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How do you do your shading?

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Joined: 28 Aug 2012
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:15 pm    Post subject: How do you do your shading? Reply with quote

I think shading is an exceedingly critical step in making your comic look good. There's a lot of different ways to go about it, and I think we need a thread to share our methods and possibly learn something new.

Tell us the technical process of your shading method, and also how you decide where to shade your characters.

I create a new layer, call it "shading." I set the layer to multiply, and turn the opacity down to about 70%. (When I am finished I drop it to 33%, (depending on if the scene is outside or night or etc,) but while I am drawing I leave it much higher so it is easier to see.)
I set my brush color to HSL-285-21-21 and draw with a larger-than-normal brush; about six time my normal line width. I have my eraser handy to clean up where the strokes bleed over.
I only carefully erase shadows where they still cross onto the character; I freely use sloppy strokes on the outer edges. When I am finished I go to my color flats layer, use the select-by-color tool and select the empty space. With that selection I go back to the shading layer and clear the selection, thus trimming off all the excess overlap and bleeding.

As for where I draw my shadows, I come from a 3D modeling background, so I spend a lot of time thinking about light-source and angle, and I try to compute how it would look when rendered in 3D. But as time goes on, I am growing un-fond of this method. I'm watching some Justice League cartoons and I notice how they have often-repeated patterns of shading where they always have the shadows cast where they show the shape better. I want to start drawing like that.
My webcomic: Mischief in Maytia
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My method is similar, but I tend to change the color of my shade multiplier, depending on the setting and what's being shaded. Forests/trees get more green, human skin tends to get a touch of red, winter or moonlit scenes get a little blue. I've even used multiple shade layers because different surfaces and different types of light shade differently.
Casual Notice--commentary, comics and an appreciation for snappy hats.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Uuuugh. I hate colouring, I have no defined process, I am sure I'm doing it wrong. Why else does it take me hours and hours to colour a page?

At the moment I typically have a few layers for shading and effects. In one, I just pick a darker colour (or a lighter colour, depending) from the flat colour and go with it. I'm recently playing around with picking one dark colour (such as a dark blue), lowering the opacity on this layer to something like 50%, and using it to shade nearly everything. I feel like I'm just making stuff up when it comes to light sources and where the shadows should fall.

Hopefully I'll pick up some good tips from this thread. Because, argh.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use a similar process as well. I usually work at 100% opacity though, and then knock it down to 30%. Sometimes 20%, if the shadow looks too strong.

My general process is this, and I use a lot more layers, but this is the basic idea:

1. Draw the line art.
2. Copy the line art layer, and fill it with color.
3. Copy the line art layer and fill in shadow, where appropriate.

This is a bit of a pain though, when I find the line art is incomplete and need to go back and touch it up.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mine's not exciting. I typically have one shade layer that sits above the base colors but under the highlight layer. I DON'T have it set to 100% opacity to start, because I've found that if I do this, I end up leaving the layer and not realizing it and shading on the ink or base color layer by mistake.

I set it to 30% opacity, select where I want with the selection tools (usually the magic wand because it's fastest), and define the shaded area with the pen tool. Then flood fill. If I feel like it, sometimes I'll just draw in the area without selecting, but it's usually easier/faster for me to select.

I think I'm usually pretty good about keeping the light source in mind. Sometimes I throw myself for a loop though; since my main character uses electric powers, sometimes he is the light source, haha. But I mostly try to use the shading to define shapes and make them appear more 3D I guess. For the most part at the moment, my areas have overhead lighting, so I tend to just roll with that. I do have these pages though where the only light source in the room is a meager red light on the camera. But I decided I wanted the shapes to be defined, so I still emphasized them with my shading.

I also try to remember that characters will cast shadows, and the shadows will look different based on the light source's location and other things. It's kind of easy to forget though.

I really hate shading my comic. I was trying to do the weird hatching thing at the start so I wouldn't have to shade, but I got enough comments on it that I switched. Now I just angrily grumble to myself every time I start shading.

As far as coloring goes, I don't really enjoy doing it in Manga Studio, but I love it in Paint Tool SAI. Manga Studio isn't bad, it's just Paint Tool SAI is WONDERFUL and it makes me sad to not use it, haha. I don't like using more than one program to do my pictures though, since if I need to correct a mistake, it becomes very tedious/annoying to correct it in the first program and send it back to the second one (where I'm likely to find ANOTHER mistake).

I shade my comic differently than I do for stand alone art. My comic uses just black, but I like to mix colors for shading. It just adds too much time to each page to shade that way.

