Learn to Draw - three tones of light and shadow in drawing




More Light and Shadow

Who cares who shot Kennedy? What's all this jazz about midtones, highlights and shadow?

Hightlights These are the whitest or brightest areas of the drawing, it's where a given surface on the subject is reflecting the actual light source most efficiently. The highlight is a reflection of the actual light source on the subject. In some cases you can see the light source itself in the highlight. If you look very closely to the highlight in the eye of a person who was photographed in a studio setting, you might see the square shape of the Soft Box Light used in the photograph. The number of highlights on a subject is limited only by the number of reflective surfaces on the subject and the ability of the surfaces to reflect light. The shape of the highlight depends on the surface of the subject. If the subject is smooth and shiny like a tea kettle the highlights will be very bright and intense. If the subject is of a rougher consistency like an orange, the highlight won't be so intense and be more "diffused" and it may appear to melt completely into the midtones.

The three tones

The three tones in a drawing of a face

Midtones As the name implies, this tone is midway in between the highlight and the shadow. It would show the "true" color and consistency of the object. The highlights are brighter than the "true" color, and the shadows are darker than the "true" color. The midtone is usually going to be the majority tone that is visible, the highlights and shadows are usually a smaller part of the tonal range. But the area covered by any of the tones will ultimately be determined by the shape, constancy and size of the subject and also the quality of the lights on the subject.

Shadows Shadows are the darkest area of the surface and will take the most graphite to draw. Shadows can have really sharp edges between it and the midtone or it can just sort of gradually blend into the midtone. How the shadow looks depends entirely on the surface of the object and also the quality of the light.

In addition to the shadows on the object itself, there's also the cast shadow. This is the shadow that the object is making by blocking the light. This shadow could have sharp definition or it can be rather soft and blurry, depending on the quality of the light that is casting the shadow.

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