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Soft Shading


Now that we have our shading color ready to go, we can start laying down the shadow.   For the sake of just keeping this simple, Iím just going to use a generic ambient light source in front of the character and shade accordingly.   Itís very important to choose a light source and stick to it when you begin shading.   Lighting inconsistencies and shading errors are very obvious to the human eye and can damage the overall feel of any image.

Before I start shading however, Iím going to lock the transparency of the ďskinĒ layer.   This will prevent me from painting outside of its boundaries, and painting brown on top of the wrong color.   This is the main reason why every color is on its own layer.   It becomes a lot easier to paint when youíre restricted to the color youíre dealing with.

Using a size 20 soft brush I paint in the shadows very loosely.   I make sure that I use the full spectrum of the tone I chose to give the shading some contrast.   Notice how I set my background and foreground colors to the skin tone and the shade.   That allows me to quickly switch between the two colors by pushing the X key on the keyboard.   Photoshop shortcuts are very handy to know, and they help speed along the process a lot and can drastically improve your workflow.   Two other shortcuts that are especially handy for painting are the [ and ] keys on your keyboard.   Those will decrease and increase the size of your brush.

The next step is to just refine the shading with some blending.   So using the techniques I just talked about with the keyboard shortcuts, I just softly keep going over areas and painting them in.   This is probably the hardest part to illustrate to you, and unfortunately it   might look like a magic step.

When blending I don't use the eyedropper to choose a new color.   I usually just keep switching between the light and dark colors that Iím working with to blend.   If I notice that a shadow is coming on too strong, Iíll switch to the light color and lightly go over the edge of that shadow until it blends smoothly.   Itís hard to explain and it will only come to you with practice, and through use of a tablet of some kind.

Another seemingly big step here.   Just going through all the layers one by one, choosing a nice shading color, and repeating the same process.   Start out by just blocking out your shadows, and then go back to refine them.   Donít try to create refined blending from the start, as the shading will come out looking inconsistent.   Make sure that your image retains the same polish throughout, so donít just work on the skin until its 100% complete and then move onto the hair, or something else.   You may say that we just did that, but trust me when I say that the skin is not 100% complete.   Or maybe you didnít say that and Iím just paranoid.   Oh well.

Secondary Shading Color

The next step that weíre going to do is something that I feel really adds a lot of pop to the image.   Right now what weíre looking at is just a pretty flat, boring shaded image.   Thereís not a lot going on, and it seems very dry.   Thatís why weíre going to introduce a second shading color.   In my Cel Shading Tutorial I used a second shade color for especially dark areas to really bring out the depth of the image, and weíre going to do the same thing here.

Using the color picker, choose a grayish and pale blue color.   To be exact, I chose a color blue with my color cursor about half way up from the bottom, and ľ across from the left.   Weíre going to use this grayish color and paint over our shading on the other colors, so our first step is to create a new layer.   Now using a soft brush gently go over the areas that are shaded in almost completely.   This means all the dark areas of the skin, hair, clothes, everything.   One area that I wouldnít touch in particular with this washed out color are the face details such as the eyes.

That looks a lot better now, doesnít it?   Everything seems to have color variation now, and it gives the image a lot more life.   Usually this color set would be appropriate for if the character or subject of the image were in an outdoor setting with a blue sky.   Experiment with these colors when youíre painting a different setting.

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