Character Lighting for Artist
1 Point Lighting Fundamentals
Direct Front Lighting
With Direct front lighting, we have placed an area light directly in front of the character. This is the beginning of what is called beauty lighting. When you place the light directly in front of the character you fill in most of the shadows on the face and create a soft flat look to the face.
With 1/4 front lighting, we have positioned the light 45 degrees to the side of the character. By doing this we have achieved what is called Rembrandt Lighting. A key feature of this type of lighting is that one side of the face is in lighting and the other is mostly in shadow except for a hit of light on the cheek.
Side lighting is setup by putting the light 90 degrees to the side of your character. When you do this you split the lighting on the face with a very dramatic contrast of Light and Shadow. When you do so you are saying that the character is two faced or has something to hide. It can also be used if there is an tense situation or maybe even if the character has a tough decision to make.
1/4 Back Lighting
We set up the 1/4 Back Lighting by placing the light at 45 degrees behind the character. When we do this we create something that is called a rim light. Rim lighting is used to separate the character from the background. When we do this type of lighting in a 1 point lighting setup we are showing that the character is in extreme turmoil or evil.
We set up back lighting, by placing the light directly behind the character. When we do this it creates a very strong silhouette of the character in shadow. In this render, we only see a little hint of light on the top of the shoulders because we are using a 1 point lighting. Once you introduce other lights in the scene for the environment you will see a very dramatic shadowed figure in the scene. You can use this setup to hide the identity of a character or to represent a malicious character.
Along with moving the lights around the character, we can also adjust the height of the light in comparison to the character. In this example, we have set up the light in front and 45 degrees above the character. This is a more natural type of light as most sources of lights come from above. This type of lighting in the right situation can make your character feel more angelic or nice/good.
In this lighting setup, we placed the light in front and 45 degrees below the character. This lighting setup feels very unnatural. It is usually produced by artificial light sources like a flashlight or a cellphone. There are sometimes that you can find a natural light source that achieves this look, one idea that comes to mind is lava. You want to use this type of lighting to show that a character is in danger, scared or dangerous.
Now take some time to practice recreating these 1 point lighting setup. Once you have got these down start to experiment and see what type of mood you can create using a single light in your scene with your characters.