Friday, August 26, 2011

The Right Light

In "Tools of the Trade: Painting", one of the tools I mentioned that I believe is essential for painting miniatures is the right light to paint them by.

"But Tim, isn't light, light? How different can light sources really be? Does it really make a difference?

Take a piece of white paper outside and look at it. Looks white, doesn't it? Now take that same piece of paper inside and look at it next to the lamp by your couch. If you have normal, everyday bulbs in those lamps like most do, it will now take on a bit of a yellow hue. See, even though the color of the paper did not change, in different light the color of the paper looks different.

So how does that affect painting miniatures?

Building on the example above, if the color of the light you are viewing a figure by influences the color white... Then it is going to influence all colors in the same direction. A "warmer" bulb, incandescent is a good example, will give a yellow cast to colors, where a "cooler" bulb, fluorescent bulbs at times, will give a soft blue tint to colors... See the example below.

See the different in the colors of the cast light per bulb type? Now notice that of the three bulbs, two of them are fluorescent, where only one is incandescent? Even the temperature of the bulb on the Kelvin scale matters as to what color and hue of light our eyes will perceive by that type and temperature of bulb. Because the colors we see are directly influenced by type and temperature of light we view them by, it's extremely important we paint by the right kind of light... Considering painting is all based on color!

Now to the meat of the matter. What kind of light SHOULD you paint by?

Daylight. It is the most neutral and color-clean light there is to view anything, or paint anything, by. It shows true color and color interactions without artificial influence on your eyes.

No, I don't think you should be painting outside by the light of the noon sun. Not only am I not able to because I work a 9 to 5 job, I've got some nasty allergies. However, there are daylight-light specific bulbs out there. Ott Lite is a brand of craft and hobby lamps and bulbs that you can easily find at your local craft store. This company specializes in carrying white, or daylight, bulbs and lamps.

Unfortunately for the average hobbyist, they are also priced extremely high. Instead, head to your local hardware store and check out their selection of daylight bulbs, then go find the bargain or sales aisle for their desk, floor or clip-on lamps and match the right size bulb to the proper lamp, I use a nice floor model I found on sale for 40 bucks, and it works great.

A final note for all you aspiring competition painters out there. Your models will always be judged under a light setup using daylight, or white, bulbs. It is imperative you paint by them so that what you are painting is exactly what the judges will be looking at, and judging you by. Nothing is worse for a competition painter than to think you painted one color, and then the judges to physically see a different color than what you think you painted.

I can't endorse purchasing and using the correct light source to paint by enough. Do yourself, your eyes, and your miniatures a favor and paint by the Right Light.

- Tim

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Every time someone asks me for advice on painting or model photography the first thing I stress is proper lighting.