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Why Understanding Values is Essential to Your Art | How to Paint Digitally

the value of values, cover for why understanding values is essential to your art blog post

What Are Values?

A value is defined by how light or dark a color is. If you'd like to know how to paint digitally well, understanding what values is very very important!

In the photo below, the green dots are in areas of lighter value and the purple dots are in areas of darker value. (Additionally, saturation is your X & value is your Y.)

procreate color chart, value and saturation example

The Three Most Important Values

"Having only three values to choose from is like a life preserver that keeps your head above water instead of drawing in in sea of 100s of possible values." -Marco Bucci

In Marco Bucci's video, "Light and Shadow", he demystifies what the most important three values are.

Average Light

Found on surfaces lit by your light source.

values, lighting example on a sphere

Average Shadow

There are only two types of shadows. Use one value to represent them.

Cast Shadows - Shadow (literally) casted by an object because the object is blocking light from getting to that area.

Form Shadows - Areas with form shadow are planes on an object that are turned away from the light source.

form shadow, cast shadow, example on sphere

Half Tone/Mid Tone

A value in between the shadow and light value. Some choose a half tone directly in between the shadow and light value. Marco Bucci prefers to use Sargent's method & keep the half tone closer to the light value.

digitally painted sphere of a lighting example with shadow

How to do Value Studies

Here is an example study I did using the method Marco Bucci shared in his video, "Light and Shadow"!

1. Select a reference

2. Paint the overall shape of the subject with the average light value. Then place down the average shadow value (cast & form shadows).

digital art study of portrait woman
Tip - Paint clean, easy to read shapes.

3. Incorporate the half tone

Use a value closer to your average light value than your average shadow value.

digital art value, light study of portrait woman

4. Blend

This could be covered in a separate post all together but TLDR: Use a mix of the smudge tool, airbrush, & textured brushes—moderately to avoid a messy result.

digital art value, light study of portrait woman, how to blend
  • Airbrush: Where I wanted a completely soft look (i.e. first image, right cheek).

  • Smudge Tool: Used this for areas where I wanted a some-what soft blend but not as soft as the airbrush would make it (i.e. left cheek).

  • Blending with Brushes: Use one value to blend into the other value. Then vice versa! Repeat until desired look is achieved (i.e. neck area).

Extra: Blending with Brushes Demo

digital blending example
  1. First image: Composed of simple shapes, no blending at all.

  2. Top right: Painted some strokes towards the lighter area using the dark value.

  3. Bottom left: Used the same textured brush but this time, I used the lighter grey value to blend/paint back into the darker area.

  4. Bottom right: Repeated steps 2 & 3 until I got the desired outcome.

5. The Final Image

After blending, all I did for details was add hair strands, freckles, & tiny brushstrokes in the eye/lips!

finished light/shadow/value portrait study tutorial

Thanks For Reading

Let me know if this was helpful & what you'd like me to cover next in the comments below! See you again next month! 😊🤎

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Semilore Olagunju
Semilore Olagunju
May 23, 2023

My art improved so much when I started paying more attention to values.

A tip for digital artists for checking values: Make new layer -> Set the blend mode (mutiply, overlay, etc) to Color -> bucket tool a white color.

It will turn the layers below greyscale


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