Value indexpage

an element of art


12. Fine Arts -
a. degree of lightness or darkness in a color.
b. the relation of light and shade in a painting, drawing, or the like. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 12 Jan. 2011. <>.


VALUE refers to the darks and lights in a work of art.Values can be made by adding white to a color (tints) or black (shades). Colors themselves can show value in an artwork.

Value can be used to show form, texture and distance/depth. Value is used with all media. Below, value is shown (left to right) with paint tints and shades, pen, pencil and through color.


Image far right above: detail from Vincent van Gogh; Memory of the Garden at Etten; oil on canvas; 1888.


Henri Matisse; The Green Line (La Raie Verte); 1905; Oil; 40.50 cm × 32.5 cm (15.9 in × 12.8 in); Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

In this painting by Matisse above, the lights and darks are shown with a variety of hues. This use of color was favored by the Fauves, artists belonging to the early 20th century French art movement called Fauvism. These artists used wild color in their work.

A more traditional approach to value involves the lights and darks of any given hue (color). A value scale is a popular beginning project for painting students. It is made by adding white or black to a hue to create the lights and darks.



Values show form in an artwork. The dark and light modeling in a two dimensional painting show the illusion of three dimensions. It can be used to show contrast or to create dramatic emphasis.

Chiaroscuro (pronounced "Key + Arrow + Skew + Row") is a technique using high contrasting values to strengthen the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional surface.


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio; The Incredulity of Saint Thomas; 1601-02.

Tenebrism uses a single source of light to emphasize the use of chiaroscuro in a composition.


Georges de la Tour; The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame; 1638-1640.

The above images are in the Public Domain

Click on poster above for a larger, printable version.