Dang-it! Explain this to me!

edited March 2012 in The Toolbox
I like to check out the anime wallpapers and CG artists, they often have clever and dynamic poses, camera angles, ideas, et.  But i'm not asking about opinions on anime-style characters (that's your choice), HOWEVER, what I do want to know is *how* is this coloring style created?  I'm an okay hack at Photoshop (not great I just get by enough) but I have trouble trying to emulate this style.

I read a while back that the Japanese have a few distinctive computer color programs just for this.  Is that true, or was someone blowing smoke up my skirt?  Or is this really just Photoshop + Illustrator + Painter + whatever.  Because it doesn't seem like all the effects are under one hood.

Help me out Sequential Workshop Toolbox, what gives?



  • It's technique over tools. I see this stuff in Artist Alley's and I know some of those kids only used old versions of Photoshop. Some also use Painter, and/or other apps alone or in combination. I asked around and generally got the same answer. No special tools - just messing with colors and layers and multiply endlessly until it looks just right. :D
    If you poke around on Deviant Art you can usually find what people used and even tutorials. Or Pixiv for the Japanese artists.

    For instance...
    That one says "Photoshop, dip pen, pencil". Easy peasy! ;)

    Hopefully someone will jump in with specific info. 
  • Looks like cut (using the lasso to define an area, then fill) grad (same concept, but with a gradiant) some airbrush and a variety of layer effects (overlay, screens, transparency).  Maybe taking this to the gutterzombie board would be more enlightening... (I'm no colourist!).
  • Thanks guys, I guess I'll just have to learn some of the techniques, read a bunch of tutorials and get somewhere in the ballpark.  There are other art styles that look like illustrator, though... parts of it are just TOO clean for photoshop. I go to several image sites for anime art (like Konachan, et.) the range is all over the place.  The backgrounds are also amazing, the details on buildings, furniture, clothing.

    One thing I do know... a lot depends on the line art.  Manga and CGI art (like above) carry very little line weight -- which puts a lot of the light and shadow on the colorist.
  • I was thinking of this *coloring* style for the covers of Five Weapons.  I still do my own covers from pencil to inks to colors to lettering and cover dress.  I don't want them to look anything like Bomb Queen.
  • edited April 2012
    The only special-to-Japan coloring software I know of is a freeware drawing program called Pixia. Wacom bundles it (and feature-limited version of Manga Studio) with one of their Bamboo tablets in Japan. It may have some unique tools, but my impression was that its main attraction is that it's free and natively Japanese.
  • @JasonAQuest - Ah, I see.  Well, I'll soldier on until the time comes for coloring.  Actually, I have a couple of Bomb Queen covers to do -- though I'm not going to use the anime CGI style above - but I don't want my photoshop chops to get rusty.

    Something else that also comes to mind... most of the CGI / soft cell shading used has been stuff I've seen online.  I have to admit, the colors are not as vibrant in print.
  • edited April 2012
    ImagineFX has a wealth of manga drawing and colouring tips -- they even put out a collection recently: http://www.amazon.com/Manga-Ultimate-Mastering-Techniques-ImagineFX/dp/1843405784/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333302004&sr=8-1

    I'm not into it enough to looks for that specific approach to have read them in detail, but I suspect that book may be the best resource for what your looking for.

    Other than that, it really looks like working over several layers as you would with an airbrush (lots of masks and such) with colour hold effects on the line art.

    Also - -they have a number of excerpts from the mag available in pdfs, such as this one: http://www.imaginefx.com/02287754333360189228/tutorial.pdf
  • image

    Here's a 5 min sample I did on some Alvin Lee flats.  Keeping in mind I wasn't paying attention to detail, colour theory or anything, I magic wanded the hair flat, created a new layer, filled the selection, clicked preserve transparency, then lassoed and gradient filled high lights and shadows.  I played a bit with the blur tool and smudge and I overlapped gradients.  then I created a new lasso on a new layer for the white highlight and filled that with a white grad, playing with the opacity and blurring it.  Then another layer for the hotspots, which was a combo of pen/brush and hot spot glows (tiny gradients).  It's far from perfect, but I think with tinkering, might be the technique they're using.