So... yeah. There's a lot of different ways I shade and the one I hate the most I use for my comic. I'll probably change my style eventually but I need to figure out how to speed up my line art first.
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Lady Tygry

Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is how I used to do it, until a couple years ago:

Most of it is obsolete since I started using a tablet. At the time, I was still working with a mouse so I didn't have especially clean lineart. I still keep different levels of shading, etc. on their own layers but I find a lot of the layer grouping/blending tweaking isn't necessary with such simple coloring. I just use the color grabber on previous pieces and go. With more complex lighting, etc. sure, the routine gets shaken up. I also rely more on layer masking; I don't think I used it at all when I typed the tutorial up.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I generally scan my line work and set it on top as a masking layer, then put together a channel layer underneath it (which is just colored to select different areas more easily with the magic wand, it isn't visible in the final pic). On top of the channel layer goes a layer for the flat colors, which is alpha locked so I don't accidentally erase any of it.

After that, I've got two kind of main methods of shading, but I'm not really happy with either of them.

The more time consuming one, and the one I wish I was better at but I can't get to work worth crap, is where I make a bunch of copies of the flat layer and jigger the colors in each of them so that they're very slightly darker or lighter (for hilight layers) than the one underneath them. I can't find an easy way to get them to look right "automatically" so I do each individual color in each layer by hand, and this is the part of the process I'm worst at and wish I could improve on. Then I start at the bottom shade image and erase the parts of the object that wouldn't be in shade. Once I'm done with that layer, I move up to the next layer and shade it similarly, but peeled back a bit so I can achieve a bit of a gradient effect when I want one. Then do that again for the hilight layers. These layers are all at 100% opacity, so it's a very WYSIWYG method, and if I wasn't complete shit at selecting the colors, it should theoretically be better looking than the other method.

The quicker one, and the only one I can use for comics I want to finish any time this year, is to just use multiply layers. Make the color layer, alpha lock it, make four copies. One is the light shade layer, set to multiply at 50% opacity, which is for faces which are not in direct light (e.g. the side of a box facing away from the light). The next is the dark shade layer, set to multiply at 60 or 70% opacity, which is for faces which are blocked from the light by other objects (e.g. someone wearing a hat with a brim would have a dark shade area covering their face caused by the brim). Next is the soft hilight area, a lightness layer set to about 10 or 20% opacity which I use for showing depth (mostly for soft surfaces). Finally is a hard hilight area, a dodge layer which I use for showing reflected light (shiny surfaces). The hard hilight layer is generally the light color (usually white) and the other layers are some shade of the dominant color for the scene (or dark blue if there is none). If I've got time I'll generally toss a separate rim light layer over the shaded areas to make them stand out from the background.

The tool I use to shade with is mostly just the eraser. The tool hardness depends on the hardness of the material, for soft materials I try to keep the edges as soft as possible without breaking the object's geometry, and for hard materials I try to use hard edges. For most shadows, I try to think about objects which are angled away from the light and what objects they'd block the light from, but for a lot of hilights, I just ballpark the lighting direction and try to use them more to suggest the depth or contours of the object.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm... I guess what some of are calling the "shading" layer is just my "coloring" layer. I do have a "flats" layer - it's locked so there's no way to mess with it or accidently delete it. I usually try to figure out the basic color scheme in the flats layer - then copy it and work on it (that's the "coloring" layer). This layer is everything. I control it through the flats, picking up different parts and editing them separately but on the same layer. I do sometimes add a new layer above to test things out but if it works I usually mesh them together. I only leave these layers floating on their on if I can't mesh them (sometimes Photoshop is annoying). Might not be the smartest thing, but coloring doesn't take long for me, so I don't really care. shrug
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't really have a set method and keep experimenting with things to try to work out this whole shading thing, especially since I started using color three months ago. Here's what I've been doing recently:

Primarily I shade with black ink and a size 4 Raphael brush--sometimes with hatched and cross-hatched lines, or dry brush once in a while, although I'm really trying to use those sparingly and stick more with big bold blocks of light and dark--if I could figure out how to do it successfully all the time I think my pages would all be big chunks of black and white, leaving almost no linework, with a limited flat color palette giving just enough further information to define everything:

I'm coloring digitally, mostly on layers beneath the scanned ink artwork, which is above them on a multiply layer. White or black ink spatter can serve to give some idea of light in the physical piece; digitally of course there are plenty of options for shading, for instance sometimes it can work with just color rather than value, like with these overlapping "Foreground to Transparent" linear gradients (there's also a very subtle yellow radial gradient over the inked lines in the upper right area)

In that one I was also using different line weights--thin tapering lines made with the tip of the brush on the face, vs blocky thick lines drawn with the side of the brush on the tight material around the neck--to create different types of shading for different surfaces.

Once in a while I have resorted to using the lasso tool method, where you define your area to be shaded with the Lasso Tool in Photoshop, then fill that area with something, for instance a darker gradient than is used on the illuminated part of the object you're trying to shade

although I try not to do that too often because it looks a little too slick to me.

