Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 2 - Value, Light, Flesh, Color | Marco Bucci | Skillshare

Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 2 - Value, Light, Flesh, Color

Marco Bucci, Professional illustrator & teacher

Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 2 - Value, Light, Flesh, Color

Marco Bucci, Professional illustrator & teacher

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
1 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 2 - Value, Light, Flesh, Color

12 students are watching this class
  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

This is Part 2 of a the mini-series. If you haven't seen Part 1 yet, please watch it first! In this installment, we'll look at fundamentals surrounding staging a character painting with light, shadow, and color. We'll discuss important design elements, and how your choice of lighting greatly affects the shapes you need to paint. We'll also dissect 3D geometry, and how it boils down into 2D shapes. Then we'll look at different light sources - warm vs cool - and begin to understand how it plays a role in modifying the local colors of the objects it hits. Of course, all the while we'll be applying these lessons directly to the Vladimir character we began in part 1.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Marco Bucci

Professional illustrator & teacher


Hello, I'm Marco.

I'm a professional artist with 15 years' experience in the film, TV, game, and print industries - primarily as a concept artist and illustrator. I also happen to believe that it's the duty of experienced artists to pass on what they've learned, with no BS and for as low-cost as possible. It's for that reason that I'm a passionate teacher. I currently teach at CGMA, and have previously taught at Academy of Art University, Centennial College, and more. 


See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Your creative journey starts here.

  • Unlimited access to every class
  • Supportive online creative community
  • Learn offline with Skillshare’s app

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.



1. Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 2 - Value, Light, Flesh, Color: Hello, everyone, and welcome to part two of my three part character design, Siri's. If you haven't seen Part one yet, go check it out first for the rest of us, here are the topics of the day. Let's get into it. So our Vladimir character is on the screen. You can see him, right? Well, how about now? Paintings air fundamentally, a series of shapes and a shape can read either light over dark or dark over light. The arrangement of these darks and lights across an entire painting is what's called value keying. So here's some work by Norman Rockwell, who I consider a master of the value key flipping these two black and white yields no loss in readability. I'm pretty sure you anticipated that fact, but check this out. When you distill these down to their most basic shapes with no detail whatsoever, you get patterns that I think are still interesting to look at. So let's explore this with our character. We've got to arrange skin, a T shirt, overalls, shoes, not to mention the background and more. All right, here's a value slider and our silhouette for reference. And let's start working out some value keys. I'm keeping it simple to start. I'm assigning Onley one value per part. Another term for this is local value. So here I'm trying to find the most appealing arrangement of local value. Oh, and I've just got each elements of Vladimir on a layer here from Part one, which makes assigning values really fast. In the first thumbnail, pretty much the whole character is lighter than the background, while in the second thumbnail, the T shirt is lighter than the background. But the overall zehr darker. And in all of these thumbnails, I'm exploring various degrees of contrast. Now there's no right or wrong here, but these fundamentals do greatly influence the look and feel of a picture. They will also play a role in our lighting options, and we'll get into that right after this word from our sponsor. This character, Siri's, is sponsored by Wicks, a tool for building your very own websites. I'm nowhere near a Web design professional, but I was able to build a professional looking websites in just a few days, where all my work is nicely organized and presented. You can click on any project to find out more and if someone say a client wants to get a hold of me, all my information is here. Wix offers a whole bunch of great templates to browse through, and they're all fully edible with Wicks is easy to use Dragon Drop interface. And that's not even the whole story. You could dig into things like S E O Enhancement or You Zwick's editor. To help you create promotional media. Just choose the style of video you want. Click edit input, some text drag in your own materials, a little more dragon drop. Choose the music and you've got yourself a video ready for social media. You can get started for free at Wickes dot com slash go slash marco ButI. So go ahead, create something great with weeks. All right, so looking at these value keys, I like the feeling of these three. And in order to winnow down to just one, I'd like to pre viz them one step further with a quick shadow mock up. So look at the 1st 2 and here's a crude shadow pass. Now we've basically just doubled the amount of values there. Despite that, though, thanks to the dark background in this one pretty much everything, including the shadows, are reading lights over dark and the same principle is true. And this one on Lee, it's reversed. That simplicity allows both of these to be very digestible to the viewer. Recalling Norman Rockwell, he crafted a large portion of his career on that kind of read. Of course, this is far from a rule. The third value key there can work just fine. You just have to be careful to not cause value discrepancies like right here. A shadow could merge that T shirt into the background, and what you'll have to do is adjust your values for sufficient contrast. And now you can ask yourself if you like how contrast E. That T shirt needs to be in order to read. These are all very simple things. Toe oversee when you do thumbnails like this. They are, however, more likely to escape your notice if you jump into the final painting right away. So if you don't have a whole lot of experience yet, my advice is that you don't skip this planning stage. All right, let's dive a little deeper now into how light interacts with our character. All right, lighting congee daunting due to the sheer amount of options you have. Thankfully, though, these days there are handy little three D applications like this that help you create reference for all kinds of different lighting scenarios. And while this Army guy here is not a perfect proxy for Vlad, we can still take away some valuable lessons. So the things that are fundamentally changing as I move this light source around are the two dimensional shapes of light and shadow. And if I switched off the texture, we can see this even more clearly. Let me park the light source right there for a moment, and they'll begin extracting these shapes. This two dimensional shape contains three dimensional information. Specifically, it tells the viewer where the planes of the head no longer face the light and therefore are in shadow. And what it leaves behind is a shape that contains the planes that do face the light. When I say a shape contains the planes here, let me pull up our a sorrow head for a moment. If I wanted to describe to you which planes are in shadow here, I would draw a series of shapes like this and when I assigned them a dark value. I am effectively telling you that every three dimensional plane inside these two dimensional shapes face away from the light. And because we visually understand the world based on contrast, those simple shapes are all you need to tell someone. That is a head, and there are light shapes to like. This shape contains the planes that face the lights, and, of course, the shape fits perfectly alongside the shadow. I'll separate it here, though, so we can appreciate the shape itself. Now check this out. This is a single, unbroken shape, describing the entire lower half of the body. Connecting and merging your shadows like this is a discipline that often yields clearer design because when there are fewer shape breakup, the viewer can understand the picture quite easily. And here are some more randomly selected shapes for your consideration. And remember, these shapes require you to design them like don't just start going like this and making a shape that's really not very thoughtful. Instead, think back to what I was doing in Part one when I was designing Vlad Silhouette. Remember that when I was thinking about rhythms? Well, it's the same with these shapes, like I might start with a straight a longer straight, then maybe a