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Art & Design

Elements of art

Tone

Pyramid of skulls, 1898-1900 (oil on canvas) by Cezanne, Paul (1839-1906) Grand Palais, Paris, France / The Bridgeman Art Library

This refers to the lightness or darkness of something. This could be a shade or how dark or light a colour appears.

Tones are created by the way light falls on a 3D object. The parts of the object on which the light is strongest are called highlights and the darker areas are called shadows. There will a range of tones in between the highlights and shadows.

Shading

Shading is used to capture these different tones in a drawing. It helps to create an illusion of form in a 2D artwork. When shading it's important to think about the direction of the marks you are making as this can help to emphasise the form of the object.

Watch this video to find out more about shading.

Watch more art technique videos.

Contrast

Contrast means the amount of difference between the lightest and darkest tones. It should be combined with a range of mid tones. Contrast in tones can help create a dramatic artwork.

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