Almost everything has more than one value. Depending on the light source, most things have some areas that are very light and others that are quite dark.

If you look closely at a mound of dark earth, you notice that it has several different values. If a fresh layer of snow covered this mound of earth, there would still be lots of values. When you can see a range of different values you can draw your subject in the third dimension.

Squinting to see values and simple shapes 

Seeing values is key to drawing in the third dimension. Many artists can visually simplify complex drawing subjects by simply squinting their eyes. Squinting helps you screen out details and see simple values and shapes. When you can see the shapes created by different values, you can draw your subject more accurately.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could simply press a button in the middle of your forehead and magically transform the world from full color to gray values? This ability would certainly make drawing a lot easier. Thankfully, simply squinting your eyes can help you develop this skill.


  • Look around you at different objects. Focus on only the light and dark areas and not the actual colors. Concentrate on the light and shadows. Then squint your eyes until you see the values of that object.
    Take a mental note of where the lights and darks are. Think about how you could draw these darks and lights. Don't get discouraged if you can't do it right away. With practice, you get better.
  • Find a colored photograph with lots of contrast. Squint your eyes to block out the colors and details. In your sketchbook, draw only the simple shapes and values you see. Add shading with only black, white, a light value, and a middle value.

If your subject has, for example, light-pink and dark-red stripes, seeing two different values in the two colors is easy. You simply draw the dark red as a dark value and the pink as a light value. But, some objects have colors that seem to be the same in value. When this is the case, you simply have to rely on your own discretion to decide which colors should be drawn lighter or darker than others. If your subject has stripes of dark green and dark red, you need to pick one to be a lighter value. Otherwise, you end up drawing a solid tone instead of stripes.