top of page

Why does Lighting matter in Art?

The lighting of a subject is one of the core principles that can make or break a drawing. Whether you are drawing a still life or a landscape sketch, lighting brings tone and depth to a piece. We discussed this topic comprehensively in our post about Values.

The main impact of lighting deals with depth and color tones.

Lighting helps the artist portray a scene with more depth. When we are drawing a flat surface, our lighting is going to be well distributed without any clear highlights or shadows.

Depth Perception

The photo on the left has very flat lighting, and it is difficult to point out the clear value range. This is not necessarily a drawback, but it may make the approach harder to create form and depth. Thus, Without a clear light source, a subject looks very dull and unattractive to the eye. On the other hand, the second photo has a clear light source— from the left— and there is a clear shadow— on the right side of the face. Even you did not have the correct features, the second portrait is significantly more visually pleasing.

We will discuss the impact of lighting on mood and emotions in future posts, but simply put, the angle and intensity of lighting have a dramatic impact.

The main benefit of having lighting – whether noticeable or subtle – is that it gives an image depth. If there is no form of light involved in the composition, there will not be any visual cues that indicate depth perception— the understanding of the distance between the viewer and the subject. With appropriate lighting, the image appears to jump off the surface, making the artwork a dimensional feel.


As we have mentioned before, Lighting can also highlight certain textures within the composition. For example, if we are trying to capture the shiny skin of an apple or the rough texture of a rug, we need to utilize the correct lighting conditions to create the desired texture. For the apple, we will need a clear light source that emphasizes the highlights and shadows.

In comparison, for the rug, the value range is not as important. Instead, we need to create textures through the line patterns and smoothness of the rug. If you have any questions related to texture, check out our previous post that goes into textures compressively.

As a general rule of thumb, a successful drawing should be able to show the viewer a clear light and dark side, regardless of its color.

Lighting is the only thing that allows us to see anything, so it is important for us to check it off before moving on to intricacies.


bottom of page