Tone is merely the lightness or darkness of an object. Occasionally referred to together value, tone is one of the most powerful design elements.

You are watching: The lightness or darkness of tones or colors

In any type of painting, photograph or design, the area of highest contrast between light and dark will always demand maximum attention. The eye is naturally drawn to the area of highest tonal contrast.

There space squares of excessive dark and also light transparent this design, but when they are placed together, the is the comparison that demands attention


In this design the eye is immediatly drawn to the area of preferably tonal contrast

Color and also tone space unique and also separate elements. Every colors have a ton (degree of lightly of darkness) but tone can exist there is no color.


The gray range along the bottom shows the tone of the corresponding color above.

In Rembrandt’s paint of “A mrs Bathing” he cleverly brings your eye in from the left and leads it increase the number to the area of best tonal comparison at the shoulder. From here the eye moves between the head, skin and also folds the fabric. The band of dark tone neighboring the figure keeps the eye indigenous drifting out of the picture.

Rembrandt has actually used a very tight color harmony and limited palette, relying ~ above tonal comparison for impact. If us take every tonal contrast out the this photo by increasingly darkening the lighter tones and lightening the darker tones, we room left with just the changes in color, completely removing the paintings impact


Rembrandt valve Rijn, A mrs Bathing, 1654 – national Gallery London(Click side arrows to animate)

Key and Dynamic Tonal Range​

The dynamic selection of tones used in picture has a solid effect on the setting generated by the image.

The tonal variety adopted isreferredto together the key. A high key image uses a selection of lighter tones not extending to too much darks.

A low an essential image offers a range of darker tones not extending to extreme lights. A high crucial image employs larger locations of light tone, whereby a low crucial image will have actually a higher area the darker tones.


A high crucial and a low vital treatment the the same image develop a fully different atmosphere

Generally, a high vital image will certainly feel happier, more inviting and moreoptimistic. A low an essential image will certainly appear more brooding, heavy and also depressing.

In the examples above, you would be much more likely to trust the repairer in the first image, yet would have actually doubts around the job done through the repairer in the second image.

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Relative Tonal Relationships

Tone, prefer color, isinfluencedby the ar in which the is placed. What might show up as a dark ton in one situation, have the right to take ~ above theappearanceof a lighter tone once the surrounding tones room made darker. This allude is depicted in the following diagram, wherein the 2 dots room an the same shade of grey, but, due to the fact that of the different tonal backgrounds, one shows up much darker.


Relative tonal relationships

Tonal Contrast

Tonal Harmony

Tonal Balance

Tonal Repetition

Tonal Dominance

Tonal Gradation

Tonal Unity

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John Lovett

John Lovett is an Australian artist functioning in oils, watercolor and mixed media. Since commencing his job John has actually held end thirty five solo exhibitions and taken part in numerous joint ones. John’s job-related is represented in private and corporate collection in Australia, joined Kingdom, Europe, Asia and USA. John’s passion for his work and his open easy method to teaching make his books, DVD’s and workshops extensively enjoyable, extremely informative and also always really popular. His write-ups are routinely featured in “International Artist” magazine.