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  1. #14
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    Whereever light hits: More intense color. Any red/blue/green/yellow/whatever element will shine in its own color the most intensive.
    Wherever shadow lies: less intensive color. Any object's color will be broken by its own complementary, become also darker, and eventually adds more of negative space color (usually dark blue, when sunlight is pale yellowish).

    Like many peope seem to make this mistake, you also did it visa versa. You colors have the highest saturation in shadow, while they pale out in light.

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  4. #15
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    Skin tones are looking nice now!

    The nose is looking a bit long, though.

    Swamp Thing - That breaks the principle of uniform saturation. The phenomenon of shadows becoming less saturated only happens when the ambient light is a different colour from the direct light (so, outside on a sunny day the ambient light is largely blue, for things in shadow facing the sky, or green, for things in shadow facing the grass). FWIW, it is possible for shadows to get saturated if they're right next to something very saturated of near the same colour (though that's not the case here).

    There is also a phenomenon of the shadows taking on the complementary of the light, but that's an optical thing and it isn't really -- to be realistic, you need to reproduce the stimulus that our eyes take in, not the result after the processing they do.

    You can do this if you want to deliberately exaggerate the subjective experience of colour, but it's not technically correct if you want to paint something true to life.

    Paling out in the light does happen! But only when it's a specular highlight (or if it's a photo, the highlights that aren't specular might bleach out too if it's over-exposed). The highlights here aren't specular, though, so you're right about these ones.

    By the way, I highly recommend reading huevaluechroma.com. It's a bit dense, but myths about colour and light are everywhere so it's worth the effort.

    Hauxe - See discussion above. In short: the shadows shouldn't be more saturated than the areas in full light. If anything, they should take on the colour of the ambient light -- which depends on what's around in the background, but if you assume it's the same colour as the main light, they should be the same saturation as the area in full light.
    Be careful about desaturating your highlights, because they'll look like specular highlights (which are the type of highlights you get on shiny, wet or smooth objects -- doing these wrong on skin can result in a waxy look), though to my untrained eyes it looks fine.

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  6. #16
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    Not sure if I get you right, but how I understand it, it's wrong if you think that every color stays the same tone/saturation, weather it is lightened or shaded. Therefore we treat sunlight (very, very pale yellow) as to be natural (not only because this is where light makes color pup out for us) while any other color just makes it look artificial. Added to that, not combining warm and cold color just results in bad color balance. Indoors, shadows of course are more neutral, however still loosing intensity. Now this picture has no signs of ambient light, the blue background even adds to the imagination of a natural light source, plus it is always the better option for contrast/color balance.

    Highlights usually are not what you consider as lightened, it is more a form of total reflection. That's why strong reflecting surface tends to be highlighted/reflecting stronger than faint surface (like skin).

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  8. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hauxe View Post
    But I thought you should never copy a photo reference completely.
    Being able to duplicate your reference accurately (life, photo, whatever) is the first step towards not having to. If you were learning to play an instrument, you would never say "I thought I should change some of the notes so I wouldn't be copying."


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  10. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Not sure if I get you right, but how I understand it, it's wrong if you think that every color stays the same tone/saturation, weather it is lightened or shaded.
    Right, I didn't: it depends what the colour of light hitting each area is. If the colour of light hitting every area is the same (for example, in a white room with a white light), then it does stay the same saturation and it doesn't shift in hue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Therefore we treat sunlight (very, very pale yellow) as to be natural (not only because this is where light makes color pup out for us) while any other color just makes it look artificial.
    I'm not exactly sure how this follows from the last sentence. The reason we treat sunlight as natural/neutral is because a) it has a large range of spectral frequencies, and b) because our eyesight has evolved to treat it as such (in two ways: first, our eyesight favours the slight yellow tint, and second our eyes try to convert any major lightsource that's white-ish to white, hence we see fluorescent lights as white even though they have a green tint).

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Added to that, not combining warm and cold color just results in bad color balance.
    It can do, but that's getting into colour harmony and tastefulness rather than accuracy to life. It's important to know when you're diverting from for artistic reasons, rather than using rules of thumb and not knowing where reality ends and artistic practice takes over.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Indoors, shadows of course are more neutral, however still loosing intensity.
    They usually lose more chroma, yes, just because it's not possible to get the same intensity in shadow colours. (See the Munsell system.) But they stay the same saturation (i.e. the colours don't lose any more intensity than they have to in order to get darker. The colours are not mixing with other colours to give the desaturated look).

