The Low Key Value Arrangement


Quick Study With Easy Subject and Composition

In this lesson we create a low-key value study on a simple composition. Low-key value arrangements are those where most of the values are in the darker range. Low-key values are more difficult in watercolor, so this lesson will be good practice for that skill.

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This quick video goes step-by-step through creating a low-key value study with a simple cube study.

Low-key Value Arrangement

Low-key value compositions are those that include values from the darker end of the value scale – middle-grays through dark-gray and black. Low-key compositions can include lighter values, but there will be few of them.

The nature of watercolor makes it more difficult to create darker values. This is because the medium – water – is also our white. Using enough water (I would say “the right amount of water”) to keep our washes fluid means that we are adding water which also lightens the colors. In addition, most of the colors on the palette are not that dark, and can only be made darker with the addition of a darker color.

Take a look at the study. Does it impart a particular sensation of light, temperature or mood?

Low-key value compositions are useful for:
• Scenes overcast, or partially overcast days
• Rainy, misty and foggy days
• Scenes and compositions where we want to impart a feeling of coolness or coldness
• Night scenes
• Certain dimly-lit interior scenes
• Scenes and compositions intended to impart a sense of fear, foreboding, or suspense

Experiment with a few of these studies. It will help you get a sense of how best to use low-key compositions for the subjects you paint

Related Lessons

Cube Studies

Value To Color