Lesson 17: Color matching values

In this painting tutorial I go through how to set up a very basic palette, and how to use a palette knife to create value scales with various colors. By setting up these simple piles of color before you start a painting you can be assured that all of your colors stay within the desired range of values.

Color Matching Values

Matching colors to values (the darkness or lightness of a color) is the most important skill to learn when learning to oil paint. For further information on the topic of color values I would suggest checking out the lesson on Color Theory Basics.

In the painting tutorial video above I go into how to mix different values of color on a palette. I have chosen to use a painting knife however the same colors could be mixed using a brush. The palette is glass which has been spray painted grey on the back. I have chosen to paint it grey because this is a very neutral color, and I don't want the color of the palette to interfere with how I see the colors I'm trying to mix. It is important to remember that colors will interact with each other. For instance a white square painted on a yellow background will appear to be darker, since the surrounding color is also light. However, a white square painted on a blue background will appear to be brighter since the background is darker.


Once you've got a palette with a neutral background you can begin to start making different value scales in different colors. You should already know about value scales as we have covered them extensively in the drawing section of this website. To make a value scale you must first have a guide to go from. So I would suggest making your first value scale in black, white, and greys. Then you can compare the darkness or lightness of your subsequent mixes of color against a black and white scale (this can be achieved by squinting).

If you came here thinking about trying to find what colors match (ie. which colors go together) I'm sorry to tell you that this isn't something which can be summed up in a succinct manner. There are many factors which determine what colors will traditionally "match". If you peruse my section here on Color Theory you can begin to examine all of the reasons why there isn't any general consensus of what colors actually match, and which ones clash.

For this assignment you will have to create your own value scales in 6 colors and Black and White. Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, Violet. So there's a total of 7 value scales which you will be creating. Once your palette is full of these colors you will then take a picture of it and post it to your student blogs.