You Only Need a Few Values


By robgale November 23, 2018

The above image is a breakdown of a digital painting by concept artist named Mathias Zamęcki. I took his full color painting (see below) and limited the values being displayed, progressively adding one value at a time to a total of 6, then the full value range is represented in the last frame of the animated GIF above. You can see that quickly, with only 6 total values, you already have more or less the range you need, with anything additional going to small details. In all honesty you probably need even fewer, and Sargent famously said that he used to work within a 5 value range for his paintings.

Now the conversion method I’m using for this study is imperfect in that, as a painter,  you would most likely make slightly different choices, but I think the overall lesson is clear here, that it takes a small range of values to achieve a beautiful and realistic look. A lot of the rest of it is drawing, texture, edge control, color, etc. 

It’s a lesson I’m hitting myself hard on, trying to see how much I can do with as few variables as I can. When we see a finished piece, our brains are filling in a lot of detail, and it’s easy to overlook the simplicity of a painting.

It’s not about putting in more details, more values, more colors, but putting in the right ones in the right way. That’s what’s so difficult. 

Here’s the full color painting below, check out more of his work on his Artstation page and give him some likes if you dig his work.


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