How to Draw Seashells

Skill Level : 1 Beginner, 2 Intermediate

Medium : Pencil Drawing

Subject : Seascapes, Still Life

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Class Length : 1 hour 24 minutes

Avg Rating :

Silver Level Class

Class Description

Seashells are deceptively simply looking. In this class you will learn a quick way to draw them.

During the class you will learn:

1) How to draw an out of focus background
2) How to show sand
3) How to draw ribbed shells at various sizes
4) How to add weathered effects to the shells
5) and much more...

Latest Reviews

Hi Nolan, thanks for the lesson. I have enjoyed the challenge! i have some insights about the importance of the background before beginning drawing

will send the picture of my drawing tomorrow


Chaya Golan

Discuss This Class


  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    beautiful job Kathy :clap: :clap: :clap:
    Just be careful of quick tonal value changes over the surface area of the shells as that makes it look wavy :afro:

  • KathyKuz



    Nolan: Here is my drawing of the seashells. I enjoyed the class. There was a lot of values and angle changes.

  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    Think you have done a great job Chaya, good contrasts and textures, well done. :yippee: :yippee: :yippee:

    Here is the pic rotated :afro:

  • Chaya Golan


    Hi Nolan’

    do not know if you got my pre notes…so
    first thanks for the lesson. I have learnt a lot about the importance of the background.
    the pic is blue because of the light
    i could try to send another

  • Chaya Golan


    thanks Nolan, i read you comments about the sand. will try to change
    time spent to watch the video of the lesson was worth it.
    study a lot about the importance of the background

  • mea hamo pena

    mea hamo pena



    I think we both learned that drawing sand is not as easy as it looks. You did well.



  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    there we go, now the tonal values in the sand match the shells :afro:

  • Class Mac

    Class Mac


    Revised version with more darks in the sand

  • Class Mac

    Class Mac


    Thanks Nolan, he’s really happy with that. He had commented how well the others had done their sand so he will work on that part a bit more as you suggested.

  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    superb job Ryan, the ribs on your shells are like a photo :congrats:
    The time spent was worth it :w00t:

    What I do suggest it to add some more contrast to the sand in the foreground :afro:

  • Class Mac

    Class Mac


    Ryan really likes the sand in your one Mea.

    Here is his sketch of the shells. Took him a long time on this one.

  • PatriciaS


    Thank you Mea for your lovely comment which I really appreciate. Patricia

  • mea hamo pena

    mea hamo pena



    You aced this one. Your large shell does indeed look like a photo.

    Wow – you are good.



  • PatriciaS


    Thank you Nolan, I really appreciate your feedback. Will lighten the lines on the sun side of the little shell and darken the lines on the shadow side but won’t re-post as the alterations are not major. Patricia

  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    Wow Patricia, your large shell looks like a photo, amazing :congrats: :cloud9:
    The small shell – soften the lines on the sun side and darken the ridges on the shadow side, that will add more depth to the shell :afro: Compare the tonal values with mine

  • PatriciaS


    Here’s my shell drawing which was deceptively difficult but most enjoyable, thank you Nolan. All comments and critiques are happily received. Thank you. Patricia


  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    that is why I always spent those few minutes at the beginning of an artwork to figure out how to do it :afro:
    that means you have learned another lesson :yippee: :yippee: :yippee:

  • mea hamo pena

    mea hamo pena


    Thanks, Nolan.

    Looking back at the reference photo and looking at mine now, I see that I have to force myself to pre-think exactly how I will get from start to finish. Too many of my ribs are too wide at the bottom. Had I studied the ref photo more, I would have seen that.

    Got it now!!!



  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    looks great Mea – your sun is just more from the side than mine is :yippee: :yippee: :yippee:
    spotting small tonal value changes takes a lot of practice, but the more you draw and work on seeing them, the easier they become to spot, just keep at it, it takes brush miles unfortunately :afro:

  • mea hamo pena

    mea hamo pena


    Here’s my shell drawing. My shell ribs are not as good as they will be the next time I have to draw some. I didn’t really get the technique under control until the end. Will do better next time.

    Good lesson. Still tonal challenged.



  • mea hamo pena

    mea hamo pena


    I’ve gotten started on this shell drawing. Not as easy as it looked, but it will be good to learn the shell shading skill.

    Hope to finish this weekend.



Short Class Video

Class Tutorial

Drawing the background


Take a scrap piece of paper and cover it with graphite from a 6B pencil. Rub a soft cloth over the surface to pick up some of the graphite.

We are now going to use the cloth to draw with. Start by shading in the background. As you can see there isn't any detail, just a few shadings.

Drawing the sand-like effect


We can now also shade in the sand in the foreground. Put down a line and then often it towards the bottom of the page. By adding several of these lines at random places we create the illusion of the sea sand.

Drawing the basic outline of the shell


Now use an eraser to plot the shape of the large shell and use your cloth to get the basic shading in place. Do the same with the two smaller shells. We are just trying to establish their shape and position at this point.

Drawing the shading to form each rib


Now we will alternate between the eraser and the pencil to complete each shell. Vary the pressure on the eraser and pencil to create the shading formed by each rib. What you want to look out for is how quickly or slowly each rib fades lighter or darker. Then you also want to compare the tonal values to get a match.

Start adding shading to the seashells


This front shell is curved so get each rib lighter and lighter going to the left to make it look curved and indicate the sun is coming from the left. Make the area underneath the back shell ready dark to create a looking in effect.

Now lets move to the large shell, this one is the star of show so we will need to add more detail here and we will do this gradually. So start with the basics by getting the overall tonal value correct. You want the shell to look curved and its shape to be accurate.

Drawing the big ribbed shadings


The next most important detail is getting the ribs shaded in. Use your eraser to plot out the ribs. What is important here is to get the directions of these ribs correct. What is not important is getting each rib in the correct place. In other words the amount of ribs your shell will have is probably going to en up being different to the shell on the photo.

Drawing the kneaded eraser


Start with soft thin lines and then gradually lighten and widen them. If it starts broad and bright and then tapers darker and thinner on the photo then do the same on your drawing. I am using a pencil shaped eraser, you can also use a kneaded eraser, or even a regular eraser.

Refining the shadings on the seashells


With the highlights sorted you can use pencils to adjust and fine tune the valleys between each rib. Because the sun is coming from the left each valley will be darker on the left and lighter on the right.

The bottom area is in shadow so you can go quite dark there.

At the moment we have a perfect shell. Lets give it some character by adding dings and dents caused by tumbling around in the sea.

Adding some scratches to the seashells


The most prominent of these are the scratches. To draw them you need to notice that each scratch forms its own highlight and shadow so lift out the highlights and shade in the shadows. Now lets lift out and draw in a few more pock marks. And ensure the edge of the shell is well defined.

Lastly we can add the shadow cast by the shell onto the sea sand. This is darker against the shell and fades lighter to the right. And with that we have a beautiful shell drawing.

Final drawing

Nolan Clark

About Nolan Clark

Nolan Clark has been painting and drawing since 1996. He enjoys working in many mediums and styles, but realism is his favourite. He teaches drawing, painting as well as scratch board classes on the site.
Read more about Nolan Clark

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