Illusion of value or shade from light and shadow. Light and shadow can create distorted illusion of value in our perception. I think this post will be very valuable to all artists whether you are advance or beginner. I read a very interesting book called “Color and light” by one of the most awesome artist of all time James Gurney. *You can also check my art books collection and recommendation here: Under the Light and Form chapter it has really interesting lesson about separation of light and shadow. He talked about how light and shadow can trick our visual system.
Then over the weekend I accidentally stumble upon this video on Youtube that actually demonstrate the same exact things Gurney was explaining in art terminology of how light and shadow can totally fool us.
In the video below, if you just look at the checker board without thinking much about it. You probably assume that the white checker boxes will always have lighter shade or value than the dark checker board even thought it is under the shade. But not always, lighting can trick you.

light and shadow illusion tutorial

light and shadow illusion tutorial for artists

Watch the video of how light and shadow can trick us.

Below is an image that show you the value. You can right click to save the image then open it in Photoshop (or any digital painting program). Then you use the color picker tool to select the color and value on the gray rectangle, on the checker square #1 and #2 . Check the HSB scale and you will find out that they all have the same value of brightness = 48 or close.
Because of the shadow cast over the checker board, the square #1 and #2 can have exact same value or shade.

Naked eyes can be reliable most of the time, but sometimes it can play against us as painters. Though there are tools that we can use to help us look for the actual value when paint from life or digitally. Here are some tool to help you compare values on the cube while painting:

values compare window for painting art

values compare window for painting art

Click to enlarge. Save it then print out on a thick piece of paper.
Then cut them up into 10 pieces also cut off the circle hole to see thru.
Instruction is as in the pic below it.

values compare tool for painter artists

values compare tool for painter artists

And here is an image show how you can use it to find the value.

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Illusion of value from light and shadow

About The Author
- Xia Taptara (黃曉聲 Huang XiaoShēng), currently a freelance concept artist for games and films, formerly a character concept artist for ArenaNet/NCsoft (GuildWars & Guildwars 2). I also work on various projects for Game of Thrones, Square-Enix, Paizo Publishing, Fantasy Fight Games, Disney Interactive, and many publishers & clients. I use Wacom Tablet Intuos and Photoshop CS2,3,4,5 to do most of my professional art work. I use pencil, pen, and traditional medium in my free time. I founded ( in 2007 to motivate myself to create more and better art. Also I get to draw and paint whatever the hell I want to. Hopefully I can inspired some young soul and old soul alike. *QUESTIONS & COMMENT: PLEASE POST THEM ON THE BLOG. Business Inquiry please e-mail me.