Color Value Scale

Color Value Scale lesson plan

Get more out of your favorite color! Create 9 shades of your favorite hue in this value scale exercise.

  • 1.

    Have you ever looked at a black and white photograph before? Observe a few black and white images with your class. Are the images only black and white? Are there shades of gray present as well? In the absence of color, we rely on values to define the detail of the image. Value is the element of art that describes the amount of lightness or darkness in a hue. In a black and white photo, white is the lightest value, and black is the darkest value. There are shades of gray in between that range from white to black. Observe a value scale to see white gradually change to black! Can you find an example of each shade in the photographs?

  • 2.

    Values help to add depth to a drawing or painting so it looks more 3D. Imagine any of the black and white pictures as outlines without the values. Does it still look like a photograph, or is it flat and cartoon-like? This is why being able to create values is such a powerful skill to have as an artist.

  • 3.

    Colors have values too! Some colors, like blue, are darker in value when compared with a fairly light color, like yellow. Think of your favorite color. Where on the value scale would it fall? Is it closer to white, black, or right in the middle?

  • 4.

    Select your favorite color Crayola® Colored Pencil and create a value scale that ranges from white to black with that hue! Start by neatly drawing 9 squares side-by-side on a sheet of white paper. Use a ruler to get crisp, straight lines. Leave the square all the way to the left blank. This will be your lightest value, white. Fill in the far right square with black Colored Pencil. Press firmly on the Colored Pencil to completely cover all of the white paper in that square.

  • 5.

    Lightly build up layers of color in each square until you have a full value scale! Add white or black colored pencil as needed to smoothly transition a full range of values along each square in your scale. Tip: If you squint your eyes when looking at the


  • Students define value, one of the elements of art.
  • Students observe a black and white value scale and identify examples of each value in photographs.
  • Students apply their knowledge of values to create a value scale of their own.
  • Students assess the values they create and make adjustments by adding black or white to create a smooth transition of value.


  • Create an intensity scale by adding the complementary color instead of black or white. This scale will illustrate the brightness and dullness range of the selected hue!
  • Use your value scale as a guide in creating a monochromatic drawing. Monochromatic means one color. A monochromatic drawing, like a black and white drawing, relies on value to create depth and add a 3D appearance!
  • Share your value scale with the class! Study each other’s value scales and determine if a smooth transition from white to black was made in each.