top of page

Creating Depth: A Beginner's Guide to Making Basic Shapes Three-Dimensional

When you're making a map, sometimes you need to give it a little depth, so here's a practical, beginner's guide to making basic shapes appear three dimensional. I'm going to start with a square, because it's the easiest to learn, I think. It's also great because a square will show you the general principles of making any shape 3d. Though you will have to employ different tactics for something like a sphere or pyramid, the approach to shading and light will remain the same. So, without further ado, let's get started.

Step 1: Draw a basic square

Draw a square on your paper or digital device, whichever you are working on. Leave plenty of room around the edges. You may want to work in light pencil if you're working on paper as we'll be rubbing lines out later.

Step 2: Draw another square, but slightly offset from the original square

I drew my second square in blue for clarity, and I moved this diagonally backwards, in the direction of the arrow. It does not matter which way you move the square, as long as you move it diagonally. See the image below for an illustration of the directions you can move it in.

Step Three: Connect the Corners

Draw a line from the corners of your first square to the matching corners of your second square. I've illustrated this in red. Now comes the tricky part:

Step 5: Identify the lines you need to rub out

You now need to imagine this shape as a 3d box that you cannot see through. So, you would not be able to see some of these lines. Imagine that you cannot see any of the lines that bisect your original square. These are the dotted lines below. And these are the lines we're going to rub out.

It's important to note that once you have the hang of adding those directional lines (here in red), you will not need to keep drawing the shapes one on top of the other and rubbing lines out, you will simply be able to imagine it, and be able to apply the directional lines to most shapes, but I wanted to show you the simplest way to make a shape three dimensional, so that you can get to grips with the theory first.

Once you've rubbed them out, your boxes should look like this:

Step 6: Adding in the shading

You can go right ahead and add in the shading on the edges of your new boxes. You can add it in any way you like: crosshatching, uniform colour, shading, or using diagonal lines as I have done.

But if you fancy giving yourself an extra challenge, you can imagine that there is a light source. I decided to imagine that light was coming from the top left hand corner, and drew in the rays to illustrate my point.

The key point here is that there will only be shade in the places where the cube is darkest. i.e. the places that the light does not reach, so I had to take out some of the shading.

And there you have it! My boxes, all three dimensional cubes born out of a simple square.

If you're following my How To Map series, then you'll need these tips in the coming weeks, for creating your title block. And if you're not then I hope this has been helpful in some way. Leave me a comment down below to let me know how you got on following the blog, if it was helpful for you, and if there is anything else you would have liked me to include or expand on. This is my first time creating a blog like this and I'd love to have your feedback!

As always, thanks for reading!


17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page