If you're shading with essentially just one color, the obvious way to create depth and lighting is to vary the color's value, but you can also do it by varying the saturation--this has a bit less overall contrast in it but can make up for it in color intensity

If I need to inject a bit more atmosphere into the inks, I may group a coloring layer above the ink layer, usually on Screen, and throw a light gradient or something in on low opacity, to give the darkness a bit of a glow, or even just a hint--lots of possibilities here

although I think I've been overusing that of late.

Sometimes if something just seems a bit off I'll throw a Hue/Saturation layer over the shading colors in question and throw its Hue slider around to see what comes out; perceived value (brightness) changes with color, so this can yield some color and effective value shifts that improve the shading in surprising ways, or suggest new palette directions; for instance in my latest page I started with these colors

used a Hue/Saturation layer set to "Color" blending mode ("Hue" blending mode works identically in this case, by the way) to shift just the colors--and not their values, as it would if left on "Normal" blending mode--to this

which was interesting, (and here's the comparison with how the colors come out in "Normal" blending mode

--notice the yellow is much brighter, for instance) but after playing with it some more I ended up switching the Hue/Saturation layer's blending mode back to "Normal" and going with this hue shift toward the other end of the spectrum

Also in that one I broke from my usual default of leaving pure white as the brightest color in the image--with that big white jagged spotlight area on pure white it was just too bright and contrasty and distracting from the rest of the image; lowering it down a bit with a light color made it easier to read and even gave it a touch of atmosphere, I think.

Another thing I tried in that one was a bit of atmospheric perspective: on the left side, the faint light cyan glow from the unseen background light is at a very low opacity over the big black back of the character's head looming right in front of us in the foreground, at a higher opacity over those funky little prongs hanging down on either side of his head, which are supposed to be farther away from us than his head is, and finally at an even higher--though still fairly low--opacity over the black background, furthest from us.

Incidentally, if you ever want to desaturate your colors partially, without having their relative values shift--as they will if you just use a basic Desaturate process, because for instance we see fully bright green as brighter than fully bright red or blue, yet if you were to use a standard Desaturate on them they would all shift toward the exact same middle gray--there are a variety of ways you can make that happen; the handiest I've found so far is to use that Hue/Saturation layer set to "Hue" or "Color" blending mode, drag its Saturation slider all the way down, then change the layer's opacity until I get the level of desaturation I want; I used that pretty heavily to get the desaturated shaded look seen here, for instance:

The darkest shadow colors there are not really dark but they pass for dark in part because the overall color contrast is very low, so small differences in value really stand out.

Another thing I tried in that one was to make the thin pencil outlines (this was before I switched back to ink) do some shading work: I colored the outline on the lit side of her head white, turning the whole line into a highlight, and then I colored the outline on the other side the same color as the interior shadow, so that the shadow itself wouldn't be upstaged by the black line.

I don't usually like to leave my linear gradients showing as obviously as they do there, because it gets to looking too artificial, but as a one-off hopefully I got away with that one.

Oh, yeah, and I've found that one really important thing particularly when working with shading in color is to make sure your screen's gamma is correct--otherwise the value balances of your colored shadows could all be out of whack on everyone else's screens, not to mention that the whole thing overall could be too dark or too light. My LCD monitor is kind of old and has a pretty small viewing angle, so if I happen to have my head too high or too low the colors look brighter or darker than they actually are. So I made myself a desktop background and a little gamma measuring image that I place next to the image I'm working on in Photoshop--out of the magic gamma calibration images found here:

For instance while working on shading in Photoshop I'll have the little gamma measuring image right

right next to the one I'm working on; when the lines in it blend to an even gray I know that I'm looking at that level of my monitor more or less straight-on, so the colors I'm seeing are pretty much the real colors.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:53 am    Post subject: olde schoole Reply with quote

i keep it pretty simple, that's just the style of my comic. So I just have a base color then a broad area using a shade darker and maybe two more darker colors to fill in details and shadows. Sometimes I get lazy and use the burn tool. Pixelmater.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I work primarily with GIMP. I like to play with color and lighting, so I'll usually use a selection mask and a soft light paintbrush to paint tints of shading directly onto my color layer. Otherwise I'll use a mid tone blue gray with a soft edge and low transparency to paint subtle highlights or shadow and merge it down.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:20 pm    Post subject: Grey Ink, Then Photoshop Reply with quote

I tend to go for a very simple approach when I color my comics. I tend to hand-draw the comics, then add the shades in with grey markers (I usually use Touch greyscale markers, which produce a great line quality). After that I scan the images into Photoshop, add the colors overtop on a separate layer on 'Multiply', then soft-erase parts out where I want to have highlights.

Because of certain circumstances, my new webcomic doesn't have these touches yet, but I usually make my comics with this process.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do most of my shading manually with the spray paint tool on a different layer on top of my color layer for easier editing. Some shading is done with a pathing tool such as the hair highlights and the shading near the cloak buckles of my characters.

I tried to do all shading with pathing but I found the result too clean and unnatural. Nothing like a human hand I guess Very Happy
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