For almost a year, I have been hiring an artist in Ukraine to draw some human figures for a book. I am saddened for him and for myself that he has informed me he can no longer work. He is a young man, and he has been drafted into military activity. I fear that he is already in combat. He was always a person of great integrity in all our interactions.

I hope I'm not being too self-centered when I say that I'm trying to figure out aspects of his method. I have a few drawings of his that still need shadows, and I fear he will never be able to finish them. This is why I'm trying to figure out his method for creating shadows. I looked at one of his previous shadows, and it is done with almost mathematical precision. Please see the figure below (I am hiding the coloring so you can see just the shadow). The artist did this drawing without the use of photos. Do you know of any tool he might have used? Or did he just use skill and experience?

enter image description here

  • FYI user287001, this artist created the art with minimal help of photography. I sent him a crude photograph taken with my iphone. Also, I am a older male, and his job was to draw a young female. In summary, he basically drew this without the assistance of a photograph.
    – Chris
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


There are a couple ways to accomplish this.... It does require some skill and experience - especially to know where shadows should fall.

The key is really to copy the base path/shape and use Paste In Front to ensure a duplicate path is positioned precisely on top of the base path/shape - then alter the pasted path/shape.

One method is to merely copy, paste in front, then change one side of the shape for shadows. In this case one would change the left side, meaning the right side of the copy is going to remain perfectly aligned with the original shape.

enter image description here

One does have to draw some areas. Nothing automated is going to be very dynamic or complete. It takes manual interaction to create some of the shadow areas....

enter image description here

Another option is to use two copies of the original shape, one offset a bit. Then use Pathfinder to create the shape for the shadow.

enter image description here

Note that Shape Builder can can use used rather than Pathfinder. Pathfinder merely makes it a one-click operation where Shape Builder may take more clicks for some shapes.

My guess would be the artists used more of the first method than the second, at least in the sample image, due to how the shadows fall on their left side - meaning the inconsistent widths of the shadow. The Pathfinder/Shape Builder method typically yields more uniform widths. But, the artist could have used Pathfinder then adjusted further.

  • Thanks for the effort Scott. However, I don't think these method get very close to what he did. For example, this method isn't going to get the shadow under the armpit. The more I look at his work, the more impressed I am. I think he just used natural talent to do this.
    – Chris
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:12
  • 1
    @Chris you are perhaps missing my points. One manually adds to the copied path... thus, manually creates the area under the armpit or breasts. Simply because I chose not to do that when explaining how to keep one side aligned does not mean it can't be done. I've added an example of drawing to this answer. If you are seeking some one-click, automated way to create such shadows, you are in for a frustrating and inevitably disappointing search. Illustrator is not a 3D app and therefor not capable of automatically adding any shadows.
    – Scott
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:27
  • Thanks for the clarification.
    – Chris
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:27
  • I would suggest that he probably used a method between manual and fully automated. He might have created some kind of intermediate construction that aided him in doing the rest of the work manually. I have some ideas about what these constructions might be, and will try to implement them if I can't get any better ideas.
    – Chris
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:30
  • I think, for the most part, it's merely an experienced eye which understands light direction and shadowing various shapes.
    – Scott
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:52

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