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What is the "Value" in drawing?

Generally speaking, in terms of art, "Value" simply refers to how light or dark an object is. The specific value range for a drawing can be used to create an image that looks realistic and well-lit. The correct values help us create a space with our desired mood. Also, values are the backbone for creating 3-D images.

Like I mentioned previously, values created a form and three Dimensionality. Whenever we see anything, it means that what we are looking at is being illuminated by an external source.

As an object turns away from the light source, it gradually darkens. Eventually, the object falls into the shadow where light is absent. This gradual darkening of an object turning away from light creates a range of values.

This concept as its own is very simple and intuitive. However, its application is what poses a challenge to many people. We don't want harsh separations between the shadow and the highlights. We want a smooth blending of the contrasting values. As a rule of thumb, the point where the dark and light values meet is called mid-tones. This region is where all the blending and shading occur. It is what gives the drawing life. Highlights and Shadows are what defines an object. They are the main attributes that create shape: They are the aspects that turn a circle into a sphere, and a square into a prism. The shadows and highlights give your artwork depth and dimensions to an otherwise flat and lifeless image to a three-dimensional object that attracts the viewer's eye.

When we are determining an image's value, it is best to convert it into a black and white version without color.

Why is value the key to realism?

Now that we know that values create the illusion of form and three-dimensionality, let us see how the relationships between the values of an object make it look realistic.

To draw a believable and realistic object, the value range of the drawing MUST mimic the value relationships that in real life.

Let's use a common example of a sphere to demonstrate the importance of an accurate value range.

As you can see, the first sphere is significantly more realistic; This is because it utilizes a sensible value range. For the second example, there are significantly more highlights than the shadows, which makes the drawing look unnatural and flat— not to mention, it also defies logical sense.

Therefore, if you do not accurately represent the range between the values of an object, you will not create a realistic drawing.

As long as there are dark values that are harmonious with the light values, your artwork will most likely be successful. A full range of values means that there is a correct balance between light values and dark values— also known as shades.


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