"PAINTOVER PLEASE" - painted crits on demand - with Steven Stahlberg


My thoughts are always focused on how to use light, when painting with realistic shading that’s the first and most important factor. It affects composition, staging, story, emotional tone, everything.
Especially in my paintovers, where I usually try to leave pose and staging as similar as I can, if there’s nothing obviously wrong with it, I go to the light first. Looking at your image my opinion was the light was uninteresting, because it created a composition full of maximum or nearly maximum contrast points all over the place. This imo is very bad for an image.

Also imo, logic comes a very distant second in importance to creating an interesting or beautiful image. If logic is going to interfere too much with “coolness”, well there’s just no point in creating an image at all then right? :slight_smile:
But I still try to keep it as logical as possible. And your image was also somewhat illogical in its own way, the sky color peeking through seems to indicate a sunny day in a forest, perhaps close to noon. If so then a person standing straight and looking down will not have sunlight on their face, it will mostly hit top of head, shoulders, sword, outstretched arms, not much else. The sun could possibly be in late afternoon directly behind the “camera” but my advice is to usually avoid that type of light direction, it’s getting close to the dreaded flash light in amateur photos.
I added the edge lighting because it’s a device I personally love.

The bounced light from the sword was to me an easy choice, as it brings the focus to the sword and the face of the character in a way that’s difficult to manage in a full figure image like this otherwise. Perhaps it’s a bit strong. But it would be easy to justify it story wise, if you wanted to, simply imagine Link wiping it with some grass or leaves while he walks. Or his hands. Or perhaps some subtle magic at work. :slight_smile:

oh and as for keeping the details in the sword, there are ways to work them partially back in if you like. But I’ve seen a thousand swords and to me they’re boring, I find faces much more interesting.


Looks like Steven forgot to answer this question.

The logic behind it simple. Direct light from the sun is warm in color temperature, while ambient light bounced from the sky dome is very cool in color temperature. The light reflected on Link’s face is the direct sunlight bounced from his sword, while the background is in form/cast shadows, lit mainly by the blue sky dome’s bounced light.

You can learn about the basics of light and how it relates to color temperatures here: http://www.itchy-animation.co.uk/light.htm


I’m new here and found this thread by chance. I would really appreciate some help on my painting I’m working on. I’ve worked, and reworked it a lot, and it feels as if I need someone elses input on how I can make it look good.

What I’m most concerned about here I think is the girl, I’m not sure she’s entirely anatomatically correct and also I think there might be faults with the light. Also, I think the face looks a bit funny :stuck_out_tongue: I’ve repainted her face with different expressions at least five times and this is the best so far, but still not sure about it.

If there’s anything else I haven’t mentioned that needs mentioning I’d love to hear about that as well!

You are doing such a great work! Thank you in advance! :slight_smile:


This is for jats,
I added a trim down the front of the coat but that’s not important. I just thought that area looked a bit empty. :slight_smile: More importantly, I adjusted the light, and increased the contrast.
As for coloring it, I have no idea what colors you planned. I can only give advice on how to improve something, if there’s something there to begin with.


Mitchu here’s yours. I changed the pose slightly, to be more natural. Part of this was to reverse the curve of the lower edge of the tank top. I flattened most of the tones, removing some of the white outlines in the background in the process. I just thought they were a bit too much, making it look “busy” and detracting from the face. The anatomy was ok except for the arm that was too long. I also added some rock from the internet.


Firstly, this thread is amazing. I’ve learned a lot just going through it, and I think you can’t be thanked enough for what you’ve done here.

 This piece has been a frustrating experience for me. I painted it in black and white very quickly, then proceeded to spend obscene amounts of time wrestling with the colors. I just couldn't seem to get it right. I finally got it to where I think it looks okay, but I can't shake the feeling that it's missing some huge potential to be better.
 The image below is cropped. I didn't want to include the entire painting because it's very tall. For context, you can see the whole thing [here](http://bradenleigh.com/blog/staringoffintospace.jpg). The idea is the that viewer starts at the top and scrolls down, discovering new things as they go. The perspective as a whole doesn't make much sense, but I want it to make sense within any parts that are likely to be on screen together. I'm mostly concerned with the section included below (though if you have  suggestions for the space part, I'm all ears). It's supposed to be  sunset or just before sunset. I'm not going for realism with the characters (obviously), but I would like the lighting to be fairly realistic. Also, I want the focus to be the boy, but I'm not sure how to gracefully accomplish that.
 I'd really appreciate it. I feel like you're just the man to help me. 


