Becoming skilled in Value Drawing is the secret to making your drawings POP with realism.

Doing a value drawing helps you...

  • to learn to control your pencil
  • to train your brain to preform automatically
  • to see subtle changes in values or tone

Before you get to the actual value drawing exercises, you'll need to get, or make, a value scale.

Value scales represent the amounts of lights and darks that might be in your drawing.

Here Are the Things You'll Need for This Five-Value Scale Drawing Lesson...

  • A piece of paper (copy paper will do)
  • A soft (B) grade pencil
  • Something to blend with (tortillon, tissue, etc,)
  • A kneaded eraser
  • Your newly created value scale
  • A flat, round, object, such as the lid from a small or medium sized jar

When you get skilled at using the five values, your images will have the illusion of 3 dimensions, thus making them much more realistic.

A tried and true method of practicing your value exercise is to draw and shade a sphere, cone, cylinder and cube.

Many of the things that you draw will include these basic shapes.

Before you get to the actual exercises, you'll need to get, or make, a value scale.

Value scales represent the amounts of lights and darks that might be in your drawing.


Making a Value Scale

a five value scale
  1. Draw five squares, connected side-by-side.
  2. Using a soft (B) pencil, shade in the first square so that the value is black.
  3. In the second square, shade so that the value is lighter than the first.
  4. The third box will be shaded even lighter...this will be your mid-tone.
  5. Shade the fourth box so that it is just gray enough to see.
  6. The fifth box can be left as it is...this is the highlight value.

Once you have made a satisfactory value scale, let's go over it.

The five values represent the five types of shadows that a drawing might have in it.

  1. The Cast Shadow- This is the darkest dark. It is the shadow that is cast by an object on a surface that it is laying on. The cast shadow is the darkest where the object and surface touch, and will get lighter as it gets farther away from the object.
  2. Shadow Edge- This value is on the opposite side of the light source. It is not the edge of the object.
  3. Mid-Tone- This is what the actual color of the object is, without any effects from light or shadow.
  4. Reflected Light- This is the light that is seen around an object, usually between the cast shadow and the shadow edge. It's the light that is bouncing off of the surfaces around the object. This value is never bright white. When drawing in color the reflected light will contain the color of the object or surface closest to the object your drawing.
  5. Full Light/Highlight- This is where the light source hits the object at full strength. It is usually shown by the white of the paper. All the areas of gray around the full light should be blended so that there is a smooth, gradual transition between them.

Value Drawing Exercise: Sphere

a sphere showing the five value scale

During this drawing lesson I will be referring to the five-value scale using a number in parentheses..."(3)". This will help you when I refer to a part of the drawing such as the "cast shadow".

Take the round template you've chosen and place it in the center of your paper. With a pencil, draw very, very, lightly around it.

You may need to take the kneaded eraser and tap it on the outline you have just drawn. You want the line just barely noticeable. If it's too dark, it will look more like a disc, rather than a sphere.

Decide where your light is coming from, and chose the highlight (5) point...this is where you want the white of the paper to show through. Don't place it directly in the center...usually it is put at the top right or left side. Try to not get any graphite in this area during the shading process.

The cast shadow (1) will be placed opposite of the light-source. You can add it now if you like.

At the side farthest from the highlight (5) start lightly putting in some tone.

"What is tone?" you ask?

It's kind of the same as value. My understanding is that the word tone is used when talking about how light or dark a color is. However, some people use the two terms interchangeably.

Moving along...

Shade your circle until everything but the highlight is covered in a mid-tone (3). This is the object's "color" without any effects from lights or shadows.

You can now use your blending tool to soften out the graphite. Some artists can do this activity without the blending. To do this, you would need precise control of your pencil. You can always try and do your next sphere this way.

We want to focus now on the shaded side of your sphere.

Start shading the shadow just a little above the edge of the circle...this is where the reflected light (3-4) will be. Add layers of graphite until the value of your shadow is where you want it to be. Blend it out between the layers to keep the transition between the shadow's edge (2) and the mid-tone (3) smooth.

If at any time you need to lighten up the highlight (5), or the reflected light (3-4), Just lightly tap your kneaded eraser on those spots.

That's It!!

Even if you're really good, you should do this sphere exercise several times...in fact...you should do this activity all during your artistic journey.

Value drawing is a really good way to keep your eyes trained to see the subtle graduations of light and shadow. Have fun!


Here is another site with some info on value


Home> Tutorial Page> Value Drawing Page

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