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Creating a Vector Anime Character in Adobe Photoshop - Part 2: Coloring

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This post is part of a series called Anime and Manga Illustration.
Creating a Vector Anime Character in Adobe Photoshop - Part 1: Sketch and Line Art
Create Big Gravity Defying Anime-Styled Hair in Adobe Photoshop

In part one of this tutorial set, we created a simple anime character bust line art ready to color. Now its time to move on to the coloring stage, and really bring those characters to life using the cel shade method, a popular technique within the anime style.

Step 1

First thing you'll need is that wonderful line art you prepared in the previous tutorial. Alternatively, if you didn't join us for part one and are just here to learn how to color using the popular cell shade technique, then you will need a line art, on a separate layer to a white background, which you have permission to color. Cel shading is popular with the anime style and is the shading style most frequently seen, both in anime films and TV shows, but also in artwork created by fans of the anime style. It is, essentially, creating bold blocks of color to show shaded areas. Naturally, this suits the vector media very well as we can create nice smooth, crisp edges to our blocks of shading. We'll also be using gradients to soften the bold blocks. So - ready?

Step 2

You'll need to change your white background to vector so that we'll have a full vector piece at the end rather than the background being raster. The simplest way to do this would be to make a white square using the Shape Tool (U) over your background and naming it "white," and then deleting your former white background layer. Next, within your "vector" folder and underneath your "lines" folder, you'll need to make a folder for the color, and name it "color." As we'll be starting with the skin, you can also make a folder within the new "color" folder, and name it "skin." Once you've done that, your folder system should look like the one below.

Step 3

With everything organized, we're ready to go. With your Pen Tool (P) set to Shapes, as detailed in part one of this tutorial set, and with your "skin" folder selected, create a shape in color #FFF8EA for the skin. This shape should follow the line art, and include any areas where the skin is showing - in this case, the neck, face and ears.

Step 4

This may look like a big step, but its not really. Using color #FFCDA9 create a new shape above your skin base shape layer that will go around the edge of the face and hair, creating shadows where the darkest areas would be. Follow the shapes of the hair strands to make the shading feel more believable. Thinking about the darkest areas considering a front-facing light source of average strength, add more shape layers of shading - for example, the top lip, under the bottom lip, under the nose, on the neck below the chin and at the sides to give depth and shape.

Step 5

Once you're happy with the placement of your shading, go back to your original skin base color, and create a new shape layer underneath the shading layers for the neck. To this shape, add a gradient overlay that fades from your skin base color at the bottom, up to the color of your shading layer. You can change the placement or opacity of the gradient until it looks right. Never created gradients before? No problem; you'll find this option under the 'fx' menu at the bottom of your layers tab, its called Gradient Overlay. Creating a gradient this way keeps it all 100% vector, whereas the Gradient Tool (G) is raster - so whenever you make a gradient, make sure you use the Gradient Overlay option in the 'fx' menu.

Step 6

Now add another gradient shape layer, but this time on the face. This gradient should be a little more subtle than the one on the neck.

Step 7

Moving on to the eyes, choose a color that is slightly off white. I've picked a pale blue-gray tone. Make a new folder above the skin folder and name it "eyes". Then, create shapes in your off-white color for the eye whites, filling the area within the top and the bottom shapes of the eyes.

Step 8

Choose a color for the eyes - in anime, any color is acceptable, so go ahead and choose something fun! Personally, I've chosen a nice bright green color. Your base color for the eyes will need to be slightly paler than the overall color you're aiming for. Once you've chosen a color, create the shapes for the eyes within the main ovals for the eye shape.

Step 9

Using a darker and more saturated color than your base color, but of a similar hue, create shapes above your base color like those shown below. They should suggest the shape of the pupil (for which you can use your original sketch as a guide) and add some shade around the top.

Step 10

Next, add a secondary layer of shading underneath, in the same color, at 50% Opacity, so you have something like this.

Step 11

Two more layers of shading to give definition, and you're done. Start by adding another layer like the eye on the left, and then add the final darkest bits above like the eye on the right. Do this to both eyes, and you're ready to add the highlights.

