Lesson #3: Creating values

Part of the unit: Drawing a Figure in a Setting |


How can we create a wide range of values?
Students will be able to:
Use an ebony pencil or conte crayon to make a simple value chart
Define value and gradation.
Identify areas in a photograph that require gradation to show form.
Students will understand that:
A range of values can create a three-dimensional effect.

9x12 drawing paper, ebony pencils or conte crayon, a worksheet with a simple value chart and a blank rectangle to practice gradation


a photograph of a figure in a setting, a student sketch of the photograph


Ask students to look at the line sketches they made during the last lesson.

  • What should we add to our sketches to make them look more three dimensional?
  • What does the word value mean?
  • How can we use our ebony pencils (or conte crayon) to create a wide range of values?

On a large piece of paper, the teacher will draw a rectangle divided into 5 boxes. Label the first box Black, the middle box Gray and the last box White.  Under it draw the same rectangle without the divisions.  Students should be given a worksheet with the same divided rectangle and blank rectangle under it. 

Demonstrate how to create the darkest black by using heavy pressure and shading in one direction to create a dark, smooth surface.  Ask the class to fill in their first rectangle in the same way. 

Demonstrate how to use lighter pressure to create a middle value gray for the box in the center.  Ask the class to do the same on their worksheet.

Direct the students to fill in the second and fourth boxes, making sure that there is a noticeable change between each box.  Emphasize that the values should appear to be in a sequence changing from black to white in even steps. The last box will remain white, the color of the paper.


Demonstrate how to fill in a large blank rectangle on the board with a gradation of value from dark to light. 

  • In what ways is this different from the value chart we've just done?
  • What does the word gradation mean?
  • Why do you think you need to be able to create a gradation of value when shading your figure in a setting? 

Show a student sketch and the photograph from which it was drawn.

  • Which areas of the sketch should be filled in with graded values? 
  • Which areas could be filled in with solid values?

Students should fill in their blank rectangle with a gradation of value.  Emphasize that they should lessen the pressure as they move from dark to light and should move back and forth to avoid showing lines that separate each area. 

They can be asked to draw another rectangle and to practice gradation by going from light to dark. 



Exchange worksheets with a partner.  Discuss the changes that need to be made to create even steps from dark to light in the first rectangle and what needs to be done to create an even gradation from dark to light.  Spend a few minutes fixing what you've done.  If necessary, redraw it and try again.

Use the photograph you brought to class for homework and isolate one area with strong lights and darks to shade. Make a sketch of that area and shade it to make it look three dimensional.  Try to duplicate the values you see in the photograph.