Schoolism Week 07 Designing with Light

In week 07 of Designing with Color and Light, my biggest take-away was the power of contrast when telling a story within a frame. Contrast in the wrong places will draw the eye away from the flow of the story. This could be contrast in value structure which is designed with local values, the effects of atmospheric perspective and placement of light and shadow. Also consider edge softness and depth of field. Fowkes also talks about creating more interesting greys.

My notes:

Fowkes talks about the benefits of practicing with gouache.

Fowkes’ plein air painting

Spend time trying to quickly capture the changing light and atmosphere in nature.

Grey yellow and grey purple together trick the eye to see luminosity. Optically mix the colors instead of premixing flat colors. Try using warm and cool greys to create rich colors. See Claude Monet.

These environments have complimentary colors which are laid down side my side to be optically mixed. This can make an optical grey. This gives life to the grey.

Even though this style of laying down paint might be difficult to create in 3D, set the bar high.

Start a plein air painting by laying down textured abstract shapes on top of an underpainting.

Then add details on top.

Fowke’s concepts are informed by his plein air studies.

A concept from How to Train Your Dragon.

If your palette is grey and moody, try to bring life with color and light. Dark and moody animations sometimes need an upbeat element for contrast, such as an upbeat character or palette.

This needs to start as a strong value composition.

Part 2


Development of a scene in Shrek Forever After so that the lighting tells the story too.

Fowkes started by laying down a value structure on the Maya scene.

Bring in a light source.

Add visual interest to how the light mixes on surfaces.

The surfaces need to tell the story of the place, in this case its age.

See Puss in Boots for an example of how the environment and light is designed around the characters.

Part 03

The lighting is designed in terms of contrast, where you want the eye to look.

The initial Maya lighting in this example has contrast in all the wrong places.

A paintover by Fowkes demonstrates how to develop this piece for better contrast (light design).



Photoshop paintover by the art department:

Too much contrast in the wrong places:


Part 04

Practice creating contrast in areas where the story is being told. Use contrast through light, atmosphere and groupings of values to draw the eye.


3 Week assignment:

  1. Develop a value comp.
  2. Bring to color
  3. Progress to a portfolio level finish

Examples of classmates work

Value comps from Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Fowkes paints over a pencil thumbnail as an example of quickly roughing in a value composition.

Classmate graphite thumbnail

Fowkes takes the values further in Photoshop

One thought on “Schoolism Week 07 Designing with Light

  1. Pingback: Color and Light Summary | Natasha Crowley

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