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CG 101 - Page 2

basic colors separate layers of color

Once the skin is done, I create a new layer for each base color and repeat the process. This can be slightly tedious, but it will save a lot of work later on. Each new layer is below the previous ones, so that I can use the edges of the previous areas to mask the edges of the new areas. Some people like to use the magic wand or lasso tool to select areas and then use Edit... Fill or the paint bucket tool, but I prefer to use the brush tool to work near the lines, and then fill in large areas with the paint bucket. In very large or complex images, I may have to combine different areas or colors on the same layers to help save memory; if I have to do this, I try to combine elements that don't touch each other. During this stage, sometimes the flat color image will look pretty weak, but don't let that discourage you. This is just the beginning.

shading on grouped layer grouped layer

Time to start adding shadows and highlights, which are what will make the image stop looking weak. This is also where all that hard work painting the base colors pays off. To create a shadow on the skin, I create a new layer on top of the "flesh" layer and group it with that layer (ctrl-G). This means that I can now paint on the new "shadow" layer all I want, and the paint won't go beyond the edges of the base "flesh" layer. (You can also do your shading all on the same layer, and protect the lines by checking the "Preserve Transparency" box, but that will make it harder to make changes later).

shading layer complete shadow layer

Of course, this is where the "art" comes in, so while it's quite simple to just say "apply a shadow layer," it's not quite so simple to do it and have it look good. Doing the shade and highlight layers are the real work of the piece, and this is where the triumphs and despairs of tactical artwork are experienced. At times things will go well, and I'll move along rapidly; at others, things will go terribly, and I'll have to walk away from the computer, sometimes for days. The main thing to keep in mind at this stage is that everything is changeable; everything can be fixed. The beauty of layers is that every color can be changed at any point during the process.

character shading complete color and shade layers

Here each base color has two shade layers and one highlight layer, which is sort of the anime standard. I usually set the background to a medium gray so I can get a better idea of how the final image will look, as a white background can make your colors looks too dark. As you can see, Fireblade's leotard has been changed to black; colors can be changed at will at this or any stage. Just enable Preserve Transparency for the layer you want to change, and Edit... Fill with the new color.

Not much farther! On to Page 3!