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Now this picture has no signs of ambient light, the blue background even adds to the imagination of a natural light source, plus it is always the better option for contrast/color balance.
    It does show signs of ambient light, namely: if there were no ambient light, the shadows would be pitch black. Ambient light is the thing that brings shadows out of total darkness.

    So yeah, it could be that the ambient light has this blue tint of the background. In which case, the shadows (facing the blue) should slightly take on that hue, which may mean desaturating them (at least for the colours opposite to blue, like oranges or yellows).

    My point is just that you have to take a position on where the ambient light is coming from (what its colour is) when you're making a picture, if you want to make it look realistic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Highlights usually are not what you consider as lightened, it is more a form of total reflection. That's why strong reflecting surface tends to be highlighted/reflecting stronger than faint surface (like skin).
    Sorry, I had trouble parsing this. Are you saying that surfaces that are very reflective tend to have more highlights? If so, yes, because that's basically the definition of specular highlights. Specular = relating to or having the properties of a mirror, aka reflection.

    I should note my focus here is more to do with the science of light and how we see colour, rather than tasteful colour schemes.

    Hauxe - I hope this semi-tangent is interesting/useful to you. If not, please say and it can be 'taken outside'.

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  12. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lulie View Post
    Right, I didn't: it depends what the colour of light hitting each area is. If the colour of light hitting every area is the same (for example, in a white room with a white light), then it does stay the same saturation and it doesn't shift in hue.
    Practically, this is right, however you forget one important thing: We see the world through our human eyes, and therefore very subjective sight. Let's take the example of a room that is lightened by artificial light. Our brain plays part here. As soon as one color is dominating, we will automatically define its complementary in the opposite (where the light doesn't reach as well). Let's take the example with a night scene. We see the night, if there are no lights, usually very black. As soon as we spot a light source, which will be turning out to be very yellow, we will automatically start to interprete it into our general view, and the sky will all of a sudden turn into a dark blue. This is, because we define complementary colors for contrast.


    I'm not exactly sure how this follows from the last sentence. The reason we treat sunlight as natural/neutral is because a) it has a large range of spectral frequencies, and b) because our eyesight has evolved to treat it as such (in two ways: first, our eyesight favours the slight yellow tint, and second our eyes try to convert any major lightsource that's white-ish to white, hence we see fluorescent lights as white even though they have a green tint).
    The reason for this sentence was leaned on the idea, that you're usually always if possible, going to imitate this kind of light source in your paintings, because it will be looking the most natural. This of course depends also on the type of painting you do. As soon as you draw a character/portrait without a background, we can only speculate about what is the light source.

    It can do, but that's getting into colour harmony and tastefulness rather than accuracy to life. It's important to know when you're diverting from for artistic reasons, rather than using rules of thumb and not knowing where reality ends and artistic practice takes over.
    Like I said before, our human eyes always interprete the complementary into the opposite. If we have cold blue light, shadows will look rather warm. If we have warm yellow light, shadows will have a rather blueish touch. This is not to exaggerate of course. It's just how our brain+eyes inteprete the things we see, and it is probably most realistic, if you draw the things how you as a human person see them, rather then how they are in reality. Especially because colors are also nothing else than wavelenghts, they're just interpretated as colors. How enormously subjective this is, can be also tested out by other tests - stare with your eyes into a colored light source for a while, and you will, after switching area to somewhere with natural light, see everything pretty much in the complementary color to what the light source was from before.


    They usually lose more chroma, yes, just because it's not possible to get the same intensity in shadow colours. (See the Munsell system.) But they stay the same saturation (i.e. the colours don't lose any more intensity than they have to in order to get darker. The colours are not mixing with other colours to give the desaturated look).
    As far as I know, where light doesn't hit as strong, less reflections will reach our eyes = less information on the wavelenght of the object = less intensive color for us to interprete. We also interprete less contrast and general information into shaded areas.


    It does show signs of ambient light, namely: if there were no ambient light, the shadows would be pitch black. Ambient light is the thing that brings shadows out of total darkness.
    Okay, let's not define ambient light as any light source that adds sight into the shadows. Otherwise, ambient light is nearly always the light source. I mean, I get that the picture has very smooth transitions. This however isn't quite right - the neck throws hard shadows, but face parties like nose aren't. It's a typical beginner mistake when drawing portraits, to be afraid of hard edged shadows.


