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Dear Mitch,

I just found your site because I was trying to find out how to draw a 3d pyramid and a 3d cube, and what you said really helped! 

So I was wondering if you could tell how to draw a 3d sphere (like a ball)? 

I tried to find it on the internet but haven't really found anything yet.  So it would be really cool!  

Hope you can!!

Thank you, 

Byron C.

Saint Albans, UK


Dear Byron, 

A "3d sphere"?


But you should know that all spheres are '3d', because that's part of what it means to be a "sphere"! (By the way, in case a reader is not familiar with the abbreviation '3d', it stands for "three-dimensional", which just means that the thing being discussed is not flat (like a sheet of paper) but instead has three dimensions, which are often called "height", "width" and "depth".

(By contrast, something flat, like a sheet of paper, has only two dimensions, the height and the width.  Although... if that sheet of paper has some thickness to it, then, well... it can sort of jump into the category of things that are 3d).

What I think you mean is: How do you make a drawing of one really look three-dimensional?

It is not difficult, but there is one tricky aspect: unlike the cube and the pyramid you mention, a sphere does not have any edges or corners or points that help to make it easy to depict on paper, nor easy to describe in words on a website like this.  Still, here goes... 

First, until you become very practiced at it, it is best to use a pencil and not a pen.  As you will see, several of the important steps in drawing a sphere will be much easier to do well with a pencil.

O.K. Now, on a sheet of paper larger than the sphere you hope to create, draw a circle. 

Try to make your circle as round as you can (maybe trace a coin or bottle cap that is about the size you want). Oh, and don't forget that bottle caps come in just about every size you could want, from the small plastic ones for bottled water to the large ones for pickle jars, and the huge caps atop cans of paint, etc. 

Also, it is best to make your circle somewhere near the center of your paper, or at least close enough so that there is enough extra room around it to do the things on the rest of the sheet of paper that I will now describe:

Since, as I said, there are no easy helping identifying points or edges as there was for the pyramid and the cube, the best way to turn your circle into a sphere (ball) is to add some things to it that real three dimensional things have.  For example, give it a shadow.  To do that all you have to do is pick a point where you are going to imagine the light in the picture is coming from, and be consistent about leaving the part of your sphere that is closest to that light source as 'light' (white, if you are using white paper), and darkening the sphere in a gradual way until it is darkest in the area that is blocked from the light by the other part of the sphere.  (If you look at a ball, for example, even if it has tons of light being shined on it, like a volleyball on a beach blanket at the beach on a sunny day, you will notice that the line of the ball's bottom (the part it happens to be resting on at that particular moment) is a dark line, or at least a line darker than any other part of that ball.  Why? Because no light can get UNDER the ball, between the ball and the blanket, and although we cannot see that spot, we can see close to that point, and there we will see the beginnings of the hidden darkness!

Also, using just a pencil on a white or light-colored sheet of paper, people often comment that there is only so much you can make the very light part of the sphere stand out as light, because the paper all around it is already white, and light.  BUT...

But you CAN!  Here's how:  take some extra time to shade the blank area around the ball, especially around the area that you want to look light.   There, shade the background as dark as you can.

Finally, if you give your sphere a context to help the viewer get the idea, such drawing a table that the sphere is sitting on, if your table looks 3d, the round thing on it is probably not just a "circle". 

Like most activities worth doing, drawing ANYTHING takes practice.  And until you have mastered the drawing of spheres, if you draw one that you don't feel satisfied is convincing enough to get the viewer to see it as a sphere, try doing what they do in a lot of math books:  under the illustration write one word, "SPHERE".

That should do it. 

Hope this helps,


P.S.  Almost forgot:  To draw a sphere (or to draw anything, for that matter), it's always a good idea to have a real one to look at – even one as small as a gumball or marble.  Observe how light makes it appear the way it does.  Then try to reproduce what you see.  Good luck!  And have a ball!