Al's Photoshop TutorialAdvanced Concepts

Advanced Concept: Multiple-Lightsource Shading

For this example, I'll be taking apart one of my other pictures, Green Spell, because it is my best example of multiple-lightsource shading.

The theory here is that instead of having a single layer for shading above a base color layer, we have separate layers for the light sources. On the bottom, just above the background, we have the darkest ambient color that will be found in the scene. In an outdoors daytime scene, this would be a deep blue. This layer should all be the same color, but it should be transparent in the shape of the foreground character, just like the color or shade layers in the normal method. Above this, we have different layers for each light source. These should be screen layers, so they only brighten what's beneath them (the ambient color). These should be solid black ranging to the color of the light source. There are as many of these layers as there are light sources. On top of all this we have a layer just like the old color layer, but set to multiply. We do this since what's below it is basically what the character would look like properly shaded, but totally white. This top multiplying layer constricts the color to their proper tones. And above all this, of course, lies the ink layer.

Let's break it down visually, top layer to bottom layer:

Here's the ink layer. Nothing special going on here.
Here's the color layer. It's set to Multiply, and will take the underlying layers of ambient color and light from lightsources and constrict their tones to the colors of the character.
This layer has the green light of the spell between her paws. The layer is set to Screen mode, so the green gets added to the other light layers below it.
Here's the more natural light coming from the upper right. It's not all that bright, which helps the magical green glow above it stand out.
This is the ambient color layer. This is a normal, completely solid layer whose function is to block the background from the light and color layers above it, which are all set to multiply and screen. Without it, the character would look like a ghost. For those who don't know what I mean by ambient light, the solid color of this layer is the color of the darkest possible point. Having this color not be black can give your scene a much more natural feel.
Here is all those layers turned on, and with the background put in. You'll notice that she is missing her right arm, which can be seen in the final piece; this is because for the final picture, the layers described above were all merged together, and put on top of the glowing green spell, and below that is another set of layers much like these for her other arm. Too far?! There is no too far!

It's that simple! Umm.. I hope someone out there understands this, because these more lofty concepts are rather hard to put to words.

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