    Don't forget, PS now has a pretty good vector shape tool that you can use for really crisp lines if need be, although I suppose you could import the whole thing over to illustrator if you're more familiar with that. Good luck!
  • I just realised I had anti-alias off (I usually use the lasso for flatting) so you might want to experiment with that for a smoother line.
  • Another thing they're doing is colourising the line art in places - either to create a softening or to match the hair or clothing or skin colour for a more "painterly" feel.  Lots of techniques going on there...
  • Wow, thanks guys. Also like the examples.

    To be honest, I know the tricks being used here... I just thought there was a short-cut program that the Japanese used a lot (I can't recall where I read that).  But yeah, a LOT of labor on cuts, gradients and such.

    My problem is keeping to a style and not messin' about with other rendering techniques.
    That's what keeps this exact style out of my reach.  I'll just invest the time and read the tutorial's, books and blogs. Also, YouTube has a wealth of how-to's... though often the art isn't on par with some of the examples I've been looking at.  The sample that I posted is really just the *average* from some of the drop dead stellar work I've seen out there in the anime CGI illustration field.
  • edited April 2012
    I did this sometime last year.
    It was pretty small on detail, so I couldn't get up close.
    I did the hair highlights, the line art in color, the muted backgrounds, the linear line weight, et.
    I just have to get better at it.

  • I'd study the color palettes they use, I think its a key part of the look. Your BQ illo above obviously doesn't use manga style drawing, but it also has a very different color palette.
  • edited April 2012
    And I did this cover a couple of years ago for another Image comic.
    It has some of the techniques (color holds, line art color, highlights, et.)
    BUT... it still lacks the style / effect seen in the anime CGI
    I admit, I didn't pick up the hair color in the line art, that would have worked.
    Also, some of the line art for the clothing wasn't in color.
    I did it for the skin and panties and fire effects.
    It's like I'm half-way there.... but missing the KEY ingredient.


  • I'd study the color palettes they use, I think its a key part of the look. Your BQ illo above obviously doesn't use manga style drawing, but it also has a very different color palette.
    Yeah.... I think my mistake is by NOT allowing the complimentary colors to work on their own.  Instead, I do a bunch of rendering and blending, which creates new color tones / hues.  You're right, Marv... perhaps, studying their exact color palette is the way to go.  In the past, I dragged images to my desktop and used the eyedropper in Photoshop to pick up colors... but pixels can be very misleading when you sample them.
  • edited April 2012
    But I swear, I see stuff like this and I wonder... it must be more than just a color palette.
    It almost looks like Adobe illustrator.  The background details (the rim of the pot, et.) are just too perfect -- yet still part of the color scheme.  In fact, I'm almost thinking it's photo manipulation.

  • Maybe you should grab some manga flats and see if you can replicate what they've got going on there.  Getting the art "style" out of the way will help you deduce what you're trying to nail with the colouring... and then when you apply it to your own art, you'll have it in mind (and the confidence that what you're doing is "right").  For example, you seem hung up on the idea that there's so much detail in the background that it must be illustrator - to me, I see very little detail, but almost no lineart in the background (as opposed to the colour holds or light lineart on the figure) and a lot of "smudgy-ness" which speak to painter or PS in my mind.  Try it out and see what sort of results you get, and post it here.
  • @ShawnRichison - Yeah.  I've tried that, I guess I simply lack the confidence to not mess with it - -hahah!

    As for the background, my cynical side says (stuff like the kitchen sample) is from a photo and manipulated.  In fact, I'm leaning on the idea that the background came from some stock images and the center figure is added on top of it.  And yeah, there's no line art in it (I did the same in the Bomb Queen beach swimsuit thing) - this is why the line weight is important.  By being so linear it doesn't command the eye and blends into the background.

    The kitchen sample has that smudgy stuff going on, as you said, but in some areas it's not (the edge of the counters, the edges on the doors, et.)  It boggles my mind.  And on top of that the background color is still spot on with the subject.

    It also seems the color palette never goes completely black, thus the viewer can't run to both ends of the spectrum and makes the entire thing a bit... pastel.  I'm not debating the points, tips and comments by others, it's just I'm still slightly confused about the method, because it is *clearly* a method.  There are tons of anime image sites (Greg Carter could probably tell you, as well) and the style is obvious -- even with the wide range of techniques and filters.  I'm very curious about this style and how to naturally infuse it with my art.
  • The color is very pastel, and also in the key of violet. A pale violet. Yes, there are other colors, but overall, most of these are keyed off of a pale, soft, pastel violet.

