Shading in fashion illustration

This is a reply to Vittoria Noeve’s message regarding the shading.

Dear Vittoria,

There is no much difference when shading a simple form or the human body. The rules are the same, when you decide to go for the upper left corner of the image to put your light, you will have to respect this for your entire drawing.

This means you will have a dark area where the eyes are, under the nose, under the chin and on the neck. Also, it means the left side has more light then the right part of the portrait or human body.


Depending on the technique you use, the shading can vary a little bit. Here are some examples of shading, as I described them in my previous posts. There are:

– shading at 45 degrees like here.



Another tip: take a look at David Downton’s illustrations below. See both images and compare them. What do they have in common? The light comes from upper left side of the human portrait. This means the left part will have more light and more details: the eye is fully painted, the contrast is higher, the lines are more obvious, the left side has no skin color added – it is almost white.

The right side is shadowed, the illustrator used skin color to create the shadow, there are not many details, the eye seemed not finished, but in fact, the shape and its details are completed in your mind. The details are just suggested, you just have to feel them, not to actually see them to imagine them there.

For the dark side you use purple and pink, everything loses the details. See please the cast shadows: on the neck, the shadow that the nose casts on the face, the hair shadow. The background is not fully painted. The painting has to breathe, to have air, none of the areas are finished and closed. You will have to leave the air get in and out of the surface and also, be careful not to over-polish your paintings.

Because watercolor is something so soft, like a breeze.

david downton


Hope this will help you!

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