Topics in Colour

Value and Colour

Value refers to the lightness or darkness of an area or object. Value is of critical importance because it can give volume to dimensional objects, define space and surface, indicate light sources, and if used correctly, it can move the viewer’s eye around a composition to focal points and other areas of interest. Value is essential in the depiction of three–dimensional space, and to establish depth relationships between forms.

soure hue determining wheel03

High Key and Low Key

In a composition, the value range of tones used is referred to as a key. High–key value ranges are brighter (7 to 10), low–key value ranges are darker (0 to 3) and an intermediate– key range is in the middle (4 to 6). On a greyscale chart, shade (darkness) would be described in terms of 0 to 3, and tint (lightness) from 7 to 10.

Low, Mid & High Value Examples

Walter Tandy Murch

Achromatic Harmony
Achromatic schemes are created using colours that have no hue. Achromatic
compositions (such as those seen in some Cubist paintings) are characteristically restrained, subtle and sophisticated. These schemes can be created using black, white,
greys, earth colours or any chromatic neutral mixture. These compositions are heavily
dependent on value to create movement, focal points and areas of interest.
Pros: Neutrals are easy.
Cons: Lack of emphasis.
Tips: Use value to create emphasis
and movement.

James White, Emptiness, 2013

James White, Emptiness, 2013









Cynthia Daignault Over-under, 2013, Oil on linen, 6 parts: 15 x 10 inches each

Cynthia Daignault Over-under, 2013, Oil on linen, 6 parts: 15 x 10 inches each

Monochromatic Harmony
Monochromatic harmony in compositions
is created using a single hue with variations
of lightness and saturation. These combinations
are easy to create, soothing to the
eye and appear very harmonious. These
schemes can easily establish an overall
mood that the artist/designer is trying to
achieve (as in Picasso’s blue period works)
and convey the personality and characteristics
of that colour (see Unit 9 for colour
symbolism). The lack of hue contrast to
help create focal points or emphasis in a
composition can be compensated for by
the use of value.
Pros: Monochromatic compositions are
easy to create and will appear organized,
balanced and cohesive.
Cons: These compositions can lack a
spark and are less vibrant than other
colour schemes.
Tips: By using value through the use of
tints and shades of the chosen colour,
emphasis and focal points can be created.
If the desired effect is not being achieved
through the use of a monochromatic
scheme, consider trying analogous colours,
which offer the same qualities of harmony
but more variety and nuances of hue.  p 82, Colour textbook

How to make Monochromatic Digital Studies

mono harmony

Mark Tansey, Doubting Thomas

Mark Tansey, Doubting Thomas

Chromatic black-is a mixed paint colour that looks black but doesn’t contain any black pigment.  A chromatic black is a more complex and interesting colour with a subtley that straight black pigment lacks.

comp colours edited

Li Songsong, Actors, Oil on Canvas, 290 X 360 cm (114 x 142 inc.)

Li Songsong,
Actors, Oil on Canvas, 290 X 360 cm (114 x 142 inc.)

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