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Pencil drawing tones & shadows

Drawing a simple still life of everyday objects, using H to 9B graphite pencils only.

For this project you will need;

  • 2H, H or HB pencil for sketching.

  • 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B or 9B pencils for shading.

  • Rubber

  • Sharpener

  • Blending stump (tourchon, paper blenders).

This project can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the amount of detail you want to add.

I took a photo of the still life and then edited it to a black and white image that popped out some of the tones.

Using H to HB pencils, measure and sketch your simple still life. Keep you lines light and remove all unwanted lines.

Using a B pencil (I used 8B, but you could use 2B first then work your way up through the B pencils) lightly rub the side of the lead (not the tip) over each of the objects. Remember to make your marks in the best direction for each of your objects. Use your finger or a blending stump to smooth out the graphite and blend gently.

Keep using the same method to build up layers and layers of tones and increase this on the darker areas. Remember that you are creating middle and dark tones.

Start using your rubber to take out the bright hi-lights and then rub back anywhere where your initial tones are slightly too dark. Use directional mark-making to add texture (slightly curved lines left to right on the cup) and create crisp or blurred edges depending on each objects texture.

Build up your very dark tones using the tip of your B pencils and blend with a blending stump to create dark tones and work into small areas. Keep your edges crisp and at the end go around the page removing any messy marks you may have made. You can put a clean piece of paper under your hand as you are working to keep your page clean if you want to.

I built up my tonal layers slowly and lightly so it took me about an hour and half. I could have continued working on this drawing for another hour at least! But I felt I’d captured everything I needed to practise.

Download the tutorial:

Tricia Johnson Pencil tones tutorial
Download PDF • 1.26MB

Share your finished project on the Student Chatroom!


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