4. Knowledge of Painting Lights : Basic Red Ball Demo : Part 2

The Kingdom of Light (Where Light Hits!)

Ball with light/shadow pattern.


Light 4:  The Local Color

In the clean spot, paint the local color shape

  1. For the red ball local color, I begin by identifying the color of the ball without strong heat/light.  I then mix a dull version of this color.  (See illustration).
  2. I then modify this puddle of local color, by ‘coming up the ladder of heat and light’.  In other words, adding warmth, NOT WHITE, to create higher lights. (See above)
  3. Always remember that the way to create the illusion of light is to add warmer, cleaner, brighter colors.  Think “hotter” rather than “whiter”.
  4. I now apply this local color to the previously excavated WLH (where light hits) plane of the ball.  I ensure that the entire shape is covered in this initial Light 4, Local color.

Light 5:  High Lights

Warmer, cleaner, smaller, brighter, smaller shapes added to create form. No white!


High lights increase the illusion of form while describing the contour of the form in light.

Mixture of local color + high lights creates the ladder of heat and light

  1. I begin by mixing a warmer version of the local color, then a warmer version than that, etc.  How do I do this, by adding a touch of pure Cadmium red to the local color, then adding Cad Red Light to make a warmer version.  To that, perhaps a Cad Orange, and eventually even a spot of yellow.  No white!
  2. By adding increasingly smaller, higher, cleaner brighter shapes on top of the already prepared surface of local color, the illusion is created of form.  Think of it in this way….

Increasing layers of heat = LIGHT

  • By adding the very last layer of high light again with a palette knife, it appears to be much higher than when applied with a brush…

Light 6:  The Image Light (see below)

Found upon shiny and highly reflective surfaces, such as water, bubbles, eyes, jewels, shiny metals, etc.  They are images of the light sources.  When there is a strong, dominant light source (such as the sun), the image light appears as a very bright ‘dot’ on the shiny surface, (such as an eye) but closer examination will reveal that it is actually an image of the light source.  On items such as bubbles, every light source (be it direct or reflected) can be found reflected in the surface.

  1. Be aware of how the light source is reflecting upon the surface, and notice that it is appearing upon the highest point of the surface, closest to the light source (from where you are.)
  2. Mix clean, pure paint the correct value and temperature as it appears on the object, then apply it.
  3. I recommend a palette knife and applied quite quickly and thickly.
  4. You can soften any edges later with a soft brush.

Light 7:  Ambient Light

Illuminating the shadows by addming ambient light


Found in the shadow side of an object in light.  Light ricochets off objects, particles and even humidity, softly illuminating the shadow sides of objects for us.

  1. Since I paint very quickly, the original ‘shadow soup’ is usually quite strong and quite wet at this stage.  If yours is dry, simply mix some more form shadow and reapply to the shadow side of the ball.
  2. Using usually a medium-soft bright brush, I then push a small amount of local color into the shadow side of the ball, and I use this as the first layer of heat and light in the shadow.
  3. Please note:  It’s very important that it can never be as bright, thick, bold and clean as the local color in light.  Remember, this is a secondary light.
  4. I then gradually climb up the ladder of heat and light, exactly as I did on the WLH side by adding higher lights, but in a much softer, more muted and subtle way.
  5. You will notice a dark line between the kingdom of shadow and the kingdom of light.  Here you will place a strong color that “bridges” the two, then weave it/cross-hatch it first into the light, then into the shadow and it will create a border between the two sides.
  6. Note:  If you just blend… you create mud!  As I’ve said before, keep both kingdoms separate!

Almost every ordinary object on the planet with a dull, solid surface can be painted with by understanding lights 1 – 7 already described above.

Viewed above, first 6 lights: Just about any ordinary subject you wish to paint can already be accomplished by learning/painting the first 7 lights.


It might be helpful to view lights 8-12 as “special lights” because they occur when lighting and objects create special, or unusual lighting effects.

Light 8:  Reflected Light

Notice reflected color in cast shadow

Found in the shadow side of an object in light.  Reflected light is a secondary light that comes from adjacent objects, not only illuminating the shadows (as in Light 7), but also lends colors and sometimes even textures into the shadow side of objects. You can see this beautiful light on the following photo:

There are two, very important rules to successfully painting reflecting colors from one object to another:

  1. They only appear on the shadow plane or turning plane.  The reason for this is that they are a subtle, secondary, very much weakened light that can never compete with a primary light source.
  2. They must be the same ‘VALUE’ as the object/plane upon which they’re painted.  You can vary the color/temperature, but you cannot alter the value.

Light 9:  Captured Light

Found within the interior of a transparent or translucent object, such as a bubble, glass ball, grape or pearl.  For our purposes, we will now turn our ball into a transparent object, simply by adding these next two special lights…

  1. Using again your mixture of local color, plus the ladder of heat and higher lights (adding scarlets, oranges and yellows, etc.,) on the interior surface, opposite the ‘image light’ (Light 6), create layers of heat/light, just as you did on the light and shadow side of the ball.
  2. This time, the layers will resemble a sliver, as the light falls upon surfaces in ellipses and this one will be flattened from our standpoint.
  3. Almost miraculously, the illusion of transparency takes place.
  4. Again, take care never to make this interior, captured light, a secondary light, as strong and powerful as the surface, original light.

Captured light, transferred light, and reflected color/light


Light 10:  Transferred Light

Another special light;  When light passes through a transparent or translucent object, if it is strong enough, it will cast a subtle glow into the surface of the cast shadow.

  1. Yet again we rely on our mixture of local color plus mixes of higher lights.  This time, we apply very subtle, small layers at the spot where the light comes through the transparent/translucent object and into the cast shadow.  It is very weak, but lovely.

Light 11:  The Light Source

The sun, a lamp, the moon, a candle.  Often, because the light source is often too bright and too intense, it seldom finds its way into a painting.  Exceptions are moonlit scenes, candle-lit still lives, fire light, etc.  The only indication of it on our little painting is the image light upon our ball.

Light 12:  Halo Light

Applying the halo light

An optical illusion best understood by viewing a value scale.  When one object appears next to another and they are of different values, an illusion occurs which causes the darker one to darken where it meets the lighter one, and visa versa.  On a painting such as this, we can use this effect to our advantage to create a crisp edge where we wish the view to look.  Just one halo light is often all that is needed to help the viewer realize the edge, (instead of painting a hard line around the entire ball.)  Two words of caution:

  • Don’t go overboard… Less is more, and try to keep it to the main object
  • Wherever a crisp, bold edge is on a soft, subtle painting, it becomes a strong directional device.  (In other words, a method for leading the viewer’s eye.)  So be careful where you’re leading ’em!


VOILA! All 12 lights on the basic red ball. Now you know everything I know about painting stuff !

Now… are you ready to paint the lights on a slightly more complicated subject?

Just before I show you how to paint light on another subject, here is a little quiz.

I purchased the following painting from my beloved mentor, Dick Turner, before he passed away.  I selected it not because my family and I are partial to still life paintings necessarily, but because it displayed every single aspect of light that he had taught me, and I knew it would inform me for years to come.

Take a look at this beautifully painted still life.  Now you have seen all the lights on the red ball, see if you can spot them all on this painting:

Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or question on the contact page.



All content and images contained in this website, including “Lessons With Lesley” remain the property of Lesley Humphrey, along with all rights and privileges connected thereto under international copyright laws.  Under no circumstances can the content of this website be transferred or utilized for other than one-time, personal use without permission of Lesley Humphrey, or L and L Humphrey, LLC, its agents or assigns.

All rights reserved, Lesley Humphrey 1988-2017