Tonal Values – eggs exercise

One of the biggest challenges in drawing is to take a three dimensional object and give it depth and form on a flat piece of paper.

Observing the areas of light and dark in your subject and understanding the ‘tonal values’ in between can really help you capture realism and depth.

‘Value’ is a term that refers to the lightness and darkness of a colour. It is really useful to practice sketching ‘value’ studies where you are using only pencil or charcoal so you can see how light, and the absence of it, effects the objects you sketch. In the Cowes Library Drawing Group on Thursday we looked at eggs, how light falls across them and how we can use our pencil to capture those changes on paper and make them look three-dimensional.

“When we draw we want to mimic the way light falls on form to create the illusion of three dimensionality”  The Drawing Source

Blocking in.

By blocking in all of your drawing using light lines you can make sure you are happy that everything is looking correct before you soften and darken your lines and start to add tone. I block in outlines and shadow shapes at this stage so I’m confident I know where my drawing is going.


“A carefully measured line drawing locks in accurate proportions forming a solid foundation for rendering tone”  Juliette Aristides ‘Lessons in Classical Drawing’

Starting to shade

Look at the darkest areas in your composition. They should be the shadows. But notice there are all different sorts of shadows here. Cast Shadows – darker and cast by the objects that are being lit, and Form Shadows – shadows that fall across the objects themselves as they turn away from the light. If you squint at your objects you may also see lighter areas in your shadows. Light tends to bounce around and it may have reflected back on to areas you originally thought were one tone. You can see that here with the darker sides of the eggs!



Mid Tone

This is about 2.5 hours in, and I can see light and shaded areas that I didn’t even notice at the beginning! Now I’m looking at areas of ‘mid-tone’ and trying to capture how the light changes as the eggs and fabric fall away from the light source.

In 1907 Denman Ross came up with the 9-step value scale to help artists see the nuances of tone. It’s a helpful tool to distil the complex idea of ‘light’ into a practical artistic tool. You can have a look at one here.



There are hundreds of brilliant articles, tutorials and tips about this subject and I have tried to collect as many as I can on our Cowes Library Drawing Group Pinterest Board .

If you would like to practise your own tonal drawing of eggs, I’ve attached a photo below of the original set-up I used. Let me know how you get on!




4 replies on “Tonal Values – eggs exercise”

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