Painting Lesson - Seeing Color as Gray Values

Seeing color as gray values is an important skill and can improve your color painting considerably. If you paint color without an understanding of where that color falls in the gray scale your colors may not have the right value to separate them sufficiently to create an appropriate contrast for the subject you are painting.

Painting Color On To A Gray Scale Grid.

Using the 10 x 7 grid you created for the Gray Value lesson you will now try to determine where tube-color paints fall on the gray scale. Paint the pure paint tube colors under the gray value that is the same value or level of intensity as the paint. Two examples have been given in the chart, Cadmium Red and Lemmon Yellow. Working with straight from the tube colors, find the gray value equivalent of the paint and paint it into the appropriate row under the column with the matching gray. You more than likely will not get it correct right off the bat. You will need to experiment and you may even find that your tube colors fall between two of the grays. In that case paint the color swatch straddling the two grays.

Painting Gray Values

Below is an example of how the color can be improved in a painting by using a photo-editing tool to convert it to grays. You can see easier in the gray version of the painting where the color values are too close together to create depth to the object being painted or to separate forms from each other. With a better understanding of color value could help to improve this painting.

 Pablo Picasso "The Kiss," 1969

Art Student UnknownMark Rothko

Color painting converted in a photo-editing program to grays. You can see that the value of the colors are too close and do not work in creating depth or distinction to the forms of the building. The only thing that separates the forms is the use of black outline. A little study and understanding of color as gray value would help to improve this painting.