How To Create Light Effects In Your Paintings | Ron Mulvey✏️ | Skillshare

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How To Create Light Effects In Your Paintings

teacher avatar Ron Mulvey✏️, Artist / Art Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Painting Tips / Creativity With Light


    • 2.

      Painting Tip 1 'Perfect Glaze'


    • 3.

      Painting Tip 2 'Cool and Warm'


    • 4.

      Painting Tip 3 'Light Effects'


    • 5.

      Painting Tip 4 'Dark against Light'


    • 6.

      Painting Tip 5 'Shadows and Depth'


    • 7.

      Painting Tip 6 'Creating Mood'


    • 8.

      Painting Tip 7 'Thick Paint Over Glaze'


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About This Class


Let there be light and there was light. If you know what you are doing you really can make your pictures luminous-filled with light.

This class is about 'skill development'. The skills are not complicated nor are they too difficult. The good news is that many great artists have used them and you are about to learn them.

I found out about these painting principles studying many well-known artist's paintings and reading in detail explanations of what techniques they used to achieve the Painting Light Effects that made their artwork glow. I am excited about seeing what you can do with these techniques.

I have chosen three painting to work on for this class. You will get to see real work in real time as I explain what I am doing to get these major works 'exhibition ready'.

The pictures shown below are before I applied the 'Magic Light Effects" that you will be learning in this class. You will have to watch the class to see how I make them pop with more lighting effects.


Picture during the  'Glow Treatment' (See Below)


Here is an example of the 'Big Sky ' in my daughter's backyard. Paint where you are planted!


Light Effects are happening below!!! I am excited about this painting and the direction it is going. One of the Stars of our show.


 J.M.W.Turner's Marine Painting from the 18th century (when tube paints were just being invented by a small company called Winsor and Newton) is a perfect example of luminosity, or we might call 'glow'.


All the black in front of the sun was originally a vibrant red that was extremely fugitive, meaning that it would lose its color, and turn dark. Turner admitted that he knew that but used it anyways so as to enjoy the color at the moment he presented it for public viewing. The crowd loved the intense red that he used but sadly we see a dull blackened gray tone 200 years later.

We should always use good quality materials as it is a good painting practice.

This class will give you an insight into the 'Old Masters' (of which some were men and others women) and how they approached the magic of light in their paintings.

Here are some of the Painting Tips you will be able to use right away with some of the pictures you may have already started in your studio or workspace.

1- How to cool down or warm up a painting with glazing.

2- How to make 'veiled color' and capture the essence of transparent, vaporous subject matter, such as water, clouds, and sky.

3- How to set dark against light and make for greater contrast and interest in your painting.

4- How to use brave bold brushstrokes to open up your painting and free it from timidity.

5- How to find patterns in your work and let them lead you to your true creative side.

Class demos will be in acrylic with gloss medium and acrylic with water. You may use oil or watercolor and get very similar results. These are principles you are learning, not rules.The techniques will work in all disciplines.

I will be showing you these Painting Light Effects on three major works that I am getting ready to exhibit. Join me in my studio as I reveal what I have learned from the Great Painters who have gone before us. I will pass it on to you ...their gift is my pleasure and your responsibility ... until you see fit to pass it on.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ron Mulvey✏️

Artist / Art Teacher


I've been working as a full-time artist since 1980. I have had the pleasure of teaching art since 1983 and have taught thousands of classes on drawing and painting. I would consider it a privilege to assist you in achieving your artistic goals.

I have taught the basic and advanced mechanics and principles which give us the skill and confidence to express creatively, for the past 30 years. Sharing them is my passion! 

What Do I Like Teaching?

Watercolors and Acrylic are my specialty. I work with oils also but not as often as the water based mediums.

