Any ad­vice for paint­ing a neon sign?

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation | Artist Q & A -

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.

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