Toy Tech: Shadow & Light




One of the most significant visual cues in creating impactful concept art is the ability to clearly show a direct pattern of light flowing across the main subject you are depicting. If the image fails to have a directional light pattern—dividing the image into specific areas of light and shadow, the final piece will look flat and uninspired.

I can't show you my toy concept art for various legal reasons, but my oil painting I did for a gallery show will work just as well. Your eye is forced to go directly to the man's face because of the patterns of light built into the image. Look at the grey scale version to the right, the face is surrounded by dark tonal values so it becomes a focal point due to the juxtaposition of light against dark. 

Most students try to make make focal points happen only with color—warm against cool, etc. with varying results—a hit or miss approach. The only way to have positive repeatable outcomes is learning the rules of color, knowing that every hue has a corresponding tonal value.

Once you master this, you simply chose the appropriate color to fit within your specified areas of light and shadow.

I wanted the focal point to be the face, so I made sure the face was surrounded by darker values. The shadow holds no real detail, but is invaluable in supporting the form giving all of the facial features a two-dimensional form factor. You can clearly see how complex elements in this image have been simplified and organized into light and dark patterns.

Once the bigger shapes are in place, the patterns of light and shadow begin to take form as light flows across your image. This creates more emotional impact, elevating a standard conceptual sketch that would otherwise look static, into a more sophisticated image with feeling, story and eye caching details.  

So, as you sketch out your next amazing toy idea, take a step back to see where you can push the contrast between light and shadow to make your images have more emotional impact. 

This is especially important to you toy design students who are getting your portfolios ready. No matter what you use, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Painter or any 3D program, the theory of contrasting light against dark will always bring more life and inspiration to your images.




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