Mix Colors for Value

Value—the relative lightness or darkness of a color, with white and black being the wtwo extremes—is the first thing we notice when we look at something. In other words, we perceive if a color is light or dark before we recognize the actual color of it.

Contrasts of value within a painting create the overall value, or key, of a painting. For example, a high-key painting uses white down to the middle range of values down to black.

A painting that uses only middle values will lack contrast and runs the risk of being flat and boring. Colors that are close in value can be used to create a harmonious painting, but they need some contrast to look interesting. So also be sure to pay attention to the values of the colors in your painting and how they interact.

To lighten a color there are a few options:

  • Add white. This will raise the value, cool the temperature and lower the intensity.

  • Add a neighbor color of lighter value. This will raise the value and change the temperature and the hue. Use a combination of both of these methods.

    Read everything you ever wanted to know about mixing color in Jones’s article in the June issue of The Artist’s Magazine, available May 16 on the newsstand and online.

    Edited by Lisa Wurster, associate editor for The Artist’s Magazine.

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