Color is Value

Once a long time ago I was trying to pick the brain of a co-worker about color. He seemed to be really good with color and I was trying to get some guidance and help. He didn't really know what to tell me. He just shrugged and said, "All you need to know is that color is value. That's it."

A simple statement, but I found it to be very helpful and insightful.

So....what does it mean? Well, value is a confusing word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to color. But here I'm using value to mean the black, white and grey tones of a drawing (just like the last post).

So basically it means that, even though you're working with color, the painting should still work if it's converted back into a black, white and grey sketch, and should still follow the general rules about value that I talked about last post. Values in a black and white sketch are really important for clarity and readability, and they remain important when you work with color. They're just a lot harder to judge when you bring color into the equation, and it's hard to remember how important they are when you are juggling all the other aspects that color brings to the table.

Photoshop has the ability to convert any color image into black and white so that you can check your values easily if you're working digitally. Just go to the "Image" dropdown menu, then go to "Mode" and select "Grayscale" (see image below)

and Photoshop will convert your image to black, white and grey so you can check your values. Pretty cool, huh? I used this tool a lot to check my values while I was digitally coloring my comic book stories.

I often felt that the black and white images looked better than the final color.

Then, after you've checked your values, you can just "Undo" and step backwards to your full color file.

Or you can do it the way that artists have been doing it for hundreds of years: if you squint your eyes at a painting it's easier to see the values.

Anyway, here are some paintings converted to black and white so you can see how well the values work (paintings by N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Rembrandt, Earl Oliver Hurst and Norman Rockwell).