Beginner Tone and Color/Lighting


When working on any project, one should be conscious of the tone of the images they are working with. In this tutorial, I will introduce the concepts of color, tone, and feel, and how you can use variations on those to change your product/project.

To start, here are two pictures. They both have the same content, but slightly different lighting. Which one looks the most realistic? Which one looks happiest? Saddest?

The first image has what is called a warm tone to it. The second has a cold tone. Generally speaking, a dim blue offers a cooler tone while a dim goldenrod/yellow adds a warm tone. This effect can be applied in photoshop using a Filter, although I did it by changing the lights in the 3D program I used to create the image.

When talking about color, one needs to remember what is appropriate for what they are working on.

For instance, a battle or tragic scene might have the colors red, black, and dark brown (blood, death, and ruined earth).

On the other hand a scene in lush wilderness may have green, yellow-gold, white, and a light brown (life/nature, happiness, glory, and nature).

Now, I could easily change the feel of the scene with just some simple changes (I could easily have left out the added campfire):

In this image you get a more ominous feel. It's clearly dusk or night (probably with a full moon).

When making an appropriate choice for the tone of your project, always consider your options and what you can do. For instance, I once took two day shots (a stone quarry and a knight character holding a flag) and made a night image for a sample project...

I applied some filters and did some saturation changes, then drew in a night sky using some brush techniques and finally put on some text. It's certainly not a complex project, but it took two items of a warmer tone and turned them into a very cool tone, all within Photoshop.

Thanks for reading this introduction to tone and color. Please post any questions you may have, or if you would like more examples/make additions/changes. If you have a request for a tutorial, I would be glad to consider it.