The Elements of Art - "Value"


Get ALL of our courses, ebooks, live lessons, critiques, lesson plans and more today.

Value - The Element of Shadow

The word "value" is used a lot around this site and with good reason.  Value is one of the seven elements of art. Value deals with the lightness or darkness of a color.  Since we see objects and understand objects because of how dark or light they are, value is incredible important to art.  (I'll remind you that drawing and painting is about seeing.)

Value deals directly to light.  We see things because light reflects off of objects and goes into our eyes.  Our mind processes the light and rationalizes what we are seeing.  Without light, we cannot see anything. In order to draw or paint in a way that creates an illusion of what we normally see, we must fully understand light and how it reacts on surfaces.  Value is the key to the illusion of light.  This is why value is so incredibly important to drawing and painting. 

Successful Artwork has a Full Range of Value

Artworks that exhibit a full range of value are generally successful.  It doesn't matter the type of art you are creating.  As long as there are dark values in harmony with light values, your artwork will most likely be aesthetically pleasing. A full range of value means that they are ample amounts of light values- called tints, and dark values - called shades.  To be sure that you have a full range of value in your artwork you may create a value scale... 


Using a value scale, you can be sure that you create a full range of value.  Many artists use a value scale as they work, identifying specific values and adding them in appropriate spots.

Take this apple for example...

reference apple-Value-The-Elements-of-Art

Image Source

If we were to take out all color, we would still see the apple and recognize it as an apple.  In other words, we are just showing the values of the apple...


If we take this one step further and isolate eight of the values, we can see where we would need to draw or paint the values...


Using Value in Drawings

The whole point to value is to create the illusion of light.  So value is used to basically create the illusion of highlights and shadows.  Highlights and shadows combine to create the illusion of a light source.  Remember, without light we cannot see.  So technically, without a light source, you have no illusion. 

The Ultimate Lesson Plan
“The Ultimate Lesson Plan” is a complete classroom solution for art teachers that includes lesson plans, videos, handouts, quizzes and more.


This is why value is mentioned so frequently on all of the art instruction videos and pages on this website.  It's important.  If you understand and implement value correctly in your drawings and paintings, you will see immediate improvement.  Value is essential to success.

Value - Terms

Value - Element of art associated with the darkness or lightness of a color

Light source - area in which light is originating from

Value scale - a guide to creating a range of value, good pieces of art have a full range of value

Tints - light values

Free Art Lessons- Value Scale 

Shades - dark values

Free Art Lessons-Tints

Highlights - areas on an object where light is hitting

Free Art Lessons-Shades

Shadows- areas on an object where light does not hit

Free Art Lessons-Value

Like This Lesson?
If so, join over 36,000 others that receive our newsletter with new drawing and painting lessons. Plus, check out three of our course videos and ebooks for free.
More Lessons You'll Love...