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  1. #1
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    Ways to create or repair Consistent Lighting in a Scene

    One of the particular issues I have with my painting process is that the end result will always require adjustments when situations start getting complicated (AKA not on a white lighting). Objects of various hues all start looking independent with each other.

    It comes down to a few things. Let's assume that the values are perfectly conceived in my mind. Background colour is placed. Local colour of various hues are placed in a picture. How do I make sure the local colours work with the background (this might be blatantly obvious but I want to make sure)?

    I start working over the local colours. How do I make sure the lights of the objects relate to one another (including the light source) in such a way that it doesn't destroy its initial colour identity?

    I know by now it's not the smartest idea to mix in what the colour of the light source is as it will make them really muddy (which destroys the object's colour identity). Am I looking at this the wrong way, first of all? If I am correct in that assumption, how else can I relate them? The way I do things right now is opaque-by-estimation-and-hope-for-the-best or opaque-by-reference. Neither is reliable for various reasons. I've seen Jason Chan's painting videoes multiple times and he would accurately pick out colours right off the wheel. What is possibly running through his mind when he's picking the colours in that everything relates so perfectly with one another (consistent with background, lighting, AND with other objects)?

    It is one of the most aggravating things in my mind right now. Over the past few threads here, I have learned how to logically render an independent object out of my mind (the "Specular Highlights" thread cleared up pretty much everything) but I have been unable to reliably relate several substantially different objects under one lighting situation. Manley has spoken about how there are lighting patterns like warm/cool, though I'm at the point where warm/cool patterns of different objects are clearly not aligning with each other.

    Thank you in advance. One thing to note is that I'm trying very hard not to use adjustment layers.

  2. #2
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    Actually, the best way to have consistent lighting IS to mix in your light color on the objects. If you're getting muddy colors from this you're probably just not mixing your colors right. What medium are you working in? Sometimes you want to wait for the main color to dry before putting in your light-colored highlights and complement-colored shadows.

    If you're worried about lighting, I think the important thing is to worry less about the local color of objects, because in a lot of lighting situations the local color will at least partially be lost. And that's okay-- if you have a really vivid gold sunset or something, most of your color will be in values (bright gold and deep purple) with only minimal local color.

    As for picking out the right colors... I think it's something you just pick up over time. I don't think much about colors when I'm painting, I just kind of know what I need to mix to get what I want. This may be something that is less intuitive for you, but over time, you should get more familiar with your paint (I'm assuming you're working with actual paint) and need to think less about mixtures.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameRaven View Post
    Actually, the best way to have consistent lighting IS to mix in your light color on the objects. If you're getting muddy colors from this you're probably just not mixing your colors right. What medium are you working in? Sometimes you want to wait for the main color to dry before putting in your light-colored highlights and complement-colored shadows.
    I tend to use digital but I use gouache and acrylics as well. For gouache, I mostly work in opaques and I'm finding it very hard to mix the colour of the light source into my locals without making it look muddy. If you want an example, think of a bright orange light source (like a white with some orange mixed in) on an orange object. From reference, I would probably paint the orange object's lights more saturated. If I were to mix that light source onto the local, it would obviously brighten AND desaturate the orange object which is not the effect I want. So I mix the orange object's lights but it will no longer work for the blue object beside it. Then I'm forced to mix specifically for the blue object by checking reference. This is not an issue at all until I try to render situations where it cannot be referenced perfectly and I have to think on my feet. There is nothing that will relate each object together, or maybe there is but I can't catch it.

    And the local colour does make a difference in the end even if it is partially lost in any situation not with a white light source. Especially when working step by step, my local colour -> lights step is the worst only because my local colours suck balls and doesn't fit with the background at all, making everything indecipherable after working on top of it.

    I don't expect to be able to pick colours like Chanman, but it would be lovely to know how he's mixing with his mind.
    Last edited by Alex Chow; September 16th, 2009 at 11:18 PM.

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    Okay, for the sake of summarizing a thousand words into several pictures, here is what I meant.

    Adding the colour of the light source ends up looking wrong because it desaturates a lot. This is especially true for white, bright light where saturation, based on colour theory and referenced studies, tends to stay the same throughout light and shadow (possibly a little bit cooler on the shadowed side due to the sky). However, it is the only "streamlined" process I know of.

    On the other hand, if I were to paint opaquely by estimation and possibly with references, it looks better but at the cost of a streamlined process. This is especially apparent for situations where I'm using "unrealistic" colours for mood but have to render to make things unified. It's much to ask for accurate opaque mixtures in that case (unless I suddenly wake up as Jason Chan).

    Please ignore the drawing flaws on my paintings As you can see though, the second painting certainly looks fresher but the hair, face, tuxedo, and bag look like they're hit by different lights.

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    I don't think the painting on the right looks like it has different light sources at all-- everything seems to be influenced by the yellow-orangish tone in the back, whether or not it's actually lit by the glowing balls.

    I think your biggest problem might be working with opaques. In the example you posted, that "bright orange light" is not really bright at all, it's sort of a muddy peach. So of course mixing that in to a pale blue will give you a sort of mud. If it was a more saturated light, it would mix better. I really can't speak for gouche or acrylic-- my primary medium is watercolor, where you get the best colors by laying down transparent washes. I do know that in digital if I have colored light, I will use a low opacity brush of a saturated version of that color over an object and blend with the local color, and then use a lighter saturation/white to show the highlights.

    It seems like you can work with color quite effectively (your painting on the right) but you're overthinking things a little bit. I would say... if it makes the painting look more dramatic, don't worry if the lighting is not exactly right. His face would probably be a little more in shadow, but it looks better the way you did it, so do we care? Eh, I wouldn't.

