Sketchdump #226: Color and Light

I started doing studies with James Gurney’s book “Color and Light” (which I highly recommend!). Taking notes on every chapter and doing master/photo/life studies and/or application sketches as I find useful.

Direct Sunlight:
– Three light sources: Sun, blue sky, reflected light (2 and 3 are subordinate to 1)
– High altitudes, clear sky: Shadwos darker and more blue
– Cloudy: Shadows become greyer
– Haze, smog: Shadow tone nearer to sunlight
– Color of the ground reflects into shadow areas

Window Light:
– Cool and bluish
– Contrast to warm light sources inside
– Bounce light from ground outside, depending on ground color (visible on ceiling)
– Soft warm shadows

Candlelight and firelight
– yellow-orange, weak, drops of rapidly
– lit at dusk (not night)
– smoke scatters like: softness, no black shadows (as opposed to photography)
– fall off: inverse square law (twice the distance = 1/4th as bright)

Indoor Electric Light:
– most common: incandescent, fluorescent
– (Relative) Brightness: depends on distance of subject to light, wattage, lamp type…
– Hard Light: harder = more dramatic, crisper shadows, more texture and highlights (i.e. sun or spotlight)
– Soft Light: Wider area, more flattering -> diffuser panel, lampshade etc
– Color Cast: Dominant wavelength of light source (i.e. regular incandescent favour red/orange colors)

Streetlights, Night Conditions:
– moonlight (blue/gray), flame-based light (orange), electric lighting
– pay attention to different kinds of modern lights (neon, LED, metal halide etc)

Incandescence = light of hot/flaming objects (=glut/glühen)
Luminescence = Cool temperature glow
i.e. Bioluminescence, fluorescence
– gradation from one hue to another
– blue/ green travels farthest through water

Hidden Light Sources:
– Ways to light a scene:
1. outside the picture
2. inside picture (visible)
3. inside picture (concealed) –> mystery


direct sunlight (master copy and plein air, which looks horrible because I didn’t see anything on my screen *excuses*)
master21_lyraina lyraina_pleinair1
window light (master copy/still life)
master22_lyraina still64
candle light/fire (master)

night scenes (master/photo copy)

luminescence and hidden light source (application)



4 thoughts on “Sketchdump #226: Color and Light

  1. Cool. I have been doing the exact same thing with his book and blog. And every time I seem to get it even more. How did you do digital plein air? Did you use a cintiq companion or a tablet?

    • I have neither cintiq nor a tablet, so I just sat on a table with my wacom & laptop :) Was not too good though, as the glare made it hard to see much on the screen, despite me being in the shadow.

      • Yeah. This has been my issue too. Even after buying an extra anti-glare coating. And I am terrible with traditional media. I keep trying watercolors, but it feels like I would need a lifetime just to get the hang of those. Digital painting allows me to focus more on observation and less on the medium.

        • Same here… I’ve tried oils recently, I feel like I need a lot of practice before I can do anything useful with those. Digital is just what I’m used to.

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