How to Shadow Letters for Beginners: Step by Step Tutorial

Adding shadows to your lettering is the quickest way to enhance your artwork. They bring a touch of realism to your letters and are just more impressive-looking than lettering that goes without. Additionally, shadows add more weight to a design and are fun to do.

In this article, we’ll explore letter shadowing in all its glory. So keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to shadow letters.

Short Answer

To add a shadow to letters, do the following:

  • Draw the letters
  • Choose a light source for the letters
  • Apply the shadows on the opposite side of the light source

We’ll go over the above steps in more detail further in the article.

Why Add Shadows to Your Letters

On its own, plain lettering can look good, no doubt. However, when you add in some shadows, the work pops! Shadows make the letters look like they’re floating off the page, giving them a fantastic three-dimensional effect. Once you incorporate shadows into your lettering, it’ll be hard not to go forward.

Placing Your Shadows

To place shadows when lettering, you need to pick a light source. It’s the first step you’ll take for every lettering project you create. 

Light and shadow are two sides of the same coin–you can’t have one without the other. In fact, you’ll always find shadows on the opposite side of a light source. For example, if the light source shines down on the letters, the shadow will be underneath and vice versa. 

The same goes for if the light source is coming from the left: the shadows of the letters will be placed on the right side of the letters.

As an experiment, look around at the objects in your environment: where are their shadows? Now, can you tell what direction the light source is emanating from?

See also: Easy How to Draw a Castle

Using Tracing Paper in Applying Shadows

If you’re finding it difficult to wrap your head around the concept of light and shadow duality, we have a trick you can try to simplify the process.

Start by drawing your letters on paper. Once you’re done, place tracing paper over it and trace your drawing using another colored pencil or ink. You should have two of the same drawing once you’re finished tracing. 

Next, choose your light source and then move the tracing paper with the traced letters in the opposite direction. The tracing paper should still be placed over your original drawing when you take this step.

To illustrate, if you move the tracing paper up and to the right of the original design, the latter drawing will serve as the shadow for your lettering.

Types of Shadows

Letter shadows come in a variety of styles. Here are a few types you can practice:

Basic Shadow

As the name suggests, these shadows are bare and free of artistic embellishments, making them great for beginners. The steps for creating a basic shadow are as follows:

  • Draw a word using any color pen or pencil
  • Choose your light source. Using a pencil, you can lightly mark where you think the shadows should go
  • Add the shadows using a light gray marker or brush

And voila, you’re done!

Brush Pen Shadow

Create a shadow along your letter’s right side using a brush pen tip to give your shadow a flowing quality. This is a beginner-friendly style as it’s pretty basic. 

Double Shadow

Let’s add two shadows to the letters, dark and light. Follow these steps:

  • Draw a word like before
  • Decide on a light source
  • Add the shadows using dark ink and leave it to dry so the ink doesn’t run when you add the lighter shadow
  • Add the second layer of shadow using a lighter gray color

Now, isn’t that a cool 3D effect?


To create a monoline effect with your shadows, leave a small space between your main letter drawing and the line representing the shadow.

Color Shadow

Instead of using black and gray, switch up the color of your shadow by using something more bright and cheery, like orange or pink. The effect stands out more when you use a dark color for the letters.


Creating a two-tone shadow effect involves using two of the same color. One of them should be slightly darker than the other—for example, light gray and dark gray. Color the shadow with the lighter shade before layering the darker one on top.

Outline and Shadow

To achieve the effect of an outline and shadow, use a thin pen to create an outline around your letters before adding the shadows in with a brush pen. You’ll see how your artwork gets transformed into something remarkable.

Shadow With Highlight

If you want to make some impressive lettering art, you’ll need to add highlights. First, create a shadow in your choice of style. Next, use a small white gel pen to add small lines on the other side of the shadows. The highlights should go close to the edge of the letters. You’ll be blown away by the realistic and rounded effect highlights bring to your work.

Read also: What Is Balance in Art


Letter shadowing is an excellent way to make your letters pop off the page. As a first step, always pick a light source before applying shadows. Once you have your light source, you’re on your way to creating all types of shadow effects for your letters.

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