927_3 Reasons "Value" Makes Your Work Better

I was painting yesterday and went down one of those dead end roads for about an hour and a half. The problem was that I forgot something very, very important. It has to do with Value (the lightness and darkness of something) and choosing Color.

There are 3 reasons why Value is essential to remember when choosing color.

Reason one

Your Art will change very quickly and easily.

The most noticeable, powerful component of color is VALUE. Make sure you choose your colors based upon their value (lightness and darkness). If you do, then your work will change more rapidly and easily. Lightness and Darkness is what the human eyes sees first—even before color. The shape or area to be colored has to be the right value in the composition. If you want that area to stand out, (high contrast) or remain subtle (low contrast) then choose the right value first, then select any color that is close to that value. Working this way, thinking of color first in terms of value is like hitting color homeruns all day long. And that makes everything way more enjoyable.

Reason Two

It keeps you looking at the whole composition.

The value of the color is a fantastic thing to remember because it forces you to think of the overall composition—“the big picture” when you are choosing colors. Think of it this way…if you are always partially thinking of what changes you are doing to the art and how they effect the greater good—the total painting, it will keep the art improving. Things tend to become diluted when we act with little or no awareness of the whole. Just because we love that orange color and can’t wait to squeeze it out doesn’t mean it is the right color for the place your thinking of putting it. The artist Dan McCaw – who taught me color, among many other things –  used to say that color can be like “fool’s gold”. Don’t be fooled by thinking a favorite color will work just because you love it.



Reason three

You will discover brand new colors!

If you are thinking of color in terms of values and get this working, then it actually makes it way easier to choose colors because almost any color will work if it’s the right value! I know that it is hard to believe but it is true. You get the value part right, then the rest is super easy. When I do this I often end up leaving the arbitrary colors in place that I randomly started with because they just work. I love the fact that unexpected colors end up in my paintings. If your palette is constantly changing then your work will stay fresh and unique.

Making Art has a lot of challenging parts to it. It seems like you have to work at everything so hard. Color shouldn’t be one of them. Try this approach and see if things can get a little easier. It actually makes the color part of art making super fun again.

What has your experience with using Value been? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

In gratitude, Nicholas