Shadows and Highlights


Hi Folks,

One of the more challenging questions often facing a student is:

Should I make my bright areas brighter or darker areas darker? Another conundrum!

You try, I know, to paint what you see but that is not good enough. You have think as an artist and use your colour sense i.e. using secondary colours on your edges, in shadows and in areas that in the back ground. You also need to make sure your tonal values as well are enhancing your perspective i.e. bringing areas closer and or make them recede. Remember dark makes things come closer and light makes things recede. As well you need to make sure your tonal values are in balance. A lot to think about but it all makes for a better painting!

You think you are finished but when you stand back to appraise your work, your tonal values seem to have a sameness. Your first thought is perhaps you have to make the bright colours brighter but they already seem so bright. Instead, go the other route and think perhaps you should make your dark colours darker, using dark purple for areas in the background and dark blue for those areas in the fore ground. Then stand back you will be amazed how your bright colours pop now because you have increased the contrast between your lights and darks. It is the opposite of what you thought you should do.

But you now have to make sure both your lights and darks are in balance. Squint and look at only the lights first, then look at only the darks. They should be in balance and your eye should move around your canvas, coming to rest on all 3 focal points.

Always stand back from your work often and when you feel you are finished, leave it for a few days then look at it with fresh eyes, assessing if everything is in balance. The final check is to ask yourself are your contrasts in balance and enhance each other and does your eye move around to all 3 focal points ending at the rest spot. If all of these work sign your painting !

Happy Painting



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