Seeing Value

Did you make a value scale?  See last week’s post for how to do it if you haven’t already.  It’s a useful exercise in itself to learn to make a square of an even shade.  It requires some effort and control.  Plus to visually determine each step in a seven box value scale further develops one’s eye.


Now we’re going to use the value scale to see values in the world around us. One useful way to do this is cut your scale from the paper and put holes in the center of each square. That way you can hold it up against a value you see to determine how light or dark it is. It can be surprising – things that you think are black are actually gray, and things you are sure are white, are not. As you go through your day, take time to look at values.

Right now I’m looking at a Windsor chair at my work table. It’s painted red and as I squint at it I can see there are definite darks and lights that are defined by it’s relationship to the light source – the window. There is a pear shaped candle on the table. At first glance I note it’s olive green. Looking more closely I can see that the side that is away from the light source is darker. One of the ways I see this is to note that there is more contrast with the tablecloth on that side than on the side that faces the light.

pearpear & scale


Probably the best way to study light hitting an object is to use a white sphere. Shadows are easily seen on white objects. The closest spot on the sphere to the light source is the highlight. From that point the surface curves away from the light and becomes darker and darker until it gets to the bottom of the sphere where there is no light.  I often will circle the highlight to keep it as white as possible.   Watch the video to see how I  build up my grays.  For this kind of a subject, I used my fingers to smooth out the graphite since the ball I’m drawing is smooth.  As you learn to identify values, you will be able to draw a convincing round object.  If you don’t have a sphere, try drawing an egg. It’s important to use one light source, preferably the sun on a sunny day. Multiple lights diffuse the light and  make it harder to see values.  Give it a try and see how you do.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s