Making sure the same value separate in planes of space
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Thread: Making sure the same value separate in planes of space

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    Making sure the same value separate in planes of space

    I'm sure we have all seen something similar to this:



    Even if it is formulaic, it does the job in creating depth.

    ...but things get a little trickier when other elements are introduced:



    ...some in which share values with other elements in different planes of space but must be done in order to distinguish those added elements from the background. Does it show depth? To some degree, but the issue is compounded the moment colour is factored in.

    Are there ways to accentuate depth with colours when values and saturation do not necessarily do the job?

    The solution that I use the most is saturation but one particular problem I'm facing is similar to the tiny lights in the example. If I wanted those lights to be strong, saturated reds, it probably won't help depth very much. In fact, that would end up worse than the greyscale version.

    The man is also another conundrum to solve. How do I colour him and make sure he's not conflicting with the foreground/midground rocks, which share similar values? This is a case where I want strong light/dark contrasts to be on the focal point, even if it is in the mid-background. This, of course, conflicts with the idea that contrast is strongest in the foreground.

    The lit patch on the bottom left is the clearest example I can give. It looks as though the foreground rock has a hole in it, but what if I wanted that small patch to be in the foreground as well? Let's say that's just an opening to a cave.

    There are a lot of possibilities for answers but I'm looking to see how many possibilities there are available. I'm genuinely stuck thinking of solutions because saturation and value depth isn't possible in these cases. No, I won't be using these examples for a final piece as they're just to illustrate my dilemma.

    Thank you in advance.

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    From what I've learned from my small experience contrast doesn't only refer
    to difference of tonal value. Sure black next to white draws the eye (but not
    always, it's a craft of it's own really!), but so do contrast of edges, colors,
    forms, directions of a brush or pencil stroke etc. No doubt you know these
    things, as you must also know that these things can simulate depth.

    To answer your question, yes, from what little study I've done, color can
    accentuate depth. A classic example is the play of complementary colors and
    play of warm and cold colors within an image.

    In a study I was doing, I was painting a bust using a pair of blue and brown
    colors, complementary to each other, plus black and white. Now, the problem
    with the bust was that it was almost the same grey all over, very little tone
    differences. The lights in the room, the reflected lights and the main light
    that was lighting the bust, lit the thing up so much, that the only dark values
    you got were the creases that were dirty with charcoal dust, even the wall
    behind it blended in with the bust. But, the lights had temperature. I noticed
    all this and I had to keep my values light and worked with washes, yet I
    achived the effect of volume and depth by using the contrast of
    complementary and cold-warm colors. It was a challenge, especially in flat
    areas like the chest of the bust (the dude had a shirt and coat, making the
    plane pretty flat) where the tone was literally the same yet the eye saw the
    roundeness. It came from the contrast of the light temperature. This one,
    was an eye opener for me because the problem made me actually work in a
    different way than using lights and darks and accents. Using the same tone
    (because that tone was there) but different color, even if with very little
    saturation, made all the difference.

    To come to your image, there are ways, I suppose, in which even color can
    make it confusing. Yet, if done carefully, depth can be accentuated, use
    cooler colors for areas you want to recede and warmer ones for those you
    want to bring forward.

    The selection of colors is also a factor, there are warm purples and cool
    ones. Yet, using a red, an orange or a yellow, can make a part of the
    foreground pop out in comparison to a purple in the background.

    Now, take all this with a grain of salt because, some of the things I
    understand about color and the way it can be used, I have tried and found
    that it works at times, and other times it doesn't (most probably because I
    haven't found a better way of use). Reading about it and looking at other
    people's work helps prepare you for the challenge but you also have to DO it.
    It made a great impression on me when I as last tried it out for the first time
    and now it's always in my head.

    Well, that's what I had to say, dunno if that's what you were looknig for. I'm
    looking forward to more people's opinions as you are I'm sure.

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    Really well said Line - and a great question Alex. Separating elements and and ditrecting the eye are really important as you know. When you put that figure in the whole piece just locks into place (in a good way) - suddenly we understand something very important - scale. Try replacing the figure with a starship say - then you could go a star fighter for one scale - a massive star cruiser for another - or replace the figure with a castle - anyway, you get the idea - the figure provides us a lot of information - it acts as the focal point - it is also placed very effectively - right at the intersection of tic-tac-toe lines. The lights are a nice lead in as well.

