The Importance of Tone and Value in Art

The Importance of Tone and Value in Art

Tone and value are often credited to be one of, or if not the most important parts of a work of art. But what exactly is tone or value? These two words refer to the darkness or even quality that color appears to have on a canvas, piece of paper, or any surface for that matter. To elaborate, tone and value have the power of making a piece have either a warm or cool appearance, and it shows the light and dark tones a color may have. These two characteristics have the power to portray a wide range of emotions, depending on how well different techniques are being implemented.


Depicting dark and light creates contrast in art, and it gives the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional plane. Moreover, having a better grasp of the way light works can help create art that looks more realistic. With a deep understanding of how values can be used to show light, even more, nuanced details like skin or shadows become a piece of cake. When first learning these concepts, it is best to focus on a monochromatic scale, to acquire a solid foundation. And once the footing is laid for tone and value, working with other colors will have a smoother transition, when compared to immediately working with more than one color.

The Importance of Tone and Value in Art


When referring to the tools used for achieving tone and value, the most common result or answer that will appear would be charcoal. And this recommendation is not just some random utensil picked out by artists, but something that would help teach those learning how much force they should apply when trying to depict values. Other than charcoal, using carbon pencils is another viable option because it is a balanced mixture of the best qualities of both charcoal and graphite, while also providing a sharp, precise point and dark tones that require little to no force when being applied to paper.


With more knowledge of how light works and the tools needed to achieve better tonal values, all that’s left is the application of these skills. To apply these concepts, one must forget about thinking of art in geometric shapes. Instead, imagine working with light and shadows. Doing this will help achieve works that have a more raw and organic feel to them because they make great use of tonal values that can evoke or awaken emotions within works. Whereas, focusing on only the shapes can give the impression of having art that looks constricted or bound, compared to the free nature of making art with tones and values.

The importance of tone and value in art cannot be understated. It depicts light and shadows in a way that feels natural, moreover, depth and emotion are conveyed in ways that can sometimes even be better than real life. All that is needed for a simple image to give the feeling of warmth or cold, is using colors that are correlated with warm or cold feelings. Lastly, the application of these techniques shows that art is something that only follows routine, but it is something that needs to be understood and studied to create beautiful pieces of art.

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