Shadows can make your hand lettering stand out. But how do you add shadows? Here I have ten ways to add shadows to your lettering to help you understand and give you some inspiration. As you go through them, let me know in the comments below, or send me a message on Instagram to let me know your favorite way to add shadows.
How to Add Shadows to Your Hand Lettering
To get started, let’s talk about the basics of where a shadow goes. When I was a high school teacher, I was sitting next to the art teacher during a meeting, and I watched her doodling a picture. It was a hot air balloon, and she was drawing in the shadows of all the little seams of the balloon. I was amazed because I had no idea how to add shadows, so I asked her how she was doing that. She gave me a mini-lesson and showed me that you should first picture where your light source is coming from, and that will help guide you where it will cast a shadow. That was such a helpful tip for just a few months later when I started hand lettering and tried to figure out how to add shadows to my lettering.
Think about your light source coming from one direction, which means your shadows need to be on the same side of your letters throughout your word. To keep it super simple for you, this is my trick. As I add shadows, I always say to myself, “to the right and under.” You can add your shadows wherever you want; I just typically do them to the right and under. Alright, let’s get into the different ways you can add shadows! I hope this can give you some inspiration because these definitely aren’t the only ways to add shadows to your hand lettering.
Tip #1 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The first way is to add a fine black line as the shadow. I like this way for how to add shadows to hand lettering. Especially since I do a lot of rainbow lettering, some colors don’t stand out as much as other colors, making it hard to read. But, adding this black shadow brings it all together and makes it easier to read. You should add the same black fine line one letter at a time.
Tip #2 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The second tip is to add a white shadow. This way to add shadows to your hand lettering is a project from my book, Hand Lettering for Beginners. I think it’s so cool to see a picture in the book side by side with the actual project. I added this quote to the cover of this little notebook. I used many flourishes, and I like how the white shadow pops on the tan background. This is just one of the projects in my book where I show you something simple that you can do as a beginner.
Tip #3 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The next type of shadow I will show you is to leave a little space between your letter and shadow. It just adds a little more subtle dimension. The pens I use for this type of shadow are my acrylograph paint pens. Here I’m doing faux calligraphy to add the downstrokes, so it looks like I used a brush pen. Then I add the gray line to the right and under with a little space in between.
Tip #4 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
My next tip on how to add shadows to hand lettering is to add a very basic gray shadow. If you need help seeing where the shadow is, you can use a lightbox to trace it. Or you could use tracing paper for this. First, I trace the word with a gray-colored pen, which is where my shadow will be. Then, I move my paper very slightly and then trace it in pink, which is the color I want my quote to be. This way, you don’t even have to guess where your shadow is going to be. This could be really helpful if you are doing a type of shadow that is more complicated.
Tip #5 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The fifth tip is adding a shadow to monoline lettering. The trick with this type of hand lettering shadow is using a waterproof monoline pen. I like to use my Marvy Le Pen Flex brush pens because they are small brush pens. I love how with this shadow effect, the word stands out, and the shadow is just a subtle pop of color. If you want to make a thicker shadow, use a larger brush pen. The great part about making shadows with a waterproof pen is that you can go over your word and not worry about ruining it.
Tip #6 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The next way how to add shadows to hand lettering is by blending your shadows. I’ve seen several different variations of this on Instagram, and I think they’re all really cool! Once your hand lettering is dry, you can go in with any water-based pen you want to blend with. For this type of shadow, the most important part is using the proper type of paper for blending. I always use Bristol paper for any blending. When going with this shadow style, I use Karin markers because they have a lot of ink, which makes it pretty easy to blend since they do a lot of work. This is a really fun way to add something extra to your lettering!
Tip #7 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
Next, tip number seven is adding metallic shadows. The tricky part about this is that metallic pens are opaque, which means if you go over your word, the metallic shadow will cover up the word. However, I think a little shiny silver shadow looks so cool! You just have to be careful and keep a steady hand to give a fine line. Another cool metallic shadow is metallic on metallic using black paper. To give the metallic-on-metallic effect, I use faux calligraphy with my Karin markers in metallic colors. The nice thing about this is that if you accidentally go over your word, you can go back in after it’s dried and add some more ink to cover up any of your colors.
Tip #8 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The last three tips are a little different than shadows but still the same style of techniques. This next one is something you have probably seen me do a lot on my YouTube channel. You do your regular brush pen lettering with a thick downstroke and then add a line next to the downstroke, leaving space in between. I love that this one kind of hand lettering shadow effect looks like a stripe. Having that contrast of empty space is really eye-catching!
Tip #9 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
This next tip is a great way to start simple with hand lettering shadows. All you do is letter your word without very thin downstrokes. You could do monoline lettering if you want and then add a thick shadow just to the downstrokes. If you haven’t gotten the hang of where the shadows are supposed to go yet, you probably at least know where your downstrokes are. It’s almost like a faux shadow while you’re still practicing.
Tip #10 How to Add Shadows to Hand Lettering
The last type of shadow is a way to blend even more colors. I just added my shadow to the downstrokes in each letter. I used the color of what the next letter would be so that it would blend and seem like a natural flow of colors. Because I use Karin markers also with this style, I just let them blend on their own. For this, it is also best to use watercolor paper.
This is just the start of so many different types of shadows you can do. It really is crazy to me what types of things people come up with in really unique shadows. What other types of shadows have you tried?