Light and shadow

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Lola Melnick (Russian dancer).

In visual art, the term light and shadow (also called light and shade) refers to how the artist renders the objects in the picture so that the lighting (and the three-dimensional shape of the objects) becomes visible.

Light and shadow is particularly important in drawing, painting, rendered art, photography, and film, as it adds to the realism of the picture and can also greatly affect its mood.

Black on white[edit]

In artistic techniques that only use a single color (often black on white paper, for simplicity and maximum contrast), such as woodcuts or inked drawings, surface areas that are "in the light" are left white or "high key" while areas that are "in the shade" are colored black or "low key". Often, shaded areas are also hatched or cross-hatched to create a pseudo-grey appearance. The hatching technique can also be skillfully used to depict the roundness of the object - a technique that has been driven to perfection in the art of etching.


In monochrome (usually greyscale) art, such as pencil or charcoal drawings, shades of grey can be used instead of hatching. Often, white chalk is combined with black charcoal for a maximum contrast range between the lights and the darks. Smooth transitions can be created by wiping the pigment.


In colored techniques such as colored drawing and painting, lighted areas are colored in a tint and shaded areas are colored in a shade of the object's base color.

Photographic art[edit]

In rendered art, photography, and film, the artist composes light and shadow by arranging light sources in relation to the scene and to the camera.


Light and shadow in spanking art[edit]

Rendered art by OTTO.

The image to the right shows an example of how light and shadow is employed effectively in spanking art.