Sample Lesson: Value
These two apples demonstrate what we mean by value. The red apple at the left is made up of all three properties of color: hue, value, and intensity. The apple at the right is a colorless photograph which contains only values.
The first dimension of color is hue. The second dimension is value. For any artist working in color, value is the most important dimension. It is impossible to overemphasize this simple fact. Mistakes made in the choice of hue or intensity are far less serious than errors in value. At all costs, learn to keep your values correct! When we use the word “value” we are referring only to lightness or darkness of a color. It’s that simple.
The words tint and shade refer to the value of a color. To make a tint we add white to a pure color; to make a shade we add black. In neither case do we change the hue—only the value. The chart below shows how the value of pure colors from the tube can be changed and controlled by the additions of black and white.
To handle color effectively, you must first be able to see and recognize these value differences in your subject, then interpret these differences in your palette. We say interpret, rather than match, because the range of values in nature is much greater than that of your pigments. Black paint is much lighter than a very dark shadow; white paint many times darker than sunlight reflected from a shiny surface.
The artist, looking at his subject, decides which area is the lightest and which is the darkest. Then, he decides how light or how dark he will make these extremes in his painting, and relates all the other values to them. The examples in the image below show you that the value-spread from light to dark can be limited to a high, middle, or low key or include the whole range from black to white. The choice depends on the effect you wish to create. The main point to gain from these pages is the importance of value control. Once you decide on a value range that seems appropriate for the effect you want, keep it consistent throughout your whole picture.