I love trees, mountains, rocks, water, flowers, and all that nature has to offer. Getting out into nature always gives me a creative boost. You get the real energy and feeling of space and belonging.See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Painting Tips / Creativity With Light: Just making sure that the layer of paint is thin and the medium does help it. Lay this on here, take a breath, blow it out, and get a fine bold stroke. Thin paint creates mood. I am Ron Mulvey and welcome to painting tips. This is for all levels, especially very serious artists would gain a lot of insight from this, attempt to work on pictures two ways, very quickly or very slowly. Now, my slow method involves a lot of glazing. Glazing is how we get effects for the sky, for things that are transparent; shadows, glass, water. These are called veiled colors, and they react differently than thick paint. Light comes in and hits the paint and then the paint absorbs the light and then the color is kicked out from there. With veiling paint or thinner paint, transparent paint, glazing, we call it, the light comes in through the paint layers, hits the back of the picture, and bounces out through the paint layers giving a more luminous effect and it simulates skies and clouds and water, transparent objects. This is how we get a realistic effect with transparent objects. So the blue part is going to recede and the warm is going to come forward. The reason being, in color design, warm colors always come forward, cool colors recede, so here we go. Right now what I want to do is show you how to add one or two little things here that will create mood in your pictures. Softening it and making that light effect glow into other objects. Now I just keep forcing that paint around. Notice the medium stops it from dripping. 2. Painting Tip 1 'Perfect Glaze': Here's the medium we're using. It's like a glue, but you just add a little water to it and it allows you to paint so that the paint doesn't run all over the place. I'll put a little bit in here, like that, take a smaller brush, and I may take a bit of medium with it, and start moving it around, and see what it's going to do. Remember, I can change the intensity of this color at anytime, simply by adjusting the pigment. I'll take my bristle brush now, add a little bit of medium to it, put the medium on, and then start to spread it around. There's blue. I'm going to stay away from the blue, and I may not like this color at all, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. It is fitting out nicely with the medium, and the medium is great because we are painting on a surface that's vertical, so it could drip if you just use the water. So the medium's a great idea. Now as I come back down, the paint is definitely thicker here. So I want to fan it out, spread it out, bring it up into here, and I haven't even checked to see what it looks like from a distance. That's my next step, to check and see what it looks like from a distance. Notice I'm not bringing it into the rock or the mountain; not yet. Just making sure that the layer of paint is thin. Another clean brush to badger hair brush, and what you want to do is just pull a little bit down into the objects below. Otherwise, we get a thing called, ghosting, where it looks like each paint layer stops behind each object. This way you pull it down into the object, like that, and see it's coming in very gently, and the pink that was underneath it before is creating a very vibrant orange. Let's stay away from the blue, just because blue and orange being complimentary to each other, or in the old days we used to say opposite. We're going to keep that. There we go. Fan it out. Here we are at about 12 feet, 13 feet, and you can see that that orange has really picked up the picture. 3. Painting Tip 2 'Cool and Warm': Glazing can produce a lot of warming and cooling. Balancing the cool and warm with fin that glazes. This is a cadmium yellow medium, and you can see places where I've put the yellow. If it gets a little yellow looking instead of just warm, then you'll add a little red over it, maybe the alizarin crimson. You can add a little blue over it to gray it down. Taking very small amounts for the sable brush. Very soft brush, take a little bit in there. If there's too much, then I'll wipe it off on a rag. Where I have little spots of white, of course, putting the yellow over the white will make it stand out even more. I'm just moving around now with the warm sections. Not bad to have a big picture or even a small picture. Leonardo took a long time to do the Mona Lisa, look it up online. A section there, see there. Now, I'm not trying to paint an island or trees, I'm trying to look for forms, shapes, patterns. Then I'll stand back from the picture and see what's happened. What effect have I had by painting something like this up close? What does it look like far away? Does it create a pattern? I don't know if you've studied fractal patterns, but nature is full of what appears to be chaos, but really is a pattern. If you look at