    That said, while you can have a single color to show the light source as highlights on your objects, you WILL probably have to mix in different colors to get that color to look "right" blended with the local color of the object.

    It's hard to explain a process like this, so I think I'll try to open Photoshop in a bit and see if I can't come up with something to clarify.
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  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameRaven View Post
    I think your biggest problem might be working with opaques. In the example you posted, that "bright orange light" is not really bright at all, it's sort of a muddy peach.
    Everything made sense to me except this part. Mixing a more saturated orange probably would work, though there's still something I'm not getting. I've included the handprint website's colour temperature chart.

    If these aren't the "light colours" that can be directly related to the objects they hit, what do they represent?

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    It might not be exactly what you are looking for, and it doesn't solve everything, but in PS, I like to make an adjustment layer in curves and up the lightness at the appropriate light color, then I make the layer mask black and I paint in the lights, which will be lighter and already influenced by the light color. I get a similar layer for the shadows.

    Then I fine tune on top, and add rim lights and such. A quick color study in PS may help a lot when comes the time to do a traditional version.

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  10. #8
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    Alex

    When you switch from a white light source to a coloured light source you are removing light of some wavelengths from the incident light, and so tending to remove those wavelengths from the light reflected to your eye. It's a subtractive process which you could best emulate in paints by adding a transparent colour of the hue of your light source (or glazing with it, as FlameRaven suggested). This is how you should interpret the "recipe" of adding the colour of the light source. Adding that colour mixed with white doesn't make any physical sense at all.
    Last edited by briggsy@ashtons; September 17th, 2009 at 11:23 PM.

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  12. #9
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    I think briggsy explained what I was getting at. When you're dealing with light you should be working in transparent washes (or lower-opacity strokes) because light is not opaque. Treating it as opaque is going to give you problems.

    You could do the levels/adjustment, etc. I don't work this way-- I prefer to get my colors entirely by painting instead of by technical tools-- but it might be worth a try if you're really having trouble.

    I don't actually understand that chart you posted at all. o_o
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  14. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post

    When you switch from a white light source to a coloured light source you are removing light of some wavelengths from the incident light, and so tending to remove those wavelengths from the light reflected to your eye. It's a subtractive process which you could best emulate in paints by adding a transparent colour of the hue of your light source (or glazing with it, as FlameRaven suggested). This is how you should interpret the "recipe" of adding the colour of the light source. Adding that colour mixed with white doesn't make any physical sense at all.
    This actually took me quite a bit of thinking to comprehend but the key word was subtractive. I've read it off the principles of colours on your website though I didn't put enough emphasis on it. I had a huge reply typed down asking more questions until I gave your explanation of subtractive colours on your website a closer look.

    Let me try to hit the home run here. If I misinterpreted anything, please correct me.

    White light is RGB at maximum values. Based on subtractive mixing, anything it hits will not really be subtracted out of any of the RGB. Hence, that's the reason why white light, for body reflections, retain the saturation and hue of objects it hit.

    If we were to lower the blue value slightly (a yellow light), whatever it hits will "lose" out on some of the blue that goes into our eyes. This shifts the object to look more yellow to us because some of the blue is absent. This is best emulated by adding a translucent layer of saturated yellow (best emulated with the Multiply layer as your website says) as it is the hue of the light source. The more opaque that layer of yellow is, the stronger the yellow light is that we've created. If an object is capable of reflecting red and green, it will look more saturated in comparison to the shadowed areas only because the light source is "giving" the object the red and green light to reflect into our eye (assuming the shadowed areas aren't hit by the same hue of light). On the other hand, if the light hits blue pants, since the light "subtracts" the blue and the pants are incapable of reflecting green and red, it would look less saturated in comparison to the shadowed areas (assuming the shadowed areas are hit by a light that contains more blue than the main light source).

    If we were to add white to that translucent layer of yellow (a muddy yellow), it would make absolutely no sense whatsoever in the world of subtractive mixing and it will make pictures look like crap anyways. I can't even think of the exact theoretical explanations for this but I know it doesn't work through experience and explanations given by you guys.

    If there was no light (no RGB at all), everything gets subtracted and you can't see shit (obviously).

    This all comes together in the painting process. If I have the local colours established, all I need to do is to add a translucent layers of the hue of the light source (a saturated version of it) in order to relate them to one light source without muddying the overall picture. Of course, as Raven said, it's hard to ask for perfect colours on the first try so extra layers may be needed to make things work for the composition.

    I hope I'm correct! Thanks so far, everyone. As I've stated, I do not wish to use adjustment layers because there is no such thing in Gouache!
    Last edited by Alex Chow; September 18th, 2009 at 08:34 AM.

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    Sounds pretty good Alex. In practice you could alternatively model the forms in whites and greys tinted with the colour of the light source(s), and then apply the local colours as a glaze/multiply layer. Probably either approach will generally need some tweaking to get it looking right - I think because we tend to visually read a uniform glaze over an underpainting as just that rather than the colours we were aiming to create.

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  17. #12
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    What was stated in this thread actually works very well after testing. The only issue is that Multiply always darkens which I forgot about in my previous post. Obviously, it does not work as a means to brighten the lights with coloured illumination and requires a lot of tweaking to work. It's best to either do what Briggs stated or go with a normal-mode translucent layer with the colour of the light source added on top, possibly even an overlay. I do like the way Multiply blends the colours though; just not in terms of value.

    If anybody has any other ideas, please do not hesitate to post them here!
    Last edited by Alex Chow; September 19th, 2009 at 02:59 PM.

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