Aug 10, 2021

Drawing Basics: Value pattern and form

Value is a powerful tool used to illustrate realistic images

Value is a powerful tool when illustrating the appearance of realistic form. When we look around our environment, we experience the three-dimensional aspects of the objects around us through the values we see. If we can interpret three-dimensional form as a collection of values, we are one step closer to drawing realistic form. 

Value is a property of color. It is the color property that provides us with some of the information we need to understand the depth and dimensions of our environment.

The illusion of depth and sense of form is, in part, constructed through this color property. When we shade a drawing to show depth and dimension, we are setting up a value pattern. A value pattern is the arrangement of values into a visual structure. 

When drawing something to appear three-dimensional, there are a couple of patterns we can set up. We can organize the value pattern within our composition by establishing the local values of the objects within a scene. 

Local Value

A local value is the value level of an object or the value level of an area on an object. If we look at something dark, we say it has a dark local value. If we see something light, we'd say that it has a light local value. 

A sketch of a field of flowers, with the local values established.
A sketch using the local values to set up the value pattern.

When we set up a pattern based on the value levels of each object or area, we can see how those values relate to each other. If the pattern does not look accurate, we can adjust it before working on the details.

Light Pattern

Another value pattern we can set up is one based on the elements of light and shadow or light logic. The elements of light and shadow are a pattern that organizes the value properties on a surface of an object based on the position of the light source. 

This illustration of a sphere shows all the elements of light and shadow.
The value pattern is arranged to show accurate light and shadow elements.

There are two approaches to using these patterns. 

One approach is to separate the two and set up each one at a time. We would first shade in all the local values. Once we are happy with the overall pattern the local value creates, we can set up the elements of light and shadow.

The other approach is to combine the two patterns and work on them both at the same time. In this approach, we set up both the local values of the object and the value properties based on the position of the light source.

A drawing that has both the local value and light patterns set up.
This drawing has both the local value and light patterns established.

The second method is how many artists work as it is faster to work this way. However, I have found it helpful for beginning students to separate the two. This way, we are not overwhelming ourselves with too much information. We can focus on a little at a time. Once we understand how to do both separately, we can try combining them.