Carol Lakomiak's Astrosketching Tutorials - the Moon

Carol Lakomiak, veteran observer, BBC Sky at Night magazine's astrosketching columnist, and astrophotographer, shares her advice on how to draw what you observe.





Using a B pencil and a light touch, roughly outline the main features, except for the shadowline - that's in the next step. For now, concentrate on the crater outlines, central peaks, the borders between crater floors and their internal walls, and any other borders between different shades of grey. Also include any terracing slopes you might see on the inside walls of the craters. This is the foundation of your sketch, so take your time.


The terminator crawls along the Moon's equator at 1/2 lunar degree per hour, and shadowlines are constantly on the move. That's why it's important to use an 8B pencil and 'lock' your shadows now. Locking your shadows will prevent confusion during the rest of the sketch as the shadows drift along. For best results, try to complete this step in about 10 minutes or so. When you're done, notice the depth that the shadows added to your sketch.


Using a 2B pencil, lightly shade the crater floors by laying your pencil nearly horizontal to the paper and gently rubbing the flat side of the exposed graphite on it.


To blend the crater floors, use small circular motions with a blending tool (tortillon or blending stump). You'll notice that the blending process creates a soft look. This is because the blending tool is pushing the graphite from the surface of the paper into its 'tooth' or texture.

With the same technique and pencil used to draw the crater floors in Step 3, frame the crater group with a 'halo' and blend it the same way you blended the crater floors. Be very careful not to pull any of the 8B graphite into this outer area. If it accidentally happens though, work the tip of the kneadable eraser to a point and dab the 8B graphite off of the area.


In this step you'll be 1) blending border lines, 2) creating more depth, and 3) adding outer rim shadows:

  1. First, blend the inner terrace slope lines drawn in step one, use circular motions with the tip of a small, clean blending tool. The best way to clean blending tools is by dragging them across sandpaper or an emery board;
  2. Look at the vertical oval shadow on the right side of the bottom crater in Step 4, and notice how flat it looks. Now look at the same area in Step 5 and you'll see that it appears to be sloping. To create this sloping illusion, simply pull some of the darker graphite into the lighter area with the blending tool;
  3. The craters illustrated here are sunlit from the right side, which means their elevated rims are casting slight shadows on their left outer slopes. To illustrate these shadows, you need to slightly darken the sloped area. This is easily done by applying a very light amount of 2B graphite to the sloped area, using the technique in Step 3. Then with a clean blending tool, use small circular motions to blend the graphite and create the slope.



Art Materials


Acknowledgements: many thanks to Dave Chapman for suggesting to Carol that we could host her tutorials on, and to Carol for graciously agreeing. All text and images copyright Carol Lakomiak.


More on Lunar Sketching

1. Lunar Sketching, Raymond R. Thompson (Toronto), JRASC 56, 189 (1962).

2. Observing and Drawing the Moon (Astronomy Toronto, Episode 31)
Amateur astronomer Jillian Buriak discusses with host Randy Attwood her interests in observing and drawing the Moon. (February 1985, 30 minutes)


Observing and Drawing the Moon
Last modified: 
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 11:49am