A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Colour Workshop - 2. About value

Value refers the relative lightness or darkness of a colour. Each colour has its equivalent on the grayscale, each picture can be viewed in black and white.
If you feel unsure at this point collect coloured papers in a line and try to define their value on a grayscale. Example:

You can repeat this exercise with your fabrics you intend to use on a quilt as well. (You can check your results by making a photo of your coloured papers and converting it into black and white.)
The question today is: How does value change make the difference in a picture? For that make the following exercise before you continue to read on.
Regard the following three grayscale-compositions for 30 seconds and write down 5-10 adjectives what characterize each grid best.


So let’s compare notes!

My adjectives for the first composition were: quiet, calm, open, light, airy, de-energized, free from tension, monotonous, boring, flat.

Second composition: calm, quiet, gloomy, cheerless, grave, dark, airtight, dense, flat

Third composition: strong, dynamic, vivid, full of suspense, vibrant, sensation of depth.

Of course, you might not be in complete agreement with my adjectives, colour perception is happening in the mind and we’re all different. But the main conclusion is, that full-scale values are very important for a dynamic composition.
It is not just how many hues you use but which values you have what makes the difference.
Black and white photography eliminates hue and saturation, leaving only value. Here is an example of my Cityscapes #2 in colour and in black and white.

The full-scale values (from light to dark) support the dynamic image of the city.

David Hockney has not used many colours in his A Bigger Splash, but he has full-scale values in the picture as you can see. Outside the splash, it is a very quiet picture. No action on it. But using full-scale values, from light to dark, prevents it to be boring. On the opposite it only increases the tension so the splash feels real. This is a very clever usage of the values.

Another example: Picasso painted his famous Guernica in “grisaille”, which is a term for a painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of gray.
He uses light grays for everything living and very dark grays for objects and the background. This huge contrast creates a very dramatic effect supporting the story behind this masterpiece.

Well, this is about value. Pay attention to it, because it can underline what you want to express.
A tip: lay down your chosen fabrics, make a photo and convert it in black and white, controlling the values. Think of the adjectives you collected: which value scale evokes the kind of sensation you aim to create!


  1. Wonderful exercise on value! Often I use my ipad to view my work as I go. Now I will remember to use it more often. Dynamic was one of my adjectives for the third example of grey scale compositions!

  2. Thank you for your mini refresher course on value. i enjoyed it and will read again!!
    I recall an exercise done in a painting class 40 years ago where we were to do a still life in grays not using black or white paint! changed me forever!

    1. Isn't it interesting the exercises that we never forget!!


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