Follow TV Tropes



Go To
Tenebrism: next-level Chiaroscuro

"Some of the lighting to me was almost like a painting from the past, like from the seventeenth century, a Rembrandt look about it, the darkness of the house and the sunlight searing through the boarded-up windows."
Vincent Peranio, production designer on The Wire

A visual trope, using a stark contrast between dark and light in an image, usually for dramatic effect. Generally uses directional lighting and sharp shadows. Developed in the Renaissance for painting and became very popular among Baroque painters, all the way to the school known as "tenebrism". And never quite vanished since.

Film Noir is fond of it, but it is found in all sorts of works in visual media, whether constantly or to underscore moments of high drama. A great number of critics and satirists have pointed out that mainstream video games and movies are drifting towards this.

A Face Framed in Shadow — half lit, half-shadowed — is a perfect example of chiaroscuro.

Games with Cel Shading tend to employ this with their shadows.

May combine with such tropes as Evil Is Not Well-Lit, Conspicuously Light Patch, Ethereal White Dress, and By the Lights of Their Eyes, and even Raven Hair, Ivory Skin.

Generally speaking, a work that combines dark brown or black shadows over much of the image with bright silver and gold (or flesh-tone) highlights is usually described as chiaroscuro.

Used with care, it can produce eye-popping 3D effects, often trompe de l'oeil. It can also be used in live-action film to help cover up the cheapness of the sets.

The term comes from Italian, where it means "light-dark". English words derived from the same root are, respectively, "Clear" and "Obscure". It's pronounced as "Kya-ro-skoo-ro", not "Shia-ro-".

Not to be confused with the ancient desert city of glass from the tabletop RPG Exalted. Or that rat from The Tale of Despereaux (though he was named for this trope as a joke by his parents).

A Sub-Trope of Light/Darkness Juxtaposition, and a Super-Trope to Dramatic Spotlight, Emerging from the Shadows and Brightness Shadows.

Contrast Hollywood Darkness, when the dark isn't dark, and Who Forgot The Lights?, when the light isn't light. See also Mood Lighting and Color Contrast. Not to be confused with Darker and Edgier, since this trope is typically used to highlight the bright spots.

Contrast Nuclear Candle, where light sources illuminate the screen completely and without any appreciable shadows.

This item is now available in the Trope Co.® catalog.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Tite Kubo uses this technique occasionally in Bleach. Fans have joked that whenever he accidentally spills ink all over the page, he just makes it into a new special attack.
  • In Castle in the Sky, the final confrontation shows Sheeta and Pazu as pale figures against a dark background.
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, the scenes just before, and at, the wedding use chiaroscuro extensively.
  • An episode of Cowboy Bebop uses this as a homage to Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Dr. STONE features a dramatic use when Senku successfully creates the first electric lightbulb that the stone age society has ever seen.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, the artist employs this technique whenever she wants to emphasize Kyoko's malicious personality traits by having her enveloped in shadows in front of bright background.
  • In Sailor Moon Crystal's Act 1 Cold Open when Usagi is Dreaming of Times Gone By, the dream prince and princess move to embrace and kiss, and their bodies and background are bright, but their facial features are so shadowed as to be just barely visible.
  • Used frequently in Soul Eater, particularly in scenes in Soul's head, or at the home of Crona and Medusa.
  • Used to achieve an otherworldly effect in the first two Urusei Yatsura movies (especially Beautiful Dreamer), as well as some of his final TV episodes.
  • Action Horror anime director Yoshiaki Kawajiri is very fond of this trope, "lighting" his scenes in eerie dark blue with only blood and emotionally significant objects appearing in color. This is demonstrated in his neo-noir classics Demon City Shinjuku, Ninja Scroll, and Wicked City.

  • Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio popularized this trend during the Baroque — it's called tenebrism (from the Italian word for "dark" and/or "murky"). His and his unofficial disciples' paintings are characterized by their use of brightly illuminated skin and foreground objects which were contrasted against pooling shadows and a much darker background.
  • Allegory of the Four Seasons: While not as strong as other Caravagesque paintings, intense light and shadow are present. The former can be appreciated in the subjects' skin while the latter dominates in the background and some of the clothes.
  • The twin fantasy/comic painters the Brothers Hildebrandt made extensive use of this style in their fantasy artwork.
  • Edward Hopper frequently used light/dark contrast in his work to emphasize melancholy and isolation. In Nighthawks, for example, the fluorescent light of the diner contrasts with the shadows outside.
  • Filipino artist Fernando Amorsolo is often fond of this technique in an inverted manner, where he paints the countryside landscapes being illuminated in sunlight while the people are cast in shadow.
  • Las Meninas: There's a contrast between the well-lit foreground and the dark back. At the very end, José Nieto, the chamberlain, seemingly lets in more light.
  • The Raft of the Medusa uses a lot of dark, muted browns to convey the painfulness of the incident, and employs plenty of tenebrism, or the stark contrast between light and dark, to emphasize the dramatic moment.
  • Rembrandt made frequent use of scenes where people are shown in contrast between dark and light. Sometimes it only appeared to be this way. The Night Watch was nicknamed that way because of its dark varnish, which made people think it depicted a night scene. This varnish was removed only in the 1940s.
  • The Sin: The intense juxtaposition of Eve's white skin and the black of the snakes and the shadows are meant to emphasize Eve's attractive form as the snake hides in the darkness, ready to strike.
  • Several of Joseph Wright's "industrial revolution" paintings use tenebrism, with a singular light source that isn't in the most convenient place for illuminating most of the picture. For A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrory, it's the lamp representing the sun, which brightly illuminates the two kids leaning in on the far side, but turns the one between us and the orrory into a sillouette, and casts the adults, who are further back, into sharp relief.

    Comic Books 
  • 100 Bullets had a significant amount of this, with a signature design having a character shown entirely in black with only their eyes and teeth in white.
  • From Bone, the night that the rat creatures attack Thorn's farm.
  • DC Pride 2022: As part of "The Gumshoe in Green"'s Noir aesthetic the shadows are deep and define the shape of things up until the last few pages where the villains' home is washed out in an eerie amount of light.
  • The cover of Fantastic Four #500, set during the rather dark Unthinkable storyline, appropriately featured the Four standing in darkness, lit only by Johnny's flames.
  • Hellboy, and many of the other works of Mike Mignola. After all, it is his Signature Style to have things largely defined by their shadows.
  • Sin City. Frank Miller loves to utilize this in his artwork anyway but it seems to be more obvious in this black and white comic series.
  • The climactic fight scene between The Spirit and the Octopus took place in a darkened room where the only light was a falling match.
  • V for Vendetta used this heavily.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bill Watterson would utilize this in Calvin and Hobbes whenever Calvin would go into the Tracer Bullet fantasies in an attempt to emulate the Film Noir style. In the tenth anniversary collection, he admitted he didn't attempt this very often because the elaborate use of shadows was very time consuming to draw.

