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Value Scales: Pencil

Pencil value scale

Our first value scale may look simple. But like all the exercises on Creative Triggers, to do it well will take concentration and effort.
It’s easy to dash off a quick scale and call it done. But to get the most benefit from this exercise, you will need to:

  1. Make the steps from one value to the next as evenly spaced as you can. If you don’t think they’re right, do them again. Even if you do, do them again. Practice makes perfect.
  2. Make each value block as even as you possibly can. Try to make it completely smooth – but don’t use an estompe! That won’t help your control of the materials develop.
  3. Do it repeatedly. I can’t emphasise this enough. You’ll get limited benefit from only doing this once. Look at it as push-ups for your value-judging muscles. Train hard, and your skill will develop faster.

What you need:

  • A range of pencils – 3H, B, and 4B or 6B should be enough
  • Sketch pad paper
  • putty rubber for neatening up
  • knife and sandpaper for sharpening

How to do it:

First, watch the video demonstration (about 8 minutes):

The main thing to bear in mind with this exercise is not to rush. Go over the squares as many times as you need to, filling in gaps and trying to get the value as even as possible.

You needn’t do the whole thing in one go. Do one square one day, another the next if you like.

When trying to judge a value between two others, look at the edges where it meets the square either side. The jumps between one value and the next should feel about the same on each side.

When you get to the last two squares on the bottom row of values, you’ll see if your middle value was about right. Feel free to adjust if you need to.

Go a little darker than you think on the middle value. Almost everyone (including me) makes their middle value too light at first.

Repeat this exercise until you can:

  1. Create a scale you feel is fairly even in the steps between each value
  2. Produce a fairly even value across the surface of each square