Drawing Negative Space

Drawing Negative Space - this simple yet effective drawing technique helps train your eyes to see the 3D world in a 2D way.

negative space


The spaces between the frames become the
negative spaces.

(below) A simple tea-pot handle makes a great negative space shape.

Notice how the negative space changes shape
when we look at it from a different vantage point.

In the example to the right, the shadow has been included as part of the "object".

negative spaces

What is negative space?

The spaces between and surrounding objects, not the objects themselves, are considered "negative" spaces. These negative shapes can help you draw an object accurately. Depending on what you label as "object" any given still life may have varying layers of negative shapes. Below, the red areas represent all possible negative spaces.

negative space 1-tree detail 2-the tree is the object 3-the tree and fence are objects 4-the tree, fence and leaves are objects 5-the tree, fence, leaves and sign are the objects.

How do I turn a 3d obect into a 2d shape?

When you begin a drawing, try not to identify the objects in your still life for what they are. ex: "I am drawing a tree or, I am drawing an egg".

Instead, look carefully at the spaces between and around the objects. ex: "The space where these two tree branches meet forms an upside down triangle or, the bottom of the egg has a different shape than the top of the egg".

How do I put that shape onto paper?

Take your time, erase, redraw. Begin by drawing one simple shape. As you feel ready, move on to more complex arrangements for drawing negative space.

Drawing Supplies:
All you need is pencil (or pen) and paper. Eraser and range of pencils are optional.

(below) The blue areas clearly define the negative spaces within, between and surrounding the still life.

don quixote

negative space

The final drawing is created by drawing each negative space shape separately.

You can compare shapes to each other to find their correct placement on the page.

Begin with a lighter pencil and make corrections as you go.

Once you are happy with your drawing, you can go over the lighter pencil with a darker pencil or fine tip marker to make it stand out.

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