Learning Track For Value


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.

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. 

Part 1 – Value Basics

Start Here.  This lesson introduces value, it’s importance to the artist, and important basic information.


Part 2 – 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 – light, mid-value, and dark – can be simplified and placed on  two-dimensional paper. Done well, the painting will show light and, at the same time, reveal the form of the object as it appears in three-dimensions.  This lesson uses a simple composition of simple objects to show the  pattern of values that will show light and form in your paintings. You won’t believe how simple it is.

Follow this set to learn about how value can be used to depict light.  Two lessons use value only. The last one uses a single color or mono-chrome.

Using Value To Show Form And Light- Watercolor Painting Lesson
Showing Form And Light With Value A Study Of Cubes Helps Simplify A Complex Subject Learn how to show light ...
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Watercolor Sketch In Shades Of Gray
Watercolor Sketch In Gray Showing Light and Form With Shades Of Gray This lesson shows you how to work effectively ...
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Showing Light And Form With Monochromatic Color - Watercolor Painting Lesson
Form And Light With A Single Color The Complex Interaction Of Color And Value In A Simple Exercise In this ...
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“Value”able Tools

You’ll want to have a way to check the values established in your composition as well as in your finished work. These lessons will help. 

Creating A Five Step Value Scale
Creating A Five Step Value Scale One Of The Most Useful Painting Tools You Can Have One of the most ...
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Easy Way To Check Value In Your Painting
An Easy Way To Check Value In Your Paintings The Solution Is Right In Your Hand! Thumbnails Work...  One of ...
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Part 3 – Value Thumbnail Sketches

You have a subject or scene you’re excited about, you’re all set up and ready, so you jump right in to your painting without any pre-palnning at all.  Centuries-worth of working artists have proven over and over that taking the time to plan your painting with studies of composition and, especially, value composition is far more likely to produce a successful painting.

As an artist, you are enganged in creating a design on a two-dimensional surface NOT in re-creating real objects.

That statement is easy to understand, but very difficult to accept and act on.  To do so means the artist has to let go of what they know, or think they know about the reality of their subject. Instead, they must consider how best to reveal the subject within the framework of a dynamic design.  If you find this difficult, remember that every artist who has ever picked up a brush, faced the same challenge.

The simplest way to get started is by practicing the ‘art’ of thumbnail value composition sketching.  This lesson introduces the basic concept with a simple example.

Do This First


Do This Next

it’s a bit more complex, but is a good introduction to practicle Value Compostion