    Films — Animated 
  • How to Train Your Dragon (2010) features a scene between Stoic and Hiccup starkly lit by a single candle.
  • The French film Renaissance is nothing but black-on-white images.
  • In Tangled, when Gothel closes all the windows and explains to Rapunzel that it's too dangerous to go outside, the scene uses extensive chiaroscuro.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used to great effect in American Beauty, where symbols are highlighted by improbably bright lights.
  • One version of this was from near the end of Apocalypse Now, when a swinging lightbulb throws the main antagonist's face into (changing) light and shadow.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, the entire first scene is shot with stark contrast of dark and light, especially the frames with Loki holding the Tesseract.
  • Blade Runner, in the tradition of Film Noir, helped pave the way for many of the more Grimdark sci-fi films that followed it. Everything in future LA seems to be powered by / lit by natural gas flares and strobe lights.
  • Blade Runner 2049 continues the tradition from its predecessor. The scenes involving Wallace have an especially stark contrast between heavy shadows and subdued golden light, with the reflecting pools in his office casting eerily beautiful rippling patterns on the walls.
  • Brute Force is a Film Noir, so it's almost mandatory.
  • Due to the low-powered light sources and the pitch-blackness of the coffin, most, if not all of Buried is shot like this.
  • In Casino, Martin Scorsese uses a brief shot of chiaroscuro to introduce the Dons of the Midwest.
  • Like many tropes, the usage of Chiaroscuro in film was widely popularized by Citizen Kane, although it was already common in German expressionist cinema.
  • Murder mystery Crossfire is lit this way throughout, starting with the opening scene, when a brawl that ends in a murder is staged in a dark room lit only by a single lamp.
  • Dark City uses chiaroscuro lighting in spots to achieve a Film Noir effect.
  • Dementia (1955): The whole film takes place at night, as streetlights or cop car spotlights illuminate otherwise darkened streets and alleys, and the woman throws long shadows as she goes around.
  • Forced Vengeance has a different take on this trope when Chuck Norris is shown fighting in silhouette before a giant neon billboard.
  • The Fountain is possibly the most chiaroscuro film ever made, in terms of brute force of imagery. All the swirly gold things and pitch black backgrounds were achieved with microphotography. Even the hospital is lit this way, with lots of dimly lit Moroccan screens, making it the most Awesome, but Impractical hospital one is likely to visit. And also very hard to see.
  • The Godfather films love this trope. To the extent that in many cases it's so dark parts of the film remains unexposed. This was why it has been problematic to transfer to DVD, as it's very hard for digital media to handle pitch blacknote .
  • Halloween (1978) is an excellent example of this trope's use in horror. The multiple shadows provide so many places for the killer to hide in, the viewer can't tell where he'll jump out from. Particularly notable is the white mask which seems to 'materialize' out of the shadows, which according to John Carpenter isn't meant to show Michael Myers moving into frame but rather the characters' (and the viewers') eyesight adjusting to the dark to discover he's been right there all along.
  • During the roof scenes (and nighttime ones) of Hands Across the Table, the lighting is very like what would later be used for Film Noir, so much so that taking these shots isolated from the entire movie, they look like they could've come straight out of a noir. However, for the tone of the film, it creates more of a romantic mood.
  • The Harry Potter film series got this way progressively as the series continued, to the point that parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 were near impossible to watch at home with daylight streaming through your windows.
  • The Silence of the Lambs plays with this liberally, mostly in the introduction of Lecter, but rather frighteningly in the climax, where Starling is illuminated through night-vision goggles, shown desperately lost in the darkness.
  • The cellar scene from Signs. The lightbulb gets broken, so there's several tense seconds of pitch blackness, then they turn on two flashlights, which provide the only light for the remainder of the scene.
  • The finale of Skyfall is this, with the burning ruins of Skyfall manor being the only light source.
  • Frequently used by Stanley Kubrick.
    • In Barry Lyndon, special lenses facilitated candlelight filming. The use of light in that film becomes very notable to anyone with knowledge in lighting or photography. Most films use a ton of artificial light in scenes that are only supposed to be lit with a few candles, thanks to the technological limitations on cameras. However, Barry Lyndon didn't use any artificial light, with the entire scenes sometimes being lit by a few candles. In order to achieve this, Kubrick had to use cameras intended for NASA during the Apollo moon landings. This was in concert with unique candles he had commissioned specially, that were designed to burn with a flame three times as bright for a trade-off in usage time. They were "useless for anything other than filming".
    • Kubrick's second film, Killer's Kiss, was shot almost entirely in this way, in black and white, with dramatic contrast between light and darkness and lots of shadowy scenes with bright lights cutting through them.
  • From Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin's duel with Dooku. Their lightsabers provide the only illumination.
  • Thor: Love and Thunder uses most of its Chiaroscuro ideas with the scenes containing the movie's villain, Gorr the God Butcher. The middle sequence is drenched in black and white of the Shadow Realm, with no color at all.
  • The Woman in the Window, Perhaps most notably when Wanley is trying to dispose of a dead body. The face of the dead man is well lit in the back of the car but everything else is dark.

