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 students observe a few black and white photographs. 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. Allow students to observe a value scale to see white gradually change to black!

  • 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? Explain to students that 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. Ask students where their favorite color would fall on a color scale. Is it closer to white, black, or right in the middle?

  • 4.

    Students select their 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 the scale. Tip: If students squint their eyes when looking at the value scale, it will help them to see which squares are too light or too dark!


  • VA: Select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.
  • VA: Generalize about the effects of visual structures and functions and reflect upon these effects in one's work.


  • 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 the value scale as a guide in creating a monochromatic drawing. Monochromatic color means one color. A monochromatic drawing, like a black and white drawing, relies on value to create depth and add a 3-D appearance.
  • Students share personal value scales with classmates. Study each other's value scales and determine if a smooth transition from white to black was made in each.