The Chiaroscuro Lighting System for Visual Media

Chiaroscuro is an Italian word meaning light and dark in the visual arts. The great Leonardo Da Vinci founded the understanding of the spectrum using it in a complete design. Before we look at the basic steps Chiaroscuro of we need to know the differences between ambient and unidirectional light. Knowing how to see between these two light types drastically increases your lighting and shading principles and skills.
Ambient Light
Ambient light swallows an object in a composition in any visual media. For example we've all seen numerous video production and photography shots on T.V, movies, and films on how actors or objects have an almost strange look in all white rooms. These shots give the impression on the object or person. It can be on a thinking level or dream like state in the shot of a scene, or a highlight of one thing in a moment. Ambient light can completely pick up the object and put it completely to another reality altogether! So, when looking at a media type keep in mind this type of lighting.
Unidirectional Light
Unidirectional light is an area on an object in a composition that light is going in one direction while the rest of the object falls with darker shades of light. An example of this would be light coming from a church window onto a person's face while the rest of the body shades to black. Also another example would be special effects in movies or splashes of light in paintings. Do you see how the area around the light gets darker? This can give objects a three-dimensional feel which work great on canvases and video shots.
Experiment with this kind of lighting to see what you get.
Now that we have an understanding of these two types of light used in Chiaroscuro let's use them in the application of gradation. Gradation is the spectrum of ambient light and unidirectional light using six levels to clarify points in shading. For your understanding I'm going to list them in order so we can look at each level closely together.
1. Highlight - is the very top of were the light is hitting on the object. If we had a flash light we could beam the light right on top of our hand. That area that we focus on is the highlight.
2. Quartertone - is the level area right after the highlight. kind of hard to see because it's right after the highlight so it's kind of hard to see, but if you look closely it looks like a rim that just a tidbit darker than the highlight. So in designing be careful of the level because it's so easy to look over.
3. Halftone - this is the place were things get interesting. This level is half as much as the highlight, and half as dark the shadow below the object. This is where we first get a sense of feeling that our object is going in a different pattern compared to our normal layout of our object. Think of it as were playing music and the note on a beat is a half note.
4. Basetone - the basetone is the level were the object really turns away from the light. The halftone helps it to a great start. Just think of it as the darkest level we can get.
5. Reflected Light - is the level were light reflects the nearby area onto the object. Ambient light can play a serious role at this point because the area is giving off an image on this level of the object.
6. Cast Shadow - is the level of the object that on casting on the area not the object! This is our place we can have a little fun making a shadow for our object. But of course, we don't want our shadow to layout in the same direction as the unidirectional light. Just make sure what ever kind of shadow you design its adjacent to the unidirectional light.
Well, that's all folks! Make sure you have a good understanding of ambient light and unidirectional light before looking at the six levels of gradations. I hope this article will serve you well in your future designs. This system can be used in all types of visual media from the fine arts to website design.

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