EXERCISE I – Determining Value of Palette Pigments

The value of a specific color varies depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the pigment, professional or student grade.  It is difficult enough to determine the value I wish to capture on paper when painting from life.  I must immediately alter reality to fit into the limits of the value range of pigments.  My eyes perceive far more changes in value than can be expressed with paint.  The value range of most paintings will consist of of not less than five steps and not more than nine steps.  I  have used a seven step range for Color Exercise 1.

An excellent reference for this exercise is the artist’s value wheel from the Handprint website.  However, as I mentioned above, pigments differ.  When I did the following exercise I found the value, especially of viridian, differed drastically between professional grade paints and student grade paints.

Step One: I painted swatches according to the artist’s value wheel.  I painted a second set of swatches adjusting the placement according to my specific palette pigments.  The swatches shown on the left were painted using a student grade Cotman watercolor travel kit.

Cotman Watercolor Travel Palette

Step Two: I cut away the white border on one side of a printed seven step value chart so that I could hold the value square adjacent to my color swatches, making it easier to determine if a color is lighter or darker than the gray value square.  Some colors that I think of as dark were lighter than expected.  Some colors that I thought to be light were darker than expected.  When the choice was difficult, I squinted.  When I could not detect a clear line of separation between the color swatch and the gray scale swatch, I had found the correct value.

Professional Grade vs Student Grade

Step Three: I scanned my gray scale so that I can print as many as I  need to create a value chart for each of my palettes.

Once the color value is determined, I painted a new swatch of the color directly onto a printed copy of my value scale adjacent to its appropriate value square.

Professional Grade Pigments


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