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Hello Readers,

Though I’ve been on a sort of vacation from blogging, I hope to dive right back in with this article about an important design element, which is VALUE. Value can basically be described and understood as the perception of lightness to darkness, or how bright/dark something is. When most people think of “value” the first thing that comes to mind is a gradation of black to white. This is probably the easiest way and most helpful starting point to provide when explaining value. If you observe below, you can see a value scale of black to white.

Value Scale

This however, can be applied to any color as well, and can alter moods and perceptions of neighboring colors. Value is an incredibly useful design element, and should always be taken into consideration when creating.

It can be tough to explain to some folks, but some colors can have the same value. When this happens, it isn’t a good idea to put these two together. Say you wanted to put blue text over top of a red background. These two colors are quite different, however, since they are of a very similar value, all contrast is lost. It is a similar effect to using complementary colors as text/background combinations (which is rarely a good idea), which at times will make your eyeballs vibrate and possibly fall out of their sockets.


The purpose of having text all together is to be legible (form follows function). So first and foremost, text should pop and be easily accessible to the viewing audience. In other words, DO NOT use similar values in your text/background combinations…EVER. Well, maybe not ever, because you never say never, but 99.9% of the time there will be a far superior solution to your design problems that will prevent you from having to worry about this predicament.

Some other important topics involving value as a design element include Sfumato & Chiarascuro


Sfumato is basically a value contrast technique. With this technique, there are no violent edges from bright brights meeting up with dark darks. All values have migrated towards the “middle grey” range so there aren’t many high contrast areas. Often times, this will create a more subtle, low contrast image in which there is more of a gradation of colors versus the hard edge contrast of Chiarascuro.


Chiarascuro is Italian for “light-dark.” When used in the “art world,” this term refers more specifically to the contrast between lights and darks in a composition. Typically it is used to describe a high contrast in darks to lights or a bold placement of dark next light. This has also come to be recognized as a “graphical” style that is intended to help bring out a focal point and sort of put it in the viewer’s face. Always keep in mind that hard edges and stark contrasts can make or break a design depending on the objective/intentions.


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