seeker of meeting another shorter straight that might then feed into a narrower C curve and another straight a little longer. This time. The point is, the shape by making is intentional and intentionality comes across as confidence in art, and the reverse is also true. This is not to say that there's no room for things like scribbling in art. In fact, I love working with scribbling strokes. I'll talk about how brushwork fits into the process. In Part three, I promise. For now, though, let's apply what we've been learning to Vladimir starting off with that dark background and here's our value key just for reference, and I'm going to start thinking about my shadow shapes Now. The first thing I'm doing is searching for big shadow shapes that I can keep connected, and this is not my final painting or anything. I'm just exploring shape possibilities, and here is the angled strokes filter. It softens the lines and helps me see value shapes more clearly, And I'm not showing you my layers because I'm just working on a single layer. There is nothing technical about my approach here. In fact, this is a very traditional approach that I learned in life drawing where you would lay in a preliminary sketch and then with a piece of charcoal or even a marker, you start mapping out and designing the shadow shapes, and I'm taking those shadows shapes one step further here, as compared to my little value key on the right. This is a good time to bring in reference like this and analyze things like the shadow shapes caused by the folds in the clothing. Now I'll get more technical about that in Part three. For now, I'd like to remain focused on two D shapes and values, so let's look into that a little further in the value key. Look at the contrast between the shirt and the skin in shadow. Compare that to the same area. In this study, I've made two distinct changes here. One is overall, it's darker, but more importantly, I have brought the shadow values closer together. That is, I've reduced the difference in local value. The local values retain their contrast in light to a much greater degree. Now, as with nearly everything about design. This is not a rule, and it's up to your taste. My preference usually is for the shadows to feel comparatively softer and less important than the light. That way I can draw the viewers attention to the lights, where I'll be sure to maximize the level of information. This is a very popular aesthetic. For instance, here is famous comic book artist Alex Ross doing exactly that. Mike Magnolias. Fantastic art shows us that you don't need any contrast in the shadow. A single black value for everything works just fine, so long as you're shapes air well designed. But maybe you do want to put a little something something into the shadows. So let me show you a few things you can think about. The first is something called a rim light, which I can adhere by clicking just for comparison. Room lights off rim lights on a rim Lights does two things at once. It helps describe the form while simultaneously pulling the character out from the background. Next time you watch like a Hollywood movie, keep an eye out for how often room lights air used. Now you got to be careful when painting a rim light. Don't do this. This is basically just a line, and the problem with that is it doesn't interact with the three dimensional forms it's hitting. Therefore, it flattens the form rather than describes it, clicking back on our actual room light. Notice that it widens and thins and even disappears as it interacts with the three D planes . See how the rim light is wider over this lower half of the face versus thinner in the temple area here. That's because this area is the large side facing plane of the jaw as we go up. The only plane that faces that same way is this foreshortened temple region here. So that's why a room like can't be static. Three dimensional planes are always changing, so the shape of your room light has to adjust accordingly. Painting light well requires an intimate understanding of form. And if you'd like me to lecture on the forms of the head even more, I have a seven hour class that discusses basically every plane of the head and can help you with any style of art. If you're into that, check the link on the screen and in the description. There are other things you can do to give your shadows more depth. For instance, here I'm adjusting the influence of the ambient light that is the bounce light from the environment. This illuminates the shadow and reveals more information there. Now I have an entire video dedicated to ambient light, so please check that out. If you want to know more, consider it homework because I will be applying those lessons to Vladimir in Part three. For now, though, let's get into a much requested topic. So how do you paint flesh tones? It seems to be a popular mystery amongst art students. I mean, that's a pretty fleshy color right there, right? Well, maybe. But my answer is always flesh can be any color, and therefore there isn't really a such thing as flesh tones. I know that's a very unsatisfying answer. So okay, let me offer these four paintings as examples of successful flesh tones. What's the first thing you notice about them? I noticed that the differences considerable proof that there isn't a universal flesh tone conspiracy that you aren't part of. I also noticed some unifying principles here, one of which is there seems to be a thematic color. It would be like orangy colors here. PCI colors here, earthy brown colors. Here you get the idea for your flesh tones to be believable. You can think about exploring from a base color. I'll use photo shops filters on these Drew Struse and paintings to help me identify a kind of average flesh color something like this. Now there is this idea about zones of color on the face. The nose and cheek area, for instance, can often be a redder version of the base color. The brow area often has a more ocurre e tinge to it, and the jaw can sometimes get a bit cooler. This could become obvious on a male face where you're dealing with things like five oclock shadow, for example. Now, just how much of that variety you introduced to your flesh tones is entirely your choice. But a kind of tapestry of colors that are woven together in zones around the base color can really evoke the feeling of flesh. Okay, so you've just seen this happen visually. Now I'd like to show it to you mechanically. That is how I'm using the actual color picker. The color I have selected. Here is the color you see on screen I'll use This is my base flesh tone for this example. The hue is obviously somewhere in the red here. So if I want to make this flesh tone redder, I mean, all I have to do is go like this, right? Make it more saturated toward the red. Saturation helps clarify the