Tone - What is Tone or Tonal Value?

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Definition: In art, tone refers to the degree of lightness or darkness of an area. Tone varies from the bright white of a light source through shades of gray to the deepest black shadows. How we perceive the tone of an object depends on its actual surface lightness or darkness, color, and texture, the background, and lighting. Tone may be used broadly ('global tone') to denote the major planes of an object; realist artists use 'local tone' to accurately denote subtle changes within the plane.

Dictionary entries sometimes use define tone or as referring to color, but artists use hue or chroma to refer to this quality, preferring to use tone, tonal value, or value to describe lightness or darkness. 'Value' by itself tends to be used by those speaking North American English, while those speaking British English use tone.

Pronunciation: tone (long o, rhymes with bone)

Also Known As: value, shade

Examples: "On an instrument, you start from one tone. In painting, you start from several. Thus you begin with black and divide up to white ..." - Paul Gauguin