Shading Tips

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Shading Tips

Postby MK_Wizard » May 18th, 2018, 7:20 am

Hi. I have just recently delved into the amazing world of shading and really, it's helped me a lot. My art has come to life thanks to it (when used right) and I even apply it to for shining and transparency. However, there is one drawback; it's a little hard and time consuming to do. So far, I use GIMP with the pen select because I can select my own areas while bending the lines how I want after, but it takes long.

Is there a faster way to do this or is this the only way? I tried using the burn tool, but it did not work for me and shading by hand takes even longer and it looks messy.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby eishiya » May 18th, 2018, 8:28 am

Shading techniques depend on the style you're going for, so it would help if you showed what you're doing. Cel-shading != soft shading != painterly shading, and so on.


The Burn tool is awful because it uses the wrong colours. It isn't meant for shading drawings, it's meant for applying a slight darkening effect over areas of photos.

Shading by hand is the most versatile way, but it requires confidence in where you want to shade. It's faster if you use the largest brush that'll fit in the area you want to shade, and then using smaller brushes as you move down to the details.

A common technique used by speedpainters and concept artists is to select the area you want to shade, and then use very large brushes or gradients. This is fast to do by hand when you get used to it, but it can be very slow when you start, before you get the hang of selecting exactly what you need. For cartoony art, this can be sped up by using a layer of colour flats, since you can Magic Wand the part(s) you need. For cel-shading, you don't even need to use brushes or gradients, you can just fill the selection with the shadow.

Layers and blending modes can also make a difference, depending on style. For tiny details and painterly art, I find it fastest to work on a single layer, but for cel-shading and cartoonier stuff that has flat colours as a starting point, it saves a lot of time to have all the shading as one layer with Multiply or Overlay blending modes, doing it in a single colour that gets blended with the flats. The shading can look pretty decent at that point, but you can make it even better by going in and tweaking some of the local colours once you've got the shadow shapes down.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby MK_Wizard » May 18th, 2018, 11:30 am

What I have been doing was using layers along with the pen select. I colour the areas in black and then make the layer transparent so that the shading looks like shading.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby kayotics » May 18th, 2018, 11:31 am

I don't do shading super often, but when I do I tend to use a couple techniques.

Avoid the burn and dodge tools. Like eishiya said, it's not meant for drawings, it's meant for photo correction.

Technique 1: Clipping masks
- sometimes when I don't want to mess up a flat color layer, I will make a clipping mask layer. I don't know what Gimp's interface is, but it SHOULD have a clipping mask option.
- Why use a clipping mask? It lets you make a separate layer for the shading exclusively, and none of the colors will go outside of the area below. For example, if I had a layer for the flat colors of a character's shirt, and made a clipping mask above the shirt layer, I'd only be able to see what I draw over the shirt.
- Why is it useful? If I mess up my shadows or highlights, I can easily erase it without worrying about destroying the original color layer. I can ALSO change the color of my shadows/highlights really easily. AND it lets me change the blending mode of the shadows.
- This technique works really well for a cell-shaded or a soft shading style without a lot of details.

Technique 2: Alpha lock
- Your drawing program should also have an "alpha lock" setting. This will keep all of the transparent and opaque parts of your layer the same, which will prevent you from drawing off of that layer.
- Why use alpha lock? This is good for when you want to change the color of something and you don't care about preserving the integrity of the original color layer. It's also good for painterly shading styles. Blending colors is much easier with this mode.
- I also tend to use this mode for lineart. When I'm doing colors on a piece, I almost always color the lineart. Solid blacks can be too harsh when you're doing art (which is why you hear people say "don't use black" when doing shadows), so I will often make my lineart either a very dark version of the theme color for the piece, or I'll color sections of lineart different based on what it is.

One more thing, on the "don't use black" rule. You'll see people talk about that a lot when you're looking at color tutorials. It doesn't mean you can never use black. You can use black. But a lot of shadows are actually just the opposite color of the localized light. If you've got a yellow light shining on something, a lot of times the shadow will be blue! And vice versa.

