The halftone area of a drawing is responsible for the illusion of volume. Picture a playing card, for example. On the card you have black and pure white with no halftones. The card has high contrast, which makes it read powerfully and simply, yet it remains flat with no illusion of weight, mass or volume. The area of a drawing responsible for that illusion is the small band of tone that rests between the big light shape and the shadow shapes.
Drawing on toned paper makes it easy to give the illusion of depth with your subjects. When you have charcoal for the shadow and an indication of white, the open paper reads immediately as a halftone—the main scaffolding for form—quickly giving you a road map for a whole value scheme. But most of all, toned paper leaves much room for you to personalize and experiment with your drawing.
Katherine Mesch is an assistant editor for The Artist’s Magazine.