Drawing & Painting Lessons
with Edward Burke
Seeing Color as Gray Values
Seeing color as gray values is an important skill that can improve your color painting considerably. If you paint color without an understanding of where that color falls in the gray scale, your colors might not have the right values to separate them sufficiently to create an appropriate contrast for the subject you are painting.
Painting Color onto 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. Two examples have been given in the chart below, Cadmium Red and Lemon Yellow. Working with a color straight from the tube, look for the gray that has the same value or level of intensity as your paint. When you find the gray equivalent, paint your color 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.
As an example of how color in a painting can be improved by understanding color as gray values, study the color painting below, and then look at the painting after it was converted to grays in a photo-editing program.
Art Student Unknown
In this gray version, you can easily see where the color values are too close together to create depth to the object being painted, or to separate forms from each other. In some places, 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.