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3.3 Thumbnails for Light and Shadow

How will you light this piece? Practice several potential lighting scenarios before committing to one. Learn how to use thumbnails to fully understand your composition.

3.3 Thumbnails for Light and Shadow

Hello and welcome back to surreal digital paintings, my name is Melody Nieves and this is lesson 3.3. How do you think we should light this painting? In this lesson, we'll cover potential lighting scenarios by creating two small thumbnails to practice. After following professional artists for many, many years, I finally picked up on a technique that has saved me so much frustration. You can test out what your painting will look like just by creating many thumbnails. Try to look at it this way. A thumbnail painting is like having a cheat sheet for a big test. If you've ever sat in front of a computer not knowing what step to take next, it's probably because you've hit a dead end. Test out the lighting scheme with several thumb nails until you land on the option you like best. To do this, we'll create two thumb nails using the original sketch, then carve out possible lighting scenarios in gray scale. First, merge all the layers of your sketch together. Then hold Ctrl+J to create a duplicate of the sketch. We'll use this duplicate for our thumbnails. Create a new layer and hold Ctrl+A to make a selection around the sketch. With the rectangular marquee tool selected, right-click to use this selection to create a border. Set the width at 10 pixels, and hit OK. Select both layers and merge them together. Now it's time to create a new document for the thumbnails. Hit print screen on your keyboard to take a screenshot of your display area. When you go to create a new document, this automatically attaches the dimensions from the clipboard which in this case is 1366 by 768 pixels. Once the document is open, instead of pasting your screenshot, go back to the window with the sketch and copy and paste the sketch onto the new document. Naturally, the sketch will be much bigger than your document so adjust the size by free transforming the image. Once the thumbnail is in place, create a duplicate and position the copy into place. I'll only need two thumbnails to test out the lighting scenario. I have a feeling that if I follow my main reference image pretty closely, that all I have to do is figure out the lighting for the other elements, like the water and fish. Go to the color picker and select the gray color. Use the rectangular tool to create a selection around each thumbnail, holding the Shift key to create both selections at once. The use the pain bucket tool to fill in the selections with a gray color. Now let's use my favorite brush from earlier to paint these lighting scenarios. As I mentioned before, I'll be using the main reference of The Woman with a Pearl Necklace for the general lighting setup. I figure that it's probably easier to rely on a reference I have available than to make one up from scratch. So let's keep the reference close by by undocking the window and positioning it over the second thumbnail. Create a new layer and set it to multiply. Then, with your brush tool selected, hover over the grey area and hold the Alt key. This will switch the brush tool over to the eye dropper tool to pick up the color. Because the layer is set to the multiplied blend mode, the resulting color is automatically darker. You'll be able to carbon the shadows of the painting fast and easily because you never have to go back to the color picker. Start with the shaded areas that are easiest to see from the reference. I don't want to deviate too far from original, but this practice will automatically help me become more familiar with the lighting set up. To make the shadows appear even darker, all you have to do is duplicate the layer. Use the light gray base for the mid-tones of this setup. So all we really need to paint is the shadows, and then the highlights. As I move on to the rest of the details, that's when I start experimenting with shadow. I try to pay attention to the original light source, which is coming from the top left side. Keeping this in mind, I paint in very basic shadows for the water and fish. All I need is a very general understanding of the lighting set up so it's not necessary to go into too much detail. Once the shadows are in, then move on to highlights Add a new layer and use it to paint in white highlights coming from the left side. Make the light bounce all over the painting, and you'll see how each shape becomes even more voluminous. Here is the final result for the first thumbnail. It might not seem like much, but just by flipping through the layers, I can already tell that this step has shown me the incredible potential of this painting. So let's move on to the second thumbnail, for the second thumbnail I'm going to cheat the shading just a little. As you know, I wanna keep a general shading from this reference, so I'm actually going to copy and paste the first layer of shadow from the previous thumbnail, and use it for the second. Your ultimate goal should always be to create the best art you can possibly make. So the purpose of the second thumbnail is to see what changes I need to make, in order to make the lighting scheme even better. Since the lighting originally comes from the upper left side of the first thumbnail, I'm going to change this by making it come from the lower left side. Of course, you don't wanna switch things too dramatically, because the light always has to come from the left in order for the shadows to make sense. As you can see, the first thing I needed to do was fill the background completely with darker shadows, so that I could focus on the highlights towards the bottom. And once I have a couple of the highlights in, I can start to gauge where the rest of the shadows will appear. I really thought that I would like the initial thumbnail more, but the second completely won me over. Because there's lighting at the bottom, there's much more emphasis on the foreground elements like the fish and water, which is what I originally wanted when I developed the concept for this piece. And even though the reference has a slightly different setup, it's important that you make the changes that are best for your particular painting. Now that we understand the lighting, it's time for color. Join me in lesson 3.4 where we take this step even further, by dedicating thumbnails to testing out the color.

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