NHS Designs

degree of lightness or darkness in a color; the relation of light and shade in a painting, drawing, or the like.

of or having tones of only one color.

related concepts

  • high key (light) and low key (dark) paintings
  • value contrasts
  • graded values
  • values in atmospheric perspective


The Five Elements of Shading


Assignment 7: Form & Value

Graphic Design Principles of Visual Design


Value refers to dark and light.

Value contrasts help us to see and understand a two-dimensional work of art.

This type can be read because of the contrast of dark letters and light background.

Value contrast is also evident in colors, which enables us to read shapes in a painting.

Value in Fine Art

Jean Metzinger - Sailboats
Jean Metzinger - "Sailboats", 1912

Metzinger's painting has strong value contrasts as can be seen in a black and white version of it on the right. The painting is cubist in style with angular fractures and shapes. Follow the visual movement from the bottom right over a light-valued visual path upward to the top left sail, which is the focal area. A high contrast in value can help define a focal point.

Source: Elements and Principles of Design: Student Guide with Activities, published by Crystal Productions

Value in Graphic Design

Swan Poster by Mcray Magleby

Cyclone Self Promotion
Dennis Clouse, Traci Daberko
Cyclone Design

This poster is good example of both color and value. It is also an appropriate example of how proper texture can enhance a design. In fact, it uses type as texture.

But first, let's look at value. The poster is very colorful but low-key in value, meaning that except for black, the values are overall similar. Because of the color palette, it does not run the risk of being anywhere near monochromatic. Compare the original on top with a black-and-white version below it.

Source: Design Basics for Creative Results by Bryan L. Peterson

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