the sand on the beach, it's has a pattern. I'm looking for not chaotic patterns, although people call it chaos, I'm looking for random places to pop in my blue. I don't have a photograph, I'm not thinking trees, I'm thinking shape, I'm thinking size of stroke. Oh, I'm thinking a little bit trees now because I'm creating, I can see a pattern emerging here around the warm area, a cool area with a pattern. Now, I'm getting aware of colors, that's a red, that's a blue, there's the cloud. I'm trying to bring this cloud so that it looks like it's in front of the island here. Very subtle nuances of color are creating a pattern. I can see a lovely pattern emerging here. Notice how little paint I have on my brush. Now you remember when Leonardo, well, maybe you don't remember, you weren't there, but maybe you were who knows. When Leonardo was doing the Mona Lisa, he would have used very fine sable brushes, and he would have used a technique similar to this with oils, using mediums, just gently and carefully putting minuscule little strokes of paint on at some point in the painting. When he began the painting, he probably used broad brushstrokes, but at some point, he had to hunker down and add some fine brushwork, especially in the hands. I'm going to work this little area in here. Very little bit of paint, that little cloud is great. Staying away from the white cloud. I'm trying to get these white clouds so they look like they're in front. They wouldn't think such a little bit would make such a great difference, but over time, a number of these very light, warm or cool adjustments, will definitely give your painting a new life. 4. Painting Tip 3 'Light Effects': Taking my badger hair brush and a sable flat brush, it's actually not real sable, but it's synthetic because I'm using acrylics, and this big wiper brush. What I'm going to do is I'm going to warm up this section right here by taking some orange, a fairly large amount of orange. It's cadmium yellow medium and alizarin crimson. You can see that warms it up. I can stand back from the painting and look where am I going to throw it in? I'm throwing in the orange from a distance, then I stand back and take a look. I'm staying away from over here, maybe a little bit in here, and now I am taking my badger hair brush and I'm just softening it and making that light effect glow. I want to bring these two clouds out here, so I have the pink and I have also mixed up a violet color using some cobalt. Just a small bit of the cadmium to warm it, and some alizarin crimson. So I'm going to take a little bit of that, I'm going to pat it on the rag so I don't get too much. Watch, I'm going to make this cloud stand out. The only way to make it stand out is to come around it, and here's another one here, with a bit of this shadowy area here. Let's see if this works. If I work quickly, I'll put it on, I'll stand back, and then I'll use my rag to rub it, and as I stand back, I'll see if it's working. I think I'll put a little bit more up here. Okay. Let me take a look now, and let me see if that's standing out. See, it's come forward now. The cloud has come forward. It's not really a cloud, the mist. So maybe I'll just rub it a bit on the bottom. See? Look at that. That part there. It came out nicely. Seeing with this part. Here we go. Let's take a look. You really have to stand back when you're doing this and look. I rather like that. I think that worked. I can take a little more white paint and show you what to do there. I use a titanium white, a very small amount. I'll put that dot on there, take a look at it, take my badger hair brush, make sure it's clean, and tap it because I don't really like the straight thing on the bottom here. Put a little more in there, and as soon as I lighten it, of course, it's going to come forward in there. You know what? I just might use my fingers for the whole thing. Now there's a bit of texture on my board that I put on when I first started. I rolled gesso onto the board so that it would have a little bit of tooth because sometimes these boards are too flat. Okay. Now look, softer note. A little white on it like that, rub it off. So there's a little bit in here. Take it and just gently soften it. Vaporous. Just remember that word. Bring it right over a bit. A little bit more in there, and let's take a look at that from a distance. A little bit of white on my brush here and look, you can make this come down. Look at that. See the white here. See, you're really using little bits of paint to create maximum effects. Gently. You do have to go down into nature and observe it once in a while so you know what to do. I don't know, this is nice here like that. Soften it. Soften it. Beams of light shooting down into the water. This is a painting purely from my imagination, but drawn from experience. It's a fairly large painting. I started it about four years ago, and parts of it are pretty much left untouched from what I did in the first hour. What I did was I took the big piece of hardboard down to the river, put it on the ground, looked around at some colors and just threw some colors on. So, some areas have never been touched, like the far left, but other areas have morphed into a West Coast scene, which is where I used to live. So I've produced a morning West Coast scene, and I'm adding layers and layers of vaporous light using the veiled technique for painting. 