Illustrate Color & Light I: Ambient Light

Denis Zilber, Freelance Illustrator and Cartoon Artist

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11 Videos (1h 14m)
    • Introduction and the Class structure

    • Light diffusion

    • Shading a sphere

    • Rendering simple volumes

    • What is ambient occlusion?

    • Adding ambient light

    • Rendering ambient occlusion

    • Principles of soft shadows casting

    • Creating soft shadows

    • Adding fire to the scene

    • Summarizing the class


About This Class


Welcome to Ambient Light, the first class in this three-part series, Understanding Color & Light. This first class covers how light works and explores skilled ways for achieving the real appearance of light in illustration.

The skills in this class will allow you to render light from your imagination and capture realism. Once you've explored, understood, practiced, and applied these skills, you will have a huge advantage over those who depend exclusively on photo references. 

Whether you're looking to expand your existing work in digital illustration, or you've never considered Photoshop for illustration and are just feeling inspired, this series is perfect for taking your work to that next level.

Throughout this three-part series, we'll cover everything you need to know to add value, color, and light to your scenes and cartoon character designs using Photoshop. By the end, you'll feel not only comfortable with Photoshop's techniques and tools, but also excited by their many possibilities. We will start with a simple monochrome scene, using just one simple light source. As we move forward, we'll add different light sources, colors, and materials. Our final scene will include various materials that each reflect light differently.

Also see: Understanding Color & Light II: ColorUnderstanding Color & Light III: Direct & Reflected Light


What You'll Learn

In this class, you'll follow along with my process as I work backwards through a finished piece, learning the basics of diffused/ambient light and different types of illustrated light. You will learn to paint realistically without photo references, basing your knowledge and understanding on the physics of light.

  • Basics. Learn different types of light and how they work with color and shape.
  • 3-D objects. Practice rendering 3-D objects with light and color.
  • Shadows. Create shadows off objects with the correct color and rendering.
  • Ambient light. Create soft, ambient light on your piece.
  • Soft shadows. Add the final touches to soft shadowing across your work, giving dimension to your piece.


What You'll Do

Deliverable. You will apply ambient lighting to a digital illustration of your choice. 

Description. You will build off a pre-existing image of your choice, bringing depth and value to your work.

Specs. By the end of this first class, you'll have an illustration rendered with light, as well as a solid understanding of the power and physics of light in digital illustrations.

49 of 52 students recommendSee All

Great class!
Danny Kundzinsh

Illustrator & concept artist

Very knowledgeable, knows what he's talking about. But as it sounds like English isn't his first language, there's a lot of pausing and "uhh"s so the lesson is slow-going.
If you're not familiar with Denis Zilber's work, I suggest you go check out his portfolio right now. It's absolutely incredible. He's one of my favorite modern illustrators. In this class, Denis does a great job of walking you through the science of lighting to get you thinking about it in a more practical way. It is assumed that you already have a decent knowledge of Photoshop, as he will not explain running the program. That's good because it means he jumps right into the meat of the content. (There are plenty of other places out there where you can learn the mechanics of the program) My only criticism is that with the altar painting, he doesn't paint out the layers in front of you. He just hides, then shows the layers in sequence. However, he still really does a great job of explaining those steps out as he's presenting them. Denis Zilber is a master illustrator & I highly recommend taking this course if you're looking for insight of the logic & science of lighting. This is the kind of content you'd expect to pay a lot more for elsewhere. It's great to have this included in the Skillshare membership! -Sean
Miriam Balsano

Illustrator/ Animator





Denis Zilber

Freelance Illustrator and Cartoon Artist

Denis is a freelance Illustrator and cartoonist working out of Tel Aviv, Israel. He specializes in exaggerated, cartooned features and characters. . . and he creates them from start to finish in Adobe Photoshop.