As an adult, I still find magic and wonder in bubbles (and I’m not talking about the effervescent kind found in your favorite sparkling beverage). I love giant soap bubbles — like the kind you’d blow from a wand as a kid. They’re the kind you can pop with a poke of your finger and are fun to watch as they float in the wind.
Learn to capture the magic of bubbles by drawing them in two ways!
There are many approaches to drawing a bubble, and we’re going to examine two of them today. To do this, we’ll need:
- White or off white paper. I used paper specifically meant for drawing.
- Pencils with various weights and softness of graphite.
- White colored pencil
- White compressed charcoal pencil
This tutorial uses basic drawing supplies, but you can customize them however you wish. For the graphite pencils, I used three different weights: 3B (dark), HB (medium) and 2H (light). It’s good to get some variation.
Approach #1: Graphite on light-colored paper
In this method, we’re adding shading and form using a pencil. The white of the paper will be reserved for highlights.
Begin by drawing two or three circles on your page in various sizes. To make the shapes perfect, trace around a circular object.
Because a bubble is a sphere, we’ve got to treat it like a round orb. Since bubbles are fleeting things, it’s hard to reference them, so we’ll make up our own shading for the tiny circles. Start by drawing a series of lines that contour the outer edge of the circle. Add some overlapping lines and top it off with a few small highlights.
Next, we’ll start shading the bubbles. I began with the darkest values in the center and worked my way outward. The center of a bubble is darker than its outer edges because it is receiving the least amount of light. Use that a guide for how you shade your bubble.
You’ll see that there are a lot of fractured elements to this bubble — continue shading each part, getting progressively lighter as you work your way outward. As you do this, alternate your pencils. The darkest lead will be in the center while the harder, lighter graphite is for the outer edges.
To complete this drawing, make sure that you’ve left the brightest glints alone — they should be the color of the paper.
Approach #2: White pencils on dark-colored paper
With this method, we’re subtracting darkness using light, essentially adding highlights in rather than coloring them out.
Just as you did with the first approach, begin by drawing two or three circles on your page with your white colored pencil. Then, draw the same series of overlapping lines that contour the circle. Be sure to keep some areas for a few small highlights, too.
Now switch to the compressed charcoal pencil (it’s not messy, I promise!). Work inside the bubble near its outer edges — we’re not going to touch the center all that much since the paper is already dark. As you approach the outer edges, however, begin to lightly shade the fractured shapes of the bubble, with some of the dark paper still showing through. The closer you are to the edge, the harder you’ll press with your pencil. For the brightest highlights, make sure the paper underneath is not visible.
With compressed charcoal, you have the option to blend. I used my finger to smudge in places, which will give it a painterly look. If you’re adverse to getting your hands dirty, try using a blending tool instead.