5 Graphic Design Tips You Can Learn from Painting: Tip #2 – Value First, Then Color

Blog Entry 4.0 [ print | web | video | illustration ]


We all love color. I mean, who doesnʼt? It often carries with it the mood of a piece and that punch that can really make it sing. But what many painters know is that color is secondary to value—the balance of lights and darks in a painting. Itʼs this careful distribution of highlights, midtones, and shadow areas that often makes a painting successful—regardless of the final colors chosen to finish it off. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was known for first painting in sepia tones and then slowly building up glazes of color over time–and he was a pretty good painter.

Graphic Design is the same. Often, itʼs the areas with the most contrast that our eye goes to first when looking at anything, be it the Mona Lisa or a magazine ad. This is why, like painters, some designers choose to solve problems first with black and white solutions. If an image is clear, striking, and distinctive in black and white, the color result is only going to plus it. However, if the composition of a spread, layout, ad, or poster is muddled, and itʼs unclear where we should look first, then second, keeping the eye forever traveling around the piece, there is no color that will truly save it.