...to Learning to Paint Digitally, Edition 3. I am still amazed at the enthusiasm of the digital community with my first two articles! I am so glad I was able to help so many people, so, lets get started on Edition 3 already!
The Plan: This series is not only to give beginners a starting point, but also to help even seasoned painters with tricks or tips they did not know before. My hope is that we all learn something we did not know before since there are so many ways to do one thing, it is my belief that reading how one person may do something will strengthen our skills as artists and help us to learn and develop our own style and techniques.
The Promise: My promise to the community through this new series of articles is that I will:
- Read each Tutorial before presenting it to you.
- Try each brush set myself before including it in the "lessons."
- Try to be as clear and simple as possible.
- I will continue to take your suggestions for tutorials, brushes, and resources.
Please Remember: I may not do things the way you do them, and you may not find somethings useful or you may not agree with a technique I choose to use or feature/discuss. My advice is to please note me and offer your suggestions. I am going to speak from my experience and the tutorials that people have suggested in order to write these articles. I am sure there are many other ways to paint different things, so lets keep an open mind while we try to cover all the bases and learn new things!
Before we start lets take a look at the submissions from the second article! These works are awesome! Thanks to everyone who is participating:
You must note me with your work from the articles if you want it featured here in the next edition! Thanks!
Lets Get Started!
Ok, so what is this article about you ask? Well it was going to be Composition, but I decided to save that topic for another time and go with something I get asked about on a very regular basis, Lighting!</i>
This article will cover some basic light/lighting techniques and tips.
Lighting plays a major roll of any scene, it can make or break a work of art, the wrong lighting can ruin an otherwise perfect work, but the right lighting can bring the entire piece to life right before your eyes. If you want to create realistic and technically correct artworks you must always consider lighting! I cannot stress this enough!
For some, lighting will come easy, and thats great, I'm sure many of us are envious, but if you are like me you may struggle to get your highlights and shadows in the proper places.
Since starting with digital art a few years ago I have put a lot of time into my works special lighting, I have taken a lot of critique from other artists, and although far from perfect, I feel its been very helpful and I have really grown as an artist, I am grateful for those who helped, and so I hope I can pass on some of that knowledge to others. I am constantly trying to improve my lighting. Fortunately I have picked up a few tips and tricks.
First lets look at a very basic technique that anyone can use in any program that allows layers. This is like a guide you make yourself. It will be very useful if you already have a WIP (work in progress) that you can try this on, but if not, no worries - you can still practice on a blank document. I'm going to use my work "Fire Dance" as an example because I feel pretty confident that although the lighting isn't 100% perfect - its pretty good especially for this tutorial.
What I have done above is simply this: Above your top most layer make another layer, name it something like light guides or lighting, then taking a default round brush and mark where your light source(s) are, you want to draw/sketch some fake "rays" as well to give you an idea of where the light would hit on your figure(s). Try to imagine where the light will be hitting - picture it as if it were actually there. It may help to look at photos of similar lighting situations. Take a walk outside, study how the light plays on trees, grass, hair, etc.
Keep in mind this is a very rough sketch, no one is ever going to see it, and you don't have to be perfect about itbecause this layer will be deleted when you feel happy with your lighting until then if its bothering you just hide the layer, trust me you may want to come back to it.
You should make it a habit to try to establish your light source early on in the painting process, or at least have a good idea where it will be.
There are many different types of lighting, indoors, outdoors, sunlight, moonlight, light "heaven" rays, spot lights, light wisps/fairy dust etc. There are also many different ways to create such effects. For this article I will talk about some popular special effects such as the "heaven" rays, light wisps, and fairy dust, simply because I get asked about these the most and they are also, in my opinion, the easiest special affects to achieve, especially since there are a few short cuts you can take which involve specialty brushes (of course!) Just keep in mind hand painting usually will have a much more custom and tailored effect to your work. These brushes also work great when combined with hand painting!