  • Canadian publisher CZP has an online magazine called Chiaroscuro, and deals with dark, weird fiction. Most of their books embody this trope, thematically, in some way.
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Darkness and light are the two most striking visual motifs in the novel.
  • Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary frequently uses light to contrast Emma's ideals and darkness/shadows to emphasize her actual living conditions.
  • The novelization of Revenge of the Sith has a chapter called Chiaroscuro, and light and shadow come into the description a lot during it.
  • The main villain of The Tale of Despereaux is given this name, which becomes much more important as the story goes on.
  • Villains by Necessity: It's the name of the world, as chosen by Mizzamir. It makes sense with the book's moral message about Gray-and-Gray Morality, both good and evil are necessary for existence.

    Live-Action TV 

By Creators:

  • Joss Whedon fell in sticky icky love with this trope.
    • Firefly: the ship was actually fully constructed and lighting was accomplished by sources available on the set. Often, in order to get light where it was needed, the lighting artists put little sheets of metal down to bounce the light from a lamp onto the actor.
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel loved this. Is it meant to be scary? Then you can't see a dang thing.
    • Dollhouse makes use of this as well. For example, Ballard's confrontation with Dewitt occurs in an office that used to be well lit. Heck, that entire show reflects its moral ambiguity in its dramatic lighting.

By Series:

  • Bones occasionally uses this, and the play of light and dark is sometimes played with metaphorically as it is scenically. The lab is brightly lit, but the subject matter is dark; the interrogation room is often lit so the suspect has a Face Framed In Shadow, but once they're revealed to not be the killer, their heads often turn towards the light so you can see their face. The room behind the one-way glass is dark, as though to represent their invisibility to the other side. Lit windows in the dark seem to be popular.
  • CSI and its spinoffs use this in many scenes, usually accentuated by a strongly colored light.
  • Dexter uses this trope quite a lot. It's most obvious in Dexter's kill rooms where he murders criminals. The show also uses the contrast of bright sunny days and dark nights in Miami.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This was used frequently in the 1960s, when the show was in black and white. This type of lighting frequently served to offset the look of the cheaply made sets and props. Interestingly, this was one of the original reasons that the film noir lighting style was developed in the first place.
    • "Midnight": After the shuttle is attacked, this effect is created by everyone's flashlights aimed at Sky's face. Even after the lights come back on, her face is lit more brightly than anyone else's.
  • How I Met Your Mother used it a couple of times for comedically eerie scenes. The Captain was unsettling to look at because he the top half of his face was always giving everyone a Death Glare while the bottom half was smiling, so a lot of the time he would appear in the dark with only the eyes illuminated. There was also Marshall's "Will you go out with me" song...
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Chiaroscuro is used during Galadriel's Somber Backstory Revelation to Halbrand in a smithery, which is luminated only by candles and lamps.
  • Lost Girl is always gorgeously lit, usually darkly. The main character is a Badass Longcoat Private Detective Femme Fatale who qualifies as an Anti-Hero, who frequently hangs in old decaying buildings. It's pretty much a supernatural detective noir show.
  • Mad Men is a dark show, thematically. Beautiful people, beautifully lit.
  • Medical drama Monday Mornings has Chiaroscuro nearly as default lighting, and this trope is employed to a great effect during their M&M meetings (it stands for Morbidity and Mortality, also referred to as "311") when they are called out on their screw-ups and they have to explain how they killed their patients and if the deaths could have been prevented. The only brightly lit scenes are when the doctors perform operations. It's visually stunning.
  • Peter Gunn lived this trope, as it was shot in black and white and in a very much Film Noir style.
  • Pushing Daisies uses this occasionally, both as an Homage and Affectionate Parody of Film Noir movies.
  • Used frequently on The Sopranos, to show the moral ambiguity of the characters.
  • Space: 1999 (the first season) had this in spades. It was pulled off brilliantly and offset the white plastic sterile color scheme of Moonbase Alpha, fitting the somber, thought provoking atmosphere of the first season. Unfortunately, for season 2, this moody lighting style disappeared along with Kano, Victor, and Paul.
  • Whenever something appropriately dramatic happened in Star Trek (Original Flavor), they framed Kirk's eyes with a band of light, the rest of his face in shadow. It was strange.
  • Supernatural, especially in the first two seasons, often had faces framed in shadow... even outside in the middle of the day.
  • The final scene in the Top Gear Middle East special, where the three presenters (playing the role of the Three Wise Men) bring their gifts to the stable, is lit with candles in this fashion. James May lampshades this in the episode commentary, remarking the scene is lit "like an old master".
  • Ultra Series:
    • Ultraman episodes would be shot in that style from time to time.
    • Ultraseven, to further set itself apart from Ultraman (the former being sci-fi-heavy, favoring aliens over kaiju, positing moral dilemmas, showing more scary imagery, having music that wouldn't be out of place in a feature film), is shot tighter and in deep shadows, even inside the Ultra Garrison base.
  • The West Wing had a whole lot of this going on, especially during the quiet, character-driven or philosophical, conversational scenes which usually happened at night, at the end of the workday, where the only available lighting would be small office desk lamps, in contrast to the usually well-lit, daytime, hectic, energetic, plot-driven WalkAndTalks.
  • The X-Files would occasionally light the scenes in this way. Inevitable for a show featuring dark conspiracies and nasty monsters. A good example of the trope is a very squicky scene in "Leonard Betts". It is set in a storage locker where Betts uses his extreme regenerative power to create himself—he creates another Betts. Only his body is lit and some bright, scary light comes through a door into the locker, and the rest of the scene is very dark.

