every artist needs to know how to use values in painting

Color is fun, but using values in painting is what makes our artwork successful.

Values are the backbone of strong, attractive paintings! We can use many colors in our paintings, but values create the structure.

We need to know how to see and use values. There are so many ways artists use values.

Values can be used to create texture. We can use them to separate the items in our paintings. We portray aerial perspective by adjusting the values. We use values to create the three-dimensional form of objects.

Contrasting values attract people to our paintings.

an example of values in painting

Values-in-painting-exampleThe artist uses lots of color. junjiali
Values make this painting attractive.Values make the painting work.

What exactly are values?

Values are the light and darkness of colors. The value scale in art has nine steps of grey between white and black.

Value-ScaleThe value scale

what causes paintings to fail?

We all want successful paintings.

A painting with all mid-range values has no impact. It doesn't matter how many colors are in a painting. If the values are all the same, the painting is a dud.

What value are colors?

Different colors reflect or absorb more or less light. That's what makes their color.

Yellow reflects light more than any other color. Lots of light bounces back off the color into our eyes. This makes yellow look light, a #1 on the values scale.

Purple or violet is the darkest color. It adsorbs most all of the light rays that shine on it. Very little light bounces back to our eyes. So purple is a dark #9. All the other colors fall in between.

Painting artists need a good working knowledge of color.

do we have to follow the rules?

Artists have the freedom of color. There is no rule that says a person has to paint something its actual natural color. Color is a wonderful gift from God that makes painting lots of fun!

A painting works as long as we use values.

Dolphins in nature are actually gray. Plain old gray is boring to me. So, I painted these dolphins pink and purple instead of gray.

The values made the painting work, regardless of what colors were used.

Values-versus-colorWe don't have to paint natural colors.
Values-versus-color-greyscaleGrey-scale shows the values in painting.

values in painting

Values make exciting paintings!

What if our paintings were all the same value? They would look very flat. Without a difference between lights and darks, we could not see any of the forms in a painting.

We learn to see the lights and darks in our subjects by squinting our eyes and then look. The details disappear and we see the light and dark tones.

Ladies don't need any squint lines, so we just lower our eyelids, instead of squinting.

practice seeing values

Artists train themselves to see values.

Now, lower your eyelids and look at the things around your room. Notice the light and darkness of different things in the room. Train your eyes to see the light and dark values of things around you.

Look when you are going down the road - as a passenger of course. Things will suddenly become more alive as you.

Duplicate the values we see into our paintings. It is lots of fun. It makes painting exciting!

Values-seeSquint your eyes and look.
Values-see-greyscaleDid you see this?

plan the values of our paintings

A good painting starts with a plan.

When we are planning, concentrate on getting at least three different values into the painting.

We don't have to use all nine values in every painting. But we make sure there is a definite contrast in the values. That is what makes attractive paintings.

Repetition is boring, so make each part of the painting a different size and a different value. Good composition has variety.

Values-in-art-compositionEach element is a different size and value.
  1. The elephant is the largest and darkest element.
  2. The background is medium sized and a light, contrasting value.
  3. The foreground is the smallest area with mixed medium values.

how to use values in painting art

We can create a third dimension in our artwork.

In nature things appear lighter when they are far away. This is because particles in the air reflect light and make everything look lighter in the distance. It's called aerial perspective.

Aerial perspective makes lighter values in paintings.Aerial perspective affects the values of colors.

Artists create a third dimension by painting aerial perspective. We adjust the light and dark values from the front to the back of the painting.

The painting above portrays aerial perspective. The mountains in the background appear much lighter than the foreground landscape. The colors will also get cooler in the distance.

Use values when Painting a Landscape.

the best place to use values in painting

The focal area is the place to use our lightest lights and darkest values. A strong contrast of lights and darks will automatically draw our eyes to the focal point.

As much as I love color, a painting must have good contrast and a variety of values to be successful.

Look at the barn painting below:

  • The back barn is the focal point of the painting.
  • Its bright wall is the lightest value.
  • The dark door makes a good contrast.
Painting-valuesUse highest contrast in the focal area.
Painting-values-greyscaleSee the contrast in the grey-scale.

The contrast of the values in painting, saturated colors, soft and hard edges plus detail are all tools the artist uses to draw the viewer's eyes into the focal area.

use values in your next painting!

painting is fun!

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