“Your darkest light always has to be lighter than your lightest shadow and vice versa.” 

-Kevin Murphy


In this video, you'll learn how to assign values to an image before drawing it. Read about the five steps included in this process below:

Identify Shadows And Lights (Step 1)

Step 1: To begin assigning values in a drawing or painting you need to understand what value means in art. So let's start with a definition of what value is. Value in art is the darkness or lightness of a tone or color. In Evolve we use a value scale with four categories:

1- Extreme shadow
2 - Moderate shadow
3 - Moderate light
4 - Extreme light

The first step in assigning values is to label our shadows as shadows and our lights as lights. To begin we label all our shadows as such:

Values in drawings 6

After that we label all of our lights.

Values in drawings 5

Find Extreme Shadows (Step 2)

Values in drawings 1

Step 2: The next step in assigning values, once we've found all our shadows and lights, is to find our darkest shadow. In this example, the shadow cast from the cat is our darkest value. 

Label Moderate Shadows (Step 3)

Values in drawings 2

Step 3: After we've found our darkest shadow we need to find our lightest shadow. We label our lightest shadow "moderate shadow." Now we compare the remaining shadows to see whether they are closer in value to our extreme or moderate shadow. Whichever value they are closer to is what they get labeled.

Find Moderate Lights (Step 4)

Values in drawings 3

Step 4: Next, you'll move on and find your darkest light which we'll label "moderate light." For instance, in this image the darkest light is found on the black pot. 

Label Extreme Lights (Step 5)

Values in drawings 4

Step 5: In conclusion, step five is to find your lightest light. Here you can see that it's found on the cat's back. The value on the red ball is also very light meaning it will also be rendered as an extreme light. The remaining lights that are closest to this value will be labeled "extreme light." The lights closest to your moderate light value will be labeled "moderate light."

Apply what you've learned: Imagine you were drawing this image and you had to decide the value of the table top. You know it's a light value - but do you think it's a moderate or extreme value? Why?

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(3) comments


Loved the class, Piper! Fun and thorough — it was a great refresher for me. I really appreciate the time and resources you guys invest to put these classes online for those of us who cannot join in real time due to time difference.


This was a great refresher. I keep forgeting that and extream light is not white or the highlight it is the value without the highlights. Piper is always excelent at clarifying answers to questions or when giving feedback.


[…] Understanding how to assign value is a crucial part of being an artist. If you want to learn more, check out this blog post for a beginner’s guide to assigning value. […]

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