Help me paint a shaft of light

ImagineFX - - Imagine nation Artist Q&a -

An­swer Belinda replies

There are few things that can evoke a sense of magic and won­der more sim­ply than a glim­mer­ing stream of light pierc­ing through dark­ness.

To make the light­ing be­liev­able and ef­fec­tive, you’ll need to take ac­count of a few fac­tors, such as the mood you want to con­vey and the kind of at­mos­phere the light is shin­ing through. For ex­am­ple, is it a dusty room or a crys­talline cav­ern? The ef­fect of the light can also cre­ate a range of feel­ings such as mys­tery, hope, sad­ness and nos­tal­gia, de­pend­ing on the ef­fect of the light on its sur­round­ings. If a char­ac­ter is side-lit by a sliver of light with their face re­main­ing in shadow, they might look threat­en­ing or mys­te­ri­ous, whereas if their face is lit by the light, they could look hope­ful and thought­ful.

Here I’ve painted a sim­ple scene of a dusty old room to demon­strate some straight­for­ward Pho­to­shop tech­niques for how to ap­proach paint­ing a shaft of light. The tech­nique uses layer blend­ing modes and ad­just­ment lay­ers for max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity, and it can be used for other forms of light­ing sit­u­a­tions, too. Have a play around with this tech­nique to cre­ate dif­fer­ent light­ing ef­fects.

Ad­just­ment lay­ers can give you great con­trol over the light­ing in your image, from am­bi­ent light­ing to di­rec­tional shafts of light.

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