View Full Version : Cool light, warm shadow?

10-29-2003, 03:52 AM
I have read a book mentioned about light vs. shadow as follows:
“If the light on the object is warm, you will have cool shadows. If the light on the subject is cool, you will have warm shadows.”

This is a little confusion to me. I understand that to paint cool shadows means the color that contains blue or violet.

But what does it means to paint warm shadows? Does it means cool color but warmer than the subject?

Does any of you can explain it to me in a tangible term by using the name of the color as samples? I think it would be more understandable.

Thank you very much.

10-29-2003, 07:23 AM
Ead, it is not quite as simple as NAMING a colour for you to use. So much depends on what is NEXT to, or surrounding, a colour, that will affects its warmth, or coolness. Also a lot depends on what the shadow is falling on!

The general principle of cool light, warm shadow; warm light, cool shadow, is a good one to bear in mind.

So.... if there is sunlight in the scene, or warm light from a spotlight, then the shadow of the object will be cool, and MAY contain blues or purples - particularly if the shadow falls on something white.....However, if the shadow is falling on a red cloth, for example, there may be very little actual blue in the shadow, the shadow will be much more a dark, cool red (moving towards purple and blue), while the warmly lit areas will be more of a hot red - orangey red.

If there is cool light in the scene - an overcast day, or a fluorescent light, then the lit parts will be coolER, and the shadow parts will be warmER. I hope you can understand the distinction.

Just to make things even clearer:
Sunlight falling onto white will warm the white, making it creamy-coloured, or even slightly pink (depending on the time of day) and the shadows will be blue or purple.

Cool light falling onto white will mean that the white will appear a cool, bluish-white, and the shadows will be warmer . However, The colour of those shadows will need careful observation. So much will depend on what is in the subject ... a red apple on a white cloth may throw a reddish colour down onto the white, for example. A nearby orange brick wall may throw some orange into the shadow. You have to look hard.

If you train yourself to look hard at the lights, and the shadows, and try to analyse the colours carefully rather than use a formula (ok, there is sunshine so I will make all my shadows blue), then you will be OK. Look really carefully, to see how the colours in the scene compare, asking yourself "What is the temperature of the light? "is this area warm, or cool? How warm? How cool? (and having decided, then...) What colours do I need to show, amd emphasise that? And how light or dark is it compared to that part?" and so on.

Using a specific colour, as you asked initially, is a good way to end up with a picture which doesn't work.


10-30-2003, 01:03 AM
Dear Jackie,

Thanks a lot for taking time explain these difficult problems to me.

Your sample about white -- bluish, pinkish, creamy and so on is what I meant about mentioning the color. They make more sense to me and give me a clearer understanding about the meaning of cool light, warm shadow.

You are not just an excellent artist but a great lecturer too.