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Lesson Details

In this lesson, you’re going to learn how to draw a simple optical illusion called the impossible circle. Let’s get started!

Step 1 – Draw Basic Circles

The first step is to draw a circle. Obviously, you can use a compass or a circle template to do this. But I’m going to show you a neat little trick to draw a perfect circle free-hand.

The way this works it that we are going to basically turn out hand into a compass.

First, mark an anchor point that will be the center of your circle. We will use this knuckle here as the pivoting point and place it on the dot.

Impossible Circle 1

Hold your pencil firmly so it doesn’t move and gently turn the paper with your other hand.

Impossible Circle 2

And you should end up with a perfect (or near perfect) circle.

Impossible Circle 3

Next, we will draw a smaller circle inside this one. To do this, I will pivot off my finger. Of course, everyone’s hand is different so use whatever position is comfortable for you.

Impossible Circle 4.5

Then mark the north and south point of the smaller circle. Now draw 2 spiral-like curves from these points to large circle. There spirals can be a bit tricky so don’t be afraid to erase and re-draw them as many times as you need to get it just right.

Impossible Circle 4

Step 2 – Shading Your Impossible Circle

And now let’s add some finishing touches to this drawing.

I’ll add a gradation in these 2 corners with a highlight in between. I’ll use an 2H & HB pencil to put in the base tone.

Impossible Circle 5

I want to lines of the circle to follow the pattern of the gradation as well, so I’ll lighten them with a kneaded eraser and then darken them as need during shading. The lines will be light where the shading is light and dark where the shading is dark.

Next, we’ll put in the same gradation on the other side.

Impossible Circle 6

Now I’ll use a 2B & 4B pencil to darken ends of the gradation even more. 

Impossible Circle 7

Step 3 – Adding The Shadow

And lastly, I want to make this circle look as if it is pop up from the page a bit. To do this, we’ll have to put in some shadows. Let’s imagine that the light source is coming from above. In which case, there will be a shadow cast in this area of the outer circle and in this area of the inner circle.

Impossible Circle 8

One thing to remember is that the shadow will be darkest when it’s near the object and gradually lighten as it move into the light. It’s important to capture this gradation.

Impossible Circle 9

Again, I’ll use a 2B pencil to put down a base tone first.

Now I’ll use a q-tip to soften the edge of the shadow and smooth out the shading. 

And then I’ll use a 4B pencil to put in the really dark shadow right near the object.

And we’re all done!

Impossible Circle (Final Drawing)

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