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Painting Light and Shade

September 27, 2018
By Richard Robinson
Painting Light and Shade logo

I just had an interesting email from a friend named Peni ( who wanted to know how to paint dappled light on foliage. This is really a tricky thing to do so instead of trying to explain it in words I decided to just take the photo she had sent me of her latest painting and fiddle with it in Photoshop. 

I did this very quickly, so it's pretty rough - I normally don't have time to critique paintings individually now because there are just so many people writing to me that I would never get any work done if I answered them all, but in this case I took some time to look at this interesting problem.

It seemed to me the painting didn't need any more light adding to it, it just needed some areas to be darkened in order to make the light appear brighter by comparison. In painting the foreground foliage I would take more time to set off individual flowers and bright ferns against a darker background - this would really make the painting more dynamic and interesting.

I darkened the ocean and raised it's chroma (saturation/vibrancy), and added more of a sky reflection and distance haze near the horizon. This also helps with the sensation of a light filled environment.

What I came away with from this little excercise was a reminder that in order to make things look brighter the first thought should usually be 'is the surrounding area dark enough?'

I't seems I'm constantly reminding myself of things like this that I've forgotten - I hope one day to use everything I know about painting in a 'masterpiece' - I guess if it was easy I wouldn't get such a buzz when I get something right. Anyway, file that one away in your brain - I hope you find it useful sometime.

Cecilia Young 11/07/2019 Great explanation and another helpful hint to pop in our tool box especially for those of us who are just beginning to have fun with painting, an easy fix that makes sense. Thanks Cecilia
22/01/2019 Replying to Painting light and shade............... Excellent, job explaining Richard. I really get it! Amazing to see the difference made by darkening areas and as if by my magic light reflections shone on their own! Thanks, Richard Dorian