Any advice for painting a neon sign?
Evan Atkinson, Scotland Answer Tan replies
Neon signs are a common mainstay of futuristic technoir science fiction such as Blade Runner and Ghost in The Shell. They symbolise the glitzy glamour of advertising, and add interesting lighting effects to an otherwise dark monochrome world.
They’re fun to add to an illustration, but can also make it difficult to get the scene’s lighting right, particularly if there are multiple light sources. It’s tempting to use Photoshop’s Blending options to create neon lights, and they are a great starting point, but that’s usually not enough to make the lights appear three dimensional. Neon lights are encased in glass and have connecting wires to power them, and all these details, when rendered, make the illustration more realistic.
The most common type of neon signs are neon tubes that are bent into letters or other shapes. It’s another detail to consider when creating an illustration with neon signs, because these tubes don’t support tight angles. Neon signs have very distinct fall-off lighting as well. A yellow neon sign may not produce yellow reflections in the objects it casts light on, but may be reddish or orange-ish instead.
If you want to adjust the overall lighting, you can create a new Adjustment layer on top and tweak the lighting of all layers without merging them down.
I sketch out the neon sign in a direct frontal view in black and white so it can be reproduced elsewhere if necessary. To place it in a scene I’ll warp the perspective and fill it out in three dimensions.