"Heaven" rays, over exaggerated beams of sun light rays that usually come down through clouds or through trees. Not seen with moonlight usually. Try some of the below brushes for some quick helpful effects!
If you want to hand paint them, simply take a large round soft to hard brush and paint on large (or small depending) streaks where you think the light would be coming from. Then go to filter > gaussian blur and apply a blur until you get the effect you are going for. You may also want to play with the layer settings and try overlay, softlight, screen, etc. to see what sort of effects you can achieve. Also if you want to have the streaks of light bolder, simply duplicate your layer! There are lots of things to try with specialty lighting like this.
Fairy Dust, everyone's favorite addition to fantasy paintings! These are relatively easy to achieve. I will talk about three different ways and you can choose which you want to use and experiment with.
- First lets talk about the easiest way - very handy for those without a tablet, make a new layer and then use a round soft brush set to 90-100% opacity and click your dust on one at a time or set the brush settings to scatter. If you do them one at a time you have much more control - but remember to keep alternating brush sizes to make the wisps more interesting and add more dimension to your work. Set the wisp layer to "outer glow" and play with the settings to get an effect you like.
- Another way to make fairy dust would be to use a round medium - hard brush and build up color. Set opacity to 50-90% and paint small spots whenever you want the wisps/dust, turn down the opacity and make the brush softer and go around the spots to make the "glow" yourself instead of using layer styles, you can use all sorts of colors to achieve you desired effects.
- Lastly you could use fairy dust or wisp brushes. Paint them on with a mouse and set your layer style to "outer glow".
Try some of these brushes!
Tips and Tricks
- Instead of a solid color with style "outer glow" try a gradient!
- Try star shape brushes instead of round!
- Try making several layers of fairy dust and setting the glow color to different colors for each layer!
For the directional lighting I have found that making a layer above all other layers and sketching on the highlights (like in my example above) is really the only trick I have come up with to help out. You can also try using the light ray brushes or tricks to show directional lighting, however use them at a very low opacity and try setting the layer style to "overlay."
Tips and Tricks:
- The Dodge Tool in Photoshop can be useful for adding small amounts of highlights - but I do not recommend using it instead of actually painting highlights! You should use it minimally.
- The burn tool is also useful for shadows, but try to paint most of the manually for a more natural effect and better over all look and feel!
I would like to mention one more type of "glow" or "light" and thats moonlight! Moonlight is very subtle and I often exaggerate it otherwise my images would be very dark, but what I want to mention is the exaggerated glow around the moon. Painting moons can be a pain, its quite simple to use a moon texture or brush, try these great moon brushes below:
Stamp the brush of your choice on a new layer. Then make another layer under the moon layer. Use a round soft brush with a very light color of your choice and under the moon draw the outline of a circle (right under the shape of the moon) so it looks as if the light color is right on the edge of the moon that you stamped. Then use a gaussian blur on that layer - that becomes your moon glow. The more paint you put on and the more you blur and keep adding the paint, the larger the glow will become.
Tips & Tricks:
- Try using a very pale/light blue instead of a white.
- Try making another layer above the primary glow layer, and below the moon layer and adding another color like lavender or pink, something to compliment your color scheme.
- Try setting the layer styles to things like overlay, softlight, and screen.
I will leave you with a few stock photos that should be great practice for lighting. You should try to experiment with other lighting types as well. Practicing painting, in my experience, is the only tried and true way you will learn and improve best, its hands on experience that makes the difference!
For these articles the below photographs should only be used as references and should not actually be apart of your work. Please credit and link back to the stock providers when using their images as reference. Thank you!
Please remember if you want me to feature your finished images created by use of any of my articles, in the next edition of "Learning to Paint Digitally" you must note me your finished works!
Have any Tips & Tricks to tell me about? Just send me a Note
Miss an edition of "Learning to Paint Digitally? Check below!
Learning to Paint Digitally, Edition 1
Learning to Paint Digitally, Edition 2