enter image description here

Does anyone knows a good course for depth and shadows in illustrator? I'm searching for an online course for making the character more realistic The left one is how i bought the photo and the right one is how I made it look like, I'm searching for a course to improve my skills and to do more complicated stuff, I'd appreciate it if anyone could send me the link of the course. Thanks all for your time.

  • It seems that you are on the right track, but you should try to be more aware of light direction. It seems to come from several directions. Have a look at this question. Search for questions about shadows on this site. Googling something like "cel shading tutorial" might be interesting.
    – Wolff
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 13:12
  • You should look for illustration courses, I don't think you'll find a depth and shadows course. The same principles would apply for any illustration, not just characters.
    – Luciano
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


There are so much already said by others that I cannot add much. I do not recommend any courses, because you'll find easily tens of free video lessons about the subject. In addition there's plenty of books. 3D-like shading has been an essential skill in painting and drawing hundreds of years.

But I can suggest one thing: Start with simple things.

One could easily think that inserting solid dark and brighter areas for shading is simplest. But it isn't. Its extremely difficult because the illusion of shading needs an intuitive assumption of the 3D form. Solid color shadows and highlights give very little information of curvature.

enter image description here

  1. This really is a 3D cone, but without shading it's like a triangle.

  2. This is the same shape in the same viewing projection. Solid color highlight doesn't help much, but one can believe it's a cone if that's told. He may make that decision also by himself if the image is a part of a story, where the shape is seen from other directions like 3a and 3b.

  3. viewing angle has been changed. I guess quite few of us would think 3a cannot be a cone and even fewer would think 3b is not a cone. Of course they can as well be seen as plane images, but if the observer knew it's a 3D piece his first guess would be it's a cone. So the viewing projection variations surely can help 3D recognization when the shading is made with solid colors.

  4. This has a gradient shading. Recognizing the curvature is easy, no matter the projection doesn't show the curvature of the edge of the bottom.

  5. This is only a little more likely a cone than version 4.

Your cartoon shape can be quessed to be a 3D animal character because such characters are commonly used. But when you have started to insert solid color shadows and highlights for 3D appearance, you have seen how difficult they are to make look right. This is why you are here now. They seem to fit as well as the white in my cone 2.

Actually they probably would look better if they were drawn with consistent light direction idea. And if you had several versions of the shape seen from different directions + preferably doing something interesting, nobody including you, would see no reason to complain of the shading. Drawing enough versions (hundreds of them) would fix the style and you would have developed the needed confidence to consentrate to the story.

Start practicing with the simplest possible way. Draw only darkening gradients for 3D curvature in the shadow side. Solid darkened color presents natural way only a plane. An example:

enter image description here

The eyes and the nose have the gloss you gave, but your other shadings are replaced by hand painted gradients. Before it the areas were filled with their major colors.

The job has been done in Photoshop because it's there easier. I had maximally soft black brush with painting opacity about 10%. It's edge leaves a gradient. For fixing I had even less opaque soft brush eraser. I made a colored area selection with the magic wand. The selection prevented painting and erasing over the edge.

Before computers airbrushes were used (and are still used) to create gradients. Making a selection to limit the spread replaces the masks that airbrushers use.

All darkenings were made to a new top layer to be able to make the right selections with the image layer.

BTW. Believe, the most difficult part is to avoid painting on the original image layer. The 2nd difficult thing is to stop painting early enough to avoid making it look dirty. The 3dr difficult thing is to change the brush size right. Wide gradient needs a big brush.

  • Thank you, What editor do you use? adobe illustrator ?
    – Jabareen
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 9:37
  • @Jabareen I have many pieces of software because I make various things. Illustrator is good for vector shapes like your basic character. Making varied versions is flexible. The shading I made is also possible there, but it's slower to make, it's much faster in Photoshop or other bitmap program. My version was made 100% by editing yours in Photoshop. I wouldn't start from scratch in PS because flexible vector graphic tools are needed, I'm not one who gets his curves right straight in the fly never needing later fixes. Believe, such capable persons exist. Try Inkscape and Affinity designer, too.
    – user82991
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 12:25
  • @Jabareen (continued) But you'll find every program has its own peculiarities which force one to adapt his workflow to avoid clashes. If you can afford Adobe CC programs and already have some experience with them, you probably use your time better by drawing more.
    – user82991
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 12:48

The following isn't a link to a course, but hopefully enough to get you started. Rather than an Illustrator specific course you might have more success searching tutorials on adding shading to drawings/illustrations, since it would be directly applicable to anything created using any graphics software. I have found Youtube to be a good source for finding drawing tutorials. This one is rather nice and is specific to Illustrator and drawing cartoon characters.

Since we don't like link only answers here on GDSE, I thought I should share my own experience on a method I have used myself.

To get more realistic shading, you need to think about the light direction, and be aware where both shadows and highlights would fall on a 3D character. Surfaces facing the light should have highlights, and those facing away from the light should be in shadow.

Here's a rough example below. I used Illustrator's Knife Tool to cut up pieces of the design for adding shadows and highlights. I'm sure you get the general idea.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Very nice! This is mostly shading. Additionally one could also add some drop shadows from the nose, head, arms, legs, eyebrows etc. Here is a very quick sketch.
    – Wolff
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:31
  • @Wolff, absolutely!
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:40
  • @Wolff just noticed the specular highlights, might be better if the light source was from the same side, or change the location of these highlights to the other side of the eyes and nose.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:43
  • 2
    Sure, but then again it maybe adds a little depth to the figure. Indicates a second light source. With all due respect to the artist and the OP (which is something you say when you're about to say something disrespectful) it ain't exactly Disney. It would be easier to add shading to a drawing which had more 3D depth thought into the lines to begin with.
    – Wolff
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:53

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