Help me paint con­vinc­ing rim light on a char­ac­ter’s hair, please

An­ders Mar­wood, Eng­land

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imaginenation Artist Q&a -

An­swer Kelley replies

In­tro­duc­ing a splash of rim­light on your char­ac­ter’s hair can be a great way to bring in a lit­tle magic to your por­trait. For this ar­ti­cle I want to cre­ate a late au­tumn mood for my elf girl with a warm, golden light that con­trasts with a cool, sil­ver mist in the back­ground.

Re­mem­ber that hair isn’t a flat ob­ject – it sits on top of a round head. I place the light source in the scene slightly up and to the right, so that it’s stronger on one side of the girl’s head than the other. No­tice how the au­tum­nal sun­light fol­lows the curve of the char­ac­ter’s head.

Light will shine through in most of the places where the hair is thinnest. If the hair is spread out – for ex­am­ple, if it’s blow­ing in the wind – then a lot of light will fil­ter through. If the hair is thick – if it’s tightly braided, say – then you would only see light around the edges, not fil­ter­ing through. In my ex­am­ple, a lot of light is com­ing through the bot­tom of the girl’s hair, which is more fluffy and fanned-out.

In ad­di­tion, the hair tends to look more sat­u­rated where the light hits it. This ef­fect is es­pe­cially ev­i­dent in red­heads or other sat­u­rated hair colours. Here, the light is a pale yel­low colour, but ap­pears golde­no­r­ange where it’s fil­ter­ing through the red of the girl’s hair.

Fi­nally, I add a few stray strands of hair around the edges, us­ing my light­est colour, to in­tro­duce a soft, nat­u­ral fin­ish.

Think of hair as a rounded shape. Fol­low the shape of the head and vary the in­ten­sity, thick­ness and colour of your light.

Here’s an ex­am­ple of how not to draw rim light: as a thin, even out­line around your char­ac­ter’s head. It makes the hair look like a card­board cutout, rather than soft and dy­namic.

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