OCAD Studio: How to Make a Value Scale

A value scale will teach you how to organise and understand the limits of values. It consists of nine boxes ranging from white to black. I recommend trying a number of different mediums to see how the value range changes depending on the nature of the medium (oil paint can go a lot darker than graphite for example).

You will learn to recognise the subtle differences between values, which will help you to control the sense of light, form and mood in your artwork.


  1. Using a ruler, draw nine identical squares next to one another on your paper or canvas.
  2. Number the squares from 1-9.
  3. Leave square ‘1’ blank (if working in pencil) or paint it white (if working in paint).
  4. Fill square ‘9’ in with the darkest possible value. If working in pencil this means using your softest lead (6B or 2B for example). If working in paint this will mean using pure black.
  5. You now have the two extremes of your value range; from lightest and darkest.
  6. Now try to guess an in-between value and put it in the ‘5’ square. It should be half way between the value of white and black (don’t worry if it’s not perfect, you will alter it later on).
  7. Now fill in the ‘8’ square with another intermediate value. You should try to make sure that each value only changes slightly from the preceding one. It might help if you blur your eyes when comparing the values of neighbouring squares.
  8. Continue filling in the ‘7’ and ‘6’ squares with progressively lighter values until it reaches the value of the ‘5’ square.
  9. Repeat the process from square ‘2’, working towards the middle value again.
  10. Once all the values are in, you can go back and correct them
    1. If you’re working in pencil this will mean softly erasing a square if it’s too dark or shading it more if it’s too light.
    2. If you’re working in paint this will mean adding lighter paint or darker paint to the square to alter it.
    3. Keep going until you’re happy that the transition from white to black is even and consistent.

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART


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