The way we use line and tone in our drawings is very personal to us. Whether you prefer an illustrative approach or a more representational interpretation, thinking your way into a drawing can pay dividends. It can be regarded as a journey of discovery as observational skills and drawing techniques develop.

Follow Trudy Friend's introduction to basic drawing techniques and learn the priciples of line drawing, mark making, contour drawing and tone.


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Line drawing exercises for you to try

Exercise 1

A soft pencil – 8B or 9B – may be used in a similar way to drawing with a brush – as demonstrated in this drawing of a leaf (above).

While keeping the pencil in the same position between your fingers, use repeated application in one direction, from base to tip of leaf. Use firm pressure at the beginning of the stroke, lifting pressure in the central area and twisting it to complete each stroke in a tapering tip. The soft pencil will respond with wide rich dark tone in the area from which the strokes emanate.


Exercise 2

Water ripple effects can be achieved in a similar way by going back over some areas to widen, and twisting the pencil for a tapering end to the stroke in others.


Exercise 3

After exercises like these the pencil will have a flat, chisel side to the strip, resulting in a fine alternate side with which you can practise an abstract varied pressure wandering line over the paper’s surface. Vary the pressure you place on your pencil strip and twist it between your fingers to create interest of line.


Exercise 4

Try to keep the pencil in constant contact with the paper’s surface as you work and see if you can produce an image where the line wanders through as well as around some edges of the form.


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Mark making exercises for you to try

This shows practice exercises for mark making, demonstrating how the simple stippling technique may be changed slightly for this purpose.

Stippling using the tip of a soft pencil

Massed varied direction strokes are useful for foliage impressions

Some conifer branches may be executed in this way

Short push-up strokes

Short pull-down strokes

Trailing leaves

Side strokes using the chisel side

Narrow strokes using the tip of the pencil


Discover contour drawing

You can see how the same method as Exercise 4 (above) was used to position a pile of stones in this linear representation of a gateway.


Discover tonal representation

This shows a tonal representation of the same subject using the chisel side of a pencil strip.


Discover line and tone

This shows a combination of line and tone to produce a detailed drawing of the subject. The areas where foliage effects have been introduced were made using short push-up or pull-down strokes in varied directions.


Take your drawing to the next level with Robert Dutton’s introduction to drawing media and techniques or follow Trudy's advice for drawing teddy bear still lifes.