Strong and clear tonal contrast in painting has been known for some time. It was used to suggest volume and modelling of subjects in paintings especially early in the Renaissance. Artists sometimes started with colored paper and worked both toward strongly white as well as dark areas, often using water colors. Depending on the subject, then lighter areas were illuminated with focused light to emphasize strong contrast, borrowing on traditions known since Roman times.
Dark subjects were dramatically enhanced often by a single shaft of light. This practice is often done as well in both photographic and film art. Film in recent years has used a variety of these strategies–particularly experimental film.
Light reflecting or emitting micro-bead paints have been for painting traffic signs, but have also been used in experimental works of art. Thick acrylic gels containing light reflecting microspheres (microbeads) and numerous relatively new types of paints containing new types of pigments, dyes, aluminum flakes, mica, opaque glass beads, holographic flakes and more conventional light enhancing agents are in general or experimental use in works of art. Many additives produce novel coloration when illuminated by different wave lengths of light. Digital enhancement for high contrast works is also in use.