The Causes of Poorly Painted Shadows
- Using black or dark brown on its own, or mixed with another colour to represent shadows
- Darkening a colour with black
- Using one colour for all the shadows within a painting
- Illustrating shadows as having a definite shape with harsh outlines
- Assuming that all shadows point the same way from a particular viewpoint, making shadows appear to “sprout” from objects at the same direction throughout the painting
- Forgetting to take shadows into account within a composition, resulting in a painting with shadows spilling off the edge of a painting
- Trying to paint shadows from memory
- Using shadows as a gap filler within an empty area of painting
See my Youtube clip on painting autumn shadows before reading the following tips.
More realistic shadows can be achieved with the following tips on painting shadows:
- Put the black paint in the bin
- Darken a colour by introducing its complimentary colour. Green for instance, can be darkened with any colour containing red, such as red itself, violet, burnt sienna, Indian red or permanent rose
- But shadows also contain a host of different colours, depending upon reflections and lighting conditions. Unlikely colours, such as greens, earth colours and violets can often be seen in shadows
- Shadows contain varying tones, from pale to dark. Part of a shadow, for instance, may reflect a summer sky, making part of it appear a pale blue. Another part of the same shadow will appear darker
- Shadows have different types of outlines. Shadows cast from far objects will appear diffuse; shadows cast by nearby objects will have sharper outlines. A shadow from a tree, for instance, will have different outlines depending upon the height from which the shadow was cast
- Shadows will appear to point in different directions if the viewer is facing the source of light. Similarly, shadows spilling over a wall will change direction according to the contour of the surface
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Essential Art Materials Required for Painting Shadows
The following pigments will prove invaluable when painting shadows and can be used as a base colour: burnt sienna, burnt umber, ultramarine blue, permanent rose and white, although other colours will be seen within shadows. A good photographic resource or still life setting with shadows is also invaluable. Keeping it simple is the key for the beginner.
But great satisfaction can be sought from painting shadows outdoors from life, in which case, the changing lighting conditions will need to be taken into account. It is advisable to paint the shadow element of a painting simultaneously, before they shift direction too much.
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