Value Learning Track

This learning track is meant to give you a good understanding of the basic concepts and an introduction to using value effectively in your work.

Value is arguably the most important characteristic of color for the artist to consider.  Fundamentally,  it is a measure of the relative lightness or darkness of a color or color shape. It is also sometimes referred to as tone. Learning to see the many hundreds or thousands of values as they exist in nature and to then transpose them a limited range of Value steps is fundamental to understanding and applying good value design in your paintings.

Value Basics

value composition sketch for a simple seascapeSeeing and then learning to use value is vitally important.

Start with this lesson that introduces value, it’s importance to the artist, and other basic information.  

Value Scale

Image of a five step value scale that is easy to make in watercolorA Value Scale is one of the most useful tools for the artist, especially when learning to see and create values in your painting.

This FREE lesson steps through the process of creating an abbreviated, but still useful five-step value scale. 

Create A Nine Step Value Scale

A Value Scale is one of the most important and useful tools for the artist, especially those who are just learning to see and use value in their paintings.

This lesson steps through the process of creating a nine-step scale that will be useful for many years.

At the same time, you’ll be training your eye and building painting skills.

Light and Form

Light falling on a three-dimensional object creates distinct – and sometimes complex – patterns of light, shade and shadow.

These patterns of value can be simplified and grouped into one of three values – light, mid, and dark.  Well placed values will show light and provide the illusion of three-dimensional form.

These lessons are simple to complete and show the most basic way value can be used to depict light and create a sense of form and space.

Value Thumbnail Sketches

Well placed, simplified value can provide the illusion of three dimensional form on individual shapes.

But, Value has a more important role in helping to create strong, dynamic compositions. Taking the time to plan your painting using Value Composition Studies is far more likely to produce a successful painting.

These studies are usually small and are often called Value Thumbnail Sketches. The concept is easy to understand, but it requires a shift in thinking and a commitment to the process to really make it work

This group of lessons will introduce you to the idea and process. 

Value Thumbnail Sketch Process

Practicing anything is a way to get improve and develop new habits. 

It is difficult to overstate the value of Value Sketching as a way to improve your compositions and strenghten your paintings in the process. 

As mentioned before, the mental challenge is a large obstacle. Working through the process requires a conscious shift in thinking.  

These tutorials step through the process of creating Value Thumbnail Sketches for some of our painting lessons.  All go through the process from beginning to end, step-by step. What is especially important is the thought process which is also verbalized in the lessons. 

Learning to create shape and value compositions separate from and regardless of the subject matter is CRUCIAL to development from beginner to intermediate and advanced watercolorist.  

Develop the habit, practice it over and over until it becomes second-nature. When it finally does, you’ll notice that you will see value compositions in your subjects even as you first encounter them.