    They are also very muted. There is a lot more grey in there than you may realize, and a good deal more than in your two pieces. These are not in a high saturation, high chroma color style.
  • That kitchen is a 3D rendering. 

    Very common in manga these days.
  • They are also very muted. There is a lot more grey in there than you may realize, and a good deal more than in your two pieces. These are not in a high saturation, high chroma color style.
    Marv, which makes me wonder if it's even worth pursuing, because while this looks all pretty on a computer screen it might be a washout in print.  I dunno.

    @JasonFranks - Yeah, very true about the 3D rendering.  Now that's something I'd like to dig into.  There must be a site that dumps those just for use on anime images like these.  I've seen good ones and I've seen direct photo manipulation, as well.  Some work, some don't.
  • Free 3D rendering software.  I've dl'd it, but not tried it out yet. I need to set apart some time for that.


    Here's one I like:
  • @ShawnRichison - and that program would create the 3D backgrounds seen in the anime CGI art?
  • Probably - I haven't actually tried it, but I assume so... they have a gallery you could check out:


  • Google sketchup might work for you for interiors and architectural models.
  • Daz 3D is a pretty popular 3D program.  I haven't used it much myself, but countless elves, nekkid women, and nekkid elf women have been rendered using it. :)
  • my two cents: use thinner lines in the drawing- almost no black. Desaturate your color. right now your bomb queen stuff is too bright. also think about it more like a cartoon, in than most of the color is created in flat shapes without a ton of blending and airbushing. sure there are gradations, but most of the anime stuff looks like cel animation, which tends to lean more on color realtionships then airbrushing and blending- harder cuts, and more of them- like cels of color.

  • edited April 2012
    @ShawnRichison - I've been all through the 3D site (and other) galleries and none of them had the backgrounds shown in the anime samples in this thead.  And these anime samples are just the tip of the iceberg for that style of background.

    The thing is if you look closely, the lines are not *perfect* (like a computer rendering). In this link, look at the cup and saucer on the table -- and the reflection is off, too.

    In this one, the effect is all painted - yet architecturally sound.  The figures are *obviously* copy / pasted. You can see the body positions are identical... and yet, they got the anime character blended in there nicely.  Clearly the background came from somewhere else.

    In this one, look how off the cap is on the top of the bottle.  It almost looks hand drawn - yet the bottle and the glasses look digital -- just like the table and background details.

    Here again, it *looks* like a 3D image, but look closely and you'll see it's not perfect.  The hanging bells are slanted, the roof tiles are not perfectly lined, et.  The trees in the distance appear painted.  And once again the sky is painted in a *style* and color only seen with anime.

    This one I can see is all painted - but I just like the lovely color theory on this.

    Can it be that people are simply hand drawing these?  Or importing those pre-drawn backgrounds that are often used in manga?  (I believe Deleter makes a series of pre-drawn backgrounds).

    The bottom line is this is a style and technique not easily grasped (for me) and I'm not seeing it in the 3D programs... unless I'm missing something.  And the thing is plenty of kids are doing this (like Greg Carter said).  It's not taking them forever to work on these pieces.  I go to the anime image / wallpaper sites and there are thousands (not hundreds) of unique (and some copycat) versions of anime characters and designs.  When a new hit anime series comes out the fans create these amazing art / wall papers based on the shows.  All the samples in the links above are from anime and manga TV shows and books.  98% of these are *fan made*.

    It's like a world I've only scratched the surface of.  And trust me, I've been lurking for *years*.
  • @anthony peruzzo - I agree.
    I've tried it in a few other pieces (not shows) but my problem is keeping it on the straight and narrow, hahah!  I simply keep tinkering with the colors instead of allowing them to work on their own.  Plus, I just don't have the confidence that it would PRINT on paper with the same washed out effect.

    I'm an old-school print guy and while this looks good on the computer I wonder about the *lack* of saturation levels on paper.

    But I will continue to try, read tutorials study the art and practice the line style.  I'm only looking at this to compliment my coloring style for the *covers* of Five Weapons, not the interiors.  So it's not like I need to have it as an exact science.  Plus, I want it to look like my own, especially since I won't be drawing it manga-style with huge saucer eyes and such.  However, the color *effects* and *color theory* is what I want (if I can pick-and-choose).  Hahah!
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