Q&A: a lantern
Mike Everley, England
With just a couple of art tricks it’s pretty easy to create a realistic depiction of lamp light. For this article I imagine a lamp on a table in a dark room. I recommend searching online for some photo references, which should help you to understand the workings of a real lamp.
There are two key points to bear in mind: the halo effect and the light direction. The halo effect is fundamental because this gives the scene a realistic feeling. It’s important to understand that the halo effect must extend all around the light source. The lamp’s glare becomes more intense the closer you are to it, so you must use colours such as white and yellow. Move further away from the lamp and the colour also changes: the white fades into another colour, such as red or blue.
The second important point is the light direction. A lamp is a point light source and this means that shadows are projected all around the lamp. Consider this aspect when you create the shadows on the objects around the lamp. Try imagining a series of lines with one point in the centre of the lamp and the other point that touches the edges of objects near to the lamp. I define the halo and the shadows on the table. I select the background layer and define the halo effect with the Charcoal and Smudge tools. Note the colour variations: yellow on the centre of the lamp and red all around. I use a similar technique on the table and under the lamp. I create a circular shadow. On the table, the light grows more intense closer to the lamp. I add some details to finish the work. I refine the glass by adding reflections and highlights. Remember that glass reflects all the elements in the room, so it’s crucial to reproduce some distorted shapes on its surface. It’s not necessary to reproduce precise reflections; some lines and fast brush strokes will convey the fact that the lamp isn’t the only object in the scene.
Gather reference photos and you’ll notice how the lamp’s intense light fades into the surrounding darkness.