5. Painting Tip 4 'Dark against Light': Here's the medium I'm using. It's a semigloss by Golden which is probably the best you can get. Just take a clean brush and get a little bit of it, it's pasty. Then I dip the brush into some water. It's dripping. Put it into my ultramarine blue. Now, you'll notice that it's going a little milky. These mediums are milky when they're mixed, but they dry clear. Here we have a warm area. Lightest value is right here. Mid value, a little darker and darkest, or light medium-dark is probably going to keep you out of trouble. I'm going to make this stand out a little more, but this one definitely needs to be addressed first. Doing glazing is probably a good idea to glaze as long as you can, using just the pure colors. You can use different blues. I'm using an ultramarine blue and I'm going to put a little ultramarine blue right there. Now, right now it's very soupy and it has some medium on it, but I'm going to thin that down. Now, what's happening is I'm coming close to this value here. I don't want to do that. I want to lose this value right about here, bring it over there. Now, I have effectively made a darker value between here and here. But this one needs a little darkening. I will put a little blue on here. Now, I'm making this value set off this lighter value here. It's all a matter of balancing. Now, if you want to lose a value into a value, these two are fairly similar not too much different, but this one is cooler, this one's warmer. So there's all little ways to juggle your painting to make things either blend in or stand out. Now, I'm making this log stand out a little more with the ultramarine and the medium. Instead of water I'm using a little medium mixed with water, but it spreads better and doesn't drip. There. Let's do the same up here. These are just very thin glazes of ultramarine. It might not look like a lot but that little thin glaze is making a difference on the picture. I've created a stronger difference between this blue and this gray blue-green here. Working around the picture looking for areas to darken and lighten. 6. Painting Tip 5 'Shadows and Depth': I have my badger hair brush. Really great for what we're going to be doing. Any kind of stiff brush will work. Of course, I have my short breaks here. These are bristle brushes made of hogs hair and they're really stiff. These are stiff brushes, and I've put my paint on a piece of really dry paper because I'm going to be using dry paint. I've squeezed out three blues: cobalt, thalo scene, and ultramarine with some titanium white. I'm not using anything but a little bit of water. I'm going to take some water on this brush which had little bit of paint on it to start with. Now, you'll notice there's white in there. That's going to be my white blue brush, it's wet. You have a couple of minutes with acrylics. This one is fairly clean and stiff, so I'll be using that for blending. This is my other brush, it's bigger, going to get rid of some. See how the paper just sucks it up. Now, I'm going to take some ultramarine which has red undertones. I don't want to use thalo, that's your green undertones. The cobalt is great for violet. Well, you notice I've got some white paint in here. White paint, just a bit, work it into the brush, not too wet. Now, you see that it's not totally transparent, but it's semi-transparent because I've put some white into it. It's going to take those three little spots, spread that around a little bit with this brush, a little bit of white on each, and then I take my badger hair brush and pounce it. You can actually buy a pounce brush, and just pounce it in there. The white covers up and makes it smoother. I can always get a texture later. What I'm looking for now is mood. Now, I've darkened that a little bit. We're going to move right up to road now. I still using the same mixture, and now, I'm going to pop it in a few places. Some more of this blue. Notice how it's getting cooler up here. Now, I'm really moving the brush, I see what I've got. Pecking around with the brush a little bit like that is great until you feel if it's the right thickness or the right thinness. Now, I've moved that along. We'll show some before and after pictures. These are such subtle changes. Making a mood. I see a little bit up there. See? I'm creating shadows. Cobalt blue. See that cobalt blue? Thinned it down. Don't be afraid to take more paint that you're going to use. When you think about how little I've actually taken there. Now, you see, this quite a bit on there so I'm going to get rid of some of it, just so it's just right, adjusting the amount of paint on the brush. I want to get nice and close here so you can see. It's very subtle. There's a white highlight