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Finally understanding value

So for me understanding value is a major obstacle to painting.... I just can't see it... and I know it's the main thing. I can draw easily in black and white it's when color is added I have the problem and I can paint subjects but getting it to all fall into place has been a challenge soooo I'm "cheating" But don't really care as long as I can finally have it click in my brain..... and it makes more sense to me now and I can immediately pick up on what I have done wrong and where.

I have decided to take side by side photos that are in color and on my iPhone change it to tonal setting (maybe you already do this with your photoshop and gimp but I haven't, and don't even use those)

as follows are #4 &#5 paintings and suddenly it all makes sense when everyone says pay attention to your values lol

So so now I can see exactly what needs to be darker/lighter and where. 

Do do you think this will help or hinder progress in DMP? 


  • hey, its not cheating.. if it is, even I do it in a way, when i match every value by putting a spot on my ref pic.  =)
  • @anwesha you would think the even spot checking on my reference photo (first time for that) I would get it right lol nope I see a few mistakes thankfully fixable on my son.... and the bird everyone saying check values I kept thinking ok, there has to be a better way because ....- even though I made some mistakes ...- I know this thing looks like a bird at the beach  :p
    finally I can see the values in it
  • the black and white idea is a good one.. i would say just before seeing the results on the black and white, make some guesses where you think the value should be darker/lighter than you painted.. and see if what you predicted are correct... may be that would help improve the judgement regarding values? 
  • I like that idea, with the paint being wet for so long It will give me time to make corrections if needed  =)
    at the same time hopefully I will gain the experienced eye with colors
  • Art teachers often get students to paint in black and white or monochrome so that they can focus on value. I think your strategy is a good one.
  • @jswartzart Here is an example of the process you used for the bird:

    To me, that blue in the picture stands out as lower value because it has greater contrast with its neighbors than does the red.  So I see contrast as the difference between values.

    But I'm not sure if this is the correct way to think about it.
  • Good idea. You're scaffolding your learning :) important thing is to break away from the support eventually though
  • @PaulB looking at it that way is really hard for my mind to grasp the values in it... the grey scale yes right away but the colors no, every color to my eyes look the same except the blue.

    Thats why taking away all color and just seeing light and dark snaps into place for me....I know somehow at some point I will need to advance but I think for now I am going to paint at the level I can using the tools I can to get things right. Hopefully skill will come with time and practice.
  • edited May 2017

    jswartzart said:

    Hopefully skill will come with time and practice.

    That's the secret, @jswartzart. ;)
  • I find squinting really helps - maybe it just block out unnecessary details. Your method is a good one.
  • jswartzart

    Here is a link to a hundred value test that is fun to do and scores your effort.
    I have posted this a couple of times and it gets a good run.


  • edited May 2017
    What a fun test.  And I got a perfect score.  Not bad for an old bloke. :)
  • Thx @dencal that was a fun test I got a zero which says is perfect on first try.... there is hope for me yet lol!
  • There is no such thing as cheating in art.  If you do it and it's your work and it's artistic to you it's art and it's valid.  The painters we venerate used any and all methods available to them to get an excellent result.  We may do the same.
  • AMEN @MikeDerby but this new technology stuff is just as frustrating to me (an old dog) as finding the values on the canvas. I got one of those little gray scale cards and that has helped but as I go on I'm finding that I need it less often. That is to say I'm not as far off as I used to be so yes, @jswartzart, we should be able to wean ourselves off of those "crutches" in time. Great thread BTW, so many of us needing help with value issues.
  • I agree with all of the above.  In college painting 101 or whatever you call it, the first paintings are typically done in monochrome maybe black, white, burnt umber and/or blue.  This gets you to focus just on value.  In addition try and take some figure drawing classes as well.  A lot of the intro classes will use charcoal and focuses on value (and proportion of course).  Its really a basic skill that just takes time and practice to build.  I think staying away from photo reference in the beginning is also helpful.  Once you get good at drawing and painting from live subjects you can effectively "cheat" by using photos if needed.
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