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Guest Contributor: Sandra Strait on Shading for Translucence

Most of us are interested in learning more about drawing techniques and expanding our abilities beyond Zentangles. Here Guest Contributor Sandra Strait offers an excellent tutorial showing how to make an object appear translucent using pen and ink.

Sandra Strait

Sandra Strait

Shading for Translucence

Oddly enough, shading can imply light as well as shadow. The method I’m showing here can be used to imply dark glass, or eyes.

Translucence versus Transparency

A truly transparent object is clear, and you don’t see it all. For instance, you don’t see a clean window. A semi-transparent object seems ghostly, like a bubble. You see highlights, color and shadow, but you also see what is behind it.

A translucent object, such as darkly colored glass, is transparent enough to allow light to shine through, but you can’t see what is behind it.

In this example, the object on the left is semi-transparent, and the object on the right is translucent.

Transparent object beside Translucent objectSemi-transparency is more difficult, and I might tackle it another day.

Light Source

If you’ve studied drawing at all, you’ve seen advice about locating your light source. Don’t worry about it for tangling. That’s all you need to know on this subject, lol.

The Steps

The shapes don’t need to be exact. A roughly triangular or kidney bean shape works well. The shaded area should be approximately twice as large as the white spot.

translucence_stepsYou can shade with a pencil, but I recommend drawing lines, because then you can choose how much light seems to show through. The closer and darker the lines, the less light. The fewer and lighter the lines, the more light is shining through.


You can get various effects by changing the way you shade. In the example below, I shaded with a silver Sakura Gelly Roll Metallic Pen, and then added white Gelly Roll for the lightest parts.

Shading for Translucence

Shading for translucence is easy enough to do, but produces a very elegant effect.

Waffle World

Sandra’s Zentangle-inspired art entitled “Waffle World” featuring her translucence technique. Copyright the artist, used with permission.


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