Exploring values with graphite pencil: Great Horned Owl Skull

Learn to draw with a full range of values in this step-by-step tutorial with graphite pencil.

A full range of values from rich black to bright white adds impact and interest to a drawing. To help you establish this range in your drawing, block out the shape of the white highlight area and push the darks early to establish a dark “anchor” to which you will relate all the rest of the values. This forces you to incorporate the full value scale. The last step should be to add your details. If you put the detail in too early, you will only smudge it with subsequent blending or erasing. Click on the first image to start a step-by-step side-show.

3 thoughts on “Exploring values with graphite pencil: Great Horned Owl Skull

  1. Diana says:

    Just found your blog and have a question. Why do you begin your drawing with the non-photo blue pencil instead of just a regular graphite?

    • Great question Diana. I use an erasable non-photo blue pencil (colerase by Prismacolor) to lay in most of my drawings. I then go over these lines with graphite and sometimes watercolor. This pencil is so light and non distracting that it almost seems to magically disappear when you cover it with graphite. You could just draw lightly with graphite pencil for your starter lines but these lines end up showing much more than the non-photo blue lines. Be careful though, if you press too hard or are doing a graphite pencil drawing with lots of blended subtle shading, the non photo blue lines will prevent some of the graphite from adhering to the paper, leaving light lines against the shading. Also on some types of watercolor paper, the non-photo blue pencil seems to also act as a resist, preventing some of the paint from sticking in the same way.

  2. Kirk says:

    Thanks for using this format; it is much easier to comppare successive steps this way than in the slideshow format. The only thing missing is a picture of the actual skull that was the subject of the blogpost. Thanks for another great session.

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