I posted years ago and it really really helped me, so now I’m back with a painting that i just finished but i havent been able to figure out what was wrong, i’ve asked some friends around for feedback and i came up to this point. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be a great if you could help me out with this one, ive checked the other backgrounds you’ve been paintovering and i tried to fix some of the stuff but still something is poping but im not pretty sure what it is.

I’d really appreciate it if you could take a look.

Thanks in advance.


it looks pretty sweet to me cg


Here’s this one. Now both of these are different from the original, just showing 2 different takes on how to focus more on the boy character. It involves playing with shade and light, and in the second one I moved them off to the left a bit too.
As for the rest of the image, it looks great I have no suggestions for changes. :slight_smile:


I love it! So subtle with the colors, but you made it look a lot better, especially the skin tones. It looks like you made the intermediate color between the highlights and shadows pinker, where mine was more orange? Do you have any advice for how to know what colors to put where? My strategy right now is basically trial and error. I know basic things like the shadowed areas on most surfaces are less saturated, and I understand the concept of subsurface scattering, but tweaking colors to look right still takes me a ton of time. I paint over what feels like 100s of different color combinations until something clicks as looking okay. I’m jealous of your (apparent) ability to look at a picture and predict what it needs.

I guess I just wasn’t bold enough in cheating the lighting/colors to make the boy stand out, but you’re right, it does still look okay when you’re bolder. And I think changing the shadow direction like that works better compositionally.

Thank you for your help!


hyetou thanks but I only color-picked the colors that were already in the image… :slight_smile: and I wasn’t thinking too much about it either, if I try to recall, all I was thinking was, “gotta pick a color that’s warm enough for this spot”, I guess it ended up being pinker than yours without really meaning to. Since it was a kind of unconscious process I’m not sure if I would have changed it if I’d gotten a more orange tone, maybe.

Another thing you can try if you need more options, turn the log they’re on a little, so the boy is closer to the camera. But then you lose the kind of iconic symmetry you have, not sure if you really wanted to keep that.


Here’s the cloudy image. I’m not sure if that smaller light below was the reflection of the sun, if so I removed it because it would be blocked by mountains and/or clouds.


Wow that’s amazing, thank you so much!

Just a quick question, what was the first part that popped out to be corrected, was it the values or the clouds overall, perhaps the depth or atmospheric perspective?

I understand that first of all you look at the light, was that the case on this one or what was the approach for it.

Thank you very much again, it was very helpful.


I think it was as you say, the values. This was a very tricky problem you set for yourself, to have a cloud layer, a mountain layer and another cloudlayer etc. It helps to follow a rule of thumb: unless a cloud is MUCH closer to the camera, a mountain will always be darker than the cloud - or at least never lighter.
Another rule I followed was, darker closer, lighter further. And yet a third rule I tried to incorporate, even if just a little - darker away from the sun, lighter closer to it.


Awesome, thank you so much, it really helped me out.

Thank you for keeping this labor over the years. Wish you the best!


Hi Stahlberg, hope all is well.

It’s great that you still have this thread going after all these years. It’s such a great contribution for the artist community.

Anyway I have this illustration that I’ve just completed. I was inspired by the detailed background paintings in the Studio Ghibli films as well as my trips to South East Asia.

I’m pretty happy with it overall but there’s something about it to me that feels a bit off, hoping you can help me out.

Cheers heaps in advance!


The perspective painting:

I hope the red lines are clear enough. When the construction lines run far enough away from the vanishing point, they should start to bend, until they are 100% parallel, and then as you keep turning your head, they start to bend in the opposite direction until they meet at another vanishing point 180 degrees away from the first one. You can see what I mean on the right side. The truck also has the same error, it should have parallel lines.
Also, the yellow house and the green house were using different vanishing points, this could happen in real life if they weren’t built straight, but in a complex image like this it can be confusing.


Thanks heaps for this.

I see what you mean with the perspective lines curving around the vanishing points.
I’ll remember that for next time, I was wondering why everything felt crooked around those areas.



Hello! I have this painting I’ve made few times ago and wasn’t satisfied enough to post it. I still don’t really see how to improve it and maybe you could give one of your great paint-over to give me leads.


Here’s the latest one. Now I didn’t use reference for this, I wanted to just follow a couple simple rules, like sky always brighter, and distance gradually lighter, and reflection always slightly darker, and the perspective lines both in the real world and in the reflection. But I recommend using photo reference always - in this case Venice right? After I finished I found this one, and many others, using “Venice alleys”