A Scaled-Down Value Scale

One of the first lessons artists learn is that to paint a realistic image, you’ve got to get the values right. Like most artists, I was taught to test my values by comparing them to a value scale, a strip of paper with white at one end, black at the other, and a range of grays in between. But I sometimes have trouble using a traditional value scale, especially in small areas of color; it can be a slow and tedious procedure looking back and forth from my painting to the scale.

To get a fast, accurate value reading every time, I modified the traditional 10-value scale. I punched a hole from each square of color in my scale and created a mini-scale using the “holes.” I labeled each disk with the appropriate number from my traditional value scale and then arranged them in order on a piece of transparent tape. I then carefully covered the disks with a second piece of tape, thereby enclosing the “holes” in a protective strip of plastic. To check my values, I simply lay the mini-scale directly on the area in question, squint my eyes and easily compare the values to the small disks of color.

Charles F. Barnard is an award-winning artist who, with his artist wife Eleanor, lives in Stockton, California. He’s had paintings accepted in numerous regional and national exhibitions, including: American Watercolor Society, Rocky Mountain National, San Diego International and National Watercolor Society.

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