Value and the Illusion of Form

We now look at how value-the relative lightness or darkness of a color-defines the basic forms. Value shapes are, in fact, stronger indicators of form than outside contours. Since childhood we have recognized objects by the characteristic light and shadow shapes and value patterns that describe them. However, we may not realize how we came to have this knowledge. Increasing our awareness of how value defines form will greatly enhance our ability to create the convincing illusion of three dimensions in the objects we draw and paint.

Value patterns are stronger indicators of form than contours. Here, the value pattern on A describes the square as the face of a cube parallel to the picture plane. The value patterns on square B and circle C describe cylinders, while the pattern on circle D actually describes part of a cone.

Notice how the dark value shapes alone can define the basic forms.

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