    Now, the jaggy white shape in bottom left completely distracts from the figure - the eye bounces back and forth between them - plus you now have three elemnts - figure, lights and jaggy rock thing. Cover that lower left element with your hand and you'll see the scene sort of "refocus" on the figure.

    There is a lot of other stuff to cover as Line said - edges, contrasts, color, saturation, scale, perspective, etc. That's what makes this so fun!

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    You're missing an important element in the second picture, though. You duplicated the background from the first image, but you put the person in different perspective. We're looking down at him whereas the jagged rocks are still head on. Once you see the tops of the rocks receding into the distance depth will automatically be implied.

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    Thanks for the tips. So from what I've gathered thus far, depth can be created via (other than ones listed in my opening post):

    1. A good drawing with perspective considered will imply depth. A good drawing with bad rendering will still kill depth as I've found out. Of course, my opening post isn't the epitome of great drawings...
    2. Edges: Does background elements automatically imply that it's soft and foreground means sharp? Could they be reversed? I know this thread touches on it and I'm wondering if there's an artwork which creates depth by reversing what's considered normal.
    3. Temperature/hue shifts: Possibly identifying each plane in space with a main hue and make sure objects on the same planes of space take some of those identifying colours?
    4. Scale (same objects in different space)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Chow View Post
    2. Edges: Does background elements automatically imply that it's soft and foreground means sharp? Could they be reversed? I know
    Many of Vermeer's paintings employ that technique.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Chow View Post
    2. Edges: Does background elements automatically imply that it's soft and foreground means sharp? Could they be reversed? I know this thread touches on it and I'm wondering if there's an artwork which creates depth by reversing what's considered normal.
    Oftentimes, in a landscape, the distant planes will have uniformly sharp edges. This flattens them out, allowing the closer elements with more edge variety to come forward. The hardness of the edges is compensated for by a decrease in value contrast, though.
    RyerOrdStar's example of Vermeer using depth-of-field effects is good as well.


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    Great thread so far but it spawns another in my mind... as always.

    Is there a reason why dark foreground -> lighter background works so well and the other way around doesn't work as well in environments? I realized it tends to be the pattern in reality (with exceptions, an obvious one being a strong sun hitting a locally white object in the foreground) but I've never really found a way to explain it theoretically.

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    Basically things get lighter and less saturated as they move into the distance due to what is called "atmospheric perspective" - simply more atmosphere, dust, moisture between the viewer and distant objects.

    Tristan - I'm not sure I've ever really seen that in life, where the distant elements have sharp edges? I'm just curious if could you give any examples?

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    Yeah, I figured it was atmospheric perspective but couldn't that explanation also work if, let's say, the background is dark? Or is atmosphere, in an exterior environment, exclusively lighter?

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    You can recede into any color atmosphere for pictorial effect.


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    Good question - most of the time (90% or whatever) the distance will be lighter due to atmospheric perspective. The two exceptions I can think of are: 1: When there is a low storm in the distance but the local landscape is lit - that always makes for very dramatic lighting which looks really cool since we don't see it a lot (though we had it two days ago here). 2: A somewhat related phenomenon is that really low, flat light at dawn/dusk that can illuminate vertical planes (trees) and skim across the ground but the distance may already be in twilight shadow or just not receiving much light.
    I thought of a third - heavy cloud shadow falling on mountains but local landscape lit - well, a variation on the first one really - but doesn't have to be a low storm.
    Maybe people have encountered other situations as well.

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    The light orb already have size, size change and flow to aid with it's depth and the figure have logical placement, his feet is out there in that particular part of the cavern.

    I think these are mentally overpowering elements compared to how closely they might match other values. I doubt that if you show the average man on street that picture that anyone would confuse what's going on there. It reads pretty strongly.

    I don't think color as you have stated it in it's simplicity would be a good way to go look for depth as you have already set up an environment that have laws driving depth that will over rule hue, whatever hues you intruduce will be subject to those laws in order to look deep enough in space.

    The color of the light coming into the cavern will obviousely rule along with the color of the darkness. Having the dude wear a beige jacket over a blue one aint going to make a differance as long as it's accurately rendered as it's subjected to the other influences.

    Elements of focus could be an additional tool and the latest mental glare and psychological visual disorder effects(LOL!!) but I don't know if that would work here.

    Last edited by George Abraham; December 9th, 2009 at 04:20 AM.
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