    So yeah, it could be that the ambient light has this blue tint of the background. In which case, the shadows (facing the blue) should slightly take on that hue, which may mean desaturating them (at least for the colours opposite to blue, like oranges or yellows).
    In any case, it will always look strange if you don't add enough respect to the background color, being a part of the picture. As soon as you don't, it will look like the head was cut into the blue, because the interaction will be lost.

    My point is just that you have to take a position on where the ambient light is coming from (what its colour is) when you're making a picture, if you want to make it look realistic.
    And there was my point about natural light. Any other light color looks always artificial.

    Sorry, I had trouble parsing this. Are you saying that surfaces that are very reflective tend to have more highlights? If so, yes, because that's basically the definition of specular highlights. Specular = relating to or having the properties of a mirror, aka reflection.
    Yes, that's what I'm saying. The reason why I said "total reflection", was, because the object will not reflect its own color at this point anymore, but only the color of the light source. But it wont pale out the object's color itself. You may see - even if the light is not white but blue or yellow or whatever, that it becomes very white in the reflection. This is however, because reflected light always is stronger (=lighter and paler), but that only counts for light.

    I should note my focus here is more to do with the science of light and how we see colour, rather than tasteful colour schemes.
    The key imho is not science of light, but science of light in combination with science of how human eyes work (as far as we understand them so them so far).

    Last edited by Swamp Thing; February 29th, 2012 at 08:29 AM.
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  14. #20
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    Swamp Thing and Lulie- by all means keep going, I've learned a lot by reading your little debate. Thanks! I think I'll take what I've gathered and do a couple sketches practicing with warm light/cool shadows and indoor/outdoor lighting.

    Elwell- I get where you're coming from, especially when drawing from life and masters, but I've read referencing a photo completely gives you a skewed idea of form and anatomy. So this isn't always the case?

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  15. #21
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    Swamp Thing -

    I was taking into account the way our brain and eyes process light. But despite it being subjective, we still need to emulate the stimulus, not the result of the processing.

    We need to put paint/pixels on the canvas such that the photons that go into our eyes cause our brain to do more or less the same thing as it does when looking at life/the reference. If we paint the result of that processing, our brain will still process it, so it's effectively been processed twice (once by the viewer's brain, once by the painter's brain), and so it will look different.

    For example, if you wanted to paint the classic chess board illusion, the colour you need to paint the area B in shadow will not be what your brain thinks it is, namely a very light value. Instead, you will have to use the same dark value as you used for area A. If you painted it just going by your subjective experience, first it would look wrong (the shadow would look darker than in this picture), and second you wouldn't be able to paint the illusion.


    The problem you described with a yellow light is slightly more complicated -- that's a phenomenon of the brain adjusting white balance/colour cast, which affects everything instead of just a localised area. It might well be worth painting the subjective experience in that case, because when you're looking at a *picture* of something your brain won't be doing as much of that adjustment because you can see outside of the frame. (If the picture filled your vision, that would be different.)


    True point about emulating the colour of the sun for generic/no-background light, but surely that would just be 'white'? Rather than pale yellow. (Unless it was obviously approaching sunset, or something.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    If we have cold blue light, shadows will look rather warm.
    They will look warm, but they won't be warm. If anything you would have to paint them slightly cold to make it seem warm.

    For example, the first image here with a pink colour cast has a square that looks perfectly cyan. But it's actually slightly pink-ish grey. To paint it to look cyan, you would need to paint the stimulus (pink-ish grey), not the result (cyan).

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    let's not define ambient light as any light source that adds sight into the shadows. Otherwise, ambient light is nearly always the light source.
    Ambient light always comes from a light source, but indirectly. Ambient light is defined as any light that is hitting stuff that has not come directly from the light source -- for example, scattered in the atmosphere, or bounced off the floor or walls or buildings.

    This is why in space, shadows are pitch black: there's nothing for the light to bounce off. A similar thing happens if you're in a room where all the walls are black: shine a light, and only the areas it hits will light up. Contrast this with a white room, where if you shine a light, it will bounce around like crazy off the walls and light up the shadows much more.


    The thing about smooth vs hard transitions is affected by a) the difference between cast shadows and form shadows, and b) whether the light source is large or small. Ambient light isn't really a factor, unless you're thinking of some kind of strange reflected light that has a different edge hardness than the shadow it's lighting up.

