Beginners drawing - Tones & shading

Tone This refers to the lightness or darkness of something. This could be a shade or how dark or light a colour appears.

Tones are created by the way light falls on a 3D object. The parts of the object on which the light is strongest are called highlights and the darker areas are called shadows. There will be a range of tones in between the highlights and shadows, these are referred to as mid-tones.


Shading is used to capture these different tones in a drawing. It helps to create an illusion of form in a 2D artwork. When shading it's important to think about the direction of the marks you are making as this can help to emphasise the form of the object.


Contrast means the amount of difference between the lightest and darkest tones. It should be combined with a range of mid tones. Contrast in tones can help create a dramatic artwork.

Study the objects you are drawing carefully to see where the lightest and darkest tones are. Remember that there may be several sources of light that will each affect the depth of tones. Try half closing your eyes, you will see that the extremes of tone become more obvious.

Take photos of work you have produced in colour and convert them to black and white to check your tones.

Look at the photos below, you can see how making a black and white copy of your work helps you to see if you have your tones right. Here it is very Sunny and mid-day, so there are very clear contrasts between the lightest and darkest areas.
Freya's walk

Showing the contrasts
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