OCAD Studio: Types of Lighting

Here are the six main types of lighting that you will use when making representational art. In this case I’ve focused on a portrait bust but the same principles apply with other subject matter.

Each direction of light creates a different effect, so I have explained them below. If you have any questions about selecting and setting up a light source, please let me know.

Frontal Lighting

Subjects lit from the front will not have many shadows so it can be more difficult to make them look 3D. If you want an image that looks like it is flooded with light this is a good choice.

Three-quarter Lighting

This is probably the most common type of lighting, particular for portraits. It provides enough shadows for you to make the subject look 3D without it being too dark. The light is generally placed at a slight angle to the front of the face, and low enough that there is some light shining on the eyes.

Side Lighting

Lighting from the side will split the subject into a light half and a dark half. This is dramatic but can make for a flat looking image. It is a good choice if you want a more graphic effect.

Lighting from Below

A subject lit from below will look, unnatural, dramatic and mysterious. It makes us think of ghost stories and candlelight. It looks unusual because people and objects are almost always lit from above, whether by sunlight, or artificial lights.

Lighting from Behind

A light source placed behind the subject will make it into a silhouette. There will still be some light that spills into the form from the edges though, so it pays to be observant when working from a scene that is lit in this way.

Lighting from Above

A figure lit from directly above will have deep shadows under the brow and nose. This means that it can be hard to see the eyes, which often makes it an undesirable set up for portraits. This kind of lighting is commonly seen at midday when you’re outdoors.

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART


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