View Full Version : The colour of shadows?

05-27-2001, 07:50 AM
Shadows can make or break a painting. Are there any guidelines for rendering realistic shadows? Blue/violet seems to be a popular choice but can look out of place in some paintings I've seen. How do you decide whether the shadow should be warm or cool in colour? I haven't been able to find much about painting shadows. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

05-27-2001, 09:32 AM
Skip Lawrence book and video should help. I found them at my library. While he uses blue in the shadows he floats in lots of colors depending on what is needed. Shadows can be the most exciting part of the painting. One trick is don't make them as dark as a photo is or you will have black holes. If you can bracket a shot and have one overexposed you can see what's in the shadows. One note is that the lightest part of the shadow should be darker than the darkest part of the light - tricky to me.

05-27-2001, 10:44 AM
For one.....I use color, not black....as light permeates all throughout a composition. With the use of Alizarin Crimson or Rose Madder...and Thalo Green, you'd not at first be able to tell I did not use black...so darkness is not an issue.

Secondly...decide what is your "ah-Hah!" That thing or few things that grabbed your attention as an artist and said "Paint me!" Was it the shadow? Is the shadow only supportive. If supportive, how does the shadow appear looking at your priority subject? Judge your shadow peripherally... that is, do not look directly at it. How does detail in the shadow appear while not looking directly at it? What color does it seem to be?

Also...an opposite color makes its adjacent complement stand out. One reason artists favor purples...is simply that this cool color is far opposite the warm spectrum of light. As a white moon screams in a black sky...so a bit of purple next to warm colors makes those warmer colors warmer and more intense by its presence.

But...many overdo it. There has to be hints of these things in my opinion, or they draw conscious attention to themselves which is redundant to your "ah-Hah!"

So..you constantly are aware of where you want the viewer's eye to go to...and play things down, get them just right...to create the energy and tension you want without disturbing the priority of precisely the eye manipulation you want.

Too much of one thing draws attention. Remember the axiom, if everything is shouting, nothing gets heard. One purpose of a shadow is to creat a neutral area for the eye to rest. To rest means...the eye does not have to go there and investigate. Negative space. It allows a more simpler task of object recognition, and finding interest where you want them to.


The "Artsmentor"

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!" Edgar Degas

05-27-2001, 11:02 AM
Lise, a simple rule that I follow is that the shadow colour is tinged with the complementary colour of the light source, eg, a yellow light source will have a purple tinge, and the reddish orange light of a sun-set will have a greenish tinge. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

Every child is an artist, The problem is to remain an artist when he grows up,----Pablo Ruizy Picasso.

05-28-2001, 12:45 AM
Shadows are my favorite thing to paint. When I see a landscape, florals, or still life, the shadows are what catch my eye. I believe that the shadows make as much difference in a painting as the objects that create the shadow. I usually start out with very wet cobalt blue and drop in nearly every color BUT don't mix them just let them paint themselves. Of course after that is dry I may enhance the intensity of shadow right next to the object. Yes I agree with the complimentary color matching of shadow to the object.

05-28-2001, 03:01 PM
This is just the help I was after. A big thank you to each of you for your tips -