SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour

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

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 10


Art Techniques


analogous colours depth form gradation light source shading shape space


Crayola Black Construction Paper Black Coloured Pencils Crayola Watercolour and Marker Paper Crayola Construction Paper Crayons

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SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step One

Step One

Examine the drawing of a sphere and notice the placement of lights and darks. 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

Practice shading a circle to create the illusion of depth. Start by drawing a circle and deciding where the light source is. Leave a highlight closest to the light source. Use a black coloured pencil. Gradually build up layers of colour from dark to light by applying light, medium and heavy pressure. Leave a small area of white at the base of the circle to indicate reflected light. Add a cast shadow. 

SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

Practice shading at least 3 circles in your sketchbook. Experiment with how you apply pressure with the black coloured pencil as you are shading. Try for smooth gradation from one tone to the next.

SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

Now try colouring a sphere using construction paper crayons to get a luminous effect. Use pencil to draw a circle on black construction paper. Use analogous colours, for example, red, red-orange, and orange, to move from light, to medium, to dark over the surface of the circle.


SHADING SPHERES – Gradation, Form, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

Blend colours to get a smooth transition from one tone to the next. To do this first colour an area with one colour, then colour over it with the transition colour until they mix together. 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

Add the highlights and cast shadow. You can polish the drawing by lightly rubbing it with a tissue or your fingers.

Learning Goals

     Students will be able to:

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


  1. Apply what they have learned in a drawing of a still life with a light source.
  2. Draw and colour buildings in one point or two-point perspective and use colour and shading to emphasize the illusion of depth. 
  3. Study and draw a variety of objects using a light source and shading.
  4. Study artists who use perspective and shading in their art.


  1. Have students experiment with Crayola Construction Crayons in their sketchbooks.
  2. Have students experiment applying different amounts of pressure as they draw in their sketchbooks using black coloured pencil. Challenge them to create a value strip of at least 7 different tones with their black coloured pencils.
  3. Create a sample of a sphere drawing in pencil. 
  4. Create a sample of a construction paper crayon coloured sphere on black construction paper.
  5. Download images that use a light source from the Internet. For example, 
    School of Athens/perspective and light source in art 
    Style of Escher
  6. Download the FORM poster available on this website.


  1. Show students the images.
  2. Discuss how and why artists use a consistent light source in their artworks.
  3. Discuss how colour can create the illusion of depth on a 2-dimensional surface.
  4. Review the characteristics of FORM using the poster.
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

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

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Demonstrate how to keep a consistent light source.
  3. 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. 
  4. Demonstrate how to blend crayon by layering one colour over another.
  5. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan. 
  6. Observe students as they work. 
  7. 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 the art works – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - SHADING_SPHERES_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - SHADING_SPHERES_self-assessment.pdf)