Character Illustration lighting hacks

Compliment your character with appropriate colour and light.

Designing good characters is one thing, but stick that design in a room with poor lighting and suddenly it's lost. Extensive courses on character lighting have been condensed into a single character lighting cheat sheet, full of fundamental information that you need to be mindful of when illustrating your character designs.

Main Points

Character interaction

Define the expression & pose around a dramatic conflict.

Lighting Key

How bright is the scene? How much contrast? Low key (dark) is usually negative, high key is positive


Brightness helps to describe forms, detail & the mystery.


Use an appropriate colour scheme to determine if it’s a natural or unnatural, warm, cold, friendly or scary scene.


What is the size of the light source? How will this create shadows? What feel will it give?


What angle will your scene be lit from? How does this support your theme of your story & character?

Character Checklist

Make sure your Character illustration has a strong emphasis on the points made below.


The personality, emotion & feeling


The energy, weight & movement


The compositon & angle of the scene


The Beauty, attributes, textures

Things to consider


Create a moment that expands the dimension of time is something about to happen in the scene?


Emotional impact derives from a resolution of conflict or the conflict itself; opposing elements in the same place. This can be supported by conflicting shapes, colour etc


How is the scene composed? Where are the focus points? Do they guide the user & tell the story moment?

Unity & variety

Do you have a balance of common and varied elements within design and illustration?

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