Can you help me paint a night scene with atmospheric lighting?
Georgina Hillier, US
The key to painting atmospheric lighting is to understand how light is transformed when moving through the thick layer of atmosphere. Think about the way sunlight casts dark and sharp shadows on a bright day. Now imagine what that same scene would look like on a foggy day. Shadows become blurrier and less intense, while highlights are nearly non-existent.
The first step when painting an atmospheric night scene (in this case an old misty inn) is to start with a limited dark blueish colour palette. With every colour you add, think about how the dark blue atmosphere would influence it. Don’t worry about secondary light sources or fog – those are effects that can quickly be added later. Instead, focus on the overall values of the objects in your scene and avoid using obvious cast shadows or highlights.
Once your scene is blocked in (this is about 80 per cent of the painting process) you can start adding your secondary warmer light sources on separate layers. An easy trick to boost the bright warm colours – and the atmosphere around them – is by adding overlay layers of the same colour on top of them. Finish it up by creating a new layer on top, and then with a big soft Round brush and a colour picked from the background, softly paint around the edges of your objects to make the dense atmosphere engulf them.
Creating a convincing atmosphere becomes easy if you plan your approach.
Eighty per cent of the painting process involves focusing on the scene’s primary light source.