How do I de­pict stone carv­ings lit by sun­light?

Kirsi Savon­heimo, Fin­land

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An­swer Char­lie replies

There are a bunch of things to keep in mind if you want to real­is­ti­cally por­tray some­thing like a statue or in­tri­cate stonework. You need to com­mu­ni­cate the tem­per­a­ture of your light source; the nat­u­ral tex­ture and ‘ma­te­rial’ of the stone; it’s shape and carved sur­face – and all of this with­out los­ing the in­tegrity of what­ever pat­tern you’ve come up for the carv­ing it­self!

With so much to think about, a me­thod­i­cal ap­proach to your work is best: cre­ate a thor­ough sketch layer and loosely build up your di­rec­tional light to cre­ate a sense of di­men­sion be­fore you tackle any of the de­tails such as bounce light­ing, photo tex­tures or spec­u­lar ef­fects.

With stone it’s best to stick to a sim­ple colour pal­ette based on a sin­gle cool lo­cal colour (the rock) mixed with a warm colour for your am­bi­ent light­ing. It can be tempt­ing to use a larger range of colours (some rocks are dy­nam­i­cally pat­terned, and you can get bogged down in de­tails such as moss or wa­ter ef­fects), but these are best at­tempted once you’re con­fi­dent with the whole process, or added later with an ad­di­tional tex­ture layer or fil­ter.

De­fine your carv­ing pat­tern and build up shape with loose strokes be­fore hon­ing in on tex­ture de­tails and light ef­fects with mul­ti­ply and dodge lay­ers.

Plan your pal­ette around the lo­cal colours of a sin­gle type of stone. Re­search some ex­am­ples and de­cide how your light source will in­ter­act with your carv­ing.

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