here. That's called heightening in white. We learned that in the studio secret video, there's a thick bunch of white there and there's a nice violet here. I take this. If it's too dark, just vary a little bit on couple. The board is soaking it up. See, I've heightened that violet there. Here we are, another little spot right here, dark here, light, dark to light. I'm going to put some cobalt down here now. Different blues create different violets. There's my pouncing brush. Keep that little area there. Why? Well, because I can always cover it, but I won't get it back. Even acrylics work like watercolors, don't get rid of your light areas really quickly. This is a little boring here, and I have my cobalt, so what I'm going to do, went across there, and then this technique. You can almost see the paint moving across there. It's just graying it up. As I gray this up, this yellow comes out. Let me show you a little trick why we did that. You can see what I've done is taken some Hansa yellow, quite thick. Now, the yellows like Hansa and Azo, they're quite transparent. When you add white to them, they go quite light. If you don't add the white, you won't get the right reflection of light. So when you add white, the light goes in and hits the top of the paint, and then reflects out. With transparent, the light goes through the paint to the underside of the painting and bounces through. We're a very close here, very close. There's the part I grayed up. It looks subtle, it's just a little bit. Watch this, I'm going to lay this on here, take a breath, blow it out, and get a fine, bold stroke. Then I'll take my finger. I could take the badger hair brush, put fingers work. Soften the edge. Why do I soften the edge? Because it's far away. Notice that even with acrylics, you need to soften edges. You just do it differently than you would with a watercolor. Here we go. See? We can soften it here too. Still wet. Oh yeah, there we go. I've put a little spot here now. I could use my fingers, but I'm going to use the badger hair brush. I'm going to up and down, rub, rub. See? Rub it and disperse it, make it disappear into the landscape. There's my titanium white. Put a little blob right there, I'm going to take my cobalt, my white, and a pinch of thalo. You'll notice I put the thalo at one end, and the other one. Now, let's look at the thalo. Needs a little more, there we go, on this side of the brush, just so you know, and then let's mix up the cobalt. Here we go. Let's put it on there. Now, adjusting the color on the painting is better than trying to get the color on your palate down here. What I do is, I know that I have to add a little more white to that, that it's too dark. Now I get my friendly badger hair brush, and I stay here for a while. I keep saying to myself, there's no mistakes in art, but there's many pleasant surprises. Now, you see? I'm going to take some of that paint off, rub it off, soften the edges, blue cloud there. Now, notice how I'm patting it out, rubbing it out? Now, we're going to do what's called the distance test. Let's compare the two blues. This one near the horizon seems to be farther back than this one. But this one has had a several glazes of yellow over it, and then more blue and yellow. To recap, the blues up here are going to be different than the blues down here because these are much farther away. According to Leonardo who discovered this, blues get lighter as they get farther away. This part of the sky is closer than this part. What we're doing with this is trying to create a roundness, like a globe 7. Painting Tip 6 'Creating Mood': First thing I'm going to be doing is I'm going to be taking the pink and some clear water. You'll also need a fairly large brush, and a brush to put the color on. So here we go. First step is wet the brush. Always prime your brush with a little water. Make sure it's clean, and then I'll take the pink and I'll take a generous amount of it. Remember, this has the medium in it. There we go. Put it down, and just put it right on the middle here like that, and take my bigger brush. You can use a house painters brush. Just wet it, and now give it a little thin, and it's dulled the trees a bit. See the trees are dulled. So what I do is take my rag, just touch them here and there, and my yellow here. There's little green coming out here. What I don't want to be glazed, I'll cover it. So I'm going to put another one in, and take my big brush and fan it out. Now I'm going to start moving it up like this because on the prairies, it almost seems like all the wind sucks the sky in. So there we go, and I've gone up a little farther with the pink. So I can do that. I might come in now with my rag again. See, I pull off a bit of the pink. So now I almost have a cloud bank at the zenith. I might even take a little bit right on the center here. See, so putting a little bit of paint on, and then taking some off with the rag will give you that vaporous effect of clouds. Because the clouds aren't always this way on a picture. Sometimes, especially on the