Subsurface Scattering

So in my continual search to improve the light and color in my paintings, I came across the term subsurface scattering. 3D artists are probably more aware of subsurface scattering since they need to understand it for rendering different materials such as marble, skin, milk, leaves, wax, etc. more realistically. I’m interested in it specifically on how it effects skin. When light penetrates the surface of a translucent object, light particles interact with the material, light bounces around inside the material; some light becomes absorbed and some light becomes reflected.  A good example is when a person with short hair is standing in front of a bright light or sunlight, his/her ears will appear red as the rest of his face is silhouetted against the light. Another example is holding your hand in front of a bright sun, the edges of your fingers will appear red. Here are some examples and I do not lay claim to any of these images. I found them on the web and I hope I don’t violate any copyrights. Thanks lyraina for the wonderful hand examples.

There are some amazing artists that I’ve found on the web that are masters of subsurface scattering. Ruan Jia Jia and HGJ art. Definitely, look at their work and see how each artist treat this special lighting effect. Their figures seem to glow with an inner light. After studying their work, I decided to try to tackle some techniques on representing subsurface scattering. I have to admit that my attempts at this are severely pale in comparison. But hey, learning is an ongoing process, so I will continue to practice. An artist should never be satisfied with himself, but should always be in a flux of improving his skills. This is probably why I don’t have any of my paintings up on the walls of my house (that, and my husband is not the best handyman…lol).

So as I painted my subsurface scattering exercises, I kept the following ideas in mind. These rules were made up after studying the work of Ruan Jia Jia. You can try it if you are interested.

1.) Choose an overall cool color scheme.

2.) Keep colors limited. Choose colors that are adjacent on the color wheel.

3.) Place warm colors (warm light) in areas where the skin is thin: around the eye socket, nostrils, upper lip, ears, fingers and chin.

4.) If there is reflected light, use a complimentary color.

5.) Make the background dark, so the figure stands out in comparison.

Here are the results of my endeavor. I definitely will need to do some more exercises on subsurface scattering. My paintings are rather ghostly, probably because I chose such an eerie color scheme.


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