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17 August 2007 @ 10:36 pm
[Tutorial] Shading  
As requested by analytically, I'm making a tutorial of sorts to aid people with the basic principles of shading.

This tutorial was made for Photoshop 7.0 - I'm not sure if it's translatable into other programs, but it can certainly be done in other versions of Photoshop. It assumes you have some basic knowledge of the program, and it does not explain how to achieve smooth color blocks for the shading. For an expansion on the method I use here (lineart on top), see this; for a tutorial on how to achieve smooth lines for cel-shading, see this.

First of all, let me start by saying this - there is really no formula to help anyone with shading. There's some guidelines to keep in mind, but in the end, how something should be shaded depends largely on a variety of factors - the most important of them being the effect the person doing the shading wants.

At any rate, I'll try to illustrate these guidelines - keep in mind this tutorial won't magically make you great at shading, it'll just (hopefully) point you in the right direction.

For this tutorial, we're going from:


[Icon-Sized] Tutorial: Shading

Note that while this tutorial uses a 100x100 icon as a guide, it applies to pretty much any sort of shading.

Before we get to the step-by-step, it's very important to stress one thing: How you color the image will entirely affect the finished product's feel. You should be able to tell just by looking at the base and the finished product above - the colors completely changed the balance of the image.

It's hard for most people to have any idea what an image will "feel" like when you finish coloring - in spite of this, it's still important to at least have an idea what you're trying to achieve with your coloring.

Anyway, I'll get back to these points later.

For now, let's start with the basics.

First, we have a base image, a simple "portrait" type base of Naoto Fuyumine from Shirow Miwa's DoGs:

The crop here isn't particularly excellent, but I wanted as much skin to show as possible - when you're working with full pages, crop doesn't really matter, but when you work on smaller graphics like icons, banners, signatures, layouts - needless to say, the crop is the first thing you should worry about.

A lot of people prefer coloring the images in big sizes before cropping - I, personally, like cropping first and coloring after - both because the crop affects my finished product and because I don't like to spend large amounts of time coloring something that will eventually get chopped up and reduced to 100x100 (or whatever size your graphic will be). Plus, resizing something can greatly affect the way it looks (detail can be lost, or the image can become too cluttered if you detail it too much, et cetera) - by coloring it in the cropped size, you don't run the risk of resizing ruining your colors. For larger graphics, it is often best to color in a bigger size and then resize (to hide the imperfections); for icons, they are already so small that they allow a level of precision that you won't have by coloring them in a bigger size.

But I digress.

First things first - work large. You're coloring a 100x100 graphic, which looks small in most resolutions - you won't be able to color with precision if you work at 100% zoom. I work at 400% on a 1024x768 14" monitor - generally, though, unless your resolution is actually smaller, you should always work at 400% or above.

My preferred method of coloring is to have the lineart on top of the color images, with the layer set to multiply (like this). This has a series of advantages that I won't cover here, but have been covered in the other tutorial I mentioned (linked above).

Anyway - the first, basic step to coloring anything is to define what kind of background you want it to be on - light or dark, saturated or not. While you don't necessarily have to add the background right away, you have to have some idea of what it is you want to do with it.

You could just fill it with a color of your choice:


Or you could use a stock texture like this one by kaien_kun:

For now, I'll keep kaien_kun's texture there, since I want a dark background.

Now, to start with the actual coloring - since this method puts the lineart on top, you want your color layers to be between the lineart and the background (like this).

Layer order is important here - the layers you put on top will have to be more closely erased, but the layers you put on the bottom can be messier. A color layer only needs to be erased where you want the color in the layer under it to show - so it's more advantageous to keep bigger color areas in the bottom, and smaller on top. For now, the biggest color area we have is the skin - so we'll start our coloring with that.

Here, I filled the new layer (via paint bucket) with #FFDAB9:

This will be our intermediate skin color - it will be the base to choose the highlights and shadows. Making the base color the intermediate shade is very helpful, as shadows and highlights tend to be smaller areas of color, and it's easier to draw those in than it is to draw intermediate tones.

Now, we get to choose the colors that will be our shadows and highlights. For this, I have a little trick in Photoshop's color picker (as seen in the links) - instead of just going for darker and lighter hues (picked on the large square on the left) of the same color (picked on the thin vertical bar on the right), use slightly different colors. You will notice that the "pure" color for my choice of highlight is closer to yellow, whereas the one for my choice of shadows is closer to red. The intermediate color is somewhere in between. This works fantastically for skintones - they feel very natural with redder shadows and yellower highlights (whether you're doing cel-shading or soft shading). Other colors of highlights and shadows are also entirely possible - but that's something for a different tutorial.

That done, we also need to pick a light source. Here, I've marked the light source with the golden arrow, and the highlight/shadow tones are right next to it for easy color picking (like this).

