Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
Why shadows aren't gray by ArtByRiana Why shadows aren't gray by ArtByRiana
Oh man my head hurts so bad.

But doing this tutorial makes me realize how little I still now about color and I probably made things wrong and those typos and askdkasd blah. But I hope this makes you think more about how color affects other colors in your works! And maybe not use gray to shade stuff. :U;;;

Ugh I need to lay down.


Edit 8-17-12:::
HOLY MOLY where did you all come from? I just woke up with over 1K feedback messages and I'm used to seeing less than 10! Aaaa thanks so much! ;; I'm so happy so many people found it useful.

So I went in and fixed some typos, reworded some things, etc, so it's all nice. C':

ALSO for traditional artists, especially painters, the book I mentioned in the tutorial talks a lot about this stuff.

As for colored dry media: for colored pencils, I was taught in high school to use dark, cool colors along with the compliment color and dark brown as the base for shading. You'll need to experiment with this, since I haven't used it in a long time and I'm not sure how it'll turn out.

And the journey continues on!

Edit 8-21-12:::
I... got a Daily Deviation for this?! Wow!! I... I don't think I deserve it but I feel so honored! I feel bad because I wish I could've explained things better in this and cleared things up that were misunderstood... but I'm glad this helped people! That made making this tutorial worth while!

Thank you so much *Tristaeza for the suggestion and ^Elandria for the feature!

Edit 8-25-12:::
I just wanted to feature a tutorial by ~ArchAntoinette about this same topic. Before I give the link, I just wanted to point out that even though my tutorial was uploaded first and the format and photos are eerily similar, she touches upon things I didn't talk about, not to mention she's a very talented artist. Check it out! [link]
Add a Comment:

Daily Deviation

Given 2012-08-22
[Stock & Resources] The suggester states "I've always had trouble figuring out how my shading is supposed to look and every tutorial I look at seems to just say the same thing. This tutorial, however, showed me not only how, but why the shading looks like it does. Why shadows aren't gray by *RianaLD is amazing!" ( Suggested by Tristaeza and Featured by Elandria )
aumym Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Student Digital Artist
nice! :D
Selkra Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2014
:lol:  The amazingness of this tutorial is biblical.
arkrilik2000 Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
slapped some sense into me, thanks a lot this is very useful :)
ApocalypticHunter Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Well this will help me a ton. :D
LimeGreenBunny Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is great! I love how detailed it is.
shiori2525 Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad I found this tutorial since I have no idea what to do with the shading, shadow, and light relationship at all. Thanks a lot for doing this.
JustToMakeComment Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2013
Thank you for uncommon tips about shadows.That was really hepfull for me.I want to sure to get this things right so can you aswer a couple of questions?

1)Will outdoor shadow in autumn forest look like indor shadow in your example?
1)Will indoor shadow in room ligthed with luminescent lamps look like outdoor shadow in your example?

ArtByRiana Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure about the first one. From the colors of this photograph,, it would seem that the shadows are almost purple (red+blue sky = purplish shadows) and the highlights still seem orangy. I would go and expirience this on my own but I live in Los Angeles and autumn forests are difficult to find and study. This is something that's definitely on my to-do list!

