manga Drawing Tutorial

Cell & Soft (Painterly) Shading Techniques

This tutorial will help you understand the difference between the two shading styles and may help some learn about anime CGing, from scratch. It shows how I sketch ideas, then outline and colour them in and how to shade with different techniques; Cell & Soft shading. You can use this tutorial to improve in any program that you use (Photoshop, OC, Painter, or even RMD!).

Tutorial category: manga  
Tutorial type:
Submitted by:
Tools used: Photoshop.




Step 1



Step 2

Preview of cell shading.
This is a close up.
Why did RMD ruin the quality?



Step 3

Preview of soft shading.
This is a close up.
Ruined quality by RMD.


Step 4

Sketch your first idea, make guidelines.


Step 5

Add more guidelines.



Step 6

Add more detail on a separate layer (if you're using digital media).


Step 7

Now delete or hide the sketch guidelines, and only leave the layer you have just used. Then reduce it's opacity, or change the colour/brightness to very light.


Step 8

Create a new layer, and start outlining. Don't forget to correct some lines and proportions! There's no use to just go over the sketch if it will look the same.


Step 9

I prefer adding a new layer for hair as well, but it's up to you. Keep outlining till you're satisfied with the detail you added. Don't make separate lines for shading and don't try to shade it straight away.


Step 10

This step is for those who like neat lineart. As usual, hide or delete the sketch layer, reduce the opacity or change colour/brightness of the outline layer to very light.


Step 11

I prefer using brown colour for final lineart, except for the eyelashes and pupil.


Step 12

Final lineart on it's own layer. Hide or delete any other layers that you used for sketching to reduce the file size.


Step 13

Cell shading begins here!
Make 2 new layers, place them under the lineart layer. The layer on the bottom should be your background layer, so it's easier to see the colours you use. Fill it in with some calm and not too light colour, such as the one I used. The other layer should be used for base colours, such as the base for skin colour, fill her skin with a light skin shade.


Step 14

Use the same skin layer to add at most two darker shades of skin colour. Please don't even think about smudging them! They should stay as they are! Do not use more than 3 shades! One is alright.
Shadows should be where you think they should be, but you must be aware that shadow is on the opposite side of where the light source is coming from and where the light areas are. Usually show is under the chin and under the hair and nose.


Step 15

Make sure to use a new layer for eyes. Add base, light colour of the eyes.


Step 16

Shade the eyes the same way at the skin, except that you might want to add a reflection on the eyes, to make your character look more lively.
Add new layer and colour the mouth as well.


Step 17

New layer for base colour, for the hair.


Step 18

As you add some shadow on the hair, add some reflections as well, just like on the eyes. It is also up to you where you decide to place them, just don't add them somewhere on the bottom or where you have shadows. Hide or delete background colour and you're done with cell shading drawing.


Step 19

Still not satisfied? Well then, let's learn some soft shading.
As a starter, add some layers with base colours.


Step 20

Here comes the difficult part. Some people shade using cell shading techniques and only then smudge the shading colours, but I prefer using more of a painterly style - shading with either soft brush, airbrush or half opacity brushes (normal brush, but half see through).
Just imagine where the shadow is and colour it in, but in a soft way. Remember not to use more than two shades. In skin, I used two shading colours, one a bit darker than the other.


Step 21

The eyes! Everyone has their own opinions about how an anime eye should be shaded. It's all up to your preference. I'm here showing my own way just as an example. I used darker shade for the pupil and a bit lighter shade for the actual shadow in the eye. It might be a shadow created by the hair.


Step 22

Same as before; I suggest adding some highlights to the eye, to make your character look more lively.
Shading hair is difficult, but you can avoid it, by just using two shades. Shade using soft and dark colour, b just adding thick lines all the way through the hair, but don't forget to curve a little bit, where the hair curls. Then go over with thinner and darker soft brush, only in some areas.


Step 23

Final part. Adding some highlights on the hair is also useful. If you want to make the hair look even softer, you can use gradient over it, and then clean it up on the areas outside hair. This is where the soft (painterly) shading ends too.


Step 24

Thank you for reading this tutorial, and don't forget to work with large scaled images, and only after you have finished them, reduce the size and save. This is the original size of the drawing I worked with, when creating a tutorial. It looks better when it was drawn really large, finished and then reduced the size, rather than starting to draw it small, because a lot of tiny mistakes or marks will not be seen when you resize the large drawing into small when you have finished it.

Okay, I am done telling me secrets.

I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and I really hope that it will help you in one way or another.

I'd love to see your final outcome when you're done, so please send it to me via personal message here on RMD.

Please do not copy, redistribute, advertise or sell this tutorial without my permission.

Any comments, notes or questions should be made directly to me, via RateMyDrawings personal message system. Thank you!

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