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Which is More Important: Value or Color?

There are many books you will find easily about “Watercolor Techniques: Painting Light & Color in Landscapes & Cityscapes” that briefly elaborate about how to make the most of both values and color, understanding perspective as well as capturing light, and more. Discover step-by-step watercolor painting demonstrations that will help you make the most of your watercolor.

From “Watercolor Techniques”

Value Versus Color

There’s an ongoing debate regarding the relative importance of value versus color. Many artists feel that a value plan is all that’s necessary. For them, color is subsidiary to value. Colorists, on the other hand, feel that color is most critical and that patterns of color make a successful painting and that the value scale is intrinsic in the colors.

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Many of the artists lean toward the values argument. Even after decades of painting, many artists continue to do a pencil value study prior to every painting. With their values determined, they can then select the colors to yield these values.

Many students, who are often reluctant to do a value study, get lost somewhere in the middle of a painting or have to go over previously painted areas because they didn’t know the values they wanted in advance. While color is crucial, following a solid value plan is a sure road map to a successful painting.

Value and light fit hand in glove. They are inseparable. Through the deft use of values, a painting can evince a strong sense of light, depicting a range of effects from harsh midday sun or soft and misty light. Value manipulation defines the atmosphere and feeling of light.

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