Painting light sources

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Painting light sources

In this article I will explain how to paint directional light effects whose origins are not from the sun or moon (natural light), but an external element such as a ball of energy (in this case).

To make it easier and faster, I will explain what you must keep in mind to achieve the effect.

First you need to paint the figure completely in the normal way as if there were no other light sources other than the sun's zenith. Now this is done, we will reinterpret the lighting guided by the position of our ball of imaginary energy.

Light Source

In this case we need to take into consideration that the light is emitted from between the model’s hands. So, the hand at the top (beam of white light) will emit light towards the ground, and the hand at the bottom (beam of red light) will emit towards the sky.

When painting ensure that you  take into account that the light originating from between the hands will work exactly the same as when you paint highlights for an imagined sun. If the bottom hand is generating the light everything that is over this hand should be painted with high level of luminosity to give the effect that is been hit by a beam of light. It’s important to remember that the closer the surface the higher the intensity in colour and brightness. Conversely the further away the surface the less colour and intensity.

The colour you paint these highlights should start at almost white at the closest point slowly moving towards the colour of the imagined light source.



To paint the energy sphere, I choose a blue to match the concept art. The painting must be done in glazes. Usually we should apply several layers of very thin paint till the clothes and skin acquire the colour of the light source, in this case blue. If you want a strong contrast between the light source and the clothes use complementary colours for the clothing such as, orange and blue, red with green or yellow and purple.

To gain the illuminating effect, the blue colour should be made lighter gradually but remember that the lighter colour must always be closer to the light source.

In this miniature the palms of the hands and finger are the lightest as they are closest.

As a last detail we will add pure white on strategic points like in the finger tips and the palm of the hand.  


I always recommend going and looking around in the real world to better understand how natural light and artificial lighting falls on subjects. You can use photos, set up examples to check how something might look, video and other people's painting. The most important tip though is to practise, practise, and practise.

I hope this was useful.

 - Alberto Gil (SuoU)

A big thankyou to Mr Alberto Gil from GCT Studios for this tutorial.