Balance light and shade with this Photoshop trick

Graphic designer Dave Brasgalla shares a quick way to balance the values within your digital art.

Dave brasgalla main pic

This image is slightly heavy on the darks. The skin tones could be lighter, but it's on the right track

The coherence of your value organisation and structure can often make or break your image.

Here's a quick yet effective technique that you can use in Photoshop to give you a good sense of how your values are working together (I was taught this by artist Euan MacTavish).

Dave brasgalla screenshot step

In Photoshop, set your image mode to Grayscale, then select Adjustments >Posterise and move the levels slider to 4

Open your image in Photoshop and convert it to four simple levels of greyscale: black, white and two medium shades. If your value structure is sound then the image should still be recognisable.

If the value range is too narrow, you'll see large parts of the image blend together. This can help you identify the areas that need to be lightened or darkened, which will give your image more clarity and impact.

Deeper insight

Try this technique out on some of your favourite artists' work, and you’ll gain deeper insight into one of the reasons those images are so appealing to you.

Thinking about this structure will become second nature, and your work will soon feel stronger and more memorable to the viewer.

Words: Dave Brasgalla

Dave is a graphic designer and illustrator from Stockholm who works digitally and traditionally. He recently organised the Northern Light Workshop series. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 115.

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