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The Basic Cube Stencil

Updated on February 2, 2012

Orthographic View

This tutorial is a follow-up to the first in a series on how to create and use stencils for airbrush illustration. Please read Airbrush Stencils - They're Powerful Tools before beginning this tutorial. The finished product should look something like the image at right. An orthographic view can be constructed using only a compass and a straightedge. Orthographic is a word that means to "draw correctly". Its origin is Greek and comes to use from ancient mathematicians.

On a sheet of letter-size cardstock, draw a circle in the lower half of the page, and a little to the left. Leave your compass at this setting for use later.

Bisect the circle with a vertical line throught the center.

Place the point of your compass at the intersects of the vertical line and circle and draw arcs at top and bottom, that intersect the circle.

Now for the cut-lines of the cube. With a straightedge, draw connecting lines from the upper arc and circle intersects to the center point of the upper arc. Draw connecting lines from the upper arc and circle intersects to the center point of the circle. Draw connecting lines from the lower arc and circle intersects to the center point of the lower arc. Draw vertical lines that connect the circle intersects of the upper and lower arcs. Draw a connecting line from the center of the circle to the center of the lower arc. The cut-lines are indicated in red below.

Erase the construction lines and leave only the cut-lines. Number the stencil pieces and cut them out with a knife.

Use piece number 1 as a guide to draw the shadow. Place it to the lower right and trace around it. Finish the shadow shape by drawing a connecting line from the bottom of piece 1 to the bottom corner of the cube. In the image below, the shadow cut-lines are indicated in blue.

Replace piece number 1 and number the shadow and background pieces.

Follow the same technique as described in the sphere stencil tutorial, where this portion of the process is described in greater detail. Remove stencil piece 1 and paint it. Keep in mind the direction of the light source. The shadow is on the lower right, so the light source, of course, is from the upper left. The areas of each cube plane is lighter near the light source. Replace piece 1 and do the same for piece 2 and 3 and 4. Use a separate piece of cardstock to mask the surface that the cube sits on and paint in the background. The finished illustration should look a lot like the image below.


If you came here for a lesson on airbrush illustration, you got a lesson on geometry, history and vocabulary too. It's a good thing - to tie modern activities, like airbrushing, to their ancient roots. Euclid, the father of geometry, would be pleased to see his work proudly displayed on Tshirts.


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    • kenredd profile image

      kenredd 5 years ago from Panama City, Florida

      Thanks Jennie. I particularly liked the connection to geometry and ancient mathematicians.

    • profile image

      Jennie 5 years ago

      Interesting tutorial. I didn't know there was an easier way to make the perfect cube. I just learned that I'm incapable of making a geographically accurate cube without it.