Colors that are dark are considered low in value or low-valued. These colors are visually heavy. They weigh much more than those high-value colors that we discussed in the last post. Because low-value colors are visually heavy, we often see them placed at the bottom of many representational artworks, as if gravity has pull them downward. Of course, dark colors can be placed anywhere in your design; it’s not necessary to have them near the bottom region. When placed elsewhere, they often create a rather dramatic effect. Imagery that is primarily made up of dark colors is considered low key. The most important idea to remember when working in low key is to include value contrast.
Before elaborating further on value contrast, I want to stop a minute to tell you about my newest adventure that I am very excited about. Last winter I was asked by Craftsy.com to create an online color class for their website. Because of my rather hectic schedule this year, filming just took place last week. The class, Color Play for Quilters will be available in early September, 2012.
Here’s what I love about this online-class concept: Once you enroll in class, it’s yours for life, meaning you can view it 24/7 and as often as you wish. You own it. You can bookmark parts of any of the lessons you want to refer back to and you can go at whatever pace works for you. The “techie geeks” who created the Craftsy.com platform did a brilliant job of designing it. It allows you to communicate with me and other class participants. You can show your projects, quilts, etc. to other classmates and to me. I am excited about this opportunity to share with you some of the concepts I have learned over these past three decades. An online class such as this is perfect for our schedules and modern-day lifestyle. I hope you will join me in this new adventure. (Filming is not my favorite activity….I was quite nervous about it….but I am committed to the idea of online classes, so I need to tackle that camera….mind over matter!) I hope to “see” you in class!
Now back to value…..
The Richness of Low Value Hues with Limited Value Contrast
The most important key to working with low-value colors is to include some value contrast in your design. How much contrast depends on what your design is about and how much contrast you prefer. There should be enough contrast to be able to see what’s going on in the design. In this rain forest glimpse, the colors are quite dark. Fortunately, there are some lighter-value greens in the background that help our eyes define the trees. If all the colors were as dark as the evergreen trees, we wouldn’t be able to see the design. This photo is an example of limited value contrast. Although the value contrast is small, it’s enough for us to understand the visual story.
I have seen many quilts that are created with rich, dark colors, but lack value contrast. These designs can be understood 2-4 feet away, but they disappear farther back. Often, all you can see are dark blobs of nothingness when viewing from 10 feet away. It’s so disappointing when this happens. If dark hues are your cup of tea, you must take time to figure out how you are going to include value contrast.
Adding More Lightness to a Low-Value Design
In this sunset image, you can see that the value contrast is much lighter than in the rain forest picture. Imagine viewing this photo without any value contrast—no light sunset hues. This would make it difficult to see what’s going on in the photo.
Here’s the important thought regarding this image: The beauty in this photo is in the value contrast—-not the dark-value colors. The dark and light colors work together to create a visual partnership. The value contrast in this photo creates interest and visual clarity. The color changes in the light value hues increases the beauty, but would be of no consequence if there was no value contrast.