The Elements of Light and Shadow

A free video tutorial from Austin Batchelor
Concept Artist and Illustrator
Rating: 4.5 out of 5Instructor rating
15 courses
272,648 students
The Elements of Light and Shadow

Lecture description

In this lecture Students will learn about the elements of light and shadow.

Learn more from the full course

Digitally Painting Light and Color: Amateur to Master

Learn the fundamentals of light and color and take your art to the next level.

05:15:14 of on-demand video • Updated November 2019

learn how to paint realistic lighting and color schemes.
learn how to paint various lighting conditions.
learn how to understand and interpret real life lighting situations
English [Auto]
Okay, Next, what we need to talk about is the different aspects or elements that make up a lit object, both the light and the shadow. And each of these things have names, and it's important to understand what they are and what their purpose is, so that when you're painting your own things, you can keep each one of these elements in line. All of these combined are what is going to make your paintings and whatever it is that you're trying to portray come across as realistic and believable and actually being lit by an object. Okay, So we're going to go through each one of these and explain what they are. So first off, we're going to start with what is called the Halftone. Okay. Make sure my brush size is the right size. Half tone. So half tone is basically the part of the object that is its base color. It's not really in shadow, but it doesn't have a highlight on it. It's just the most base neutral color of the object. So the half tone on this sphere is right here. Okay? This area fills in the half tone. Okay? Now next part is the center light. Okay, So the center light is the part that's getting the most light and it's evenly distributed. Okay, So this part is the center light. And the center light is what's going to have the most impact as far as lightning, your object. Besides the highlight, the center light covers a much wider area, and it's not usually very glossy. It's typically a smooth even covering of the lit side of your object. Okay, Next part is highlight. Now, highlight is going to very much vary on the surface of your object. If you have something that's very, very shiny and smooth, then your highlight is going to be very crisp and very bright. If you have something that's more matte, has a matte finish or it's rough, there might not even be a highlight or it will be broken up into a lot of different shapes as it bounces off the texture. The highlight is the point where the brightest part of the light or the most rays of light are hitting the object and bouncing off into the viewer's eye. Okay, So you want to make sure obviously that the highlight is on the light side. You wouldn't ever find the highlight over here or over here, right? It's coming down from the brightest point and then bouncing into our eyes. Okay. So think about that. Where is the light coming from? That's where your highlight is going to be. Okay. If our eye or if our light was coming from down here, then the highlight would be here. Okay, So think about that. The next part is called the Terminator. The Terminator is the part of the sphere where it turns from light to shadow. Now every object has a terminator. If you hold your hand up to the light, you can see the Terminator is the point where you start hitting from light, right where the halftone is into shadow. That point where it changes is called the Terminator. Now, depending on different lighting situations, will determine the effects or the way that your Terminator is going to look. And same with the highlights in the center light. If you have a sunny sort of sunlit type lighting like we have in this image, then the Terminator is going to be a little bit more crisp. The highlight is going to be a little bit more crisp. The center light is going to be more crisp and the cast shadow are going to be darker. Now, if it was overcast lighting, maybe it's really cloudy outside. All of these are going to kind of blend together. You're not going to have a really strong highlight because there's not a direct light source. It's it's this diffused light that's coming out from the sky. But there's not one specific light source like there would in like there would be in a sunny situation. In a sunny situation, the direct light source is the sky and an overcast light source. The light source is the or sorry in a sunny, sunny situation. The light source is the sun, but in an overcast light source, the light source is just the sky, which creates kind of a fill light, a diffused light, and there's not a hard light source. So you won't have a highlight in that sort of situation. And with the Terminator, the more direct, you create your light source. So you have a flashlight or a spotlight shining on it, then your Terminator would be really, really crisp and there would be a very short transition. And the more diffuse the light becomes, the more gradual the Terminator transition becomes as well. So keep that in mind as you're painting. What kind of light source are you using? Okay. The next part is the core of the shadow, okay? And the core of the shadow is going to be the darkest part of your shadow besides the occlusion. Okay? The core shadow is where the least amount of there's no reflected light hitting it from behind and there's no center light hitting it from the front. And so it's just right behind the Terminator is where it's cast into shadow. Okay. Now reflected light is light that is being reflected from behind. Okay. Reflected light would be anything from down here. This all this stuff. Right? Light is we have light coming down, right. Hitting the ball. And the light that is coming here and all these other places bouncing around. Okay. And eventually it bounces back up and hits this ball. Okay. And because of that, it's creating a little bit of reflected light on the back side of this ball. Now, when typically when light bounces off of something, it loses about 90% of its of its power for each bounce that it makes. So when it comes down, bounces off one and bounces back up here, that's losing 90% power, which is why even though it is reflected light, it's not as bright as it is up here. It's a lot dimmer because we're not getting as much of that reflected light. So we'll clear all this out of the way. So you can see clearer. This