Module - Topic 2

Introduce | Learn | Apply

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Topic 2: What is tone?

  • Smooth Shading

    Apply continuous tone, varying your pressure gradually to create smooth shade. Create a ‘wash’ with your pencil and make the transition from light to dark in one continuous stroke, using the side of your pencil may help in the initial coat. At random, vary the stopping and starting point of your strokes to avoid unwanted bands running through an area of shading. Repeat the action, until the values are dark enough, and you have shown the most delicate, subtle areas of tonal change with different pencils. Start with your lightest pencil, as it is easier to make your drawing darker than to make it lighter but do not force the pencil to make values out of its limits. Pushing your pencil to make darker shade will create a metallic sheen, very undesirable in areas of shadow or could cause dents in your paper. Smooth shading can use combinations of circular shading and contour lines to bring more depth into your drawing. Practicing this technique is imperative to create realistic shade, and allows you to use ultimate scope of tonal values with the highest degree of accuracy.

Three Children by Rembrandt pen and wash drawing

Three Children by Rembrandt

  • Tone means when you you add black to a color.
  • In art, the quality and depth of a color, particularly the gradations from light to dark.
  • A color may be ‘toned down’ to make it less vivid, or ‘toned up’ to make it more solid or brighter.
  • Tonality refers to the general effect of the tones of a painting, and tonal value describes the relationship of tone between one part of a painting and another
  • A tonal drawing is different to a line or contour drawing, as it includes the tones or shades of the objects being viewed.
  • In art, tone refers to the degree of lightness or darkness of an area.
  • Tone varies from the bright white of a light source through shades of gray to the deepest black shadows.
  • How we perceive the tone of an object depends on its actual surface lightness or darkness, color and texture, the background and lighting.
  • Tone is may be used broadly ('global tone') to denote the major planes of an object; realist artists use 'local tone' to accurately denote subtle changes within the plane.
  • Dictionary entries sometimes use define tone or as referring to color, but artists use hue or chroma to refer to this quality, preferring to use tone, tonal value, or value to describe lightness or darkness.

Woman at a Window by Rembrandt

Woman at a Window by Rembrandt

In the six drawings above by Rembrandt, look at the masterful simplicity of how he uses line to define space. He is considered one of the greatest artists in history and used simple pen and ink to accomplish these drawings combined with a little wash of sepia color. His understanding of line was masterful. Note how he simplifies his drawings to capture the essence of his subject matter.

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