Sketchbook Practice – Value And Depth

Fractal Gray Scale for drawing practice

Fractal Gray Scale

Here’s a drawing practice idea for your sketchbook. This Mandelbrot fractal in gray scale creates beautiful form and depth with value. And as a passionate draftsperson, this image could make your fingers reach for a pencil on their own, so you might want to keep an eye on them while you read this.

Fractal Layers

Fractal Levels

There are several smaller composition possibilities in this image, so if you don’t have enough time to draw the whole thing, use a mask to frame a smaller part.

Optical Illusion

Do you see the way the “levels” look as if they’re lighter on one edge and darker on the other? They’re actually one solid value.

Fractal Gray Scale Masked

Fractal Gray Scale Masked

Draw What You See?

The illusion is a problem, and there are a couple of ways to work with phenomena like this.

You could slowly shade all the levels at the same time and the illusion would appear, but it would take an awful lot of self-control to let the illusion happen without forcing it to appear by controlling the shading.

(It’d be a great Art Kung Fu practice though. Do not force the illusion to appear Grasshopper — let the illusion appear.)

But I’m pretty practical about drawing, so I’d put a mask around a level to find its value and then use a value scale to get the same value on the drawing, and then I’d do that again for each level.


Don’t work yourself into a freak-out over the type of shading to use. A very smooth hatch would look nice, but a rough hatch will work too as long as you use the same hatch over the entire drawing to give it a sense of continuity.

Fractal Dark

Fractal Dark

Two Versions To Draw From

The original fractal has white dots that are a little distracting, but they remind me of buttons in padded upholstery which would be a neat effect to try for. So, I’m giving you two versions. The white dots are removed from this one,

Fractal Original

Fractal Original

Here’s the original in case you’re inspired by the white dots in someway too.

I’d use 2H through 2B pencils to draw these values, a kneaded eraser to correct mistakes, and a vinyl eraser to clean up smudges around the edges when it was done.


Happy Drawing!

About Carol

I'm an artist, an accidental author, and lover of life. I grew up in Yorktown, Indiana, and I've been writing (and drawing) this website since 1999.
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