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I’m Having A Problem With Lighting: so I’m sharing it

Mar 02, 2021

I think the hardest thing to focus on when you’re sketching is the “finished look.” Basically how your piece is going to come together. And honestly, that’s something I stress about every time I make a piece, so if I find myself too stressed, I go straight to sketching: because a practiced mind is a prepared mind. One issue I’ve been having recently is lighting and skin color.

Lighting & Its Difficulties

I’ve mentioned a couple of times before on my YouTube videos that I’m not great at focusing or finding the “right” color palette for a piece. That, I typically go with the flow until something comes to me. But lighting also falls into that category (almost).

Lighting is a bit difficult because your mind tends to play tricks on you. You’ll think that well yeah, I should be lighting on the forehead because lighting touches the forehead. BUT. Is lighting hitting the forehead of your piece? Is that the direction your light is coming from; a direction where the light would hit the forehead of this piece.

These are important concepts to think about. I know this. As well with the way the light would touch the materials presented in your piece. For example, my piece above, she has on a flowing cape-like material and her clothes are represented by wrinkled fabric. There wouldn’t be a solid shine of lighting hitting her clothes because it would then look like one weird solid structure, instead of a beautiful distorted pattern of light.

One technique I find useful is focusing on lighting in various other art pieces after gathering a general idea of where I want my lighting to come from. Here are a few from my Pinterest board pins that’s helped me check my lighting.

It also helps me to find some with poses as well, so that I can study the flow of the light and it’s direction with the flow of the body. I also tend to play around with the color of the lighting and the layer types like overlay, color dodge, luminosity,etc.

So What’s the Problem?

While I may seem like I have it all figured out, the most frustrating part about this is putting it into “color.” And I put it in quotes because it’s technically already in color, as you can see. But oftentimes more than not, I find this great lighting and pose etc...but putting this end result with a color that actually matches with my line art and shadow work is quite difficult for my mind to piece together....so...I’ve been experimenting.

Knowing my lighting direction, pattern, and shadows, I can just throw a color on for the skin and experiment with adding the different shades over that when it’s time to paint.

Let me try to explain.

I blended some of my shadows and lighting together to get a general look at the piece before I added the color. The darker pink from the shadows comes directly from the dark pink of the line work so that it unifies nicely.


I hid that layer and just went in painting normally when I added the skin.

It’s not my best work, but it’s also not bad. I focused on where the skin would normally shine if I hadn’t done that lighting that you just saw. I gave her a purplish skin tone and went in with the pinkish-purple highlight for the bright parts of her skin, using the original color as her base skin tone. I slightly kept in mind the original lighting that I came up with.

I played with some “general lighting” and got this:

And then I turned on the lighting layer to see what it would look like altogether, again experimenting with different layer tops.

Conclusion .

Art is fun but can be hard. So far this piece remains a sketch and that’s perfectly fine. The whole point of this was practicing lighting and practice I did. I still have a long way to go but experimenting with layers and the colors intertwined on those layers were worth it.

My point for this point .

Experiment. Don’t think about perfection, don’t think about the finished piece. Work on the things that are frustrating you to find a solution. Not every art piece has to be a finished idea.

It also helps to experiment with the hues and saturation, or in my case the Gradient Tool if you have Procreate

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