When painting a scene, artists often use a range of tones to create depth and dimension. They may also use tone to suggest form or create a dramatic atmosphere.
Tone in art is a color’s intensity or strength, according to Canadian artist Patti Dyment. It’s similar to value, which describes the relative lightness and darkness of a color.
Tones are usually created by combining various shades of a color, but they can also be formed with the addition of white or black. In a simple example, pure lemon yellow is a high tone, while a brown is a low tone.
Creating tones in art can be challenging, but it’s also essential to a painting’s success. Without it, a painting can appear flat and lifeless.
A few steps to get you started:
1. Paint a grid of different colors in a grey scale, with white at one end and black at the other. Print this out on a sheet of watercolor paper or card for an easy-to-use tool that can help you develop your own values and tones.
2. Study the examples of other painters in your local museum or gallery to familiarize yourself with the ways they used different shades and tones in their paintings.
3. Look at a painting of a subject that you like to draw or paint and try to determine what the global and local tone of the work is.
4. Study the painting again and decide whether the tones are consistent with the rest of the piece or not.
5. Make sure that the tones of each object you’re painting are similar in shape and position to other elements of your reference picture, such as the figure’s hands or the sky.
6. Start with the highlights and work your way down to the darkest areas in each layer, taking great care not to over-do them or have the darks overwhelm the light.
7. Repeat these steps until you’re satisfied with your painting.
8. You can use the same approach to paint with oil or acrylic, starting with a mid-tone base in a greyish colour and working your way down to the lightest and darkest tones of your subject.
9. The darkest tones are the most difficult, but they will have the most impact on the overall mood and emotion of your finished piece.
10. You can use a monochrome filter to make it easier to differentiate between the lighter and darker areas of your subject.
Using a monochrome filter will reduce the amount of detail you see and emphasises the light and dark areas on your subject, making it easier to achieve consistent tones.
11. When you have a clear idea of the lights and darks in your painting, move on to drawing out all of the objects in your subject.
You can then sketch the objects with a pencil or a brush. Using a hard 9H Derwent Graphic pencil will help you to produce a range of tones, including darker and lighter shades that will be easy to paint in later. You can also experiment with a range of different grades, ranging from soft to hard, to produce more realistic textures and tones in your work.