How to Identify Values – A Neat Trick

value03If you are a painter reading this, you know there are many important aspects in the process of creating a painting.  Choosing a medium is the easiest part. Deciding on a subject is a bit more complicated, not to mention creating a compelling composition. However, it does not end there. Selecting a color palette is the next step. Now we are ready to start, but wait! We need to choose our values first. Yes, values are of great significance.

The concept of tone or value is easy to understand, but not so easy to recognize when using colors (at least not for me :(). Value in painting, refers to the light and dark, which contrast could be use to create a dramatic scene or focal point. There are scales of different shades of gray, like the one above, to help us find values. Also, to aid with the process there are other devices and strategies, like using a dark glass or squinting. All of them are great. However, if you don’t have a trained eye (like me!) it could be a bit challenging and confusing.

If you feel the same way as I do, you will find the following a neat trick. This might be as popular as ham and eggs and widely known, but for me it was like discovering America :).  So, get your camera ready!

My camera? You might be asking. Yes! Place the camera setting to take pictures in black and white. Point it either to your already prepared palette or painted canvas without taking a picture. Instantly, you will known your values compared to the gray scales. Try it! It will blow your mind (I was so happy that I had to share it with you all!).

Below is a sample picture of one of my paintings. I wanted to have three different values (dark, light and middle gray). I use several colors of blues and purples (the color picture did not capture all the colors, sorry), but all in the same value range. I placed both pictures below, so you may see the difference.

I hope this was helpful. I know, the next time I create a painting, the process will be much easier. At least, when it comes to choosing my values.

Three value painting
Three value painting


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