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Tone, or shading, helps direct a viewer's eye and creates mood. Light values feel open and fun, while dark values feel mysterious or sad. Contrast is the difference between light and dark values. Low contrast creates calm moods, while high contrast creates excitement or drama. Artists use tone to guide viewers' focus and create emotions.

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Video transcript

- In addition to line, shape, and perspective, another tool we use to direct the viewer's eye and support story points is tone, also known as shading. By adjusting the lightness and darkness of all the elements in your scene, you can both lead your audience's eye and create a specific mood. Light values can feel open, fun, or lighthearted, while dark values can create an atmosphere of mystery, sadness, or something ominous. Another concept is contrast. It's the difference between neighboring light and dark values. Low contrast means that there is not much difference between the light and dark values. This can create a subdued or calm mood. Higher contrast puts very dark and very light colors next to each other. This can create the feeling of excitement, drama, agitation, or conflict. Contrast also allows us to direct the viewer's eye because our eyes naturally move first to the point of highest contrast. To see this in action, let's ask our artists how they use tone. - In this image from Up, well, first of all, the perspective is leading your eye, the one point perspective is leading your eye to the focal point, which is Carl's house. Everything in the foreground is really dark, which is kind of like a framing element, and because of the lightness of the color in the background, there's an implied sense of like, going up. - So if you look at this image, there's basically two different values. There's the value in the background, which is this medium light gray, and it kind of pulls everything in and you have like this light area here, so when you have the contrast between light and dark, it automatically makes your eye look there, and the darkest point in the image is the characters. So they have the darkest gray right next to the lightest white area, which automatically just shows you exactly where you wanna look, and then this light gray back here kind of pulls you in from the edges of the frame to show you where you wanna go. - It's really fun to kind of play with tone and say, okay, these characters are sort of dark from the background, but that room is also really dark and how do you delineate that? Well, we thought having this shaft of light coming from outside would be an interesting way to sort of light these characters up, and it creates this tension point. It's almost like dark versus light and where they meet creates this energy. You can see this really strong rim light against the characters here, and that's sort of where your eye's being drawn is to where that sort of activity and that conflict happens. - This panel from Cars 3 really uses tone to help us understand where our eyes should be looking right off the bat, but if we just look at the gray areas, the tone, there's a couple of interesting things happening. We treat tone like light in real environments here as we're doing these drawings. If you look closely, there are a couple different shapes that are happening with the tone that help our eye know where to look. There's a huge circle happening with the primary tone that really helps focus our eye into the high contrast area of the whiter area where a lot of the texture of the line work is happening. There's also, it's subtle, but there's a secondary box of tone that is happening. It's a different dynamic shape, and again, you're using tone as shape, as a spot lit shape to help pool light, to help create a stage and create a sense of direction for where your eyes should be looking. - With this image, I used it a little bit differently. This one was more about the emotion, so this like a dark moment for McQueen here. He just realized after all the racing on the beach this day, he's not fast as he wants to be and he's not where he needs to be in order to win the race against Storm, so there's a slight gradient from the bottom here that leads up and it almost gives you like a feeling of failure and loss. So, a gradient is basically just going from one value to another in the same thing. So if you look at the overall shape of McQueen here, it stays the same and then over top, I used tone as a gradient so it's almost like when you're shading, it goes from the darkest value here to the lightest there, and you can see it here, so if I was to cross hatch it, it would slowly get bigger as it goes up, so you have your darkest down there and it slowly rises and it gives him almost like the feeling of like a haze over top of him or like a fog that's in between him emotionally, and it makes you, the audience, feel a little bit more of how he's feeling in his head. - In summary, using tone, we can create mood, direct the viewer's eye, and control what information gets revealed to the audience. In the next exercise you'll have a chance to play with this. Go and get messy.