SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour

Students use a single light source and shading to make a flat circle appear 3-dimensional first with black coloured pencil, and then with construction paper crayons.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 10


Art Techniques


analogous colours chiaroscuro depth form gradation light source shading shape space


Crayola Construction Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") - Black Crayola Coloured Pencils - Black Crayola Construction Paper Crayons Crayola Sketchbooks or Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper

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SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Examine the drawing of a sphere and notice the placement of lights and darks.
  2. To make a flat circle appear 3-dimensional you make some areas dark and other areas light in a systematic way.
SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Practice shading a circle to create the illusion of depth.
  2. Start by drawing a circle.
  3. Choose a light source. 
  4. Leave a highlight closest to the light source. 
  5. Use a black coloured pencil. 
  6. Gradually build up layers of colour from dark to light by applying light, medium and heavy pressure.
  7. Leave a small area of white at the base of the circle to indicate reflected light.
  8. Add a cast shadow. 
SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Practice shading at least 3 circles in your sketchbook.
  2. Experiment with how you apply pressure with the black coloured pencil as you are shading.
  3. Try for smooth gradation from one value to the next.
SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Now try colouring a sphere using construction paper crayons to get a luminous effect. 
  2. Use pencil to draw a circle on black construction paper. 
  3. Use analogous colours, for example, red, red-orange, and orange, to move from dark, to medium, to light over the surface of the circle.
SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Blend colours to get a smooth transition from one colour to the next.
  2. To do this first colour an area with one colour, then colour over it with the transition colour until they mix together.
  3. You may want to use purple to deepen the darkest shadow near the bottom of the sphere.


SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Add highlights and a cast shadow.
  2. Polish the drawing by lightly rubbing it with a soft tissue.

Learning Goals

 Students will be able to:

  • use a single light source to make a 2-dimensional circle appear 3-dimensional;
  • use gradation of analogous colours to create the illusion of depth;
  • demonstrate understanding of colour theory;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • choose a variety of objects;
  • arrange them in a still life;
  • set up a light source;
  • draw what they see paying close attention to how they shade the drawing;
  • search for an artist who uses chiaroscuro in their art;
  • compare their drawing with one of the works by their chosen artist;
  • reflect on what they have learned.


  1. Have students work in their sketchbooks.
    - experiment with Crayola Construction Crayons
    - draw with black coloured pencil and apply different amounts of pressure as they draw
    - create a 7-step value strip using a black coloured pencil
  2. Create sample drawings of a sphere drawing in pencil and in colour.
  3. Download images that use a light source from the Internet. For example, 
    School of Athens
    Style of Escher
  4. Download and display the Form poster available on this website.


  1. View and discuss the images focussing on how and why artists use a consistent light source in their artworks.
    - knowing how forms behave in different light conditions helps artists achieve added realism in their work
    - strong lighting creates strong highlights and shadows emphasizing the physical form of an object 
  2. Discuss how colour can create the illusion of depth on a 2-dimensional surface.
  3. Review the characteristics of Form using the poster.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Use a single light source to make a 2-dimensional circle appear 3-dimensional.
  2. Use gradation of analogous colours to create the illusion of depth.
  3. Demonstrate understanding of colour theory.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a drawing of a sphere that looks 3-dimensional
    - maintained a consistent light source
    - used analogous colours to create the illusion of depth
    - created smooth transitions from one colour to the next
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Demonstrate how to keep a consistent light source.
  4. Demonstrate how to vary the amount of pressure applied while drawing with pencil. 
    - Use the 'overhand grip' for greater control of your pencil.
    - To do this hold your hand over the pencil in a relaxed manner.
    - Let you fingers and thumb lightly grasp the pencil.
    - This grip gives you much more flexibility to draw using both the tip and the side of the lead to make soft transitions between tones.
  5. Demonstrate how to blend crayon by layering one colour over another.
  6. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan. 
  7. Observe students as they work. 
  8. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Compare their work and describe to each other what they did to get certain effects.
    - Consider when and why they might want to use a light source and shading when creating other artworks.
    - Talk about what was difficult and what was easy for them.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask them to tell how they felt about doing this activity.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their drawings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the drawing, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the drawing.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - ShadingSpheres_tracking.sheet.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - ShadingSpheres_self-assessment.pdf)