Let Value Do The Work

Add The Power Of Abstract Value Patterns To Your Watercolor Paintings

Value is a measure of the relative lightness or darkness of a color or color shape. It is also referred to as tone and is one of the three characteristics of color. Values, consciously designed and placed in your paintings, provide support in three important ways:

  • It can support the three-dimensional representation of an object
  • It can support proper representation of the quality, intensity and direction of light
  • Most importantantly, the conscious placement of contrasting light and dark shapes affect the power and dynamism of the compostion. This set of tutorials will show you how to begin using value and value shapes in your compositions for stronger more dynamic paintings.

Learning to use value well and wisely will make a tremendous difference in your work. 

Following the videos below, in order one-by-one, will get you started.

Tonal Value Basics

No matter how familiar with the concept of value you may be, it’s never a bad idea to review. 

If you have taken any watercolor painting classes or workshops, you have likely heard the instructor stress the importance of value and value shapes in your paintings. But, perhaps without really explaining the concepts and the important uses. This short tutorial will cover the basics of tonal value and the important uses for the artist.

Create A Five Step Value Scale

You will need a tool to help you see and place value in your design. 

This tutorial will help you create a five-step value scale. It is very much abbreviated compared to what you may have seen in books or used in other classes, but will really do just fine.  At the elementary design stage, we are dealing with only a few values at a time. This value scale will work for that as well as in more complex value design arrangements.

Value Sketching – The Basics

This tutorial introduces two concepts – dividing the space of your picture plane into large, abstract, non-representational shapes and then simplifying and applying value into those shapes for design effect.

If you are new to these concepts, even this tutorial may seem difficult. But follow it through, especially the shape-making and value creating exercises.


Simple Value Arrangements That Work

There is an easy formula and process for creating simple value arrangements that have power and visual impact.

Yet it is difficult to follow the simple process when our rational mind wants to fight against our true responsibility as artists: to create a dynamic design, regardless of subject matter. Practicing the exercise in this tutorial will help you separate the reality of the subject from the responsibilty of composition and design.


Once You Have Those Down

Try These More Complex Value Studies

Simple Value Sketch For A Complex Seascape

This tutorial goes step-by-step through the process of creating a simple value sketch for a seascape scene. 

Following along the process from the videos above, we break down the complex collection of elements and combine them into three simple abstract shapes – foreground, middle ground, and background. Then add three values – light, mid, and dark.  The resulting sketch seems too simple to work yet becomes the basis for a composition that reveals light and form as well good design


Another Simple Value Arrangement

Again, we think in terms of threes for this value sketch – three areas of space, three values.

In this tutorial, we’ll create another very simple arrangement of abstract shapes and three simple values for a winter landscape scene. Practicing this simple process is GUARANTEED to bring surprising power to your landscape and seascape compositions.