Key It Up- Value Keys and Their Impact on Paintings

By: Courtney McCreary

Hi Everyone~

One of the most important things to consider when painting is which value key you want to work with in terms of colors and values. Each key universally conveys different moods, which can give the viewer a certain feeling to associate with the painting. This week I’ll briefly describe the three main value keys used in painting and their corresponding moods and associations.

An example of the three main value keys (left column) from a color theory project. From the top, down: high key, mid key, low key.

High Key

  • Conveys emotions of happiness, positivity, etc.
  • Light, airy, ethereal, angelic, peaceful
  • Values 10-8 used (tints)

Mid Key

  • Stoic, no strong emotion
  • More difficult to work with/ lacking in contrast
  • Values 7-4 used (tones)

Low Key

  • Intense, heavy emotions
  • Sad, ominous, powerful, solemn
  • Values 3-1 used (shades)

Have a Great Week!

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