Updated August 29, 2020.
You may have seen them — cards with various shades of white, gray, and black with holes punched in each color.
They also have values printed on them, sometimes listed as percentages. They don’t look very useful for a stitcher.
This tool, a value scale, can quickly and easily improve your needlepoint.
What is a Value Scale?
Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. Generally values are divided into ten parts. Pure white has the highest value, 10. Pure black, the lowest, 1. Between these two extremes are mixtures of black and white. The more white in the gray, the higher the number. The more black the lower.
On the value scale the lightest gray has a value of 9, meaning it has 90% white and 10% black. The high value number tells you it’s a color that is mostly white. The closer the number is to 10 the closer it is to white.
The value scale is a tool that allows you to compare the color of anything to a fixed and labeled set of values.
Using a Value Scale
Put your sample color behind a value on the scale so it shows through the opening.
Squint at the area. This is done because squinting removes the color part of the color but leaves the value.
Does the color in the opening almost disappear against the color of the value? Then the sample’s value matches the value on the value scale.
If it’s clearly lighter, try the next higher value (closer to white).
If it’s clearly darker, try the next darker value (closer to black).
Remember these values are only approximate, you will often be finding the closest match not an exact match.
Use Value to Improve your Needlepoint
Color can easily blind us to value. Several shades of two colors can look very different. But suddenly when you stitch with them, they turn dull, very dull. That’s because seeing the colors together as a family we see the hue (color) first. Putting two colors next to each other makes the values more prominent. When values match, even though the colors do not, you get something that lacks contrast.
Contrast is the key to a good color scheme. While there are many kinds of contrast, value is one that can easily be overlooked and one that can kill your piece.
That’s where the value scale comes in. Check each color of thread you plan to use on the scale. Nte the value of each thread.
Then ask yourself some questions:
- Is my background thread significantly different in value from all the threads that will touch it? If not, change your background color to a different value.
- Are colors with the same value in adjacent areas? If so, change the value of one of them or move one to another area. Leaving similar values next to each other creates visual “holes.”
- Have you used a variety of values? If not, look for ways to increase the range of values to build more contrast.
- Are the values in balance so that values from one part of the value scale are dominant and values from a different part are mostly accents? If not adjust the values so there are clear accent values.
Remember once you change a color to check it’s value to be sure it still works.
As a final check, put all your threads for this project in a pile. Squint. Do any of the colors really stick out? Are they colors, such as accents or backgrounds where that might not be a problem? I there are colors that qualify, adjust the values and check again.
While this won’t entirely solve the problem of dull needlepoint, it will go a long way towards making you needlepoint look better.