How to Achieve Anime Cinematic Lighting (Sunny Day Scene)



Have you ever wondered why your character doesn't blend so well with the background? Or how to create an illustration that looks exactly like 'a screenshot' from an anime? In this tutorial I'll share my process to achieve this kind of visual cinematic lighting on our illustration. There are 3 POINTS that you have to remember to achieve anime cinematic lighting, first one is LINE ART OF THE CHARACTER, second one is LIGHTING AND SHADING OF THE CHARACTER, and the last one is LIGHTING AND SHADING OF THE SCENE. For reminder, this tutorial isn't about how to create anime background. I assume you can create a simple one and if you can't, there are tons of tips and steps about painting anime background out there. This tutorial works well with a simple background like sky as well. Also, I make this tutorial because there are only few tutorials about achieving anime cinematic lighting.


1. Type of Anime Line Art

If you observe carefully, the line art of the character in anime has no various thickness. It's pretty much flat. So for the line art process I prefer using Line Tool (Figure Tool) instead of Pen Tool. Besides we want to create flat lines, the figure tool gives us more control of the line direction. That makes our work more efficient because it's decreasing a bad habit of doing undo (Ctrl + Z) over and over.

2. Figure Tool Settings

These are the settings for Figure Tool (Curve). For the brush size, my recommendation is around 2-5.

Here's the result of my line art.

As you can see my line art is pretty flat. Next step are coloring, lighting and shading the character.


1. Base Colors

I prefer using Fill Tool to put the base colors and separate the layers based on how many color I want inside my character, just in case I need to change the color later and it'll be faster then. After that I create a folder and put all the color layers inside. However you can use your own technique for for this process. This is my setting for the Fill Tool.

Here's my result. I use 6 layers because there are 6 different base colors and put them all inside one folder.

I've created the background for this character before and as you can see the character doesn't blend so well with the background.

2. Shading Part 1 (Foliage Shadow)

For this illustration I want to separate the foliage shadow with the main character shadow to create more depth and dimension in my character. First thing we need to do is to choose the color for the shadow. I choose blue -ish color because every outdoor shadow in morning until afternoon has blue tint. This color comes from the reflection of the sky.

After that, create a new layer and clip it to the Base Color layer/folder. Then fill the whole layer with that blue color and change its blending mode into multiply with 50% opacity. I name this layer midtone.

Now the character will look like this one below. Becomes darker with blue -ish tint.

Now for the fun part, we're going to erase some parts which is touched by the light. Go to Decoration Brush Tool, under Vegetables tab choose Trees brush.

After that, change the particle size to maximum number (2000). This is going to be an eraser with foliage shape.

To change the brush mode into eraser mode, you can simply click this squares/transparent icon.

Erase some parts using this custom Trees brush to create foliage shadow effect. You can change continuously between eraser mode and brush mode to achieve foliage shadow that you like. The result should be look like this.

The character starts blending with the background because of the blue -ish color that we choose.

3. Shading Part 2 (Main Shadow)

We will create one more shadow layer to give the character more depth. Create a new layer above Midtone/Foliage Shadow and clip it to Base Color Layer/Folder. Change the blending mode into Multiply with 50% opacity. We're still going to use the same blue color for this main shadow. I make the main shadow by using default G-Pen Tool but you can pick any tools that you want for this process.

This is my result after adding the main shadow. I also add the comparison between using 1 shadow layer with 2 shadow layers.

I found that some parts need to get more detail. So I add a darker color for the bottom part of the cloak (this is conditional), give a little bit make up to the character, bring more light on her chest and tweak the background.

4. Lighting

We can enhance the character look by adding more light at the edge of the character left side (parts that get hit by the light). Create a new layer above the main shadow layer and again, clip it to Base Color Layer/Folder. Leave the blending to normal mode with 100% opacity.

Now using default Soft Airbrush with 50% opacity, paint the edge of the character carefully and gently. The result should be like this.

If you didn't see the difference you can see the comparison below.

The lighting and shading for the character is pretty much done.


1. Main Shadow

This main shadow of the scene will blend the dark area of the canvas especially between the character cloak and the tree behind her. The process is simple, create new layer on top, change the blending mode into multiply with 100% opacity. I name it Main Shadow.

Now choose default Soft Airbrush with 50% opacity and pick the blue color that we always use for the shadow. Brush the right area of the canvas gently to darken the dark area of the scene. Here's before and after I create the main shadow.

2. Main Lighting

Next process is creating the main lighting as the indicator where the light source is. For this illustration the light comes from the top left corner of the canvas. Now make a new layer on top, leave the blending mode as normal with 100% opacity. I name it Main Light.

Use the same default Soft Airbrush with 50% opacity and pick white color. Brush the top left corner of the canvas to create an effect of sunlight.

3. Ray Light

So we're almost done. For finishing touch we're gonna add the Ray Light effect on the top left corner of the canvas. The Ray Light will look like this.

We will create this effect manually, so first thing we need to do is open up a new canvas. Create new layer and fill it with the black/dark color. Then create new layer again on top of the black layer. I name it Ray Light.

After that, on the Ray Light layer, create some kind of thick line like this on top of the canvas using white color. You can use any tool that you like.

Next step, click Filter menu, choose Blur -> Motion Blur.

Set the Motion Blur settings like this one below.

Now the white line will look like this.

After that press Ctrl + T button to bring up tool property box. Now stretch down the white line until looks like this.

Still with the active property tool box, click and drag the top right corner box then move it close to the center. Do the same thing with the top left corner box.

The Ray Light Effect is ready. Next step, copy this Ray Light effect by clicking Ctrl + C. Open our illustration canvas and paste it by using Ctrl + V. Put it on top left corner of the canvas and change the rotation toward the character.

Yeay, finally we're done. The character blends so well with the background and it looks like a screenshot from real anime! :D
Literally you can use this technique if you want to make a very very short animation in Clip Studio Paint. A long animation with this lighting/effect quality is wisely done with visual effects and video editing program. But for single image work then you can use it pretty well.
Since this tutorial is pretty long and little bit complicated, you can ask me if there's process that make you confuse. I hope this tutorial will help you in the near future. :)


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