Integrating Your Lighting With 2D Backgrounds
June 22, 2007 10:57 pm
I take a rather minimalist apprach to lights. I prefer not to
use light sets, or if I do include them, I pare them down
In a studio, photographers put the lights where they feel they best enhance the subject. That is okay if you actually want your model to appear to be standing in front of a backdrop such as in portraiture. But if your goal is to make your model interact with the environment, then the lights you add have to work with the environment too.
Always keep in mind where your main light source is supposed to be coming from. This is particularly important when using a pre-made background or other 2D image. I find it jarring to see shadows on one side of background images and at a completely different angle on the model(s).
Also, pay attention to the sharpness of the shadows. If they are clear and deep, you want to use bright lights. If they are soft and muted, then your lights will also have to be. This will take some experimentation.
Another consideration is the colours. You may have to adjust the colour of the light(s) to achieve a similar effect as the play of light and shadows in your background image.
If there is a light source actually in the background image, you will need to have lighting coming from that direction. This adds a new challenge as your model will likely be in front of the light. If you don't want your image to be a silhouette though, another source will need to be added. I don't find random omnipresent lights to be very realistic or interesting.
Other ways to get light into a backlit scene include: fire, campfires, torches, spells, lamps, lighters, headlights, street signs, and other glowing objects. It is helpful if you have them actually in the scene, but it is not necessary if you can convincingly infer their presence. For example, spotlights or pointlights with orange/yellow light shining on your character can make it seem there is a fire nearby, especially if you can get the reflection into eyes or gear. I place the point lights right in the items casting the light, even if the item is off screen (make sure to turn off cast shadows and adjust opacity in the "glowing" objects). In The Adept, the object she is holding actually has 3 different coloured pointlights set in different places, simulating the multicoloured inner light of the "orb." The orb was actually added in postwork, as it is a 2D fractal image.
Light might also be coming from multiple sources. In Moonlight Magic, the light is coming from the moon (distant light) behind her, the staff and 2 magic missiles (point lights).
Finally, make sure your background is actually sufficiently lit. If it is dull, while your model is bright, it will again look like a photographer's backdrop. If I am using a cyclorama or other plane, I usually point a spotlight at it with it's spread angle set to encompass the plane.
Whatever light you put into a scene, think of why it is there, how strong it is, colour, and why it is casting from the direction it does.
Happy rendering :)
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A true artist is never fully satisfied with their art, no mater what type or how well done it is. I have not seen your gallery yet, but as soon as I leave this page that is where I am heading. As for the article it is very informative and well written. Great job.