  • There is an actual technique prevalent in all types of vocal music by this name. It focuses on the ideal of finding a balance in one's voice between being covered and dark, and open and light. The trick is to be right in the middle where both are present.
  • The classic music video for Madonna's "Vogue."
  • The front cover for the Scissor Sisters' album Ta-Dah.
  • Talking Heads used this extensively in their live shows, particularly the Speaking in Tongues tour. As documented in Stop Making Sense, the tour was strongly influenced by Noh theater, and this carries over to the lighting, which is fairly minimal for most of the film's runtime. The only light comes from dim rear projections and spotlights shone on the musicians by stagehands, accentuating the contrast between the light gray outfits and the black stage.
  • Numerous black metal album covers utilize this technique, with the Trope Codifier being Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger.
  • The music video for "In the Air Tonight" [1] by Phil Collins, which also includes Face Framed in Shadow.
  • My Brightest Diamond's debut album Bring Me the Workhorse featured a few photos of Shara Worden, starkly lit with pitch blackness behind her.
  • The Agonist has a song named this.
  • The music video for "Run to You" by Pentatonix.
  • Daniel Amos's Doppelgänger: The cover art is a dramatically shadowed photo of a mannequin in a dark room. Light comes through venetian blinds without really illuminating anything.
  • Directional contrast of light and shadow is heavily employed in the full video for Poets of the Fall's "Drama for Life." In the real world and the Mental World, where the "madman" resides, figures are sharply shadowed from the right. In the mental world particularly, the madman spends time leaning out of or retreating into sharply defined shadows, and fussing over his paper-filled Room Full of Crazy by candlelight.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has the city of Chiaroscuro, which provides this effect in abundance.

