Colour­ing with manga in mind

Tan Hui Tian saves time with Clip Stu­dio Paint.

ImagineFX - - Contents -

The process of manga-style colour­ing doesn’t dif­fer hugely from those of west­ern comics, al­though there are some stylis­tic quirks. My own il­lus­tra­tion style is a mix­ture of var­i­ous in­flu­ences, and the dis­tinc­tion may be an un­nec­es­sary one.

Typ­i­cally, manga colour­ing tends to have flat­ter val­ues and doesn’t aim to be per­fectly re­al­is­tic. The ar­che­typal manga cre­ated dig­i­tally usu­ally re­tains its line art and has a smoother, air­brushed colour­ing com­pared to a more painterly qual­ity favoured by other artists. Most of the quirks are per­haps byprod­ucts of artists in­flu­enced by the an­i­ma­tion pro­duced by the Ja­panese film stu­dios. In anime, cel-shad­ing is the pre­ferred method of colouris­ing the frames, and gra­di­ents are em­ployed to give the im­ages more depth.

Ow­ing to the na­ture of the manga style, I tend to sep­a­rate the colour­ing process into blocks of colours on dif­fer­ent lay­ers, and add layer modes on top. For other art styles, I may choose to paint ev­ery­thing on one layer once the ini­tial sketch and colour comps have been ap­proved.

Sep­a­rat­ing el­e­ments onto dif­fer­ent lay­ers is a good thing to have for client projects, when changes are re­quested. How­ever, hav­ing too many lay­ers for a sin­gle il­lus­tra­tion slows you down and would be con­fus­ing should you not have a good nam­ing con­ven­tion. It takes time to find your per­sonal bal­ance when de­vel­op­ing a paint­ing process, so see what works best for you.

1 Brush Com­bine modes and colour mix­ing

Brush Com­bine modes are only avail­able on the Pas­tel brushes. Typ­i­cally, I use them to lay down val­ues quickly after fin­ish­ing the flat colours. The ad­van­tage of this method is the hue shift that’s in­her­ent in many of the com­bine modes. The Color Mix­ing tool is de­picted by two merg­ing cir­cles. It acts sim­i­larly to Pho­to­shop’s Mixer Brush tool and is great for de­vel­op­ing in­ter­est­ing colour ef­fects.

2 Gen­eral brushes and con­tour line paint

Most of the brushes blend into each other like real paint does, and is one of the ma­jor rea­sons Clip Stu­dio Paint is pre­ferred by many artists as op­posed to other pro­grams. You can ad­just the blend­ing with the brush set­tings. And if you want to repli­cate the look of wa­ter­colours, you can do so with a good amount of con­trol and fi­nesse with the Water­color tool. The Con­tour Line Paint tool is a colour fill tool that cre­ates a nat­u­ral gra­di­ent be­tween two coloured lines, and is es­pe­cially use­ful for cleaner styles.

3 Colour flat­ting

Colour flat­ting in Clip Stu­dio Paint is a straight­for­ward process be­cause with the Close Gaps op­tion se­lected, you don’t have to worry about stray gaps. I cre­ate a base colour by click­ing out­side the line art, then in­vert the se­lec­tion (Ctrl+Alt+I) and fill it with a neu­tral colour. This en­sures there aren’t any trans­par­ent pix­els left by the flat colours above it af­ter­wards. I com­bine cer­tain colour blocks that aren’t close to each other in a sin­gle layer, both for con­ve­nience and to re­duce the num­ber of lay­ers.

4 Ba­sic colour­ing tech­niques

Here, I’ve mainly used the smooth Water­color brush. But you can use other brushes de­pend­ing on what you want the fi­nal prod­uct to look like. You can colourise the line art us­ing the Tonal Cor­rec­tions op­tion, or lock the trans­parency of that layer (in­di­cated by a pad­lock icon be­side a trans­par­ent square) and colour it man­u­ally.

5 Layer modes

Most layer modes in Clip Stu­dio Paint mir­ror those in other art pro­grams such as Paint Tool SAI. The pink translu­cent coat on her hips has a layer on a re­duced Opac­ity on Nor­mal, and an­other on Add (Glow). The tan lines are achieved us­ing an Over­lay layer.

Close Gap can be tog­gled with other fill tools, and makes colour­ing line art with small gaps faster. You can sim­u­late wa­ter­colour paint­ing by us­ing a va­ri­ety of brush types.

Over­lay is a con­ve­nient way to in­tro­duce hue shifts.

To quickly lay down shad­ows and high­lights, use Brush Com­bine mode rather than layer modes.

Ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent layer modes and think about the var­i­ous ways you can ap­ply them. The ad­van­tage of us­ing Layer Mode is that you can eas­ily ad­just or delete that layer.

Be­ing able to se­lect from dif­fer­ent lay­ers makes work­flow more ef­fi­cient when you have mul­ti­ple line art lay­ers. Di­vid­ing sec­tions of colours and nam­ing them will also stream­line your paint­ing process.

The colour­ing looks more vi­brant when hue shifts are in­volved. Work from big, soft brush strokes to tighter, smaller strokes.

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