Drawing Basics: To Tone or Not to Tone

Drawing Basics: To Tone or Not to Tone

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Oil painting by Judith St. Ledger-Roty,
illustrating how an undertone warms a work up.

I’m a lifetime student of art like so many of you, and I savor sharing our mutual love of drawing and painting as well as swapping tips and methods about how we each work in our own unique way.

I have always loved the outdoors and always had the desire to paint figures as well as animals, like horses, in the landscape. But I’ve found that wherever I am, indoors or out, there are many foundational techniques that apply to all the drawing and painting I do.

One is to go back and forth between subject matters. I have found that I need a continuing balance between the figure and landscape (and drawing and painting for that matter!).

I have also found that toning my support, whether canvas or paper or board, is something I often do now. I’m showing two works to illustrate the difference between toning and not toning.

The surface of this pencil drawing wasnt
toned—a missed opportunity to create depth
in the work before the first stroke.

The first image, a painting, has been toned with cadmium orange—you can see the underlying color along the top edge of the painting—which is quite warm compared to the snow scene I painted. To make the tree look warm, I scratched down to the canvas level through the paint of the snow to make the bark and branches. Most of the visible tree is simply the undercoat showing through, a method taught to me by landscape painter Sara Linda Poly. But without the undertone, this would have been a waste of time. No undertone–no warmth.

The second is a landscape pencil drawing with no undertoning. It looks stark compared to the warmth of the painting. I’ve taken this lesson to heart, toning my surface or using toned paper regardless of the subject or medium I am working on or with. I consider this one of several drawing basics, and can really set a work apart and give it depth, even if you are working on quick and easy drawings.

What do you say? Do you agree or have you found toning to be a complication to your work? How so?


Watch the video: How to tone a paper for realistic drawing. DIY. Academy of Fine Art Germany (July 2022).


  1. Arashizil

    I fully share your opinion.

  2. Durwin

    I think I make mistakes.

  3. Clach

    What words necessary ... great, the excellent idea

  4. Kenyon

    I find that you are not right. I'm sure. I invite you to discuss. Write in PM, we will talk.

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