I took my drawing
class from Professor Carera at Reedley College, and guess what she made us do? A gradient scale.
According to artist
and teacher Dorian Iten, "
Why a Value Gradient?
Gradient is about controlling your medium. Therefore it makes sense to do a gradient scale first. The specific skills you will improve are edge control, value control, and creating smooth tones. This
is extremely valuable in representational drawing and will allow you to avoid or resolve many drawing problems.
I recommend doing at
least one Value Gradient for each medium you work in. It’s ideal to do it when you first “meet” a new medium, but it’s helpful at any skill level. Many experienced artists still use Value
Gradients to maintain their craftsmanship. If it’s good enough for them, it’s surely good enough for us, right?
Email image to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Ready, Set, DRAW!
Special Thanks to Dorian Iten for letting us use his How to make a
Value Gradient in Charcoal
He is an artist and teacher from Barcelona in
A) Gather materials
A soft charcoal (I like the vine
A hard charcoal (The blue Nitram for
A kneadable eraser (This is pretty much
indispensable when working in charcoal.)
A ruler (You can also use the edge of a
A piece of paper (You need a proper
drawing paper, around 160 gsm (98 lb). Canson Mi-Teintes, Fabriano Roma, or Arches works well.
B) Things to keep in mind
Working carefully and with clean hands, you will finish much quicker than trying to rush.
Keep “cleaning up” your gradient as you work, so it is free of texture/noise and you can see the values clearly.
1) Draw a box
Use light lines to indicate the shape of your gradient.
2) Start with black
Place your “darkest dark” on the left side of your gradient.
The far right represents your “lightest light”, the paper value.
3) Find the middle value
a tone in the center that you estimate as the middle value between “darkest dark” and “lightest light”.
It won’t be perfect, but get as close as you can.
4) Begin the Gradient
Grow out from black towards the middle value. Adjust with your eraser if necessary.
5) Rough Gradient
Keep expanding to create a rough version of your gradient. Is it well balanced overall?
Clean up the tones to make a smooth transition from left to right.
Finish the scale by cleaning up any irregularities. This can take a while! Be patient and really go for perfection.