Value And Mass

Many are they who have a taste and love for drawing, but no talent; and this will be discernible in boys who are not diligent and never finish their drawings with shading. –Leonardo da Vinci

In the last lesson, you learned how to make a cube using one-point perspective. They are still just empty wire boxes though, so lets add some value to give them mass.


Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:

Light And Mass

Vocabulary Terms

Drawing A Sphere

Adding Value

Exercise 1: Draw A Ball With A Single Light Source

Exercise 2: Turn Your Cubes And Rectangles Into Buildings


Remember, mass is what sets apart a shape from a form, and to indicate mass we need to use value. Thats how well turn these:


Into these:

Remember that we talked about value and value scales in Drawing Lesson 3: Value And Gesture. If you made your own value scale in that lesson, you might want to pull it out now for reference. If you need a quick refresher, go back to that lesson and review before we start on building mass!

Light And Mass

First, lets talk about light and shadow. Light is one of the most important things in your drawing. It will add depth to your work. Strong lights and shadows will make your work more interesting and realistic. The term for this is chiaroscuro (kee-are-oh-skoo-roh), which is Italian for “light-dark.”


Giovanni Baglione, Sacred and Profane Love, 1602-1603, oil on canvas

Giovanni Baglione, Sacred and Profane Love, 1602-1603, oil on canvas

Above is a painting by Giovanni Baglione showing the use of chiaroscuro and its dramatic effects. The use of chiaroscuro creates atmospheric mood and drama. By placing the greatest amount of light on a single, central element or action, artists can focus the viewer’s attention on the part of the scene that’s most important. The technique of chiaroscuro was first started by Leonardo da Vinci and then used heavily by Caravaggio and later refined by Rembrandt. It can give a sense of divinity (as above) or, perhaps more often, imbue the scene with a sense of gloom and mystery.


Vocabulary Terms

Here are some vocabulary words that will help you get through this lesson:


Light Source: The place where the light is coming from (the sun, a lamp, a candle, etc.).

Highlight: This is the point on your object that is the lightest value (white or close to it).

Midtone: The midtone is the middle value on the object.

Core Shadow: The core shadow is the darkest part on the object.

Reflected Light: This is light that is bouncing up from another surface, creating a lighter area in the core shadow.

Cast Shadow: The cast shadow is a shadow that appears behind an object because it is three-dimensional and light is hitting it. When youre walking on a sunny day and you can see your shadow—thats a cast shadow.

Drawing A Sphere

The first step in creating a sphere is determining where your light source is coming from. In the image above, the light source is coming from the upper right-hand corner. Thats where the lightest values are going to be. The exact opposite side of that is where the darkest values will be.


Using our value scale, we can see where the values on our sphere fall within the value scale.

Exercise One: Draw A Ball With A Single Light Source

Get a ball—any kind will do (tennis ball, basketball, ping pong, orange, etc.) and set it up using one light source. Your light source can be a desk lamp, a window, or a flashlight. The more direct the light, the better.

This is a good example of how you can set up your sphere still life:


Get out your sketchbook and pencils. Draw a circle and then take some time to really look at the light on the ball. Where are the darkest areas? Where are the lightest areas? You can draw the circle by hand or use a cup or other round object to trace on your paper.

Shade in the darkest parts first, then the midtones and reflected light and leave the page blank where the highlight is (this is so you dont have to have a white pencil to draw in the highlight). Alternatively, if you have a kneadable eraser, you can use it to pick up some of your pencil near the highlight.

99% of drawing is observation. Doing this exercise will help you learn to really look at the object you want to draw. If you ask any experienced artist, they will tell you that they dont look at things the same way most people do—they look at forms and shadows, mentally recording the way light hits this or that.

Now that youve completed your sphere, share it with us! Send a picture of your sphere and any discoveries you made or tips you have for this completing this exercise to us using our submission form . Your drawing could end up on our website!

Adding Value

Lets go back to our boxes now. In the last lesson, you drew a page of cubes floating around in space.


Im guessing you dont have a zero-gravity chamber just hanging around your house, so instead of setting up these boxes for a still life, were going to use the principles we learned in the last exercise to invent the lighting for our boxes.

First, lets figure out a light source. Im making my light source from the top left corner of my page.


Keep in mind that the surface of an object that is farthest away from the light source will be the darkest. This takes some practice, but once you start doing it, youll start looking at objects for their qualities of light and this will become easier.

Exercise Two: Turn Your Cubes And Rectangles Into Buildings

Using what you learned in the perspective lesson, extend the vertical lines of your boxes to make them into tall buildings. Remember that the horizon line is where we stop seeing things—not where the buildings will sit.


The buildings closest to us will have their bottom edge closer to us (that is, the bottom of the page) and the buildings that are farther away will have their bottom edge higher on the page.

And add a background:


Voila! You now have a cityscape! Note: the building on the far right now has one side partially blocked by the building in front of it, changing the light thats on it.


When you’ve finished your cityscape, send it to us! Use our submission form here.


Key Lesson Learnings: You have learned about the importance of light and how it creates value.


Next lesson: Two Point Perspective


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