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One of my mentors, years ago, told me that a piece lives and dies within the midtones. It never dawned on me just how important that statement was until I got more experience.

In my previous post, I discussed about artists simplifying pieces into 3 or 4 predominant values. We’ve established that there has to be one that’s the lightest (white) and one that’s darkest (black). Those two values are always going to be desaturated in order to reach those extremes or, in other words, void of “colour”.

So what about the values in-between? As you may have already concluded, those will always have the widest variety. They are capable of reaching a range of saturations and, in turn, accentuate their hues.

Many artists subconsciously realize this. Artists who utilize a cartoon-oriented style would have had to use many variations of midtones in order to create the colourful works. Black, in those cases, tends to be reserved for the line-art, with white bringing out the brightest accents.

On the opposite spectrum, realists will also utilize the wide variety of greys, creating a more naturalistic look to their colour schemes.

With that in mind, I want to conclude by stating what midtones are the most powerful at: accentuating textures. Due to the wide variety of hues and saturations available, all nuances of colours within a midtone value will be shown. This is where viewers will be able to differentiate materials. An obvious way to prove this statement is by simply Googling textures and seeing which range of values the materials employ.

It’s often one of the most misunderstood areas of art and, more often than not, midtones tend to be overcomplicated and misused. Given how much is available within midtones, many starting artists will use way too much of it, creating very messy artwork. Being able to strike a balance of detail and simplicity within the midtones will improve your work dramatically.