

Why? Because plotting cast shadows IS perspective. That’s how it works.

The reason why you can’t just slap a shadow down behind an object and have it look right is because shadows don’t just fall at random locations. Shadows are not haphazard. They have to follow the same rules of perspective just like the rest of the objects in your drawing. That means they are very predictable and very plottable. If you have one light source, all shadows from all objects must follow the light source correctly in order to understand the light and where the source is in your drawing.

Photo credit: Myra Naito
Photo credit: Myra Naito

In a previous post, I gave several examples of plotting cast shadows with a light source coming in from an angle. I did not illustrate in detail how to plot shadows with a single light source directly overhead. The example I’ll show you now is a single light source directly overhead and between three objects.

If the light source is between several objects, the shadows will cast outward in different directions.

The key is in laying down plot lines which will help guide you.

Photo credit: Myra Naito[/caption]

Let’s assume you’ve drawn out a room with several items laid out on the floor. There is a single lightbulb overhead in the middle of the ceiling.

The first step is to drop a line from the bulb straight down to the floor. From that point on the floor, draw three lines to each item. One on the left edge and one on the right edge. These lines create the sides of your shadow. You’ll also need a line through the center.

Next, you’ll draw a line from the bulb and over the top edge (center) of the object…

Myra Naito

Freelance copywriter who is passionate about art and fitness. Check out my art blog at or follow me @mnaito_fineart .