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Using Shadows in Mosaics

Shadows are a very important part of replicating life and creating realism. If you are wanting to add this realism or a 3-D effect to your mosaics, you should consider creating shadows where appropriate.

Here are 4 examples where shadows have been creatively used:

Above is a waterlily free-form mosaic I created and went for the dramatic shadows on the right of the lily. They help to create a 3-D effect and make the lily look more real.

Gary Drostle's koi fish in "Fishpond" (below) are an excellent example of how shadows make his fish look so real. He uses shadows to give form to each fish and shadows to connect his fish to the pond and make you feel like you are looking down on them for great visual cohesiveness.

Another great example of using shadows is in this mosaic of an angel. This artist used different shades of colors to exemplify the folds in the fabric and in her wings.

One final example of using shadows is this artist depicting a very bright light coming from a manhole, and using dark colors to create shadows behind the bright colors he used for the light (below).

There are 2 types of shadows: cast and core. Cast is a shadow that is being virtually "cast" because the object is blocking the light, therefore, casting a shadow of itself. A core shadow is a shadow on the object itself. You can use core and cast shadows simultaneously as Drostle did on the shaded sides of the coy (core shadow) and on the bottom of the pond beneath each fish (cast shadow).

Creating shadows is somewhat challenging. Dark colored tesserae works well for representing shadowed areas and lighter colored tesserae works well for highlighted areas. You need to first determine where you want your light source to come from. Then, use perspective to create the correct angles, size and shape of your shadows. Plan ahead for incorporating shadows so you can use the right color combinations and perspectives for your shadows.


  • I very much enjoyed the article on shading. And that you have people willing to help me if I need it as I go along.

    Bonnie Doering
  • The ‘How To’ on shadows is most informative, thank you, you’ve broadened my understanding.


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