prairies, you'll notice that the clouds can be in that direction, because we do live in a round world. Now I'm going to move over here a little bit, and I'm going to still take a little pink, tap it off, so I don't get too much. Now I'm going to put some in here, and this time we're going to use my badger hair brush, which is great for what we call pouncing, like this. There was an artist from the United States, turn of the century, the first part of the century, an artist called Maxfield Parrish. His paintings are amazing, and he used a fitch brush, I think it's called, and he would just tap it in like this. See that pink up here? Because there's white here, the pink shows off even more. So now I just keep flossing that paint around. Notice the medium stops it from dripping. Now, there I put it a little bit in here. Well, I think I will add a little more. I'll pink it up a little here. Remember, I can always bring it back a bit with a little bit of white. I'm going to take my badger brush. See that, it's showing that yellow place there. Creating atmosphere. Atmosphere is not well portrayed with thick, thick paint. Thin paint does the job a little better. See, I need a little more red in here. Oh, yes. With that soft pink in different areas of the painting. These brushes last so long. They're very, very tough. I'm going to pick up, wet the rag, a few of the white areas there, there. See, we bring that here, wet the rag. This works really well with oil paints. We can do it with watercolors, same technique, it's called lifting, and there we go. I'm going to let that sit now. Later I'll go back and darken these trees, putting in some beautiful, clear violets, and lovely little greens. But at the moment, that should suffice. There. We're creating an atmospheric effect using glazes. 8. Painting Tip 7 'Thick Paint Over Glaze': Now, I'm going to show you how to use a little thicker color. I'm just going to use a little water with a small brush. I'm going to pick up some low chroma blue. Low chroma means darker. This is a higher chroma. This is a medium chroma red, as opposed to a cadmium red, which would be a higher chroma, and a medium chroma yellow. Chroma means the darkness of the hue and full saturation. There's a full set fully saturated dark chroma, and we call that one falu scene. I want to add a little white next to it. You'll see that I've lightened it with white, and I'll put a little red Alizarin Crimson up here. You'll notice I've only used two colors. If I use the third, I'll be getting into tertiary colors, or more or less grayed colors, less pure. Here's what the falu and the Alizarin, that's the closest violet that I will get. I'll clean off the brush. Now, let's see what we get when we mix the higher chroma blue, cobalt blue, and take a little titanium white for the acrylics. Then, I'm just going to steal a little red from here. You'll see that the violet is more vibrant, would be the word. I still have one more blue which is ultramarine, and those are the three blues I usually use. But you can see when I put them against it, because this was a lower chroma, it's a little darker, a little more somber than the cobalt. Let's take the cobalt, and let's see what we can do with a little bit of it. I'm going to look closely at my painting right in here where it's green. I'll put a little bit of the violet. I'm just going to lose it into the green there. I take just a cheap old synthetic brush. These are Demco. I think they're three for $3. They're great for acrylics. Just to tap it out a bit, so that I get a gradation from very pure color to a grayed up green. Put some right in here. Now, this paint is a little thicker than anything else. What I do is then I thin it to a medium thickness. Paint can be thin, transparent, medium, slightly opaque, or it can completely cover what's there. But when we're adding body paint and that's what this is, body paint is pretty much paint that has a little bit of white or something in it, something to make it opaque, can even be just straight from the tube. Once I've added body paint, I get a different optical effect. I'm adding little spots of the violet in here. What it's going to do, it's going to make this cloud seem to be in front of the other clouds. That's what we want in a sky, we want depth. Now, I take my little cheap Demco, stipple, and now I have these clouds come out a little bit. Look at that. Pretty bold. I like that. What I'm going to do is fit it out. Part of these little clouds that are coming in, if you want to study these painting techniques, I didn't invent this. You might say I've rediscovered it, at least for myself. This is how Turner painted. I'm going to now warm up. I'm going to take some of the orange in here. Now, orange will neutralize violet. What it will do is it will set off the other violets, because I'm neutralizing part of the violet so there's not too much violet. Now, it's effectively been grayed. Let's get this pink right out. Notice it's a little soupy but not too bad, and we're going to stand back and take a look at this now.