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Light vs. dark


Create contrast with value

Contrast is created between the top line and bottom line of text with lighter and darker values. | Alpha Index to Full Dictionary:

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The lightness or darkness of an object or portion of a design, regardless of color, is its value. Sometimes grouped with color, value is a color-related element of design.

Color Values

  • Hues, Tints, Shades, and Saturation
    Shades and tints of a hue are created by changing the value through the addition of black (darkness) or white (lightness). Shades are a darker value of a hue while tints are a lighter value of a hue.


  • HSV
    As you might guess, the V in the HSV color model stands for value. Explore HSV, HSB, and HSL (value/brightness/lightness) color models to see how choosing colors based on value differs from other ways of selecting colors.


  • Element of Design: Value
    In addition to defining value, this Art Foundations page of the Warren Consolidated School District shows two ways that values are represented in value scales.

Using Value in Page Layout, Graphics, and Design

If you use a pencil to draw a circle it can represent a ball but if you then use a few darker and lighter strokes around the edges you can make that circle look more three-dimensional, like a real ball. Value creates the illusion of depth and helps the viewer see and interpret a two dimensional drawing.

Value can be used with other principles and elements of design to create emphasis or a focal point in a page layout or image, leading the eye to what the designer deems is most important.

Value can also be used to increase contrast and create movement. The greater the difference in the value of an object and its background and other objects, the greater the contrast. Objects with differing values lead the eye from most prominent to least and give the illusion that parts of the design are moving.

  • Value
    Part of a lesson on the elements of design, you'll find simple examples of using value to increase contrast, create movement, and lead the eye. The lesson also includes some hands-on exercises to help you learn how to recognize and use value in your design work.


  • Contrast With Value
    From a tutorial on using contrast, the illustration shows the use of value and color. The example use tints and shades (different values) of a single hue.


  • Reversed Type Treatments
    Value is important when using reversed text on backgrounds of different colors or colored text on various backgrounds. When the color values of the text and background are two close together it interferes with readability.


  • Drawing Value - Shading Tonal Values with Graphite Pencil
    Learn more about the use of value in this tutorial from About.com Draw/Sketch.
    "When creating a value drawing, you need to shift out of line-drawing mode, and the best way to do this is to forbid yourself to draw a line, and focus on areas of value. You might use the lightest of lines to get down the basic shapes. From there, build up the shading. Often the 'outline' will be at the join between two different values, and is created by the contrast between the light and dark area."


  • Value
    From NHS Designs a brief description and illustrations for value in fine arts and value in graphic design.


Also Known As: luminosity | brightness | intensity | tints and shades

Examples: Monochromatic color schemes use light and dark values (tints and shades) of a single hue (color) to save money on printing while still giving the illusion of using multiple colors. (see Spot Colors Expand Color Options in Desktop Publishing)

Black text on a white background provides good contrast making it easy to read. Black text on a dark gray background can be more difficult to read because the color values are too close together to provide strong contrast.

Terms Related to Value

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