  • The Sam Wanamaker Theatre in London (part of the Globe Theatre complex) performs all of its plays by candlelight (as would have been done in the 17th-century indoor theaters it's modeled on, in contrast to the outdoor theaters). The lighting for its productions depends heavily on this effect — striking changes to the lighting can be achieved not only by lighting or extinguishing candles, but also by raising or lowering the chandeliers or having actors carry candles onstage.

    Video Games 

In General:

By Series:

  • Alan Wake is built around this. Since the mysterious "Dark Presence" thrives in darkness and shadows, the majority of the game is spend fleeing between the sparse lighting, and even battle sequences require weakening monsters with flashlights.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent lives up to its name, being set in a medieval castle lit only by candles, torches, your lantern, and the occasional mysterious shaft of light from above. The level "Storage" is actually called out by the protagonist as being unnaturally dark, with light sources only reaching a few feet before being swallowed up by the black shadows. A true case of tenebrism in a video game if ever there was one.
  • BioShock is a particularly colorful variant of this, owing to all the neon lights. Rapture seems to have been designed to mimic nighttime lighting conditions at all hours, and that was when all the lights still worked. By the time you arrive, many areas are just barely light enough to navigate without a flashlight (which you don't have), dotted with small pools of bright light. One of the first enemies you encounter is visible only as a silhouette, and it won't be the last time.
  • The primary game mechanic of Closure. Everything is in black, white, and varying shades of grey. The only things visible are things illuminated by light sources. Everything else is completely black...and intangible. The world is literally what you can see.
  • One of the selling points of Doom³ was the id Tech 4 engine's ability to draw deep sharp shadows, which the game showcases constantly in its environments and the light of fireballs of demons and muzzle flashes of zombified UAC guards. A common complaint from fans is that they went for more "scuro" than "chiaro" to the point where it's hard to see and the flashlight isn't much help; the BFG Edition addresses the issue by making the flashlight a non-weapon function.
  • Kingdom Hearts: In general, the series makes heavy use of this. Pure white backgrounds with characters with dark auras (Terra especially), or pure black backgrounds with intense colors (the Dive Into The Heart screen where Sora chooses his keyblade) are incredibly common throughout the game. A very notable use is in the Port Royal world, with the live-action characters cast in realistic, murky, brown-and-black night tones while Sora, Donald, and Goofy remain lit so brightly and colorfully that it's like they're in the middle of the afternoon. The end result is a very stark contrast between the grimmer characters from one world and the much, much perkier heroes from others.
  • In Left 4 Dead, for the most part, the lighting stays between chiaroscuro and Hollywood Darkness thanks to the "horror movie fog" effect, but the game uses sharp contrast to provide atmosphere, light, and to tell players where to go to proceed.note  According to the developer blog and commentaries, the maps early in development were changed to promote, rather than fight against, the instinct of heading towards well-lit places; for example, one of the maps that takes place in a city was originally designed to have most of the windows in buildings lit and bright, giving the impression that The Virus wiped everything out quickly. Changing the buildings to be inconsistently lit made people move faster and more efficiently to the goal, which remained illuminated. Custom campaigns that don't follow this line of thought and forgo lighting as a means of guidance are considered notoriously hard to navigate through.
  • The Legend of Zelda started using this for nighttime and cave areas in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and then expanded upon it for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the latter of which uses shadow as a recurring motif. Your only decent light sources are the occasional torches and lanterns held by either the Moblins or Link; rushing through cave areas without carefully inspecting the lit-up path can lead to a tumble down a pit. Before that, much of the artwork for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was drawn in this style, though it's not done like this in the game itself.
  • Taken to the extreme in MadWorld for the Wii, where everything is either black or white (or red).
  • Mass Effect 2 is considerably Darker and Edgier than its predecessor, and tends to cover character's faces and environments in darker shadows. Mass Effect 3 takes it even further, with the inside of the Normandy now looking like a Hollywood submarine.
  • As much of it takes place underground, Metro 2033 is prime for this. Most of the levels are dimly lit, and light is usually a sign of habitation... or danger. Especially bad in places where the mushrooms are the only source of light (aside from your headlamp), but they glow radioactive green, and indicate that you're going to suddenly die of radiation poisoning if you don't haul ass away from there.
  • Metroid Dread: The plot-important rooms like Save Rooms, Map Rooms, and Network Stations that haven't used yet are unlit except for a few lights like those on Samus's suit and the doors, providing a strong contrast between light and dark.
  • In No More Heroes shadows are pitch black, even in the light of day.
  • Ōkami and its sequel Ōkamiden make use of this, which is natural considering the art style is based on Japanese ink paintings. Shadows are pitch black, completely opaque, and flow like ink.
  • After night falls in Otter Island it's almost pitch black outside and you need a flashlight (either a handheld one or the one on your phone) to navigate properly in unlit areas.
  • Most of the Silent Hill series features this effect. It's most noticeable with the flashlight: when it's on, the shading of things not lit by the beam gets darker, and when it's off, the shading gets lighter to the point where you can see your way around the world and enemies walking by, and sneak past them. There's a tradeoff to staying in the dark in that the character won't be able to see items or update the map, and combat targeting is all but impossible.
  • Chiaroscuro, more specifically tenebrism, features heavily in Song of Horror. Most of the game is well-lit enough to navigate easily and all characters hold infinitely-lasting light sources, but the levels (with the exception of the prologue) always take place at night, and lights are framed by deep, sharp shadows. Even in the still-image cutscenes the shadows are prevalent, moreso due to the Deliberately Monochrome aesthetic in them.

