“Value is the element of art that describes the amount of lightness or darkness in a hue. In a black and white photo, white is the lightest value, and black is the darkest value. … Some colors, like blue, are darker in value when compared with a fairly light color, like yellow.” (www.crayola.com)
The easiest way to understand value study is by creating a monochromatic study. (Mono=one; chromatic=color) To begin, the image below is a gray value scale.
Why do you need to understand values? We view colors as light, medium, and dark. “It’s a dark night.” “What a bright day!” When we look at the colored peppers below, we can easily see the brightest highlight (white) and the darkest shadow (black) – light and dark. Those areas that do not fall into these two buckets are considered medium value.
So how can I determine where a color fits on a gray value scale? Here is a simple procedure:
- Choose any red, blue, and yellow.
- In a straight line, paint the rainbow using only these colors and mixing the secondary colors with them: red, orange (mixing red+yellow), yellow, green (mixing yellow+blue), blue, purple (mixing red+blue).
- Using your phone, take a photo of your color line:
4. Using the photo editor on your phone, apply a gray filter to this picture. On the Android, use Grayscale; on the iPhone, use Mono.
5. Using a printed gray value scale, assign a value number to each color by comparing the corresponding gray value version. Again, this step is “best guess” – there are NO wrong guesses.
Knowing where a pure palette color falls on the value scale helps you to understand whether that pure color is considered LIGHT (#9, 8, 7), MEDIUM (#6, 5, 4), or DARK (#3, 2, 1).
When I begin a monochromatic study, I first create what I call “an ingredient list”. With this list, I can mix any color whenever I run out. Below, I created one monochromatic ingredient list in yellow (for the yellow pepper) and red (for the red pepper). I chose the following colors for this study: Golden Hansa Yellow Opaque and Naphthal Red Light, shaded with Golden Carbon Black and tinted with Titanium White.
Here is how I then created a value study of each pepper.
Then I translated the peppers into a wild color version. The point of this practice is to show that you can replace any color as long as it matches the number on the value scale.
For example, I used the same colors from class [the same red and yellow used in the value study above plus Liquitex Brilliant Blue]. In a straight line, I placed the colors in their corresponding order and filled in the missing values as noted in this picture. For example, numbers 5-8 are the same colors as 1-4 but tinted with Titanium White. Here is how I then translated my value study of each pepper.
Pretty crazy colors, right? But if you take both the yellow/red value study and the crazy study, and translate them into grayscale, here’s what they look like:
In terms of value, these two versions are comparable.
Values are difficult to understand at first. But through practice play, it will make sense.