How do I depict stone carvings lit by sunlight?
Kirsi Savonheimo, Finland
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.