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Light em’ up!

How we choose to light our scenes  is just as important as how we compose them.  Lighting sets the mood.  A harsh red concentrated spot light can make even a sweet painting of a toddler girl feel spooky, and cheerful sunny ambient lighting makes monsters seems friendly.  It directs the viewers eye around the page, emphasizing details or hiding secretive elements.  In short, great lighting makes for great visual storytelling.  By being deliberate about how we choose to light our scenes, we can give our artwork added dimension and drama.  For this post, I would like to share some of my favorite lighting tutorials and resources for artists.

Cyril Rolando is a gifted digital artist whose entire portfolio focuses on high-drama dramatic lighting of surreal fantasy scenes.  He has graciously made many tutorials to share his technique and artistic process with others.  He gives great tips and tricks for digital art in general, and his instructional gallery is well worth browsing thoroughly.   However, I would like to draw attention to Rolando’s tutorial on using adjustment layers in Photoshop to quickly change lighting hues and temperatures to affect the mood of a piece.  Click on the image below to find the full tutorial.

CyrilRolandoImageAnother artist who I have found very informative about the subject of lighting is Canadian artist Marco Bucci.  He teaches classes that focus on lighting, but has also kindly made some of his lessons available for free on Youtube.  One of my favorites is his demonstration of “Lighting Keys”, wherein he discusses how light placement changes the storytelling of a scene, and the importance of ambient light.

One point that I found particularly helpful was the idea of lighting a scene  as if it was a stage, rather than a realistic space.  I have always been a little type-A with my lighting, envisioning how my light sources interact with objects in the environment very literally – which is not always the best solution.  It is freeing to remember that as artists, it is more important that our lighting be believable rather than realistic, and that we have the freedom to add extra ambient light to scenes to bring different objects into prominence for storytelling purposes.

I hope that you found these tutorials as helpful as I did, and that you are inspired to explore light as a storytelling device  as you create new artwork.  Happy painting!

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