In this post I will discuss how you can use a low key to create very dramatic paintings. This post will follow on from my previous post which was all about painting in a high key.
Low key paintings utilize colors the lower (darker) end of the value range. So your darks will be around black and your lights will be around the middle value range.
In the post about high key paintings, I featured some extremely colorful artworks which seemed to almost glimmer. The paintings I will feature in this post below are in stark contrast.
They are mostly dramatic and gloomy paintings.
A low key can be great for painting scenes at night, during a storm or interior scenes. The difficulty of painting in a low key is that black can tend to take over your painting if you are not careful. All your details may end up getting lost in the shadows.
Also, if there is any glare on your painting, then your darks can end up looking weak and washed out.
When painting in a low key, an effective technique can be to use small bursts of light color to act as powerful accents. This is demonstrated in the painting below by Childe Hassam. This sharp contrast is a great way to create the illusion of light with your paints.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the paintings below. My particular favorites are by Edgar Degas of the dancers. He uses dark greens to dramatic effect. Let me know your favorite painting in the comments.
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PS. If you have not already, be sure to join the Free Online Painting Course. You can also find more advanced tips in my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings and reference photos in my Reference Photo Library.