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       "The more water you add
        to your puddles of color,
        the lighter the value will be."


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    Yellow and violet alongside a grayscale

Watercolor Values

  • How to gauge a watercolor's value
  • Understanding values
  • Color
  • Shade
  • Tint
  • Hue

Value is, quite simply, the relative lightness or darkness of a color and is an important element of a good painting. In fact, value is so important that, even if your colors are perfect and your drawing accurate, if your values are off, the painting may never look right.

How to Gauge a Watercolor's Value
Artists generally learn how to check values by using a gray scale like the one below. The lightest value is pure white, the darkest, pure black. A color's value can be estimated by placing it next to the gray scale and finding which shade or shades of gray most closely match the lightness or darkness of your color.
The overall value of a color can be gauged using a gray scale. The scale shown here has been divided into 10 percent increments, from 0 percent (pure white) to 100 percent (pure black).
value scale divided into 10% increments
I have placed a painted watercolor sample of yellow and purple alongside the gray scale. Compare these two colors to the grays. When you look at the yellow, your eye will be drawn to the lighter values (lower percentages) of the gray scale. When you look at the purple, your eye is drawn to the darker values (higher percentages).

Matching colors takes practice, so don't be concerned if it seems difficult at this point.

personal note   If you are still uncertain of what your watercolors value might be, make a black and white photocopy of your painted samples and then place them against the gray scale. Their values will instantly pop out at you!

Understanding Watercolor Values


Refers to the wavelength composition of light.
Illustration of a color wheel showing color, shade, tint, and hue made from these colors
Shade Refers to a color's degree of darkness.
Tint Refers to a color's degree of lightness.
Hue Refers to a modification of a basic color, for instance a Yellow Orange.

NEXT:   Making a Value Scale   

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