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  • Marc Primo Warren


Updated: Mar 12, 2021

This is an article “Art Design in Black and White” by Marc Primo Warren

Drawing in contrasting monochromes is truly extraordinary. It gives you a sense of focus that brings out artistic components that allow you to create while playing with light and structure. Obviously, shading is a crucial element in sketching black charcoal onto white paper, yet the advantage of marrying these contrasts is that you can concentrate on your work in its entirety without having to deal with much else other than levels of black and white.

Artists often decide on a high contrast measure where artwork methods are utilized to raise the contrasts to acceptable levels. If you want to learn the basics of sketching, follow this basic step-by-step guide that will teach you how to properly deal with monochrome values.

Create an outline

Most sketches start from a basic outline which further develops into a more refined image through shading. This process is pretty much straightforward but it is important to block out the silhouettes of the outline as you go along.

Start by shading out your subject’s basic outline. Whether it takes up too much space in your sketch pad or not, bringing out its true and final shape and form is best captured through developing outlines. Try the one that’s perfect for your visual taste and work to accentuate it further.

Add values

When you've painted an outline shape and form that you can work with, start integrating your subject’s primary qualities which you can highlight later on. While doing this, avoid adding excessive features or making it dull with crude values. This would require you to pick the right lead points on specific aspects of the outline.

However, it’s always better to work with crude beginnings than something that’s stuffed with unnecessary highlights from the get go. Approaching your work this way allows you to add the right values for shadows, as well as features to your subject as you progress with your work.

Work on details

The next thing you’ll need to do is improve your subject’s details in a way that it complements the entire form and shape of your sketch. Subtle additions are all it take to bring your subject to life with dim shadows and accentuated features. More delicate and broader pencils or brushes are the best ones to use when adding these subtleties, making it easier to develop later on.

Make sure to apply the right levels to details you’re working on, such as bright white highlights through darker greys and black areas to make the image look more embossed than flat.

Improve your image

Sketching or painting in black and white is much simpler than doing it in color, but requires more focus because resolving black, white, and grey issues can be pretty challenging as well.

Try to build up your details by adding and subtracting with the right lead points or small soft brushes that can make your image fuller and life-like. Build up your subject’s dark shadows and bright highlights to really bring out its true character until you’ve finally covered all of your subject’s most distinguishing details. Later on, you may add color to your work, but coming up with a great black and white sketch certainly brings out its raw beauty that can easily stand alone on its own.

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