Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cascade step 06

Step 06: Lighting a model

If my dragon was instead a dude with a sword, or a woman on a bench, then this would be the time to hire a model and take some pictures, right?  That's a little harder with mythical creatures, so the next best thing is building a model.  I don't usually work this way, but was inspired by some of many great artists who do (James Gurney for instance).

In the images below, the model is about 15 inches long from nose to tail stub.  It's made out of plasticine, and mounted on a wire armature attached to some pipe plumbing.  I modeled him out only from the view required, so from any other angle it's just a deformed lump of clay.  And that's good enough.  On to the lighting!

This guy is out in the open air (in my illustration), with means there's ambient light from a dozen different angles, plus the intense sunlight coming in from the left.  To get all the shadows, highlights, and rim-lights in the right position, I set up a tripod and took about 8 different shots, each with lighting from a different angle that I needed.  (I only posted 3, but you get the idea.)  I don't have 8 lights, nor the patience to get them all working right simultaneously, so I shot them individually and would stitch them together later in Photoshop.

This was the end result.  It's not perfect, but the process gave me a much better understanding of the dragon's form and a great reference for painting later that will hopefully lead to fewer mistakes.


  1. That is absolutely fantastic. I've wanted to try this ever sine I read about James Gurney doing it, because it makes the lighting so easy. I'm really looking forward to where this painting goes next!

  2. Wow, it looks amazing Sam! I have heard of people doing this, but how long does it take? Do you find it the process really worth it?

  3. Yeah I think it was worth it, but we'll see how it turns out the end :)

    Doing the model probably took about 6 hours considering buying the materials, putting together the armature, building the model, lighting it, and then photoshopping it. It might go faster next time, but it was fun anyways.

  4. :D i didn't know you could do stuff like that with photoshop!! man, i really need to get my hands on that program. actually building the model is a really great idea and I am impressed by how well it seems to have worked out. I had thought about doing this myself but always dismissed it thinking that it would be too hard. im going to consider that option a little more seriously next time it comes up :)