My personal opinion is that value is the most frequently overlooked element of design. Most people, especially beginners, go directly to color and put a great deal of thought into those relationships but are often disappointed in how the relationships work or don't work. While there are people who have a great eye for color and value, if you are not one of those people I'm going to share my best tip to begin to train your eyes and your brain to see this quality in your work and be able to see the value. The secret is Desaturation.
The image at the top of the page was actually designed with value before color was introduced. That is not how I generally work but I was curious if I could do that. I drew a composition, photographed it and loaded it into the computer. I then filled the various shapes with value. Once I had the value distributed to my likeing I used a function in Photoshop called Color Balance and introduced colors. Using the Magic Wand, I selected specific areas and colored each one. Next I went to my fabric and pulled colors that were as close in hue and value as I could find and I made the piece from those fabrics.
Looking at the piece today I see areas I would change due to value but overall it works.
Spring Swing - Desaturated
Desaturation is simply the elimination of hue (color) which leaves you with the amount of black or white that was in the color. This can be accomplished by using the Black/White function on some cameras or by taking a photograph of your fabrics or work and then applying the Desaturate function which is available in Photoshop or some other image manipulation software.
If you use Photoshop:
- Take a photo of the fabric or work, Open the image in Photoshop
- Under the heading of Image, choose Mode, make sure the image is in RGB
- Go back under Image and choose Adjustments, select and apply Desaturate
Your color image will be transformed into a shades of gray image and you can see where you have no lights, no darks or generally how your Values are distributed.
Until today I had never looked at Passion in black and white and was pleased to find that the image and the composition stands up very well. The most interesting thing is the small turquoise element. When you look at the image in color that little elements stands out but look at the black and white image and you can see how close the value is to the area it is connected to. Interesting.
Passion - Desaturated
Most of the older digital cameras have a function which allows you to see images through the lense as black and white and if your camera has this function that is very handy. You don't even have to take a photograph. Unfortunately, the camera companies now don't usually include that feature on the less expensive camera models.
Being able to evaluate the Value before you begin to cut your fabric is a great asset. I have made grouping of fabrics and looked at them before I ever put anything on the wall and realized that it was a dull palette (no lights) or too dark etc.
The last example I'm sharing today is a more recent piece titled Shelter. This work has a very narrow color palette, lots of texture and complex relationships. Again, I confess that I had not looked at it in B&W but was pleased when I saw a reporduction of the work in a brochure which was in B&W and I could see that the marks and composition was clear and readable.
Shelter - Desaturated
You may have seen one of those little ruby red pieces of plexiglass that are sold as value finders. If you have 'em use'm - but they do not work with red fabrics and many oranges and browns.
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