Rendering Light With Value



60 min

What you need:

Soft Pastel Crayons
Light is one of the most fascinating elements in a painting. You can capture the effect of light by using both value and colour temperature contrasts, such as placing light and dark values next to each other and pairing warm colours with cool colours. The contrast doesn’t have to be dramatic; in fact, if the darkest and lightest colours are closer in value, the painting will seem more realistic. Contrasts in colour temperature between the warm, light areas and the cool shadows have great impact.

Step 1

Sketch the scene on off-white, sanded pastel board or paper. Next paint the lightest value, the sunlit adobe walls with a blend of red, orange and yellow ochre. Then paint the darkest value, the window, with a combination of dark browns and dark greens.

Step 2

Paint the sky with a blend of light phthalo blue, cobalt blue and ultramarine, with light phthalo blue near the horizon. Note that the sky is not only cooler but also slightly darker than the house. Use earth green yellowish and deep cobalt green for the hill shadows.

Step 3

Use cold grey VI and ultramarine to block in the mountains, blue violet for the distant hill, and burnt umber for the shadowed trees. For the light on the hills, blend orange glaze and scarlet red into the grey tones. Next paint the foreground with cadmium orange and blue violet near the horizon.

Step 4

Next paint the shadows on the house with earth green yellowish and cadmium orange and refine the shadows on the mountains with ultramarine and cobalt green. Paint the light areas of the trees with earth green yellowish, adding some of the same colour to the ground. Apply burnt umber and light green to the trees by the house. Then warm the shadows on the adobe with terracotta, particularly on the edge between light and shadow, and define the edges more clearly with light yellow ochre. Lighten the shadows on the hills with sky blue and redraw their edges with cobalt green. For the shadowy darks on either side of the house use red violet.

Step 5

Now indicate some of the foreground texture with sanguine and light yellow ochre. To create the effect of sparse vegetation on the desert floor, add different shapes of green earth yellowish, light yellow ochre, grass green, cadmium yellow lemon and orange glaze. Adding texture to the foreground makes that plane seem to come forward. Use these spots of vegetation to draw the viewer’s eye into the painting and direct it toward your centre of interest: the adobe house.

Step 6

Next sharpen some of the edges in the shadowed windows with purple violet. Add a hint of autumn colour in the trees with cadmium orange. Draw the fence posts with red violet and indicate the fence rails with cold grey VI. The details placed in the foreground plants help the rest of the colour shapes “read” as vegetation. Straighten the alignment on the top of the house by painting in some of the hill colour. Then add a few dark accents to the house and the surrounding trees.

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Excerpt from "Pastel Step by Step", published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Marla Baggetta. Visit