How to Do a Value Scale for Art

A value scale, as defined by the ArtLex Art Dictionary, is a series of spaces filled with the tints and shades of one color. A proper value scale for art starts with white, or the lightest tint at one end, and progresses to the darkest shade of the value at the other end. A value scale is sometimes also referred to as a gray scale. Most value scales are done using eight equal-sized squares in a row.

(Image: Images)

Things You'll Need

  • White drawing paper

  • Ruler

  • Pencil

  • White tempera paint

  • Black tempera paint

  • Paintbrushes

  • Palette

Step 1

Start by making two parallel lines 1 inch apart and measuring 8 inches in length on a piece of white paper. Use the pencil and ruler to mark 1 inch along the lines and then connect lines from top to bottom to create eight squares in a row equaling 1 inch by 1 inch square.

Step 2

Use black and white tempera paint and a palette to create a value scale. A palette is a small piece of wood or cardboard used to mix paints. Use a small paintbrush to paint the first square at the left of the line of value chart squares black.

Step 3

Put a small amount of black paint on the palette along with some white tempera paint. Add a small amount of white to the black paint and mix the paints together thoroughly. Paint the next square of the value scale with the black paint incorporated with the small amount of white.

Step 4

Continue adding a small amount of white to the black paint and painting squares on the value chart. The final square of the value chart will be completely white with no traces of black paint.

Step 5

Adjust the squares in the value chart as needed until satisfied with the progression from black to white. Continue creating value charts with other colors in place of black to learn more about paint mixing and value.


Rinse the paintbrush before mixing another value for the value chart to ensure proper mixing of paint colors.

References & Resources