Toned Ground Exercise

by rufus0705 on May 26, 2012

This is a very simple drawing exercise that will be helpful for super beginning drawing students. It requires you to pay more attention to shapes than you normally would.

The term “toned ground” means that the paper you are drawing on is colored, or “toned”. In drawing and art, a common term for the paper or canvas – or whatever you are painting or drawing on – is called the “ground”. So in painting, you might hear the words “preparing your grounds” which means getting your canvas ready to be painted on. We don’t typically do a lot of preparing grounds in drawing, but for this special exercise, we are actually preparing our ground.

You prepare your paper by softly making a tone with your pencil across the space you’re going to be drawing on. The easiest way to do this is to use a graphite stick, because its all pencil lead (which is graphite) and you can just lay it down sideways on the paper and move it back and forth, making huge 3-4 inch marks to tone the paper.

If you don’t have a graphite stick, you can use a regular pencil. Your stroke widths are just going to be a lot smaller. Just like with the graphite stick, try to hold your pencil so that the edge of it is against the paper. If you held the pencil normally, so only the tip of the pencil touched the paper, you could still tone the paper, but it would take many, many more strokes.

You fill in the whole space you want to make your drawing in. When you’re done, you get an eraser. This is going to be used like a pencil, but here you are going to be drawing by taking away the tone you just drew in.

Here’s what my toned ground drawing looked like:

Can you tell what it is? Its a cat lying down. This is the same pose that Max the bad cat held for another drawing I did earlier.

You can also go in and add pencil marks like a regular drawing if you want to make the shape and the image “pop” more. A lot of artists use this technique with colored paper, like light blue construction paper. If you were using colored paper, you would make the highlights with a white colored pencil or pastel crayon, and then make the darker parts with a black crayon or ink or just a regular pencil. These type of drawings are more suited to more advanced drawing students.

Here are some ideas of things to draw with just the simple toned ground, like the “drawing” of the cat I did above.

- a dog
- a landscape
- a person’s face
- a simple house
- the batman symbol

Those are just a sprinkling of ideas to get you started.

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