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Pencil Drawing - Line and Tone

Updated on January 17, 2014

Pencil Drawing - Tutorial No. 2

This is the second pencil drawing tutorial in our painting and drawing course and this is designed to explore further the quality of line and tone produced by the pencil. Colour is excluded, to some degree, by setting up a white only still life and we are going to create three drawings: two line drawings and one tonal drawing.

When carrying out these pencil drawings, do have your exercises from the last tutorial open at your side so that you can remember the rich range of lines, tones and textures that you created. You will also remember how hard you worked to create an exact range of tones.

Good luck!

This work by Barbara Walton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Please note that all images, unless otherwise attributed, are the property of Barbara Walton

Drawing in Pencil Using Line and Tone

Three exercises to help you to explore the nature of pencil a bit further

In Tutorial 2 we made a simple start with pencil, exploring the range of pencils from hard to soft, the many different qualities of line and different ways of 'shading' or creating tone. You'll be well on your way with your sketchbook, looking around you with new eyes, making notes and enjoying the visual world.

I'd like you now to carry out three exercises:

1. Make a line drawing of your still life; no tone at all

2. Make a line drawing, but this time draw the spaces between the objects, and around the objects

3. Make a tonal drawing using just tone. No lines this time.

Want to Buy An Excellent Little Drawing Textbook? - This is a very good start!

Drawing Handbook
Drawing Handbook

This little hand book really takes you through the basics of drawing - how to use a pencil, how to set up your easle - a lovely book to use, to keep and treasure.


Want to Know More About this School of Art?

Visit the art school reception desk for more information

To go to the reception desk click on the Reception Desk sign below.

Keeping in touch - these are the two key sites:

The List Of Lessons This is simply an index of the Projects, lessons and other modules that go to making up this course.

'The Common Room' A facebook group where I'll be posting links and you can meet other students for chat and support.

Set Up An All-White Still Life - They can be any objects that you have lying around

Make the still life fairly complex but not so complicated that you give yourself too much work. I've used several objects which I've chosen so that I can carry out the project: line drawing, drawing between objects and tone drawing.

Can I also ask you to include some objects that are round and arrange them so you have an 'elipse', the oval shape you see when you look at a cup, for example, from an angle other than directly above or from the side. You can see the elipse of the top of the cup in my still life. This is for use in the next tutorial, How To Draw an Elipse.

Try to put the still life somewhere where you can keep it for a bit of time, as I'd like to continue with it in the next couple of projects. If space is an issue you can make yourself a small still life with egg cups etc.

(If you can't keep your still life set up somewhere, don't worry, but do try to complete each drawing without moving it!)

If you can, set yourself up with a proper studio easel, a drawing board and a A2 sized cartridge paper. Adjust your easel so that you can see your paper at the same time without turning your head. I'll cover this more thoroughly later in the course.

Project No. 3

Pencil drawing: line and tone

1. Line Drawing

No tone at all!

Produce a drawing using only line. No tone, or 'shading'. Remember the line exercises you did in Project 1 where you drew as many different lines as possible using a range of pencils from the hardest to the softest? Keep these in mind. The projects are not there to complete and forget. Keep your sketchbook forever at your side. Use that range of line.

You might not want to use all those pencils. You may, for example, choose a hard pencil to suggest the 'whiteness' of the still life, or the darkest to express your fustration with the exercise. In either case, be aware of the type of line, quiet, delicate, expressive, vicious - whatever - but NOT boring.

2. Draw the Spaces Between Objects

Again, line only

I'm guessing, of course, but if you hadn't read down this page, or you haven't been given this exercise before, I expect that in exercise one, you would have drawn around each object. This is the natural way that we see, (remember 'Art and Illusion' by Gombrich?).

However, drawing is hard for most people, and we don't always get it right. One way to check a drawing is to check the negatives, ie the spaces between objects. If that shape is wrong, then the drawing is wrong.

This time, produce another line drawing, and try concentrating on the shapes between the objects to build up the drawing.

3. Make a Tonal Drawing in Pencil

This time tone only and no lines

Remember the tone exercises you did in Project 1? Now is the time to get those eyes screwed up and to think about the exact tonal relationships. Make sure that the darkest tones in your still life are the darkest tones in your drawing. (Screwed up eyes again!). This time don't worry too much about getting everything in the right place, or shapes etc. It is enough this time to get those tones in the correct 'order'. Light to dark.

The reason that I've asked you to set up an all white still life is to eliminate the tones of colour. We'll come to that later on.

Post Your Drawing in the Common Room

Se what others have done

When you've finished, post your drawing in the facebook group 'The Common Room'. This way you can see what everybody else has done and engage in a bit of supportive and positive feedback and criticism.

Part of being an artist is to exhibit your work and listen to what others say about it. You need to develop confidence in your work, and a thick skin. Listen to good advice and don't be hurt if people don't like what you do.

Rembember, that people hated Monet's work, Van Gogh, Constable, Whistler - in effect, most of the really good artists were ridiculed. Thank goodness they took no notice!

What You Should Have Achieved

If all went well!

Firstly you should have a nice line drawing, with lively, interesting and probably varied marks - remember project 2?

Secondly you will have practiced looking at shapes between objects and start to think about your drawing as a series of interlocked shapes on a piece of paper rather than a jug, plates, garlic etc

Thirdly you should have carefully considered and checked the tonal range of your still life and should have tried to record these whilst creating attractive and lively textures.

How did you do?

Feel free to leave a message in the comments box below.

Where in the World Am I? - In Limousin, deep in the heart of rural France

We have a B&B, holiday cottage and run painting holidays and courses in Limousin, South West France. Contact us by e-mail at or have a look at


get directions

Are You Interested in Drawing, Painting and the Arts? - I'd love to hear from you

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    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      4 years ago from France

      @LluviaDeArte: Let me know what became of the blank canvas, LluviaDeArte. Thanks for leaving a message and so pleased you 'drew' inspiration from this article.

    • LluviaDeArte profile image


      4 years ago

      Yes, this inspired me so much, thank you for writing this. Now I want to go and take care of that blank canvas.

    • futurefocus57 profile image


      6 years ago

      I love to draw...time to get the lead out.

    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      @GOT LM: Many thanks, GOt, for calling by.

    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      @SimplyTonjia: Thanks for calling by Tonjia. Looking forward to having a look at what you're up to!

    • GOT LM profile image

      GOT LM 

      6 years ago

      Nice work.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A triple feature! Oh, wow, I certainly look forward to seeing everyones efforts; including my own. Thanks for sharing this lens.


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