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I want to talk about some simple things that even professional photomanipulators don't give enough attention sometimes.
It's the reason why our work can be perceived as wrong a bit , especially by traditional artists. People who are not artists usually say “something's wrong”

Our theme for today is colour of light and shadow.

I want to point out – there are many colour schemes and rules for that (it would be better to write an individual tutorial on that),
some are better for realistic works, some for surrealism, some for abstraction etc. It depends on your idea.
However, today we'll talk about the basic rule that must be followed in any professional work, no matter what your idea is.

The first very common mistake is gray shadows, or shadows with the same color like lighting (light and shadows are warm, light and shadow are cold) -
Why is this mistake is so common in the modern world ?-  both photomanipulators and some artists use photo references, the problems come from photos.
Unfortunately photography cannot reproduce real colours of life around us – the colours of shadows especially! In the photos all shadows lose natural colours and become grey or turn same color like common lighting (pictures only in warm color scheme or only in cold scheme).  Also if the shadows are grey we often tone them the same colour we tone the lighting by mistake.
It doesn't matter how many colours you've added to the picture later, if colors of light and shadow are not opposed, your work will make a weird impression.

 about the colour – main mistakes are using black or grey colour for shadows, same color tones for light and shadow, and missing reflected light in the shadow area of the object.

 Colour of shadow is formed from                                                                            

the colour of surface + opposite colour to light colour + original object colour. (the last element was discovered by impressionists and used for that technique)

Color of the shadow should be opposite  to color of the light

I suppose everyone of you is familiar with the colour wheel. Johannes Itten's colour wheel mostly used by traditional artists,  rgb colour wheel  suits us better.

Itten and rgb wheel by Incantata

Generally, in the case of “light and shadow colour” everything is pretty easy:

 Complementary colours harmonize,


So, if the lighting is warm: yellow, orange, red, - the shadows should be cold: blue, purple or cyan.

On the contrary, if the lighting is cold: cyan, blue etc,-  the shadow should be yellow, orange etc

Complementary colours harmony by Incantata
In the picture you may see examples of complementary combinations of light and shadow:

color schemes by Incantata

Options here  are (so you can find not only correct color for shadow and light, but also additional  colors for your scheme):
other harmonies by Incantata

1  “tetrad harmony” and most convenient (as it also helps to define suitable colors for reflected light and additional colours),
2  “equalaterial triangle harmony”,
3. 4. The other two  schemes show alternative and split harmonies, where one colour is used against several contrasting colours. This combination gives a lot of contrast to the image but it's less intense than a complementary scheme or may be achieved by using oppositional colour and (or) closest colours to it, they complement each other.  This combination is a bit less intense. There are some other schemes (but these are more convenient to use for light/shadow colour)


The second very common mistake is missing reflected light in the area of shadows in works

In the picture – a sketch of a ball, we are already familiar with, where we can find the positions of shadows and reflections.

structure by Incantata

Reflected colour (colour reflection) and reflected light without expressed colour characteristics are called reflection.
If the reflection falls onto the dark area of the object, it will become a part of a chiaroscuro. In this case the reflection will look like a not intense light spot in the shadow area,
formed by the rays of light reflected from surrounding objects. Drawing reflection as part of chiaroscuro is most important for traditional art.
An examples of reflected light: cyan, red and purple surfaces may give cyan, reddish and purple reflections to the sphere in the aria of shadow
In the picture   a b c you may see the same complementary combinations but taking into account the colour of the surface – as you can see, light reflected from the surface was added to the picture. The colour of reflected light consists of the colour of the surface and color of the surrounding objects. (But keep in mind – black colour devours almost all light, on the contrary white colour reflects)

reflected light by Incantata
Reflections on transparent objects have more contrast and a reflection on the surface. The colour of reflected light on transparent objects also consists of original  object colour (intensity of native object colour depends on transparency of the object)
In the picture a and b you can see a smoky semi-transparent green gem, lying on the coloured surface.
a) is a wonderful gem, but it's incorrect as reflected light from the surface is missing and no contrast lighting scheme is applied to light-shadow. In the picture b) you can see another one that is more correct.

Exampletransparent and semi-transparent objects by Incantata

Bastet and Sekhmet Museum

1. gray image base
 Bastet and Sekhmet base by Incantata

2. wrong scheme. cold lighting source and wrong blue-cian shadows
 Bastet and Sekhmet Museum 2 by Incantata

3. Correct scheme: cold source of light and warm yellow shadows.  reflected light from walls

  Bastet and Sekhmet Museum 3 by Incantata

4. wrong scheme. warm lighting source and wrong warm (yellow-orange) shadows
 Bastet and Sekhmet Museum 4 by Incantata

5. Correct scheme: warm source of light and cold blue shadows. also reflected light from walls 
 Bastet and Sekhmet Museum 5 by Incantata

