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Mini-Lesson: Painting With Value

I have been commissioned to paint a 70 x 40-inch panel of three lemons. I usually paint 70% upside down, that way I can see “shapes” not “lemons”.  I have one photo in color, and one in black and white, taped to the top of the painting, as well as it on the computer. As I was working on it today, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give a quick mini-lesson on value.

In my opinion, value (light and dark) can make or break a painting, so here’s what I do to make sure I capture it the best way possible.

1. Go Old-School, and Squint
When I simply squint at my painting and the photo, this distorts the whole thing, wiping out all the distracting details so I can focus on the color relationships.



2. Pick up my Gray Scale and Value Finder
This handy and inexpensive tool has cut-outs that I look through to determine the value of black and white, as well as color. I hold it first over my photo, then on my paint swatches and then over my painting to make sure the painting has the same color value as the photo.

3. Don the Decoder Glasses!
Aren’t these the coolest? Wearing these shades everything red, but at least all the color (except red, that is) is taken out so I can see the painting in black and white.

4. Use Your Smartphone
The smartphone is a life-saver for any painter! I can easily snap a picture, then turn it to black and white, so I can see the value of the painting. This is a great help when I am away from my studio. I can print it out and take it with me (when I’m at my daughter’s basketball game!) and take notes on it. It’s also good to see my painting on a different size than the original.

Annie Salness Artist

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