This is the first of my new series of study: Lighting for cartoon animation.

I’m using Arnold for Maya and some free models that I found on Google.
This is just a exercise for Lighting. So, I don’t want to spend time with models, shaders and textures.

The reference

Concept By Atey Ghailan

My goal was create a composition based on this concept. I was inspired by the colors of the sky, streets and use a character on foreground.
It wasn’t a copy, just a inpiration. So, as I changed the theme to batman, I decided to do something a little darker and less saturated. Also, I wanted to reach some of this “lighting goals for tv-shows ” that I will describe bellow.

Lighting Goals

Lighting is something that I always have been studying, but it always was for a more realistic approaching.
Now, I’m trying to do something more tv-shows/feature film like.

You may be asking yourself: “Ok but, why so specifc?”

Sometimes, I like to watch Gloob, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon and by watching their TV-shows, I noticed how polished-look and character focused they are.
No matter how dark or bright the scene are, the characters are always with a good silhouette and always preservs their expression.

Please note that I’m not trying to do a critique about tv-shows lighting. It should be almost a worship, becouse to me, it’s incredible how they use lighting and colors in function of the STORYTELLING. Lighting for feature animation or tv-shows, is all about storytelling and I love it.

I have some exemples below:

Zorro – Nikelodeon/Gloob

  1. You’ll never see a night that bright like you see on Zorro.
  2. Notice that Zorro always have a nice and strong rim light.

Kung-fu Panda – Dreamworks/Nickelodeon

  1. Everytime the characters are on a dark environoment, they eyes shine like theyselfs are emitting light. You can see this on the movie and also on TV-show.
  2. Notice how bright this room with no other light sources than the windows at night are. Just to compare, take a look on this second pic that I found on google. it’s how this shot should be in real life.


Light Setup

I divided the lighting in two steps: The background (environoment) and the Foreground (character)
For the Background, I started with one big disk light blue tinted, to mimic the light of the moon. It works good on the roofs, but gives me a pure dark shadow. So I add a dome light with a verry low intensity and verry low exposure, just enough to color and light a little bit up my shadows with purple.

The next step was add lights to the streets. I had about 8 hours to do this project, so create a light for each window or streetlamps on this scene, would be impossible.
So I just add some big rectangle yellow lights closer to the streets pointing to the sky. I Think it works.

At last, I add some volumetric fog, verry low but enough to wat I need.


For the character/foreground, it’s the basic 3 light setup intentionaly inverted just to make the foreground darker.


Finally, the final result:

I hope you like,
See ya!