Color Second, Value First

You may very well be approaching your artwork in an incorrect way. In today’s post I discuss some essential things to look for when drawing or painting.

Color Second, Value (tones) First

This article is aimed at beginners learning to paint. When painting, don’t get hung up on trying to match a color specifically. I constantly watch students learning how to paint and they are usually trying so hard (and usually getting very frustrated) to match a specific color. The truth in the matter is that it’s usually not the color that makes the painting successful it is the value.

Remember: there are three visual components to color:

  1. hue

  2. saturation

  3. value

Value: meaning how light or dark something is, is by far the most important component. If you’d like to experiment I can prove it to you. Here’s how…Paint a series of landscape paintings, but change the blue in the sky for each painting. You know what? Nobody will even notice any difference, uh your average non-color-expert viewer that is!

Try This…

I will use landscape painting as an example. As long as the value is correct you can successfully pull off the illusion of a sky in a painting by using either, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, pthalo blue, cerulean blue…whatever. It’s the value of that blue (the lightness or darkness of the blue) that matters most. Try this with you next couple of landscapes. Yes of course the blues will look slightly different and some may be more suitable for different seasons and times of day but, let’s keep it simple for this article. This article is aimed at the beginners learning to paint.

To contrast our last experiment, If you were to use any of the blues in an “out of the tube” fashion and not mixed lighter with white the blue’s value would be too dark. That would scream “problem” to any viewer of a realistic landscape painting….ahh so it’s the value that’s most important not the specific blue you say?…yes now your getting it!

So next time you break out the acrylics or oils focus on establishing your values first. You can do this by squinting your eyes. Block in your values with a hue that is as close as you can get it to your source (image or real sky) without being frustrating or wasting too much time and you can worry about perfecting your hue later. For now worry about the value 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *