Adding Shadows To Lettering – Shadow Number 3: Layered Stroke Shadows

Add Shadows To Your Lettering

Show Overlapping Strokes

Are you keen to learn how to make your lettering look layered? In this post we are going to add shadows to the different strokes in your calligraphy so make it jump off the page and look 3d! This is a great way to add illusion and depth to your work. Are you ready to get started? Let’s look at what you need first to make a layered stroke effect using shadows.


What You Need To Make A Layered Stroke Effect Using Shadows


Three Different Coloured Pens

The easiest way to learn about this effect is by using a monochromatic colour scheme. As in, use different shades of the same colour. When you are well practised in this type of shadow then you can mix and match with your colours and feel free to experiment, but when just starting out it’s best to stick with the simple colour scheme in order to focus on the shadows rather than on colours.

So grab a dark, medium and light version of the same colour scheme – such as yellow, orange and red, or dark blue, regular blue and light blue.

Pencil & Eraser

This is to help identify where the colours and shadows are meant to be going and to obviously erase all the pencil marks after.

Thick Paper

We are going to be adding a bunch of layers of colours on in the same spot on the page, so flimsy paper just won’t work. It will end up breaking and the ink will seep through. So I recommend something at least 250gsm or 80lb thick. Additionally, if you are using water-based markers, it would be an added bonus if you are able to use hotpressed (smooth) water-colour paper.

A New Perspective

So this isn’t really what to “grab” to start but for this technique, you will need to change your perspective on the light source. Often we decide where the light source is coming on the paper to create shadows, but for this particular effect, you will need to imagine the light source is your eyes, or from above.

Imagine the shining down on to the artwork… this should help you determine where the shadows will be.

Got what you need? Let’s get into it.

First Step In Making A Layered Stroke Effect Using Shadows: Write Your Word

Use the lightest colour pen you have and write your word.

Layered Stroke Shadow Step 01

As you write your word, keep in mind which strokes are created first OR the strokes that are thicker. These will be the strokes to be on the “bottom” when the shadows are created, with the strokes created last (or the thinner strokes) appear on top.

Look at where your strokes intersect and overlap, and decide where the shadows will be. You can mark these out lightly with a pencil if it helps.

Second Step In Making A Layered Stroke Effect Using Shadows: Apply Darker Colours As Shadows

The next step is to add the medium and darker colours and colour them over the top of the lighter colour, touching (but not on top of) the intersections. Let’s take a look at the intersections first. The shadows will never cross the path of the intersection, but will move from darker to lighter as you get further away from them.

Layered Stroke Shadow for Lettering

Add The Dark Colour

The darker colour goes closer to the intersections so we start there. Add a little bit of darker colour on top of the light colour but add it gradually… It’s easy to make it darker by adding more later.


Add & Blend The Medium Colour

The medium colour is meant to be a transition between the other two colours; helping the darker colour blend to the lighter colour.

So next to the darker colour (but further away from the intersection) add the medium colour on top of the light original stroke. The goal is to get the medium colour thinner, the further away it is from the intersection. Use this marker to blend it in with the darker colour.

Layered Stroke Shadow for Lettering


Add & Blend The Light Colour

The original pen can help you blend the medium colour to the light one. Add an extra layer of light colour on top of the edge of the medium colour and blend it out, further away from the intersection.

Layered Stroke Shadow for Lettering


Continue to blend the colours together until you are satisfied with the shadow. If you would like to, you can add a brown (that matches your colour palette) to the darkest part to make them even darker, which will intensify the shadow.

Layered Stroke Shadow for Lettering

 An Alternative Option In Making A Layered Stroke Effect Using Shadows

If you aren’t too good at blending and would like to practice an easier option, try simply using two colours that are really similar, only varying mildly in shade, such as a red marker and a slightly darker red marker.

This way you can add a subtle shadow to your lettering without blending too many markers together. If you are going down this road, write your word with your lighter colour, add a touch of the darker colour to the outside lines of the intersections, and blend that with the lighter colour.

Now it is Your Turn To Add Shadows To Your Lettering


Well done! You have finished this mini-crash-course in shadows.


I have added a worksheet for this particular style of shadow to the free resource library so make sure you download it to practice!

I would love to see what you have created so make sure you tag me (@cherrypearlcreative) in your final product posts! Practice as much as you can and you will make the most amazing lettering pieces. Explore new techniques and new colours, and keep creating!

If you don’t have access to the resource library yet and you would like to, make sure you sign up here:

Join The Cherry Pearl Creative Family

Get The Password to the Resource Library



The Resource Library is a relatively new space built for calligraphers and letterers to practice what they learn.

It’s full of worksheets on drills, flourishes, alphabets & fonts, and much more. The best part is, it will keep growing for the life of this blog and it’s completely free. Just sign up with your email address and the password will be sent straight to your inbox, as well as the occasional lettering tip, extra freebie and special surprise.



Don’t forget to PIN this to find it easily later:

Layered Strokes Shadows for Lettering - Cherry Pearl Creative

Add Shadows to Your Calligraphy Part 3: The Layered Strokes Shadow

Calligraphy and Lettering Supplies: Brush Pens and More

Hey! I’m Pearl Prisk

I’m a passionate mother, worshipper and creative that would love to help you unleash your creativity to the world.

Popular Posts:

Let’s Connect:

Sign Up For The Resources:

You May Also Like…