Creating Value Maps for your Paintings

People who watch my You Tube Painting Channel often see me showing and discussing what I call my “Value Map” for the painting.  Many have asked me to explain what it is and how I do it. I usually show my LIVE classes the “Value Map” which I have created with Adobe’s Photoshop software but have not shown them how I do it. For people who are not using Photoshop or who are not as comfortable with computers I have been asked to explain how one might do this without a computer or special software.

So, what is a value map?  Below is a value map I created to use for painting the Autumn Scene below. It usually looks a little bit like a puzzle with interlocking pieces as shown here. I try to get the value map into three values – a light value, a mid value and a dark value. This forces me to look at the big shapes and not get too enamored with the detail. I also try to think about a “value pattern” that involves three planes of the painting or painting zones – the background, the middle ground and the foreground. My “value pattern” then is one of six alternatives that are created by assigning one of the values to each of the zones.

So I could have a dark value in the foreground

Autumn Scene

with a mid value in the middle ground and a light value in the background. This is one of six combinations that an be created by rotating the values with the painting zones.

Here are the six basic value patterns that result from planning a painting using three “painting zones,” and three values. Also I show a simplified example of each to give you an idea of what I am talking about.