Setting up Lights – Basic Shading
This has to be one of the most requested tutorials: it’s on basic shading and setting up lights. How do you do it? Why do it? Where do I add shadows and what colours do I use? Lighting is vast area and the possibilities are shear endless. In this tutorial I tried to cover the absolute basics with one of the simplest shapes – the ball.
If used correctly light and shadow will make your scene / object look a lot more spectacular, real and visually appealing.
Let’s start with a circle – I know this must be the 100s time I have written those words – but it’s still the easiest object to work from.
Start with a circle and a single colour fill.
It’s a pretty flat circle.
To give it some depth add a lighter duplicate and an even brighter one for the highlight.
To make it even more three dimensional you can use the gradient tool and choose radial gradient.
Changing the location of the light source means altering the position of the gradient’s center…
or in the case of the cell shaded ball – the positioning of the lighter shapes.
Less intense lights mean less highlight and more shadow on the shape.
You can use the same colours but alter the positions of the gradient controlers.
To achieve a more shiny effect rather than a dull surface, duplicate the circle, scale it down and duplicate
again. Use the 2nd circle to cut the white shape into a crescent. With some added transparency and two highlight we have a shine.
To add visual interest a lot of the time you will find a secondary light source with a different colour. It adds interest and enhances the reflective quality of the object.
Changing the light
Along with the highlight the shadow changes according to the position of the light.
The shadow ‘grounds’ the object. It’s the connection to the surface it sits on.
Without the shadow the object looks like it’s floating and kind of suspended in space.
Create duplicate shapes and colour them dark purple. Set the opacity to 25% (either in the Fill & Stroke window or in the lower left next to the colour).
Alter the nodes to deform them. Turn the left and right nodes into corners.
Try different variations of the highlights e.g. a sequence of crescents.
Different intensity of light can cause brighter highlights but also darker shadows.
A popular light effect is the ‘glass effect’ with a smooth alpha gradient on a shading shape (a smaller duplicate of the circle with a wave).
A white light with a black shadow colour looks very cold.
Turning the light into a very light yellow and the shadow colour into a dark red feels a lot warmer.
Here the yellow is darker and the shadow is a purple colour.
A bright light causes the object to appear lighter and shadow gets darker…
…while less light in a dark scene causes the gradient colours to be very similar.
The light can also also reflect the setting (e.g. late afternoon in autumn with a warm orange light)
To add to the complexity of lighting an object there is the indirect light. That’s the light that bounces off the surface of other objects e.g. the white table top.
Using two light sources can make an object look more interesting…
as you add more light sources it becomes more confusing…
and finally just not visually ‘readable’ anymore.