Now that you have those, you can start shading! You can add even more highlights and more shadows if you want (we'll do this here, but later) - the number of tones you use is up to you, though generally, no less than two, no more than five. If you're working with only two colors, work with intermediate tones and shadows. An image with only highlights and no shadows will look really strange.

Anyway. I said you could start shading, but... how to go about doing that? You have a light source, and you have your highlights and shadows... but where to place the shadows and highlights so that they look natural?

Well, this is really the trickiest part about shading. It's complicated because I can't really teach anyone to see things in color areas - you have to pick up the habit yourself. But, there's a few things to keep in mind; three main factors will affect how you shade.

1. Light Source - We've already chosen this, and the shading of the entire image should keep the light source in mind. The further away something is from your light source, the more shadows; the closer it is to it, the more highlights. While it is entirely possible to have a light source be really close to the subject, it's easier - especially for beginners - when the light source is considerably far. That way, highlights will be minimal, and you can focus on the shadows instead.

2. Shapes - Look at yourself in a mirror. Can you see how the shapes of your face affect the color of your skin? Obviously, your skin doesn't really change colors - it's just that more prominent areas will receive and reflect more light than deeper areas. Notice how the tip of your nose is much, much lighter than your nostrils? Light reaches the tip of your nose easily, but you'd have to point a flashlight up your nose to see the inside of your nostrils. Not only that, if you touch your own face, you'll notice that some parts are flat, some are round - flat areas generally reflect light evenly, whereas round areas will get darker around the visible edges. Move your face around, and watch how the position of it in relation to the light source will directly affect the darker and lighter areas of it. This is especially noticeable with dimmer lighting, or a "focused" light source such as a flashlight, but it happens in just about every kind of lighting.

3. Obstacles - Whatever stands directly between the light source and your area of color will cast a shadow on it. This is why, if the sun is very bright and hurting your eyes, you put your hand above them - it blocks out the light. How much light is blocked will depend on a number of factors - the size of the obstacle, the type of light source, how close the obstacle is to either the light source or the color area. There's no set formula for the shadow cast by such things, but it's generally enough to make a thin area of shadow for obstacles close to your color area (i.e. strands of hair over the face).

If all that sounds complicated, don't panic - there's plenty of reference around, photographic or drawn, that you can look at. Generally you'll get better at shading the more you practice, so!

To help us understand how I did my shading here, I've outlined (in blue) the most prominent shapes in the face to keep in mind:

These are generally the shapes to keep in mind for just about any face (other than the roundness of the cheeks/jaw): The ear, the area around the eyes, the nose, and the lips. I haven't outlined the shadows cast by the strands of hair on the face, or by the jaw on the neck - just the shapes.

Following those shapes, and the light source (keeping in mind that shadows are opposite to where the light source is), I started outlining the basic shadows:

And then I added some basic highlights:

While I could leave it like that, I decided that was overall too light, and I wanted more shadows. So I kept expanding the shadows:

...and while this would mostly work, I still wasn't quite satisfied, so I added more shadows:

And then I was content with the amount of shadows. However, with so much shadow, I thought a single color for shadowing was too little, so I added another (#CB7B5C) to enhance the darker parts of the image (basically, the areas that receive even less light than the already shadowed ones):


In other words, I added darker shadows to areas around the eyes, along the left (our left) side of the jaw, the base of the nose, the innermost parts of the ear. These extra shadows are for the most part 100% optional - don't start playing with them until you're confident you're good enough with one tone.

I added a little more refinement for the highlights, with an extra color for very, very slight outlines (#FFCF50) along the outer edges of the face (the extra color is almost completely unnecessary, but I like being thorough):

I'm happy with that, so I moved on to add base colors to the rest of the image:

That done, I erased out the excess base skin color that was covering the background:

At this point, I noticed some things about the lineart that were bothering me - the shape of the nose, and that random line splitting her neck in two. So I cleaned that up:

There we go. Next, using pretty much the same principles for the skin, I added shading to the clothes and hair:

And it's almost finished! But I decided now I don't like the choice of background. It doesn't go well with the light source and feels a little awkward. Since I have all the colors and the lineart on top of the background, switching it out is as easy as replacing it with another texture; in this case, one also done by kaien_kun):

And that's MUCH better. The light on the bottom right actually looks like the light source itself, which flatters the image a lot more than the other texture we had.

Moving on, this is a step I like taking - making the lips a slightly different color. You can do this, or you can skip it; I added it here just in case anyone is curious how I do it:

First, pick a base color for your lips (in this case, #EC927A):

Apply it over the entirety of the lip area (like this). Again keeping in mind shapes and the light source, add slight shadows (see the color below) and highlights (in this case, I used the skin color as a highlight):

And now her lips feel more like a distinct part of her face - whether you do this or not is up to you. For a stronger lipstick effect, you can use a different base color - ie red - and a lighter highlight - ie white.

