Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Seeing Six Shades of Gray

Tuesday Tips and Tricks

Navy Pier, Chicago


It's been such a gray winter in Chicago that I’ve been seeing the urban landscape not in terms of color but as patterns and shapes created by light and shadow. As a sketcher it's made me more sensitive to value. Value, a.k.a. tone, is defined as the lightness or darkness of a color in relation to a scale from white to gray to black.

Many photographers and artists use a value scale to check the accuracy of their vision. The scales can be as involved as twelve shades of gray to as simple as three tones, a dark, a midtone and a light. You can buy a value scale at any art supply store or download one from the internet. I prefer a six toned scale and think there’s much to be gained by making your own scale. It develops your sight for awareness and perception of tone.


Making a Value Scale


  1. Draw six (or as many as you choose) blocks about one inch wide.
  2. Leave the first one blank/white. Shade the last one as dark as possible.
  3. Fill in the remaining boxes to show the gradation from the darkest dark to pure white. For this scale I used a 2B pencil since that is what I often use when I sketch.

Using a Value Scale

Cut the scale out and take it along on your sketch outings. Hold it up to your subject and check the accuracy your perception of the tones you see. (Hint: Squint to help simplify the values .)

Try seeing your subject in terms of value shapes rather than named parts or colors. Both these squares are painted with blue taken right from the tube but where do they fall on the value scale? Which blue is the tone you may need?
  
              Holbein Verditer Blue             Schmincke  Prussian Blue

Which of these center gray squares is darker?

How we see the value of a color is effected by values around it. Using a value scale can help clarify what is actually in front of us. The center grays are exactly the same. 


The Value of Values


  1. When a painting seems lifeless or dull, or just a little off, it’s frequently because the values aren’t correct. 
  2. Rendering values will add dimension and light to your work.
  3. Color can be a personal choice but the lightness or darkness of that color must be on the mark. 



1 comment:

  1. Cut the scale out and take it along on your sketch outings. Hold it up to your subject and check the accuracy your perception of the tones you see. I like it very much and would want that my kid would do the same in schools ++++.

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