This got a little long. Sorry about that. You might be able to find some more information on alpha locks or clipping mask layers for Gimp.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby authorloremipsum » May 18th, 2018, 12:30 pm

For my comic, I use the layer mode Multiply and a dark, desaturated color (typically blue) at a medium opacity, color and opacity changing depending on the situation. More opacity creates darker or more vibrant shadows, implying harsher light. I'll use the smudge tool to spread it out a bit, then gaussian blur at about 10 or 5 to make it a bit smoother and neater, this method makes it so i can have fast and consistent shading.

Warmer colors help create warm atmospheres, cooler colors likewise, but the color of the shading depends on the backgrounds. And you might need different layers to get all the shadows in! Like for a night scene i did ages ago as practice, I had a multiply layer over the whole thing to darken the whole scene and then the shading of the objects, so it looked like they were in a low-light scenario. Especially in gimp, layer modes and layer folders are so useful.

I also find it helpful to use a 'hard light', 'dodge', or 'screen' layer to add light coming off the individuals and objects, to help make the shadows seem more effective. The color for that depends exclusively on the light source in the setting, sunny park? light yellow. dim pub or bar? a light orange. etc! (i use the same smudge and blur tactic to spread it out correctly)

Layer masks are useful, i definitely recommend researching them for gimp because they're really fantastic.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby MK_Wizard » May 18th, 2018, 1:39 pm

Layers are great for everything not just shading. Backgrounds, speech bubbles, writing.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby MariaCinnamonRoll » May 18th, 2018, 2:11 pm

authorloremipsum wrote:For my comic, I use the layer mode Multiply and a dark, desaturated color (typically blue) at a medium opacity, color and opacity changing depending on the situation. More opacity creates darker or more vibrant shadows, implying harsher light. I'll use the smudge tool to spread it out a bit, then gaussian blur at about 10 or 5 to make it a bit smoother and neater, this method makes it so i can have fast and consistent shading.

Warmer colors help create warm atmospheres, cooler colors likewise, but the color of the shading depends on the backgrounds. And you might need different layers to get all the shadows in! Like for a night scene i did ages ago as practice, I had a multiply layer over the whole thing to darken the whole scene and then the shading of the objects, so it looked like they were in a low-light scenario. Especially in gimp, layer modes and layer folders are so useful.

I also find it helpful to use a 'hard light', 'dodge', or 'screen' layer to add light coming off the individuals and objects, to help make the shadows seem more effective. The color for that depends exclusively on the light source in the setting, sunny park? light yellow. dim pub or bar? a light orange. etc! (i use the same smudge and blur tactic to spread it out correctly)

Layer masks are useful, i definitely recommend researching them for gimp because they're really fantastic.


Quick question? What. Is. Gimp.? Idk if it computer or tablet software for art but yeah ...... Is It good
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby MK_Wizard » May 18th, 2018, 2:38 pm

GIMP is a free to use art program. If you Google it, you can get it.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby MariaCinnamonRoll » May 18th, 2018, 7:59 pm

MK_Wizard wrote:GIMP is a free to use art program. If you Google it, you can get it.
oh. I might try it out
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby authorloremipsum » May 18th, 2018, 8:29 pm

MariaCinnamonRoll wrote:Quick question? What. Is. Gimp.? Idk if it computer or tablet software for art but yeah ...... Is It good


LIke they said, it's a free and open source art program, meaning it's a bit clunky, a bit hard to learn, but easy to customize when you get the hang of it. A lot of people seem to dislike it here on Smackjeeves but it's the art program I've used for the last two years. Personally I think it's great, if you have a good tablet and know how to use the internet for answers, shortcuts, and free brushes via deviantart, which are p easy to get.

I use it, I think my art is p good, but to each their own.
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Re: Shading Tips

Postby MariaCinnamonRoll » May 19th, 2018, 3:00 am

Thank you for the info.
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