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How to Create Shadows and Shading

You’re wondering why is this subject important? You’ve likely had success working some element of shading into your pieces and that’s great. However, you may not know about the seldom discussed advanced techniques experienced artists use to produce more sophisticated compositions. With thoughtful planning, you can apply these simple techniques and drastically increase the richness of your work.      

When creating shading, it’s natural to reach for black frit or black glass. Black efficiently separates the foreground from the background. Black is also great for outlining your subject. However, there’s a better solution that adds richness to your scene.

When you use black to make shadows it creates a visual hole in your work. This void pulls the viewer’s attention away from your composition. For this reason, I use black as little as possible. I apply it with purpose for specific details in my designs. Instead of black, I use very dark blue, chocolate brown, deep purple or ruby red to make shadows in my pieces. I select the dark color that best suits the color scheme in my artwork. Using powerful high contrast colors adds velvety depth and an incredible richness to the setting.

How to create shadows with color.

Wine Glass as seen in my Simple Pleasures Video

Here I used dark blue to establish the linear details that translate into a grape vineyard behind the wine glass. The deep shadows the blue color creates, give the scene a relaxing late afternoon mood. The border is dark purple which mimics the color of grapes and wine.

Octopus Tray as seen in my Premium Video Membership

Here I used dark red to make shadows on the underside of the octopus tentacles. This application also makes the tentacle visually round and full. Dark red also worked beautifully to outline the octopus body and place it in front of the tentacles that curl behind its body. The only black in this piece is the eye detail.

Fairy tale Forest as seen in my Painting with Frit Video

There’s no black in this lush scene. The dark shadows in the trees and along the path are made with dark blue. The shadow cast on the woodland path is a combination of purple and dark amber frit. Get creative with your color combinations to build up dark recesses that make your highlighted details pop.

Winter Landscape as seen in the winter issue G.P.Q. Magazine Jan 2023

In this piece of art, black is limited to the lines on the tree trunks. I selected muted tones to create a quiet, calm, and relaxing setting. The shadow under the trees are created with medium purple frit. It simultaneously gave me depth and softness which I wanted to portray in this winter scene.

Welcome Fall as seen in my Premium Video Membership

When making this seasonal piece I wanted to maintain a warm yet rich color palette. I used a small amount black in the word welcome and in some of the letters that spell out FALL. When it came to adding shadows to the pumpkin, I used orange opal frit. The contrast is subtle but effective. I’m pleased with the stylized design and the inviting warmth it adds to my home.  

You got this!

Don’t worry about missing black. Once you substitute colors for black, you’ll love the effects you’re able to create. You’ll be amazed how switching to dark colors transforms your art and brings it to life.

Artists take what they see and make it new.

We take an ordinary scene and turn it into something new that reflects our sense of drama and whimsy. Using rich colors, instead of black, is a fabulous way to push designs in any direction you want to establish a personalized mood and tone. Give it a try. The possibilities are endless. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Watch the video here.

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Happy Fusing!


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