How to create dramatic lighting in Photoshop

Artists are fussy people. Regardless of what we are dealing with: composition, color or lighting, we tend to change our opinion drastically. Fortunately, with Photoshop you can make major changes to the drawing without much time. In this tutorial, I will show you some simple and fast ways to highlight a digital portrait.

1. Black and white sketch.

Step 1

In order to show you the most vividly the types of lighting, I will use the portrait as a basis. We start with a simple sketch of a portrait with a round stiff brush (B). Photos for the picture can be found here.

Picture of a girl from the site Envato Market

Step 2

Next tool Brush tool (Brush) (B) fill the portrait with shades of gray. Stick to black and white tones to correctly convey light and shade from the original photo. If you are a beginner, this is a great way to learn how to draw light and shade without being distracted by color.

Please note that the light source is in the upper left corner, as in the original photo.

Step 3

Having finished with basic tinting, we continue to draw more saturated shadows. For more convenient work, we draw on different layers. I wrote about my shading method using blending modes in this lesson. When working with a drawing, keep in mind the direction of the light source.

We continue to refine the drawing. Round tight brush (B) add details. The portrait and background should be on different layers, so that later it would be easier for us to experiment with lighting.

This is what the finished portrait looks like. If you are limited to the minimum number of parts in the figure, then it is perfect for the following type of lighting.

2. Spotlight effect

Step 1

Let’s first try to create a spotlight effect. I was inspired by this portrait.

This effect is easy to repeat using the existing light source in our portrait. Create a new layer and set its blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication). With a soft round brush of dark gray color we draw soft shadows on the right side of the model.

We draw more shadows on the neck and hair, paying special attention to the direction of the light source in order to correctly convey the falling shadow. We darken some areas more strongly, as in the photo-example above, to give the work drama.

Step 2

Add more light to our composition. Create a new layer and set its blend mode to Overlay (Overlap), in the left part of the face and hair we add highlights. To get clear neat strokes, use a round hard brush (Hardness (Hardness) 100%). To create the shine effect, gently erase the hard borders of the strokes with a soft eraser (E).

Under the portrait, create a new layer to add soft lighting to the background. This will enhance the effect, since the light has the ability to reflect on surrounding objects.

With the first effect we are done! Perhaps this is the easiest way to create dramatic lighting in a portrait. Go to the next effect!

3. Blinds effect

Step 1

I think everyone had the imprudence to take pictures in front of the window. Since the blinds block the sun’s rays, it turns out an interesting shadow in the form of stripes, which gives the portrait an atmosphere of mystery. Let’s try to repeat this effect using a technique similar to creating a spotlight effect. First we delete the original layer with highlights, since for this type of lighting we will use a completely different lighting scheme.

As an example, I used this photo.

Above the layer with the shadows create a new layer. Using a round stiff brush, draw straight horizontal lines across the full width of the portrait. While holding the line, hold down the Shift key so that the strip is perfectly flat. Then press Ctrl + T to cause a free transformation, and rotate the lines diagonally.

Step 2

Now blur the lines slightly. Activate the desired layer and go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur) Radius (Radius) set to 20 pixels. If on the face the lines still look too rough, take an ordinary soft eraser (E) and carefully hold in the problem areas.

Blurring will give a realistic effect.

Step 3

Now we need to add highlights. Pay particular attention to areas where the sun’s rays touch the model. In these places we make the glare more expressive and do not forget to add a couple of strokes in the right part for contrast with the shaded area. We continue to add soft highlights on the left side of the portrait. With such lighting a rather limited amount of light falls through the blinds, so do not overdo it.

Sometimes in the rays of light we notice dust particles. Therefore, to complete the effect, in the lighted areas, draw a lot of small white dots.

Easy, isn’t it? I like to create such effects, as they are popular and look spectacular.

4. Halo effect

Step 1

The halo effect is a very interesting type of lighting when the edges of an object are outlined with bright light. Many examples can be found in the photo with silhouettes, but the halo effect can also be achieved under normal lighting.

In this paper, as an example, I will use this amazing photo.

We completely change the direction of the main light source. On the layer below the model draw a blurry white spots.

Step 2

Next, draw a shadow. As in the previous section, we are working on a new layer in the blend mode. Multiply (Multiplication). This time we are concentrating the shadow in the background, as well as on the face, in order to create the unobtrusive effect of the silhouette. A dark background will also contrast well with the halo effect.

We continue to draw the shadows that fall on the model at an angle in order to correctly convey the lighting. We focus the shadows on the face and neck to achieve a larger volume.

Please note that, compared to the original portrait, the angle of shadow drop has changed since we moved the light source.

Step 3

Having finished with the shadows, we can start working with the contour to achieve the halo effect. Use a small white round brush with a hardness of 100% to trace the outline of the model. Do not try to make the lines perfect, otherwise the work will look unrealistic.

Also, do not be limited to the contour. Grab a little more hair with white strokes to make the design look more voluminous.

We continue to add highlights and bright details. On a new layer in blend mode Overlay (Overlap) paint more bright highlights around the head and around the edges of the hair.

Here is the finished effect! Just by drawing the shadows on the face, we completely changed the lighting scheme.

5. Multicolored light

Step 1

Who doesn’t love color?

When I saw this photo, I wanted to repeat a similar effect. For this, we will use the original black and white portrait as a base.

To start, create a new layer under the gray background and fill this layer with white color. Then decrease Opacity (opacity) gray background up to 35%. With a light peach color on a new layer we paint over hair and lips. Change the blending mode of this layer to Subtract (Subtraction). This mode will automatically darken the shaded areas without losing detail.

Step 2

Fill the new layer with bright blue color and set the layer blending mode to Color Burn (Dimming basis), reduce Opacity (opacity) up to 25%. Then, on a separate layer, paint the right half of the document in bright red color, set the layer blending mode to Pin Light (Spot light) and reduce the opacity to 39%.

To achieve a truly unique and interesting effect, experiment with different colors and blending modes..

Now strengthen the effect. To do this, add light blue and pink colors on the new layer and set the layer blending mode to Overlay (Overlap). Duplicate this layer twice by pressing the key combination Ctrl + J.

Since we added bright colors to the portrait, they should be reflected on the skin and hair of the model. On a new layer in blend mode Color (Color) on the face of the model add red and blue hues. Also red paint over the lips of the model.

Thanks to the red and blue shades on the skin, now the work looks more holistic and harmonious.

Step 3

Now with the help of a saturated shadow in the lower part of the portrait we add drama. As in the previous steps, use the blend mode. Multiply (Multiplication) to enhance the shadows in the right and lower parts of the document.

Shadows will instantly add realism to your work! Do not be afraid to constantly experiment to find new ways and solutions to stylize the picture.

It’s time to paint highlights! A round stiff brush (B) on the hair draw beautiful bright highlights. We use both colors on the right and left sides of the picture, experimenting with how much blue or red falls on the opposite side.

We continue to work with color so that all elements of the picture look more holistic and harmonious.

This version of the lighting is fundamentally different from the previous examples, due to the two-color tint.

With the help of bright black and white moments you can add drama to any boring portrait.

Even if your base portrait is much simpler than mine, still continue to experiment with different types of lighting. Learn as many photos as possible to develop your skills.

Repetition is the mother of learning. The above examples are fairly simple in execution, but very effective in honing drawing skills.

I really hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

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