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Volumetric lighting

What happens when light shines through objects in hazy air and gets partially blocked by transparent, coloured surfaces? Henning Ludvigsen gets to grips with 3D light.

Let’s experiment with the theory of volumetric light. What happens when the light rays become visible because of light scattering, which occurs due to haze or dust? Light turns into a visible 3D. Even more interesting – what if semi-transparent, coloured material occurs in some areas and partially blocks the light beam? I’m sure most of you have painted a window with the sun shining through, or beams of light that shine through the canopies in a forest. It’s interesting to study and understand how this works.
We’ll follow two different examples throughout this tutorial. One of them is a classic window scene with the sun shining through the glass and coloured drapes to illustrate how they influence the light. The other example will show  a winged fantasy creature, with the silhouette of the character creating interesting shapes of light in mid-air, and the thin membrane skin on the wings working in the same way as the coloured curtain in the previous example. Even if we’re creating two completely different scenes and settings, they still share exactly the same theory and basic guidelines. You can even use the same techniques to alter the photographs later on in the process.
What’s important to keep in mind throughout the process of painting volumetric light is, obviously, to think in three dimensions. I’ll show some examples of how you can get some assistance by using simple help-lines. Make sure you keep these help-lines in separate layers, so that you can easily hide and show them. It’s also important to keep the light and shadows on separate layers.

From issue 12.

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