colors identity, and we want that identity to be read in this case. And I'm just using a soft brush or soft edges to modulate this color. Another tool I like for that is the smudge tool, and that allows me to mix my color like it's wet oil paint or something. Now I don't want to just stick to this one color shift. I can go down a little bit and go a little redder here. This is a slightly cooler red cooler because it's toward the violets, but I don't want to go too far just yet. I'll stick it right there and, you know, play with some of these transitions. As I keep saying, there's no right or wrong, I'm evaluating it. Visually. I feel the need to keep saying it because a lot of people get really caught up on exactly which color they're picking. And the nice thing about, say, the smudge tool or just using a tablet in general is the pressure. Sensitivity of the tablet controls the kind of mix you're getting. So I'm using Photoshopped to mix colors for me just the same way a traditional painter would mix two different colors on the pallets to arrive at a unique third color. Now that I'm in the Reds, I'll just venture into the slightly cooler reds like this violet, he tinge. Using soft edges really helps the color change feel seamless or visually continuous. And I could just play with all kinds of reds here, maybe even getting like a real saturated one and again using soft edges to see if I could make that work. Now I'll just sample my base color again, and I want to shift toward the okra colors. Well, that's just up here, right? I call these neighboring shifts, as in that color is a neighbor to the 1st 1 So when I'm doing neighboring shifts, all you gotta do is just move it up here and you can paint that color let me just adjust the value a little bit. Now that's looking a little green to me. That's because I shifted too far toward the green, but I'm not too worried about it. I'm not gonna erase it or undo it. I'll just slide back down a bit, maybe switch this up a little bit and just search for something that feels yellow in this context. I have many years of experience with color, but still, I don't expect myself to get the color right the first time. I'm always searching and experimenting with, for instance, what feels yellow in this context, and I usually don't even undo it when I don't like the color. Because the variety of color helps make color interesting. Bob Ross would call it Happy Accidents. Color is a fertile ground for happy accidents with values and shapes, though you got to be a little more disciplined and we'll learn more about their intersection in Part three, when I'm painting my final going back here for a moment. There's one very important thing I have not shown yet, and that is a different way of getting a cooler color temperature just to remind you with those reds, I have the option of getting cooler by shifting into the violets. That's a huge shift, and one way to change temperature. Another way, though, is to venture through the grey. I think of gray as a kind of warp zone for color, because when a color is in the grey or in the neutral range, it has a lot in common with every other hue. In fact, if I were perfectly gray and I just painted that swatch right up here and changed the hue, it's identical. If I added a little bit of saturation, painted that and then change the hue and painted that those colors are also very similar, So gray is a way of connecting color. That means if I sampled my flesh tone and I wanted to get cooler, I could start going toward the gray and painting that in. I'll switch to my smudge tool again, and I could do something very special here. I can use my warp zone to kind of warp into the blues and pop out over here, and because I'm still in the gray Aiken, go up here if I wanted to and get a different kind of cool color. This is where color can get very sophisticated, let's say, or just unpredictable and fun. This is also how you can get things like blues or Thiel's inside flesh tones. And remember, if that's feeling a little too blue to you, just go back into the Reds and we've some neutral reds or oranges right back in there. Looking back at the Frizette appease, he's using exactly these methods to get all that color variety. Weaving color together like this is what makes a good colorist. And in my experience, your comfort level and sensibility with color will be more nourished by your desire to experiment than anything you read in a color theory book. However, speaking of cover theory, let's move into the next section. So in the last section we talked about the local colors of flesh, but now we have to add lights and shadow to that. So here's a picture of me. This is a sampling of the shadow colors versus a sampling of the light colors. Okay, real quick. Here's another photo of me with a sampling of its shadow and light colors. Now let's take stock of some differences. The 2nd 1 is obviously lit by sunlight, while the first photo was lit by daylight that is diffuse light from the sky spilling into a room, as I'm sure you can already see from those swatches. There are tangible differences in the light and shadow colors, despite the subject being the same. To appreciate the differences watches, I sample some colors from the sunlight and put them up against the daylight colors. The sunlight causes warmer colors to happen than the daylight, and let's bring up a color picker so we can look at the mechanics of this. I'll sample that color right there and now all sample the color beside it, and we see the same thing happening between these two colors that I talked about in the last section. They're both orange, but one is more gray, thereby drawing it closer to these other colors, which gives it the appearance of a cooler cast. So again, let me sample. This, by comparison, are warmer. Sunlit orange has more saturation, so it identifies more as orange and because orange is a decidedly warm color. When we add saturation to an orange, it makes it look warmer and taking it away will make it look cooler. So grazes. The mechanism by which a commonly warm color like orange or red, as we see here can still have warmer and cooler varieties. And those varieties are dictated by the light source. Sunlight, as you can see here on the Kelvin scale, actually changes color throughout the day. But even at its coldest, the sunlight is always a warmer light than the varieties of daylight. So conclusion you should know what your light source is as well as its relative temperature , so that you know, in which direction to modify your base colors. Will they get warmer when the light hits them or cooler? Okay, so there's one more important consideration to make before I get back to some painting. I compared the light colors of the sunlit scene to the light colors of the day lit scene, but we