Use of the colour wheel for lighting and shading in photomanipulation
credit of use stock in tutorial:……
else are my own images

thanks very much for big help with translation to LadyEvilArts and ErikShoemaker

Add a Comment:
wobblyhands Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2018
what shadows are opposite to highlights?? That doesn't sound right. I tried it but it looks off. The jump in hue change is huge. It only seems to work for specific colours and lighting. Like warm lighting, cold shadows and cold lighting and warm shadows.  Most common that is the only one that turns out right for me is yellow highlight, orange base and blue shadows. Doesn't seem like it should always be followed.
If warm is on one side and cool colours on the opposite. What the heck is like a cool red or yellow? or vice versa warm blue and green? I don't get how to choose and reflect colours onto surfaces either. I see artists have warm shadows and warm lighting & cold shadows and cold lighting. But the colours are just usually a small shift randomly around the colour wheel. I'm stuck on greyscale.
I can't afford or borrow books. Where else can I go on the internet that explains stuff like this. I have the patience and really want to learn this. AHHH
BloodyScales Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2018  Student Traditional Artist
Very informative and well-explained! I have a lot of difficult at shading and picking colors, and this adds a lot to my studies Love 
orchidkitty Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2017  Professional Digital Artist
Wow, this was an amazing tutorial O:
Thank you for writing this :heart:
farbasta Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks alot for this , thats helped me alot Peachy Rose 
silkrapture Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2017  Student Artist
This is an AMAZING tutorial. I had many years of art but I'm quite rusty and this was a fantastic refresher!
A follow-up I would love to see would be one on how to add the right colors (light and shadow) to the gray image you start with.
Freiha Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Only 82 comments here? Man, this deserves more! This is gold! This is what I've been searching for for months! :woohoo: :dance:

Thank you so much! That's exactly what I need :huggle:
Energiaelca1 Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much Lilia
Incantata Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2016  Professional
mawsouth Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
always been unhappy with my landscape attempts as the shadows are never "right"
now i know why..
many thanks for this instructive tutorial
Incantata Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2016  Professional
very glad, that this tut is useful!
chaossmum Featured By Owner May 15, 2016
very many Thanks :)
Incantata Featured By Owner May 27, 2016  Professional
Rowye Featured By Owner May 1, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Amazing tutorial Lilia, this explains a lot. :) Looking forward to try this more consciously in the near future! :clap:
Incantata Featured By Owner May 3, 2016  Professional
thank you so much my friend! this info also for me was very useful and i hope will useful for my friends:)
Rowye Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I've started putting it in practice already. :) Also reading this very popular color book now, trying to get a whole new feel for the topic.
Mocris Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Great! Thank you very very much!
Lolita-Artz Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
thank you!!! its so usefull :)
adrianamusettidavila Featured By Owner Edited Apr 23, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Really great!! As a traditional artist sometimes I see beautiful works of digital art, full of creativity and work with mistakes like that, it's a shame. 
Lights and shadows are difficult to understand and explain, you explained it perfectly!
kimsol Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2016
Fabulous ... thank you so much for taking the time to put all of this together... :heart:
SilentPlea Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Excellent tutorial! :love:
LoloAgain Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2016
Wow! You opened up my eyes. Awesome tutorial. Very well put together and I appreciate the visual examples. 
SoulcolorsArt Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you, very useful.
EligoDesign Featured By Owner Edited Apr 15, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
thank you for this great tutorial. i have a solid education background in traditional art and remember the lessons we have about complementary colors and shades. we have used this techniques not just for the shadows outside the objects but also the inside of the objects, for example to color a red apple or a red cherry. i have a bit problems with it in PS to chose the right blending but i'm slowly figuring it out.
Thystyn Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you, I had no idea shadow worked like this, so this will be a very helpful tutorial for me.
Andorada Featured By Owner Edited Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow! Suuuper tutorial!!!!!
PaperDreamerArt Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016   Digital Artist
A perfectly constructed and useful tutorial!  Thank you very much!
LadyScoora Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016
Wah thank you! I believe it will help me a lot! ^^
Shembre Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional General Artist
Thank youuuuuuu :D The 'wrong' and 'right' examples were fantastic at demonstrating your point. :love:
rebeccawangart Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you for posting this!  As a self-taught artist I have to constantly remind myself of this when I am doing realistic drawings, especially ones based off of photos.  I am getting better about it, but I was guilty of this very thing for a long time.  I think it is very common, especially among inexperienced artists.
Flagged as Spam
thowni369 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Student Digital Artist
"Colour" is actually correct too. Look it up.
ErikShoemaker Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
wow, this has got to be the most popular tutorial type journal I've ever seen. :D
DraakeT Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
gran lavoro, grazie per il tempo speso! è anche tutto chiaro!
Personalmente non ho mai applicato o pensato a questi aspetti anche perchè è già un miracolo se creo un ombra apparentemente decente
Aantara Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
This is marvelous! Wonderfully explained lesson.
ak-itsuki Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
OH MY GOD JUST THE RIGHT TIME! Thank you so much for this! It's totally helpful!
BrankaArts Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much for this tutorial :hug:
This is one of my weak points :(
Tahkyn Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, never thought of shading like that. Very cool. :D
LeenaHill Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's an amazing tutorial! I usually use the equalaterial triangle harmony though.. I didn't know there were other types
Siansaar Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
It's kinda funny to remember that not everyone does this by instinct when you're used to automatically doing it thank you for telling people about it! :D
(Although I daresay you sometimes get warm shadows with warm lights - during indoor scenes with artificial light. Course it's a matter of experimentation, and you certainly shouldn't use the same warm colour even in this case.)
MyNonsenseSpot Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Very helpful.
mrsscribbles Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much,very interesting .I am sure now i am doing it wrong!
Liteicon Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
This is very helpful man, actually taking this as a note :) thank you , you nailed it.
malazkaboom Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've always suffered with light and shadow, so thanks a lot
vessy67 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016
Thanks for the lesson. Very useful and interesting.
keyfork Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you very much :D
EarlyOctober Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional General Artist
Reading this really helped me  I am a dummy! .
Thank you !
Lina01 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016
Thank you for this, your explanations are easy to understand, and your examples help a lot as well :) !
DixieRamone Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016
Thank you for sharing & explaining. Quite helpful.
KasaMaii Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That was very useful. Thank you!
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