Making Candy Look Shiny

Making Candy Look Shiny

Have you ever wondered about drawing candy? If you have considered drawing candy, did the idea of making candy look shiny keep you from trying to draw it?

I have thought about drawing candy. I’ve even taken photos of various kinds of candy, but I’ve yet to try drawing it.

So I found this reader question both fun and interesting question:

How do you make M&Ms look shiny?

It also got me thinking more specifically about how to draw candy so it looked shiny and realistic.

Here’s what I decided.

Making Candy Look Shiny

The key to making candy look shiny is the same as making anything else look shiny. Whether you’re drawing M&Ms, water, or chrome, there are a few things you must do to make your subject look really shiny.

Strong Highlights

The best way to make candy or anything else look shiny is with strong highlights.

That’s because shiny surfaces are usually also hard surfaces (liquids being one notable exception.)

Highlights on hard surfaces tend to be stronger and bolder than highlights on soft surfaces.

At this cookie with M&Ms in it. Notice the highlights in the candies. They’re obvious, aren’t they.

Do you see obvious highlights in the cookie? No? There are highlights but they’re not as bright as the highlights on the candy because the cookie is soft. The light falling across it reacts to the surface in a different way.

So one sure way to make candy look shiny is by using strong highlights.

Strong Values

One of the most important things to get right in every drawing is the values. You absolutely, positively need strong contrast to make whatever you’re drawing look real. That means you need contrast between the lightest lights and the darkest darks.

But that’s especially true when drawing things with a hard surface.

Objects—including M&Ms—that have hard surfaces show values more dramatically than objects with soft surfaces. The same applies to smooth versus rough surfaces, by the way.

There is a full range of values in all those types of surfaces, but the harder and/or smoother a surface is, the more dramatic the shift between values appears.

Here are two forms of chocolate. On the left is schokoschaumkuss (a fancy, chocolate-covered marshmellow.) On the right is baking cocoa. The same basic substance, but with totally different surface textures.

Making Candy Look Shiny

Notice how different the value range is on each example.

The finished candy has a waxy look, with obvious, but somewhat muted highlights. The powdered cocoa has a good value range, but there really aren’t any clear highlights.

M&Ms have a hard, candy coating that makes them shiny (as well as keeping them from melting in your hand.) That hard, candy coating means that the values are quite strong and move rapidly from light to dark.

To draw shiny candy, you need to draw strong values that transition quickly from light to dark.

So how do you do that?

Strong Edges

Objects that have smooth surfaces, hard surfaces, or reflective surfaces also have values with fairly strong edges. There are exceptions, of course. The bigger and rounder an object is, the more gradual value transitions are.

But remember that we’re talking about M&Ms, which are round when viewed from above, but are flattened when viewed from the edge (as below.) The values around those edges are going to shift quickly.

Notice the red M&M in the upper left. The transition from highlight to shadow is more gradual because the transition happens on the flat side of the candy.

On the green M&M and blue M&M at the center, the transition is quite abrupt because it’s on the edge of the candy. You still have highlight, middle value, and shadow, but in a much narrower area.

All three of these things—highlights, values, and edges—work together. You can mimic shininess by getting just one of them right. But to draw candy (or anything else) that looks truly shiny, it’s important to draw the highlights, values, and edges as accurately as you can.

Those Are My Thoughts on Making Candy Look Shiny

I confess that I have yet to actually draw candy (mostly, I suppose, because it doesn’t last long enough for me to take pictures of!)

But these are methods I’ve used to make other things look shiny or reflective. I’m sure they’ll work for drawing candy, too.

I talked a lot about surface textures in answering this reader’s question. I wrote in more detail on that subject in this article for EmptyEasel. It’s good information for drawing all kinds of objects.

And now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll treat myself! All this candy is making me hungry!

Got a question? Ask Carrie!

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