How to… move from using lines to using planes

Hello folks! This week we’re bringing you a quick tutorial on a key aspect of capturing three-dimensional forms on paper and bringing them to life.

The human eye is partly geared towards detecting edges and using them to piece together a perceptual jigsaw, with the brain filling in the gaps. This is why when we look at a large blank area of uniform colour and brightness we often imagine we see details and forms in it – the brain is trying to fill in the blank space and inevitably makes mistakes doing so. The natural instinct when drawing is to reproduce this bias towards edges by tracing the form of the figure with lines, but most of these lines do not appear in real life – what we are seeing is the sharp transition from one plane to another. A plane is a flat or near-flat surface in three dimensional space, and the differences in colour and brightness of these various planes are what make up 3D shapes. Moving from lines to planes is a key step in developing more realistic and life-like pictures:


The next time you’re sketching a face or figure, try focusing on the different planes represented in the form, and filling them in with different shades to bring out the solidity of the shape. The human figure can be roughly divided up into various planes, and using a strong light source from a particular direction helps to emphasise this by casting different levels of shadow on different planes in the body.

planes 2

We hope you find this useful! As ever, here’s a selection of your sketches from the last class, hope you enjoy them and see you next time 🙂

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