Are You Light Handed Or Heavy Handed?

Are You Light Handed Or Heavy Handed?

Last week I started teaching my students all about how light hits form. Ultimately that involves shading. So the question I asked them after their first shading exercise was, are you light handed or heavy handed? There were some insane results. It was a pretty fun exercise.

How about you? When you shade something light in your drawing does it always look a little too dark? How about the opposite? When you are drawing something very dark, for example a characters dark shirt, do you make it look completely too light?

When I was a college student I was super heavy handed. Everything I drew and painted was super dark and super contrasty. Let’s just say I didn’t have a clue about the value ratios. I wasn’t even close to developing my touch yet.



That’s why I wanted to share this video critique with you. It absolutely highlights the need to understand and apply the value ratios.

Try these two simple exercises below.

  • Practice shading an egg resting on white copy paper. Place it near a window for a soft light source. This is a great exercise to see if you can control your light values. There should be no darks on or near the egg.
  • Now do the opposite, shade something that is a dark value. It could be something as simple as a dark coffee mug. Once again make sure there is a light source. You definitely want a light side and a shadow side on the object. Apply the value ratio rules spoken to in the video critique. Use middle tones for the light side of the object. The light side should have no whites.


There are many variables. Is the object you are drawing shinny and reflective? Well then there will be very light highlights even on a dark object. So whichever object you choose to draw make sure it has a matte non reflective surface. This will help you be true to the exercise.

Lastly make sure your light source is not too powerful. Don’t use a powerful spotlight. That will change the value ratios as well. A normal lamp or a north facing window would be perfect. If you want to learn more about how to control the value ratios consider a subscription to Drawing Tutorials Online. If painting is your thing we have an extensive list of tutorials covering this topic over at our sister site Painting Tutorials Online.

Let us know what you think. Leave a comment below..