Directional lighting for dramatic paintings

Directional lighting for dramatic paintings. I’ve been painting and teaching watercolor for years, and artists want their work to be captivating regardless of the subject. For me, an intense light and shadow pattern, or value, is a critical ingredient in creating a piece that springs off the paper and seizes the viewer’s awareness. Follow along as I share three parts of directional light and how I practice courage to create light-filled works.

Strong directional lighting

When a subject is exposed to a solid directional light, whether against the light, from the side, or above, the values ​​that help define the shape are present in both shadows and highlights. For a backlit scene, the subject is in shadow and surrounded by light. Light tapping the side of an article author’s darknesses shows the outlines of that object. Light shining directly onto an object creates reflections on its top edges and medium or dark values ​​on its vertical surfaces.

The object determines where the lighting should be placed. To create directional interior lighting, I use umbrella lights with warm 120-volt bulbs. A pendant lamp in my kitchen is an additional lighting option for still life subjects. I place a small table on the work surface to bring the object closer and separate it. The goal is to have directional lighting so that news is not needed because it will blow up the shadows I want to see and paint. When shooting outdoors, I rely on the sun on before and at the end of the day because the sun’s angle casts longer, more colorful shadows. I have found that the midday sun is generally too intense and tends to flatten objects.

The color of the light

dramatic paintings

When there is no distinct directional lighting, color changes can easily use instead of value. For example, if the background is similar to the object in the middle, I make the experience a different or complementary color. It will visually separate the things and add depth. Tip: Pay attention to the intensity of the color, not just light and darkness. Doing more paint and less water adds vibrancy without indeed obscuring the content. I use transparent watercolors from various brands and don’t use gray or black tubes in my palette to produce the look of information. I make all my dull colors, shades, and blacks, mixing the accessories.

For example, yellow and pink are combined for food. To intensify or dull the orange, I add a touch of blue. The relationship between the colors within the mix determines whether the color tends to be orange or blue; this is called the triad. All grays are made up of triads. I use different paints to do other jobs. For example, French ultramarine blue does not have the same intensity as indanthrene blue or phthalo blue, but it is grainy. Knowing which colors are mixed to create the wealthiest hues is helpful when trying to get accurate values ​​for a subject.


In The Man in the Yellow Cup, the light comes from following the text. It was a request to obtain his party looks perfect with many color and value changes. Wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry painting allowed me to control my hard and smooth sides. To produce the vision of light, the value is a deeper orange towards the light side of the face. As the shadow of the skin moves away from the light source, it becomes colder and darker. I practiced a blend of indanthrene blue and perylene brown for the darker areas of the skin. The addition of blue to the reddish perylene attenuated and darkened the color. I dried and moistened the paper again to implement

Continuous bands of color. The only way to practice painting without giving internal lines is by working on damp paper. I used a solid transparent yellow on or near the highlights. In this painting, he made the mug look shiny.

Position lights

I regularly bring a camera with me, and if it’s sunny, I find myself looking for my next big inspiration. For a series, like my apple paintings, I will take about 100 photos and then review them on my computer screen. As soon as I saw the Crab Apple World reference photo (above), I realized that it had the characteristics of a particular paint because only the side-lit apple was in focus. Egg whites appear on or very close to the left side of the crab apple. The most famous red is in the related area, with a lot of yellow in the background. All other colors in the paint are softened by their complement of color, while the shapes are blurred with soft edges. All the highlights of the photo that were in the outer corners have been darkened or removed.

Overhead lighting

One of the simplest ways to represent drama is to shine a light from above directly at a subject and use a black background behind it. If the background is black, the foreground objects must consist of white and halftone values. If things in the foreground are too dark, they will blend into the ground and appear flat. Complementary colors can easily use for both color harmony and drama. A dark background should easily make with the colors used in the painting. One of my darker shades is obtained by mixing permanent pink with phthalo green.

Light up the figure from the side

I started with a reference photo showing a woman lit from the left side. I discovered that the glasses in the background replied interest but were too small. Meanwhile, the dark forces ​​on the apron and those investing the figure were too dull and low.

Step 1

I made a pencil drawing, straightened the windows and simplified the background, then applied masks.

Step 2

I applied a yellow wash to the areas that I wanted to have darker values.

Step 3

I applied blue and pink washes to the yellow undercoat while it was still damp. Watch the value model begin to take shape.

Step 4

I left the left front of the features sunrise when I started to paint the skin tone. I have placed some of the darker shades on the hair and neck as a value guide.

Step 5

I added the dark tones to the background, making them lighter than the shaded parts of the hair. Then I removed the background mask. The windows following the end look like a highlight when enclosed by darkness.

Step 6

I infused more color into the hard mask and window lines to intensify the color and reduce reflections from the background.

Step 7

I continued to develop medium-value colors in aprons, hair, and clothing. Pinks, bright yellows, and reds appear only in the figure. I designed the shirt and apron more volatile and more vibrant than they appeared in the reference photo.

Last step

I placed the most valuable contrast in and around the center of interest. The necklace and surrounding colors bring the gaze from hand to fruit in Serving Lemon Pie (watercolor on paper, 30 x 22). Search with these three kinds of directional light to learn what goes best for the affirmation you want to achieve with your painting.

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