View Full Version : Lighting an "evil character"

07 July 2009, 01:19 PM
Hello all!

I did this image ( a while ago, but I was not satisfied with the light then decided to revisit this guy. So I'm asking for opinions here :)

I want dramatic and menacing look.. but achieving that without hiding the model is difficult! Finding the right balance here is the problem.

This is a new attempt:

I'm going the same way of the original; a very concentrated light, creating high contrast region and harsh shadows. The one in my portfolio is not very well directed, though.

07 July 2009, 02:11 PM
I would use a mail light from the bottom then 2 rim lights to define the shape of him.

Then i would use serveral colored bouncelights to simulate GI and create an interesting mood.

I try to decribe with your picture.

Like in your actual pic ... but the main light from the bottom instead from top.
Then copy the rimlight and move it so it is defining the left side.
Copy the main light and move to the left on the height of his eyes ... with a
intensity of 50% percent of the main light.

I hope this will give you some idea. :)

07 July 2009, 02:29 PM
I want dramatic and menacing look.. but achieving that without hiding the model is difficult!

Also, to keep in mind, I know you've just worked really hard on your model and want people to see him, but sometimes hiding parts of your character is the right thing to do for the drama you're after. So you should ask what's the most important message you want to get across with your piece? If you really want that menacing look, then you might consider keeping more of the character in shadow.

- Neil

07 July 2009, 02:54 PM
Good start! Remember that background lighting is important also, so leaving it blank won't add much. Make it interesting. This way you can create a background lighting on one side and use rim lighting on the other.
There are several options for this evil scenario:
toplight like now
bottom light

The most important thing is to keep the big part of model in the dark, as Soulburn 3d suggested. You can also tint lights into evil colors, like red, blue and green.

07 July 2009, 05:38 PM
I agree with Neil. Don't get so precious about showing off all of your model. If the bits that are lit look good, then people will know it's a good model.

For dramatic lighting the most important thing to get right first is your key source. Give him a nice hot rim or top light that bleaches out the detail where it hits fully and rolls off nicely to pick out silhouettes in your model. If you've got detail in there, this light should bring out the natural curves and surface detail. You should have a pleasing image with this light only.

Then add some general fill to bring out form in the unlit areas (sort of like an occlusion render, but with dim light).

Finally finish it off with a dimmer light opposing the key to bring out shape in the rest of the image. You might also want to add extra lights or reflection cards to bring out spec kicks in the eyes, teeth and horns, and maybe add an opposing rim to add silhouette detail all round your model.

Also, the camera angle you're using isn't terribly exciting. There's no way your guy's going to look menacing with a flat portrait shot like that. Place your camera low down to make him appear larger and more imposing, or give it a roll on the z-axis to make it dynamic. Experiment with different lenses. A wider lens will give your image more weight through foreshortening, while a longer lens will make your guy feel very small and lack prescence because the perspective is flattened.

Pick a frame or a publicity shot from a horror movie (first one that came to my mind was this: ) and copy the image. Then once you understand what the component parts are that make it look cool, try doing something from scracth and compare.

07 July 2009, 06:18 PM
Thank you for the comments, everyone! I didn't have much time to work again, but as soon as I update the lights I'll get back here to show :)

07 July 2009, 04:24 PM
I haven't made much progress. But I found this, it's my first try! ;P

07 July 2009, 05:26 PM

Light from above - throw the eye sockets into shadow

...or bottom-light

07 July 2009, 06:50 PM
I haven't made much progress. But I found this, it's my first try! ;P

I think the lighting is good, except it's too much fill, I would cut it in half. Also the chest is too bright and uniform. The background is plain for now. Joseph gave some nice examples, but your lighting is fine also.

07 July 2009, 11:33 PM
Your eye is drawn to the brightest and the most contrasty area of any shot. Guess what that is? His chest.

He does not have a scary ... heck, not even hairy ... chest.

My eye goes to the chest, around left over the head, down the left shoulder-blade, and "oh yeah, his left eye."

Make him Frankenstein.

Remove :surprised his eyes.

07 July 2009, 06:46 PM
The classic horror film lighting is called underlighting like jfrancis pointed out, where you have a light set below the creatures face pointing up or using a reflector to aim the light up. In addition to what he linked to, maybe this excerpt ( will also help.

07 July 2009, 06:53 PM
I think I figured out what a rim light is. It's the one that throws hard light on the darkened edge of the silhouette?

But what's a mail light? Don't even try to google past all the email apps that returns... :D

07 July 2009, 08:36 AM
But what's a mail light? Don't even try to google past all the email apps that returns... :D

I think he meant "main".

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07 July 2009, 08:36 AM
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