values are the backbone of
strong, attractive paintings
What are values in painting?
Values are the variation of light and dark colors. The value scale has
white on one end and black on the other end with greys in between.
It’s fun painting with colors, but values are what make successful paintings. Use light and dark colors to create strong,
The lights and darks make a painting sing!
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how do we use values in our paintings?
When you are planning your paintings, concentrate on getting three different tones into the painting.
Good composition says to vary the size of the elements of your painting. Repetition is boring,
so make each part a different size.
will be a different size and value; light, medium or dark.
- The dark elephant is the
- The light background is medium size.
- The medium tone foreground is the smallest area.
The Elements Are Different Sizes
learning to see
What if our paintings were all the same tone? They would look very flat. Without a difference between lights and darks, we could not see any of forms in a painting.
In order to see the lights and darks, squint your eyes and look. All the
details will disappear and you will see only the light and dark tones.
We ladies don't need any squint lines, so we just lower our eyelids.
Look at the left image. Do you see the lights and darks? You may see it better in the gray-scale image.
Squint your eyes and look.
Did you see this?
Lower your eyelids and look at the things around your room. Notice the
light and darkness of different things in your room. Train your eyes to
see the light and darkness of the 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 what you see into your paintings. It is lots of fun.
what do we see in nature?
In nature things get lighter in the distance. This is called aerial perspective.
Particles in the air reflect light, thus making the distant objects appear lighter. On a very clear day you can see farther because there are fewer particles in the air.
We paint the aerial perspective by adjusting the values.
In the painting above the mountains in the background are much lighter than the foreground.
Aerial perspective is doing its job and we artists duplicate it in our paintings by adjusting the tones.
the value of colors
Different colors reflect or absorb more or less light. Yellow reflects
the most light of any color. The light bounces back off the color into
our eyes. This makes the color look lighter to us.
Purple is the darkest color. It adsorbs most of the light rays. Very
little light bounces back to our eyes. So the color looks very dark to
There is no rule that says a person has to paint something its actual natural color. A painting will work as long as we use light against dark.
Dolphins are actually gray. Plain old gray is boring to me. I painted these dolphins pink and purple instead.
Grey-scale showing the lights and darks
painting with values
The focal area is the place to use your lightest lights and your darkest darks. The strong contrast of lights and darks automatically draws the eye to that area.
We also use more saturated colors in the focal area.
Use highest contrast in the focal area.
See the contrast in the grey-scale.
The high contrast between the bright, light wall of the back barn and the dark doorway draw the viewer into the painting.
The contrast along with more saturated colors draws the viewer's eyes to the focal area.
As much as I love color, a painting must have good contrast and a variety of values to be successful.
You can do it! Have fun painting!
This is a handy tool to help you choose values.
View your subject thru the slots in the Gray Scale and determine what value to paint your subject.
more pages for your interest