Step-by-step: How to create tone and tonal blending by Emma Wilde

How to create tone and tonal blending by Emma Wilde

Tone is all about creating harmony, be it in art or in music. Tone can be used to create the illusion of form or a sense of depth and distance in a picture. It is widely believed that using a broad selection of shades makes creating tone difficult but, if you know how you’re viewing the image and where the location of your light source is, tone can be achieved simply by study of your image.

Using graphic pencils, ranging between a hard 9H to a soft to 9B, you can create a selection of tones simply by moving your pencil in a certain direction or by how hard you push the pencil. This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to create tone using Derwent new Graphic range.

Firstly, using a HB Graphic pencil, draw out a selection of simple shapes, for example a sphere, a cylinder and a cube. At this stage, the shapes need to be 3D, so make your shapes look like a ball, a can and a dice.



Secondly, in front of those draw a curved line, beginning at the bottom of the ball and end three-quarters of the way across your cylinder. Then draw a line coming from your cube, beginning at the corner facing you and ending at the edge of the paper, at around a 75 degree angle. These lines will form the constraints of your shadows.


Next, we’re going to add some more shape to the sphere.

Take the 6B pencil and, working from the edge opposite your light source, press hard and drag the pencil back towards the direction of the light in soft curved lines for about a third of the shape. Due to the pressure of the pencil on the paper, this will create some dark lines.


Continue where your 6B lines finished and, using a 5B pencil, continue the contour lines across the middle of the sphere. Bending the lines slightly will add definition to the sphere.

Then, take a 4B pencil and continue the contour lines towards the bottom of the sphere. The sphere gains shape as you go down in shades from 6B to 5B to 4B and, by bending the lines slightly, gives the impression of curvature.


Moving onto the cylinder, use a secondary piece of paper to cover the right hand side of the sheet. This acts as a mask to help you get a neat line as you start to shade so the mask should run directly down the right hand side of your cylinder.

Creating curved horizontal lines approximately a centimetre in length with a 3B pencil, work from the right hand edge across. Ensure that you’re working from top to bottom with the pencil as the top corner is further from the light.

From here, we will work down in sectioned panels so in the next panel use a 2B pencil in the same way. The pencil lines will seemingly get smaller as you’re working from right to left. There’s no need to worry about making each section exactly a centimetre in length, as light doesn’t work in measured panels!



Work your way down from the third panel using a B pencil to the fourth panel with a HB pencil and then finally the fifth panel with the F pencil. The graded tones in curved panels will help create the illusion of a cylindrical object.



You can then work in the same way for the lid of the cylinder, with strokes going from left to right, as the light will hit the top differently than the curvature on the main surface.


Cube: H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 7H, 7B

For our cube, use an H pencil on its flattest edge to work in horizontal strokes. Using the flat edge will create broader strokes but the darkest tone. As the right hand side of our cube is furthest from the light, this is where the heavier shades will need to be.

fig-6      fig-7

From there work up 3 grades to a 4H and work in exactly the same way to create the mid tone on top of the cube.

Finally, another 3 grade movement to a 7H can work in vertical lines to create the lightest side of the cube.

Remember those lines that we created early, stemming from our shapes? These were our shadow lines!

As we’ve created solid images, we’re going to need a dark shade. The soft nature of a 7B will suit this task and will be suitably dark here, unless your light source is fading.

And finally…

The strokes are best to work away from the light source and can lighten slightly as we get to the edge of our shadows. The nearer the shadow is to the object, the darker it will be. You may want to work into a 6B shade as we get nearer the edges of our cylinders shadow.

Now we’ve got our shapes and their accompanying shadows. Use a 9H and work in horizontal marks to create a light foreground in front of the objects. If your shading on your shapes are still looking a little blocky, you can use a 9H or a blending stub to create some smoother definition.


Now, to make your shapes stand out from the background, use your darkest pencils, a 9B.

From the right hand side work around the objects, in horizontal strokes, pressing quite hard to create a dark background, change to an 8B half way across as you begin to get nearer your light source.

The more grades you use, the better you work them into each other and the less likely someone is to point out the joins, the better your image will be.

It’s best to keep experimenting to create mixtures in shape, tone and definition.

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