As I was having so many problems in last weeks assignment when trying to lay down a really dark-toned layer of graphite, and also with stopping the graphite smudging, I sent a email  to Cindy, my course instructor at DrawPJ.com, to ask if she had any hints of tips she would like to share. See my email below and Cindy’s response as she shares some very sound advice here!

My blacker tones and smudges questions

HI Cindy,

One thing I discovered working through this weeks exercise was that  the more I shaded the more difficult it became to make the end result really dark. The surface of the paper then became very shiny and slippery, and it was difficult to lay down any more graphite without indenting the surface of my paper.

I searched the Internet to try and find a solution, and the nearest I found was where some people advised about being careful not to damage the “Tooth” of the paper. I’m not sure what the “Tooth” is, but maybe that’s what I was doing wrong, so any tips to achieving a really dark black would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, while I was practising these exercises earlier in the week the graphite was getting everywhere and everything became a “smudgy” nightmare! Do you have any tips you could share about how I could keep my artwork clean while I am working in it?

Many thanks,
Ian

Cindy’s blacker tones and smudges hints and tips

Hi Ian, 

I have answered your questions for you here;

Ian: “One thing I did find though, was the more I shaded the difficult it became to make the end result really dark.The surface of the paper then became very shiny and slippery, and it was difficult to lay down any more graphite without indenting the surface of my paper.”

Cindy: “Yes thats right, the more graphite you lay on to the paper in the earlier layers, the harder it becomes to put on the darker tones. The reason for this is that the HB has smaller particles of graphite and then get get right down into the tiny dimples in the paper. The more you lay on though, the more filled the paper becomes and then it makes the page slippery. Then the larger particles in the 4B have nothing to ‘cling’ onto and just slip off. So try your best not to put on too much graphite during the HB layer. Instead, aim for a wonderful smooth and even application of very lightly applied graphite with that first layer or two with the HB.”

Ian: “I searched the Internet to try and find a solution, and the nearest I found was where some people advised about being careful not to damage the “Tooth” of the paper.

I’m not sure what the “Tooth” is, but maybe that’s what I was doing wrong, so any tips to achieving a really dark black would be greatly appreciated :-)”

Cindy; “I am always here to answer your questions and it is great that you went looking for yourself too. In relation to paper the word ‘Tooth’ means the amount of texture that the paper has; and it is called ‘tooth’ because it kind of protrudes off the surface and essentially ‘grabs’ or holds onto the mediums such as graphite, charcoal, pastel, paint whatever it is that we are using. If we placed a piece of paper that has no sheen to it under the microscope we would see tiny risen fibres then some small pockets (dips or dimples) in the paper. For example take a look at this link The Paper Project;  http://paperproject.org/semgallery.html  for the ‘mould made Arches Text’ “

If you damage this surface structure, it can become flattened and therefore the graphite will not be able to adhere as well. Ideally we don’t want to damage the tooth so we don’t press too hard with our pencil, instead we work up the graphite in layers. However we cannot fill it too soon with the finer HB granules as I mentioned earlier. Another problem that can occur is if we don’t put enough HB on then there will be alot of white spots on our drawing too. If this happens, we can gently go over the area afterwards with the HB pencil and if necessary, use circular motions with the tip of the 4B or even HB in the right areas;but don’t press hard on that HB or it will ruin the tooth.

Ian: while I was practising these exercises earlier in the week the graphite was getting everywhere and everything became a “smudgy” nightmare! Do you have any tips you could share about how I could keep my artwork clean while I am working in it?

Cindy: A big tip about the pencils and smudging; some brands of pencil are worse for smudging than others, some leave a lot of loose particles on the surface of the paper. The best thing to do though, is to place a sheet of scrap paper under your hand at all times. My favourite pencils are; Derwent Graphic, General pencil co., and I absolutely love using my Faber Castell technical (clutch) pencils….they are expensive but I love them.

Hope this helps to answer your questions Ian,

Cheers
Cindy

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