    The neck vs nose shadow is cast vs form shadow. Cast shadows are harder, form shadows are softer (for a given size of light). So yes, neck shadow should be harder, because it's a cast shadow.


    Good point about pictures looking pasted on if you don't take into account background colour.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Thing View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lulie
    My point is just that you have to take a position on where the ambient light is coming from (what its colour is) when you're making a picture, if you want to make it look realistic.
    And there was my point about natural light. Any other light color looks always artificial.
    Not sure I understand this sentence. Ambient light is natural? I was assuming a white light and then whatever colour the ambient light is (which is usually a variety depending on the objects/walls/sky/ground to the nearest faces of the subject).


    When I said 'science of light and how we see colour', I meant the 'how we see colour' part to be referring to the "science of how human eyes work". The gist of what I'm trying to say in this post is that if we just paint what we see, without taking into account that our brains trick us in the ways you described (simultaneous contrast, colour constancy, etc.) and we take action to undo those post-processed effects, then it won't look accurate. Hope that clears things up.


    Hauxe -

    It sort of depends on the photo (what lens was used, how much it was edited, etc.). It will be much less skewed than guessing. But more skewed than looking at something in real life.

    Another thing is that the type of skewed-ness from photos is often more 'acceptable', because people are familiar with photos and if your drawing looks like a photo, at least it looks like something realistic. But I think the point Elwell was making is more that you should be concerned with getting accuracy first, so you can at least minimise the skewedness that happens from not knowing how to copy things accurately. Then you can make sure your concept of anatomy isn't photo-skewed later.

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  17. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hauxe View Post
    Elwell- I get where you're coming from, especially when drawing from life and masters, but I've read referencing a photo completely gives you a skewed idea of form and anatomy. So this isn't always the case?
    Photography can do that, certainly. Your problem is that you don't know what you don't know, so you're not in a position to make those sorts of decisions yet. As you train your eye, hand, and brain, you will be, but the first steps are 1: to be able to understand what you are seeing, and 2: to get your hands to do what your brain wants them to. And for both of those, copying, despite the bad rap it gets, is exactly what you need.


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  19. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lulie View Post
    Swamp Thing -

    They will look warm, but they won't be warm. If anything you would have to paint them slightly cold to make it seem warm.
    That is the point. You are not adding red orange or yellow exaggerated, but you break the color. Of course, what comes out is, if you analyze the spot, by no means a warm color, however - broken with a warm color on top of the cold, working for the overall picture. If you draw a portrait of a person standing outside (natural light + blue sky), and you add cold blues into the shadowed areas, it will - in combination with the rest - look rather blue, however mixed up well, it will be not blue but a dark yellow (tending more to green than the lightened skin does). However, for this, you need to add a different color = the shadow color will be not the same as the light color of the same surface. It will be in range, but with a tendency to the color you broke it with.

    Ambient light always comes from a light source, but indirectly. Ambient light is defined as any light that is hitting stuff that has not come directly from the light source -- for example, scattered in the atmosphere, or bounced off the floor or walls or buildings.

    This is why in space, shadows are pitch black: there's nothing for the light to bounce off. A similar thing happens if you're in a room where all the walls are black: shine a light, and only the areas it hits will light up. Contrast this with a white room, where if you shine a light, it will bounce around like crazy off the walls and light up the shadows much more.
    But this is also, why you will hardly ever see any element staying with the same value/color in light and shadow. There is always something around affecting the objects own color. May it be negative space or close elements reflecting their own color. The interaction between elements and their athmosphere is pretty much always asking for breaking/changing color, otherwise the cut-in effect will show up.

    Not sure I understand this sentence. Ambient light is natural? I was assuming a white light and then whatever colour the ambient light is (which is usually a variety depending on the objects/walls/sky/ground to the nearest faces of the subject).
    I ment that it is not common to have the main light source and the ambient light being the same type color.

    When I said 'science of light and how we see colour', I meant the 'how we see colour' part to be referring to the "science of how human eyes work". The gist of what I'm trying to say in this post is that if we just paint what we see, without taking into account that our brains trick us in the ways you described (simultaneous contrast, colour constancy, etc.) and we take action to undo those post-processed effects, then it won't look accurate. Hope that clears things up.
    Well, we basically are tricking people with our drawings, creating the illusions that are appearing in reality.

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