The Element of Value


An element of art, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. Value becomes critical in a work which has no colors other than black, white and a gray scale. For a great example of value in action, think of a black and white photograph. You can easily visualize how the infinite variations of gray suggest planes and textures.

Jeffrey Pine by Ansel Adams (Photo)


value - An element of art that refers to luminance or luminosity — the lightness or darkness of a color. This is important in any polychromatic image, but it can be more apparent when an image is monochromatic, as in many drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, and photographs. This is commonly the case in much sculpture and architecture too.

Below: a value scale employing a smoothly nuanced gradation of values.



Below: a value scale — or gray scale — in eight stepped grades of values.


And another stepped scale produced by hatching and cross-hatching.

Below: another value scale — or gray scale — in which stepped grades of values are labeled for their percentages of black, and values used to give planar shapes greater solidity and depth.

*Create a 10 step value chart and a blended value chart. Example. Worksheet PDF.

A full range of values can also be produced by a variety of other means. The five most common shading techniques are: smooth shading, hatching, crosshatching, stippling, and scribbling. Other varieties of shading can be unique to the artist and include creating value with textures and patterns

The first step to successful pencil shading is to control the movement of your pencil, making sure that every mark you make on the paper works towards creating the shading or modeling effect that you want.

*Create a chart showing a grayscale of each of the following: smooth shading, hatching, crosshatching, stippling and scumbling. Example. Worksheet PDF.

*Drawing the four basic forms. Podcast. Example. Worksheet PDF.

*Shading the four basic forms. Podcast. Shading Assignment Example. Worksheet PDF.

*Extra Practice: Drawing the basic forms in a room. Basic Form Composition.

Keys to a realistic drawing.

1. Draw and shade exactly what you SEE, nothing more, nothing less.

2. Use directional shading. Follow the form of the object you are shading. Curved lines for rounded objects and straight lines for flat objects.

3. NO OUTLINES!! Edges should be created where two values meet.