also need to understand that comparison within the same lighting environment. We'll start with the sunlight one and spoiler alert. The relationship is the same. The light colors appear warmer than the shadow colors. Now it's a bit harder to tell because the shadows air also a different value. So here let me just correct for that. Bring in the color picker again and sampling, say, from that color to that color, I noticed two things happened. Let's go back to the 1st 1 Notice where its saturation is now sample back here it got grayer. But another thing happened. Let's go back to the original. The hue is closer to the sun color, which is somewhere up here and in its transition to shadow. It has moved away from that, That is, it's traveling from here down this way, which is toward the cools. So it's getting cooler in two ways. There's a huge shift and a gray shift. This leads me to some very common color advice, which I imagine you've probably heard before. Warm lights give you cool shadows. Cool lights give you warm shadows. Now that is an oversimplification of the truth. There are many circumstances were color does not follow that. However, it does point to some useful logic that I'd like to show you when the light source, in this case the sun hits something, it imposes its color on whatever it hits, not on just flesh tones, but on anything, everything. The sun is hitting in this photo. The grass, the trees, the ground of the houses are really crowding around. That characteristically yellow afternoon sun reminds me of moths to a flame or something later in the day, when the sun appears as a deeper red color. Whatever the sun hits causes that same moths to a flame pattern. Just the flame is over here. Now that might help explain. Why are sunlight? Flesh tones have that unifying warmth, and our daylight flesh tones have that unifying coolness. And again, while this piece of advice is limited, it's logic does extend to the shadows. The reason the shadows can move to the opposite temperature is for the simple fact that they are not directly influenced by the light. So while the sun is directly influencing these lights, flesh tones to appear warm, it stands to reason that the sun is not directly influencing the shadow flesh tones to appear warm. Therefore, it's very likely that they'll appear cooler, and the same logic holds true for cool light. The blue light from the sky here is influencing those flesh tones to move cooler. It does not have that same influence on the shadows. So in the absence of that influence, they appear warmer. John Watkiss was a really good painter. He knew this information so well that he could exaggerate it and bend it to his design sense. I mean, look at the difference between warm and cool in this painting. When it comes to studying color, try this exercise. Eliminate all the complex drawing and just represent the figures here with a couple of eggs that will free you up to just think about light and color. I'm thinking about that crimson, the red sun really separating the warmth and everything it hits. Here's some color shifts in that egg, like I showed you with the flesh, all crowding toward the warms as they have the warm sun in common. The colors and shadow are much more varied. We're getting some cooler reds and yellows and oranges in the flesh, but also some blues and blue greens. Now, why are those there? Well, that's the ambient light from the environment. The light from the sky, for example, could take a great read right through the warp zone into a grayish blue or violet that's happening like right here, for instance, the green trees could pull a gray flesh tone through the warp zone up into Thiel's or something. So the environment is a key player in shadow colors as well. I have a whole YouTube video about just that, which you can check out as supplemental viewing. But for now, let's finally get back to Vlad and apply what we've been learning for the last two chapters . I'll start with a simple selection of base colors and split this off a warm light rendition on the left. Ah, cool light rendition on the right, and what I'll do is I'll keep the same shape and value information from before, as that will dictate most of these staging of this picture. Now it's just the temperature of the light will inform which way I move my base colors. When it comes to painting, controlling temperature is a critical skill. Ah, lack of temperature control can cause the muddy color look that we all strive to avoid. In fact, once you get the hang of the lessons in this series of videos, it actually becomes difficult to make money colors because you have systems for organization. This will enable you to explore options quickly and effectively so practice this. All right, let's move into one final section. There are many ways to go about blocking in and working on a final painting. One very common way is to start with local colors, blocking them into their corresponding shapes, adding in some variety of local color, like in the flesh, Maybe, and then using layers or brushes, you will be adding the effect of light to that. In this method, you'll probably be changing a lot of what you initially blocked in, because light will add its colors and values and shadow will add its colors and values. After all, we never really see pure local color. What we see when we look at anything is the effect that the light is having on local color . So while this is a perfectly fine approach, I'm not going to use it. Instead, I'll bring in my initial value sketch, throw a find edges filter on it. Photoshopped generates a line drawing based on my value shapes, and then, with a variety of brushes, I'll start throwing in values and colors that are not final. They're not local colors, either. It's just a different kind of way to set the stage for things to be built upon. For me, this process gives me a little more space to explore things like edges and textures and temperature shifts. Now, the downside of this method for blocking in is it makes things look pretty rough right off the bat, whereas with the other one, you could practically see the finish line already despite the process you choose. The idea is that the planning and thinking you've done before this gives you your road map to the finish. So even as I now work out of this hole, I've dug for myself. I know where I'm headed and we'll see how this plays out, along with more digital painting related insights. In Part three, Thanks everyone for watching. I really hope you enjoyed part to an extra special thanks to my patrons, who really helped make these videos possible. Hey, patrons, send me some of your Vlad designs. I want to feature some of them in part three. People are also designing flat on the discord server, so check that out. As for me, I'll see everyone next time