Anyway! At this point, I'm quite content with the colors, so I just cleaned up the color references for the lips:

You can leave it like this, or you can go a step further in color refinement, and make some adjustments. For this icon, I did the following:

a) Flatten the color layers (NOT the background or the lineart, just merge all the color layers together - in photoshop, do Ctrl+E to merge down until all colors are on the same layer), copy the merged colors, place them on top of the lineart, and set layer mode to "Color":

This has slightly enhanced the colors of the lines - the effect is barely noticeable here, but for some images (especially those with screentones) it makes all the difference.

b) Flatten all the layers, select all, copy, paste on top, apply Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur (here I used a radius of 4.1), then set the blurred layer's mode to "Soft Light":

This last step helps make the colors shinier - I like shiny, so I like it. You can continue to play with the colors as you would with a normally colored image now. Myself, I like it as is, so I'm leaving it.

Again, the background can completely change the feel of the image, as well. Here, I switched it back to the first texture we picked, then left it blank, so you can have an idea what I mean:

You can test an infinity of backgrounds - just pick whatever you like best.

Anyway, we're done! In case you want to play with it, here is the master .psd file for that icon, with all the layers I used - each color layer separately, the background, the shapes, the gaussian blur, it's all there.

I'm not completely sure whether this tutorial is actually useful or just confusing. XD; I did this with a bit of a headache (I think I may have caught a cold, we'll see), so it may be unclear, rushed, tl;dr, idk. It doesn't help that I'm not exactly sure how to explain the process of shading, itself - hopefully the guidelines are at least somewhat useful for you to try out your own shading.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to comment! If you'd like me to comment on whatever results you got by attempting to shade, too, I'll try. I'm generally more helpful with feedback than trying to teach, at any rate!
(Deleted comment)
Neon: .: <3 :.angeling on August 18th, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
I'm glad someone finds it useful, at least! ♥
topherstuffedpanda on August 18th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)
I always loved your shading and coloring.
monochroma on August 19th, 2007 11:45 am (UTC)
I'm really loving this tut, and you know how much I was looking forward to it as well ♥! You also know how I suck at light sources, so this definitely helps me out a bit :D!

Just, fantastic ♥! Mind if I add it to my tutorial list at my LJ? (It's pretty much my mems, in graphical form :P)
Neonangeling on August 19th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks XD And no, I don't mind at all. :3
the synchronicity highway: LUFFY ACE: no matter what happensvelshtein on August 23rd, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
Beautiful tutorial! It's really helpful. :)
★risen: FMA → I'm a puppet cutting stringswardrum on September 9th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)
...PHEW. wow. that's thorough, and more complicated than I was expecting. XD; I've mem'ed all three of the tutorials, though, because they're well done and, like I said, thorough, which is what I really need. I've found that I prefer your style of shading, with sharp, clear lines, instead of the style you tend to find more often, now, with soft, blurred shading, so this was a really great tutorial to stumble upon. ♥

trying it out, now. :]
arashisoifon on October 14th, 2007 03:52 am (UTC)
Totally memming this XDDD
stereometric: 『a-team』→ the little thingsteaclovers on November 8th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
Awesome tutorial! It was really helpful and easy to follow =D
Silver: RG Veda -- Ashurasilverblade219 on December 19th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
Hi. I found this tutorial helpful to figure out coloring.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So...except for the hair being the wrong color..., I think it isn't that bad for my first attempt... but I was curious what you thought...
Neonangeling on December 19th, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
I think it looks really nice! I like the shading on the skin, especially the neck, the softness is very appealing. My only very minor nitpick is the nose - there's a dark shadow along the tip/bridge, and it should be a lighter color, since the light would reflect there. Otherwise, it looks really nice for a first attempt!
Silver: xxxHolic -- Kohane-chansilverblade219 on December 19th, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
When you say lighter color, do you mean a soft shadow or a highlight?

And thanks for the help! (I actually almost forgotten about the neck, and that part was adding in later...)
Neonangeling on December 19th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
A highlight. :3 It seems like the light's coming from the left, so it would reflect off his nose (since it's raised in comparison to the rest of his face) and create a highlight. A shadow could be around where the nostrils would be, though. :3
Silver: TRC -- Kurogane -- Remembersilverblade219 on December 19th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)
Ok, I think I fixed it


Neonangeling on December 19th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
Yes! That's perfect now. :3
Silver: TRC -- Ashura -- Dancesilverblade219 on December 19th, 2007 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks again for all of your help :-)
Neonangeling on December 19th, 2007 09:20 pm (UTC)
Not a problem! I'm glad to have helped. :3
queen♛risa: 『akito』O_ofranchette on January 3rd, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
ow that was awesome tut O_o
saving to memory XD
itsayuri: Hyuuga Hinata: Spellbindingitsayuri on September 19th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
Wonderful tutorial; it wasn't confusing at all and I learned quite a bit from it. :) Thank you so much for taking the time! Your coloring is remarkable, by the way!