Q&A: light

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Jean-Pierre Drey­fus, Canada

Mark replies

Keep in mind the ba­sic physics of how light op­er­ates. If the light source isn’t im­me­di­ately in front of the win­dow (say, the sun), you’ll barely no­tice any dis­tor­tion in the par­al­lels of the light beams. On a sur­face that’s per­pen­dic­u­lar to the blinds, the light and shad­ows will follow the di­rec­tion of the light, much like on the back wall in this il­lus­tra­tion. On sur­faces that are par­al­lel with the win­dow, the light and shad­ows will also be par­al­lel as they fall across the character’s face and body.

Re­mem­ber that the light will follow any changes of the sur­faces and that’s ex­actly why you can use it to de­scribe form. You can also sug­gest the vari­a­tion of ma­te­ri­als by care­fully ad­dress­ing the edges of the lights. Here I’ve blurred the light shafts that ap­pear be­hind the character on the smoke in the room.

I first paint the character with a generic light source com­ing from the up­per left of the scene, and then darken her whole body to sug­gest that she’s in com­plete shadow. Then I paint the light shafts on a sep­a­rate Color Dodge layer and dis­tort each one to match the af­fected sur­faces, eras­ing back all the ar­eas that aren’t fac­ing the win­dow. This gives me a solid base for the light­ing in the room, which I only have to fine-tune dur­ing the de­tail­ing phase.

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