Mastering Colour 1: Making a 5 value painting

Values underpin every image you will ever make, so we must begin with values before we can tackle colour! Learn to identify the values in your subject by painting it in greyscale in this important lesson.


The ability to recognise and match the light and darkness of your subject is the most important skill a painter must acquire. The values in your paintings are always more important than the colours and anyone who wants to master colour must first have a thorough understanding of values.

We begin with a full colour subject and learn to paint it accurately using only black, white and 3 shades of grey paint.

Contents: Slide talk, practical demonstration and skill building exercise.
Running time: 1 hr  33 mins
Time required for exercise: 1 – 2 hrs

Materials List

Materials and equipment required:

• One 9 x 12” board or A4 sheet of paper
• A small flat paint brush, around 1cm or ½ “ wide is ideal, a round brush would also be fine
• A palette knife of any size and shape you like to use
• Paper towel for cleaning/drying brushes
• Plenty of clean water if you’re using acrylics or watercolours
• Just one from each line of the following list of colours
• Titanium white
• Black paint if you have any or you can use the following colours to mix your own black:
• Any bright greenish yellow – Cadmium lemon yellow, bright yellow lake, bismuth vanadate, Lemon yellow (not Michael Harding’s lemon yellow though – be sure to use his cadmium lemon!)
• An orangey yellow – Indian yellow red shade, cadmium golden yellow, cadmium yellow deep, gamboge, Yellow lake deep
• An orangey red – Cadmium red light, vermillion, possibly napthol red if it is an orangey shade
• A purplish red – Quinacridone pink, opera rose, permanent rose, alizarin claret, permanent alizarin, alizarin crimson, (or perhaps even magenta though that is a bit too purple really)
• A purplish blue – Ultramarine or cobalt blue
• A greenish blue – Phthalocyanine blue lake, phthalo blue green shade, Windsor blue, cerulean blue
• An easel or table easel to allow you to paint onto a vertical surface is important for these exercises.

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