Art Hack: 4 Quick Fixes for Your Values

William Schneider, who is on the faculty of Pastel Live, shares four “quick fix tools” to improve the values of your next painting. (Book Your Early Bird Discount for Pastel Live before 11:59pm PT May 31 and Save Up to $600 Off the Full Rate)

Art Hack: 4 Quick Fixes for Your Values

Pastel Live 2021 - William Schneider
Join William Schneider for Pastel Live, coming in August 2021


When someone tells me, “I just love your colors,” I, of course, appreciate the compliment, but I think the real key lies in getting accurate value relationships. The artists’ cliché, “Value does the work, but color gets the credit” is absolutely true.

It’s like being a lineman in football; the big guys upfront slug it out to create space for the running back to dance through. The RB gets the girl, the glory, and the endorsements. The lineman gets icepacks and the whirlpool!

The traditional way to develop a good understanding of value was to draw from the plaster cast, trying to render the light and shadow in five values. Drawing in graphite or charcoal takes color out of the equation. That’s how Bouguereau, Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn all learned.

William Schneider, "Drink From My Cup," 20 x 16 in., Oil
William Schneider, “Drink From My Cup,” 20 x 16 in., Oil

For those of you who want some “quick fix tools” here are four ways to help you see the value structure in any subject:

  1. Squint – (and compare). At the American Academy I was told to squint…oh, about 10,000 times! Squinting simplifies the world into five or six values.
  2. Use a red acetate film. It take the color out and again lets us see the value masses.
  3. Use the Notanizer app. This is available in the app store; it reduces any scene to black and white. “Notan” is the Japanese word for “light and dark.” A notan has two values, but you can also set the app for three or four values. The Notanizer app costs a couple of bucks but has saved many a painting!
  4. Use Photoshop. You can go to “image – adjust – hue and saturation” to de-saturate the image. Then go to “filters – artistic – cutout” to reduce the image to 3, 4, 5, or 6 values (Adobe calls them “levels”) It does the same thing as Notanizer.
Values for artists
“Drink From My Cup” reference and value “cutout”

Read the full post, titled “Value Does the Work – Color Gets the Credit” at

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Schneider was awarded Master Signature status in Oil Painters of America (OPA). In addition the Pastel Society of America has recognized him as a “Master Pastelist,” IAPS (The International Association of Pastel Societies) has named him to the Masters’ Circle and AIS made him a Master Signature Member (AISM).

He has demonstrated his painting techniques at the Figurative Art Convention & Expo and has a variety of painting workshops available through Liliedahl Art Video. Preview them and learn more about the pastel painting workshops here.

Learn pastel painting techniques from William Schneider and many more of today’s master pastelists at the upcoming Pastel Live virtual art conference. Save up to $600 by registering before June 20, 2021!

Pastel Live art workshops