Step 12

Using the original color you picked out for the base, add two circles to each eye - one large one at the side at the top, and one smaller one the other side near the bottom, touching the base color. Then add a bright white circle inside the larger of the two, and there's your highlights finished! Finally, using a darker and more saturated version of your off-white color for the eye whites, add a single line of shade below the eyelid. These shapes should be behind the iris, and just above the original off-white shapes. You can use a clipping mask here if you need to to make sure the shade doesn't 'spill over' on to the face. To do this, make sure the relevant shade shape layer is just above the off-white shape layer for the same eye, right-click the shade shape layer, and select Create Clipping Mask (Alt + Ctrl + G). Do this to both eyes and you're done, and ready to move on to the clothing.

Step 13

Create a new folder above your "eyes" folder, and name it "clothing." Now you'll need to create the base layers for your clothing - one shape for the tie, one for the shirt, one for the main color of the jacket, and then a few for the detailing on the jacket breast. I chose fairly traditional colors, all things considered, but you can choose whatever colors you like.

Step 14

Now you'll begin adding in your shading. Same as you did with the skin, only add a simple block of color to the darkest areas. Starting with the tie...

Step 15

Next add your shading to the shirt, using a fairly bold shading color against the off-white of the base color.

Step 16

Then you can begin working on the jacket, following the line art along the shoulders and arms, and remembering that the jacket breast, the frill and the hair will all cast a shadow.

Step 17

And then on to adding the shade for the frill and jacket breast trim. Using simple triangles on the frill on the indented parts will give a feeling of movement and depth.

Step 18

Color and shade the bows in her hair - I chose to do these the same red as the tie. You will also notice I've added some subtle gradients to the jacket and tie. You can do these in the same way you added them to the skin, simply to add that extra bit of depth.

Step 19

Once you're happy with the way the clothing looks, you can create a new folder above your clothing folder and name it "hair." Choose a hair color for your character and create your hair base shapes inside your new hair folder.

Step 20

To begin the shading, I have started with the darkest area, which is the inside of the hair.

Step 21

Shading hair is a little different to shading other areas, as it helps to show the direction of the hair strands in your shading, so your blocks of color are going to have some slender spikes here and there to represent strands. Shade the tips of the hair, following the general direction of the line art to guide you.

Step 22

As well as the tips, add some shading wherever one bit of hair overlaps another, for example, shade the top of the long side bangs underneath the shorter top bangs. Your character should be looking something like the one below, by this point.

Step 23

Don't forget to add the shading for the parting or crown. Use curved spikes to follow the curve of the head.

Step 24

Continue your shading in the same way, shading the tops and tips of the ponytails and adding in a few longer strands.

Step 25

When you're finished with the hair, you can start adding highlights. To do this, create a new folder above your main "color" folder, and below your main "lines" folder. Call this folder "dodge" and, using the drop-down menu at the top of the Layers tab, set this folder to Color Dodge. Using white shapes set to between 5% and 30% Opacity, start adding thin lines of highlights around the edges of the different areas - for example, see the edge of the jacket breast in the image below. Setting the folder style to Color Dodge means that the highlights will appear as a lighter version of the color beneath them, rather than as a low-opacity white. It's a very useful technique and can produce great results when used well.

Step 26

Add your highlights in your "dodge" folder. My shape layers are set to 30% Opacity here. Make sure you change the Opacity of the shapes only, leave the folder Opacity at 100%. Add your highlights to anywhere you think ought to have one, but don't go overboard as too many can start to look out of place.

Step 27

Using the same technique, add a highlight to each side of the hair. Lighter hair colors will need their highlights at a lower Opacity than darker hair colors. My highlight shape layers are set to 5% Opacity for the hair shine.

Step 28

Next, add a few highlights to the face - a couple on each cheek, one on the bottom lip, a thin highlight round the edge of the face, and subtle highlights to the edges of the neck.

Step 29

Once you've finished your highlighting, go back into your "skin" folder. Choose a pink mid tone for the blush on the cheeks, and use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create a pink tint to the cheeks, with the shapes set to 3% Opacity. Add a few shape layers of the blush until it is visible, but subtle. If you've created a male character, you can skip this step if you'd like.

Step 30

With that done, you now have a completed anime character bust, rendered with vectors! All that is left to do is give it a more interesting background so it feels more like a work of art. This tutorial doesn't go into background or scenery creation, so simply use shapes or gradients for now.

Step 31

With the background done, this tutorial set comes to a close, and you now have a completed anime artwork to show off, so good on you. You can delete your old "sketch" layer now that you're done and won't be using it again, leaving you with a piece which is 100% vector.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, and I really would love to see any characters you've created while following these tutorials. All questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged. See you for another tutorial soon!

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