Pencil Shading Exercises - Graduated Tone

Graduated Tone - Exercise 1
Graduated Tone - Exercise 1

The pencil shading exercise explored on this page is called 'graduated tone'. It is a drawing technique which can be used to create a strong sense of space and form. It is a very useful skill to develop for both pencil and color pencil drawings.

  1. Use a darker grade (B or 2B) of pencil for your shading. Lighter grades (H, 2H etc.) will not give enough depth to your darkest tones.
  2. Just start by shading the area you wish to be dark and slowly build up the tone. As you work towards the light, gradually ease the pressure on your pencil until you can no longer see the mark it makes.
  3. You then patiently repeat this process several times, building up a depth to the shading, adjusting any irregular areas and trying to keep the tonal changes as smooth as possible until you achieve the variation and intensity of tone that you desire.

Below are some more exercises with various degrees of difficulty which will test your shading skills to the limit.

At the bottom of the page you will find a link to a template with outlines of all these exercises which you may copy and print to practice your graduated shading technique.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 2
Graduated Tone - Exercise 2

In this exercise the graduated tone starts at either side of the drawing and meets in the middle of the page.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 3
Graduated Tone - Exercise 3

Here the direction of the tone moves from left to right to create a subtle graduated effect.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 4
Graduated Tone - Exercise 4

In this exercise the direction of the graduated tones switch to create a counterchange between alternate squares.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 5
Graduated Tone - Exercise 5

Here the direction of the tone moves from 'left to right' in the background but switches to 'right to left' in the circles.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 6
Graduated Tone - Exercise 6

In this exercise the direction of the graduated tones switch to create a counterchange between alternate circles.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 7
Graduated Tone - Exercise 7

In this exercise the graduated tone moves from 'left to right' in the background but changes its direction in the circle to create a spherical form.

Graduated Tone - Exercise 8
Graduated Tone - Exercise 8

In this final exercise the graduated tone in the background moves from 'left to right' at a 45° angle but changes its direction in the circles to create two 3-dimensional spheres.

You can click on the illustration or link above for an A4 line drawing that you may copy and print to practice your shading skills.