Color “values” are key design elements for a strong and successful painting. Good values make excellent paintings!
What are values?
“Value” refers to the lightness or darkness of a color, judged on a “1 to 10” scale.
Most colors in your pallet are middle values ranging from 4 to 6, and it is the middle values that will hold or pull your painting together. However, to create a successful painting you also need to use the glowing light values and the rich, dark values.
Why is it important to use a variety of values?
For any particular color, it’s best to use between 5 and 10 values in your painting. To understand why, think about playing the keys on a piano. To play a beautiful melody you need to include a wide variety of keys. If you only paint in the mid-value range, you’ll end up with a flat shape that has no form. Plus, when values are painted effectively, they can direct the eye in and around the painting.
When I judge a show or critique a student painting, I always take a close look at the color values used. Does the painting use a wide range of values? Are the values used to best effect?