Using The Value Scale in Drawing

by Pelle

Etching by Anthony van Dyck

Etching by Anthony van Dyck

I've noticed that many submissions—if not all of them that I've seen—do not use the value scale at all. This is a pity because some of these drawings could be brilliant if the artist knew a little about the value scale.

In the traditional art academies, the students training consisted entirely of the use of this value scale. In these academies, the student was taught to use charcoal solely who carefully sharpened his charcoal on sandpaper.

The charcoal lines were rubbed with the finger but mostly with a tortillon (like a paper stump) to prevent smudging his work with dirty fingers.

With this method, you would use values (sometimes called tones) from white to black and about 12 shades of gray in between.

Take note of this drawing with a full range of values, the white being the paper. Do not use a smooth paper if you are using charcoal, use a semi rough surface or one with a "tooth."

Try this exercise: get a very light colored object like a box and place a strong light above it but to one side so a deep shadow is cast on the opposite side of the box. Take note of the darkest values which should be black, then note the lightest which will be you paper (no charcoal there.) Now fill in carefully all the intermediate steps so you have at least 12 values showing the three dimensions of your drawing.

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