As for the second question, no, I don't think so, unless the lamp happens to be as blue as the sky. 
JustToMakeComment Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013
Thank you for answer.
ubegovic Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I suspected that the outside shadows are blue for sometime now, but this makes sense! :D Thanks!
seapuppy Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
A very informative piece!  I'll have to remember all of this for next time I need to do some shading.
Almost-Impossible Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is the most incredibly helpful thing I've seen while on this site. It goes so incredibly in-depth on the case of nothing but shadows, yet its something no one ever thinks about or comments on without this clarification. All of my life I've seen shadows as gray, even when they obviously weren't. I'd think, "Oh, it's bright out, that's why its blue/yellow/any other color" I've seen this, but I haven't SEEN it. This piece has completely changed my perspective on lighting, shadows, and my own art as a whole. I can't thank you enough for bringing this clarity to the population of dA. 
ArtByRiana Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I'm glad I was able to help. :)
thegrumpybug Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013  Student General Artist
this is really helpful, thank you for sharing! :)
fatinkpoplover Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Wow, I didnt know that. Thnx a buncH for this tutorial. Really2 helpful! ^^
Yevilyn Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thankyou! *salutes* yes Ma'am, I shall keep my grey shadows to a minimum from now on.
sophatizer Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I read this about two years ago I think, when I just started drawing and this was like gibberish to me. I managed to find this tutorial again and now everything makes a lot more sense. Thank you so much for sharing this, now I think I now where my impasse in improvement has been coming from. I shall definitely experiment with this immediately. Again, thank you so much for your contribution of this wonderfully enlightening tutorial, I cannot thank you enough.
ArtByRiana Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome. :) Glad it helped!
JapanYoshi Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013
Information successfully downloaded to brain drive. XD
SongOfCrow Featured By Owner May 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This steak... it makes so much more sense now. Brain is full now. Thank you!
LisaReneeWentz Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013  Student
WOW! Thanks so much!!
silvermoon442 Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow, this is so amazingly helpful.
Grasschamp Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I will have to keep this in mind when I do shadows, since I know one of my pieces had weirdly-colored shade.

Thank you for pointing this handy fact out, really!
TheLoneDucky Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013   General Artist
Never really thought of it like this, but I suppose we were taught the similar aspects of shadows back in middle school in art. Either way, this is helpful!
Faithful-Imagination Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013  Student Digital Artist
hunksurvivorx Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012
best tutorial ever *w*
Paulobolmon Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Student Digital Artist
violetense Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2012  Student
Hi, you've been featured here: [link]
Lulie Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Though I should mention that I think a couple things are not quite right, for example I'd give heavy qualifiers to the idea 'warm lightsource/cool shadows' and 'cool light source/warm shadows' -- as you mentioned, it's not always the case. And as you sort of imply, the reason is partly about reflected light (it happens to be the case that in common situations the parts that are not the light source are the opposite, like the sun/sky example), but also often because of simultaneous contrast (in such cases, the shadows aren't actually coloured, and if you painted them as coloured you'd be exaggerating the effect more than is strictly realistic).
Lulie Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Wonderful! Finally, someone on DA has explained it! :D I'm in the process of making my own tutorial/ebook, with inspiration from Gurney and based largely on the Dimensions of Colour (fantastic site, by the way -- it fills in all the technicals and explains more of the lower-level why and how than Gurney's, plus some of the history of common misconceptions about colour that exist today. Bit heavy-going, but well worth it).

Your tut is well explained, great examples, nicely laid out, and practical. *applause*
High-Low Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Student General Artist
very useful!
Mondreus Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
Thanks!! I always have problems with shadows.
xtrminion Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
well, it sure helped me! here, have a prize.. wait, you have one already, then you got nothing from me.. just kidding, i'll send you some cookies.

thank you and congrats!
Raeistic Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Holy crap mind blown. Hahahahahaha I knew shadows weren't gray but not all those details about how they change colors depending on the environment. This is super useful, thanks!
Banished-Dreams Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2012
A very useful tutorial! Thank you!
IvyVega12 Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you! now I can add shadows with a little more confidence (lets hope) and make the painting/drawing/whatever piece of art look good.
GearsGirl6295 Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow! VERY helpful! Thank you so much =] :hug:
XkuragariXnikkouX Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
IT'S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE EXPLAINED THIS TO ME!! Honestly, every MS Paint tutorial I've been on talks about how shadows aren't just a darker shade than the base, but they never really explain why. So, thank you for this. I somewhat understand now.
mchectr Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This actually helped me a lot. I thought I already know why shadows aren't gray but then this extended my knowledge about it.

Thanks a lot for this tutorial :)
Sillygothic Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is really intresting and helpful thanks!
belcpo Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
you`re awesome =)
thank you pretty much for uploading
teenagebibliophile Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for making this.
Perverted-Dan-Hibiki Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks, this is super helpful. I'm working on something with a sunset so i was wondering how much that'd affect the colors i have to use....
RandomMumble Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you very much for making this! It's a huge help! :love:
Broeckchen Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012  Student Digital Artist
reeaaaally helpful! Thank you!
Add a Comment:


Submitted on
August 17, 2012
Image Size
6.4 MB
Submitted with


61,843 (15 today)
6,156 (who?)