Lesson #5: Creating the Illusion of Volume

Part of the unit: The Figure at Rest and at Play |


Why do artists create the illusion of volume?
Students will be able to:
Use compressed charcoal to create a graded value scale on toned paper.
Use white chalk to create highlights.
Create the illusion of volume
Students will understand that:
Artists combine art media to create new effects.

12x18 toned construction paper, compressed charcoal, and white chalk


Degas figure drawings on toned paper with white highlights, 12" or 16" wooden manikins


Ask the students to share their Degas drawings with their tablemates.

  • How did Degas use value to make his figures look three-dimensional? (the highlights are in white while the darkest areas are black. The color of the paper serves as a middle value)

Explain that students will be practicing how to create the effect of volume using black, gray and white.


On the board post a large piece of toned construction paper.  Invite a student to use compressed charcoal to make the darkest value he/she can.  Invite a second student to use the same medium to make a very light area. 

  • How did each student use pressure to create these different effects? 

Distribute 12x18 toned construction paper, compressed charcoal, and white chalk.  Direct students to fold the paper into 4 boxes and to hold the paper horizontally. 

In the top left box, the teacher should demonstrate how to go from a dark value to a light value by gradually changing the pressure on the compressed charcoal to create a graded value scale.  In the top right box, she should then demonstrate creating a graded value scale using white chalk.  In the bottom left box, she should demonstrate how to start with white chalk and gradually blend compressed charcoal into it to create a value scale starting with white and ending with black.  After each demonstration, the students should practice the same technque on their paper.


The lights in the room should be turned off to leave a single light source from the window (or a flood lamp can be used to illuminate one side of the manikin). 

In the fourth box, held vertically, the students will draw the torso of their manikin from the shoulders to the waist.  The teacher will demonstrate how to use compressed charcoal to shade the torso to give it volume and make it look three dimensional, and how to use white chalk to create highlights.  The students will do the same in their last box. 

Exhibit the student work. 

Ask the students to select drawings that demonstrate three-dimensionality.

  • How did the student make the torso look three-dimensional?

Distribute 9x12 drawing paper.  At home, students are to select a favorite toy such as a doll, toy figure or a stuffed animal and place it near a window.  The lights in the room should be turned off to limit the light source and create shadows on the toy.  Using a pencil, they should draw the toy and then shade it to give it volume.