right here is where all the reflected light is. And then there's also a little bit down here because of all of the light being reflected back up into these shadow areas. Okay. Now your reflected light is going to change depending on what color the surroundings are. If this area if the ground down here was a green or a blue, then the reflected light would have a green or blue tint to it, right? Now, if this is, say, a sunlight and we have the sun hitting over here, everything that's being lit by the sun is going to feel warm. But if we're outside in the daytime, then there's going to be sky coming down, which is going to create a blue fill light that will cause the reflected light to be blue. Okay. Does that make sense? It's whatever light is being reflected through the surroundings. In this case, it's a slight warm gray because the ground is that gray color. And so it's just being reflected back up into the back of the sphere. Okay. So next we have the cast shadow. The cast shadow is the shadow that's being cast by the object. So if we have the light coming down here, it's going to. Create a shadow. That's the shape of the ball. And like I said before, an overcast lighting or the more overcast are subtle. The light becomes, the more diffused the not the less the less pronounced the cast shadow will be. In this, we have a pretty strong light source, so we can very clearly see the edges of the cast shadow. It's very obvious. Okay, but if we were doing overcast, it would be not so much. All right. Now cast Shadow applies to everything. This is one of the big mistakes a lot of amateur artists make when they're painting pictures is they don't paint the cast shadow. There's not just the cast shadow of the object onto the ground, but a lot of times there's cast shadow from the object onto itself. If you take a picture of yourself in sunny daylight, your nose is probably casting a shadow onto the rest of your face, onto your lips and your chin and your chin is probably casting a shadow onto your neck. And if it's a really bright, sunny day, then that cast shadow is going to be really crisp and pronounced. And a lot of times we forget to do that. Sometimes I see people, they're designing creatures or painting creatures and they have horns or antlers or ears and stuff like that, and they're really well lit, right? We have like the reflected light, we have the highlights, we have the halftone. We have to terminate all this stuff. But the ears aren't casting a shadow onto the rest of the head. And so it doesn't look right because we're forgetting about that. So don't forget about the cast shadow. It's a very important element. Okay. And that leaves us with the last part, which is the occlusion. Shadow. Now occlusion. Shadow. It's not the same as class, shadow or cast shadow or the core occlusion. Shadow is when in crevices and different things it tends to be a little bit darker. So if you look at your keyboard, for example, you should be able to see where the keys meet the rest of the board. There's a dark line and that's because there's occlusion shadow there or otherwise called ambient occlusion. You can even look at your hands and you can see in the wrinkles of your hands, it tends to be a little bit darker. And that's because of ambient occlusion. So what that means is that when light is coming down and it's bouncing all around here and we get all this light that's bouncing into different places and trying to hit all these different spots, the closer it gets into that crevice, the harder it is for light to get into that crack. Okay. Light can bounce all the way around. But like we said before, every time light bounces, it loses 90% of its power. And so by the time it gets all the way down here into the crack, it's really hard for that light to light up that crevice in there. And it's the same with everything. If you look around, I mean, you're looking at light fixtures or maybe your table or chairs or your couch, stuff like that. Anywhere there's a crease or a crevice, it tends to be just a little bit darker. And that's because of ambient occlusion. The light that's bouncing around is not not as many of the light photons that are bouncing around are making it into that crevice. And so it tends to be just a little bit darker. Okay. So anytime an object meets another object, there's going to be ambient occlusion. So where this sphere is hitting the ground, that creates ambient occlusion. If there was, you know, a shoe and the floor, anything of that sort, you're going to have ambient occlusion close against skin where we're at the edge of your sleeve or the collar line, there's going to be a little bit of ambient occlusion. So keep that in mind. These are these one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. These eight elements are what make up light in an object when you're painting it. And each one of them is equally important. Okay. Without all of these, then with possibly the exception of high light, depending on what type of object you're painting, without all of these, your object is going to feel really flat. Your painting's not going to feel real and believable. It's not going to feel like it has realistic lighting. So what I would suggest moving forward, we're going to be covering all sorts of different things in depth, but starting right now, take a sticky note or a piece of paper or a note in on your computer, your phone, whatever it is you want to do, and write down each one of these. And make like a checklist for yourself so that when you're painting your paintings or whatever it is you're doing, you can check off each one of these as you go to make sure when you're done that you have all of them. Do I have my halftone somewhere in there? Do I have my highlights? Is there a center light? What is where is my terminator? Do I have reflected light? Is there a cast shadow where it's supposed to be? Is there occlusion? Shadow? Where is the core of my shadow? Right. Keeping all these things in mind are just this one concept alone is going to jump your art to a whole nother level, right? As soon as you start putting these in your paintings, you're going to see a huge difference. Now, we still have a lot to cover that are, you know, there's a lot to go over, but this concept by itself is possibly one of the most important things you could learn in this course so far. So study it, learn it and understand it. And I will see you guys in the next one.