Lighting Inside and Out

  • Software:Photoshop CS6  ·
  • Difficulty:Beginner

Rules of the Exercise

  • 1
    Download and open the practice worksheet for this exercise: Lighting Inside and Out
  • 2
    Observe and analyze the subject matter. Follow the guides of the instructor notes.
  • 3
    Submit your work for this exercise under the "Submissions" tab for grading!


  Halloween is approaching so let's carve our pumpkins and create some jack-o-lanterns! This exercise is a chance to have fun with the season while learning the fundamentals of lighting and how it works. (Note: This exercise is best completed after watching the "Lighting and Values" Course included in the Concept Art Fundamentals Flow.) When working on this exercise, focus on the key differences between a subject matter lit from the outside versus the inside. In this example, we are working with two primary light sources in each.

  • In the "Outside" example, we are working with an overhead light source (most likely the sun).
  • In the "Inside" example, we are working with a candle flame being placed inside of the pumpkin.

The way the lighting works in each example is VASTLY different and should be treated as such! Use reference for further insight use your own reference photos of the same scenario. Below is the practice worksheet that you can grab from the “Downloads” tab (find it under the header image near the top of this exercise). Exercise_47_PracticeSheet



  • In the "Outside" example, focus on the pumpkin material itself and keep the highlights minimal. Really study how a pumpkin reacts to lighting and try to recreate that look.
  • The inside of the "Outside" example should be rather dark as there is little to no light reaching directly inside. The inside of the pumpkin is subtly lit from the bounce lighting.
  • In the "Inside" example, USE REFERENCE and focus on the way the light radiates out of the pumpkin. Observe how that light changes the colors drastically within the pumpkin and on the cut edge surfaces.
  • There should be an opposite effect when looking at the finished pumpkins. The outside-lit one should have dark face cutouts whereas the inside-lit one should have a face that is full of bright light. Contrast will help push that illusion and the marked difference between them!

This may seem like a fun Halloween exercise but there is also a deep-seeded learning opportunity within. Understanding how to properly light your subject matter will greatly affect the quality and look of your end result!


  The pumpkin material and texture is my favorite berry to create (yes it's a berry). There are so many texture liberties you can take with the surface that it pays off to have subtle imperfections on the surface. So while this is first and foremost a lighting challenge, it also doubled as a fun material exercise as well! So when looking at the lighting there is an obvious difference between being lit from the outside versus the inside.

  • Lit from Outside: I took a standard overhead lighting and in the example below you can see that when simplified on a sphere, it looks hollow when you cut out a section. That contrast in value alone gives an impression of depth and dimension. This is because of how little light will be able to reach the inside and bounce around. Depending on the material and how thin the walls are, you may even be able to see the light permeate through the surface a bit.
  • Lit from Inside: Contrast is once again the reason for the look and impression of dimension, only this time it's reversed. Imagine this sphere being played outside and night with a candle lit on the inside. Now that section we cut out is illuminated with light and will even have some spill out. Be sure to give some attention and detail to the sliver that is still seen by the viewer along the rim to add some further realism illusion!

When looking at our two pumpkin examples that this exercise asks you to create, they both start with the same lineart but end up vastly different. So below is a step by step narrative guide on how I created the two example results with notes on each step and how to get a similar result! Exercise47_StepbyStep_02

  1. Outline – Begin with the overall look and shape of the pumpkin and minimize any rough sketching that may still be present.
  2. Solid Base – Choose solid base colors from a reference and work more neutral or even closer to a darker value to build upon.
  3. Value and Detail Pass – Before laying down another color, focus on where you want your light source and stay consistent throughout! Also bear in mind whether the light is coming from the outside or inside of the pumpkin. The night one will have a minimal amount of form building compared to the day one.
  4. Remove Outlines and Refine – This will remove the outline and let your material shine! This step can be tedious but very much worth the effort in the end to add that nice touch of texture throughout!
  5. Surface, Highlights, and Bounce Lighting – The placement of highlights will define the overall render quality of your pumpkins. Be very mindful of the way the highlights are rounded out on each surface and where the form curves inward. The subtle surface textures will add a sense of realism as well.
  6. Final Polish Pass – I added in the cast shadow and to give it some more "pop" I added a multiply and overlay layer on top to focused on darkening the edges and adding some saturation to the highlights! You can also experiment with some color balancing to see if you may like a slightly off hue look. I also like to soften the edge just a tad to make it feel more real and less tight and sharp on the edges.

This is a fun exercise to take on if you're looking to strengthen either your lighting or material knowledge or even both! When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the “Submissions” tab near the top of this exercise. You can see other submissions alongside your own!