    Visual Novels 

  • In Weak Hero, the scene where Donald confronts Wolf about trying to leave is lit much more dramatically than the rest of the comic, with their faces cast in harsh shadows that highlight the tension of the moment.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has this during the song, My Eyes. While watching from the street, Doctor Horrible sings about how soon "only darkness will remain." While he's doing this, a street light casts light on one side of his face, while the other is completely shadowed. When he mentions that "darkness is on the rise" he steps back, and out of the light, so that the only light striking him is a few feeble glimmers from a hobo fire.
  • Referenced in the Strong Bad Email '''Trogdor''' from Homestar Runner. Tasked to draw a dragon, Strong Sad, depressive nerd, draws a realistic picture and explains that he had used this technique.
  • Though the art style is very simplistic overall, many of the darkness scenes in Nan Quest tend to invoke this style. In particular, the Anasazi Lounge scene is an example of this; everything is in very harsh shadow, with occasional stark highlights.
  • RWBY uses this several times in Volume 4, most notably in the episode "Family" when Qrow is meeting Raven in the tavern. The former is surrounded by brighter, warmer yellow light from a furnace, while the latter is seated in dimmer, poorly-lit shadows, reflecting each individual's nature. Emphasizing the effect is Qrow's white and gray clothing, contrasting Raven's black and red.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series, as to be expected considering its inspiration from Frank Miller.
  • Over the Garden Wall: During the final confrontation against the Beast, the only light source is the Woodsman's lantern
  • Samurai Jack: a fight between Jack and a Ninja, cast in lighting so harsh that everywhere is either very bright or pitch black. The Ninja is invisible when it's in the darkness. Jack pulls out his own ninja trick, becoming invisible in the light.
  • Shakespeare: The Animated Tales made very effective use of chiaroscuro in its adaptation of Macbeth. Characters fade in and out of the shadowy background as they enter and leave a scene.
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars: Anakin's knighting ceremony. A darkened chamber, with only the Jedi Council's lightsabers for illumination. Anakin and Asaji Ventress fight in a dark chamber at one point, with only the red and blue lightsabers lighting the room.
  • In Thunder Cats 2011, this is used in "The Duelist and the Drifter" while introducing the Duelist, and during the Drifter's Nameless Narrative. The figures are backlit, but their fronts (or their head and shoulders) are near-totally concealed in heavy shadow.