Shading Techniques for Characters and Landscapes (+Video)







In this TIPS article, I am going to be covering two main topics. Shading techniques for characters and shading techniques for landscapes.


The video below will go more indepth and visually demonstrate examples for these topics, please check it out if you have time!


Just like the video, this article will be divided into two sections.


1. Shading techniques for characters

  • I will review Lighting Fundamentals

  • I will go over tips for shading the same character using solid paint and with lines

The tools and tips in Clip Studio Paint I will focus on are: File Presets and Tone Curve


2. Shading techniques for landscapes

  • I will go over basic atmospheric perspective

  • I will go over how to create your own landscape from imagination and have it portray depth through atmospheric effects

The tools and tips in Clip Studio Paint I will focus on are: Gradation Tool and Layer Masks


Part 1 - Shading Characters in Two Ways

Before we can talk about shading, we have to make sure that the basics of lighting are understood. This is because shading is not a mindless act. When we shade any object, we have to think about the light source because that will heavily inform the areas we shade.

To break down lighting to its most BASIC, we need to know that when a light source hits an object there will be a light side and a shadow side, here it is separated by a thick red line. We then have:


A - average light

B - halftone

C - average shadow


Notice that the halftone is on the 'Light' side, not the 'Shadow' side.

I do not think there are many rules in art, but perhaps one that is good to follow if you want to make representational artwork is...

When light hits an object the light side will always be lighter than the shadow side

In the same order:average light is the higher in value than halftone, which is higher in value than average shadow.


It's so that important it deserves it's own heading! It sounds obvious, but if you watch the video, you will see an example of how I messed this up in the past, and how easy it is to fix.


This ends our review of basic lighting, let's get to sketching!

Before we start, if you plan on doing a lot of black and white sketches or tone sketches, it can be a good idea to save a preset! This is super easy in Clip Studio Paint.


1. When making a new file, just click on your paper colour to change it, working with toned grey paper has a few benefits. I recommend to keep your saturation low and choose warm greys (closer to oranges) or cooler greys (closer to blue) or make presets for both!


2. Next, just hit the save button, be sure to give it a name and make sure 'Paper colour' is checked, then click OK. You will be able to select the preset the next time you make a new file.



The benefits of toned paper for tone sketches:

1. If you're doing lots of sketches digitally, a bright white screen can strain your eyes!

2. For these sketches, it's nice to be able to quickly go up AND down in value. You can also use the colour of the paper for your lights, halftone, or shadows, it's up to you.

Shading Characters using Simple Solid Shapes

The basics of lighting are necessary before shading because the light source will influence your shading very heavily!


Tip: Draw a 3D arrow to represent your light source, rather than a flat arrow. This is so you are aware about whether the light is coming from in front of your character or behind them.

One style of shading you can try out involves making very graphic, hard shapes with your shading.


Notice that the values are very clearly defined on the man's face. The light side is clearly lighter than the dark side.


If you are having trouble with shading: think about your light, halftone, and shadow. Where are these shapes in your drawing? Can you easily identify them? If not, then think about your form, which surface would be facing directly towards the light source (average light), which form starts to turns away (halftone), and which one is in the opposite direction (shadow).

When we try out a line shading technique on the man, we still have to keep in mind the light source. This is true for any style you try out!



And again, the shapes are still evident for the line drawing: light, halftone, and shadow.


However, with line we have to express our darker values in different ways. Here are some tips.


1. Density of line: In the light you can avoid using line, or use a few lines, and as you get darker use more and more lines to shade in the area.

2. Line weight: You can also change the size of your pen very easily, so in darker areas, try out increasing the size of your pen/pencil or brush tool.


*Note that for these examples, I turned off pen pressure so that my pen tool made the same sized strokes. This replicates fineliner pens in real life.

One technique you can try to achieve more depth with line shading is to shade in the direction of the form. See how the direction of the shading changes on the three planes on the forehead. This method of shading gives more depth to the image.


Here are some more tips to help your line drawings, focusing in on the labelled areas.



A - Notice how you don't have to use straight lines, the neck I thought of as a cylinder, so the lines curve around. Also it is very clear here the different density of lines in halftone compared to shadow.


B - To achieve gradations with just a pen, one technique you can try is varying the length of your pen stroke. Darker areas get longer lines, and as you go towards the light you can get shorter and shorter until you simply draw a dot.


C - Here is a clear example of line weight. Hair is darker (darker local value) than skin in most cases, and definitely on this character. I increased my pen size and my strokes here were very dense. There can be highlights in hair too, so watch out for those areas!

You can do a tone curve adjustment to modify values. I only wanted a subtle change here so it is not that obvious. Can you figure out what changed?


If not, then perhaps these pointers will help understand how tone curve works!


The tone curve adjustment can be accessed in two ways:

1. On the intended layer, go to 'Edit' -> 'Tonal Correction' -> Tone curve...

2. Right click on your layer menu and select 'New Correction Layer' -> Tone curve...


The difference between these methods is that number 1 will apply the tone curve to your currently selected layer, it will modify that layer. Number 2 will apply a tone curve adjustment on a new layer, which will affect everything below that layer, so it does not modify your currently selected layer.


Now, you can find the official documentation for tone curve on Clip Studio Paint right here:


Here's the answer: What changed was the tones in the halftone range got slightly lighter, and the darks got slightly darker. Check the forehead or neck to compare halftones.


You can tell this from the graph on that image labelled "A"


I moved the curve slightly up on the right side, halftone values then get slightly lighter (closer to my average light).

I moved the curve slightly down on the left side, so my darks would get a little bit darker.


Part 2 - Shading Landscapes with Atmospheric Perspective

Here is a picture I took from the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower in Tokyo two years ago.


Atmospheric perspective is how the atmosphere affects what we see when we look into the distance.


I divided up the picture into the foreground "A", the midground "B" and the background "C" and on the left I took many different colours from each section. What do you notice about the colours and their values?


The colours generally get cooler as we move back from A to C. For an explanation, one way you can think of it is that the light has to go through more blue atmosphere before it gets to our eyes.


For values, the contrast decreases as we go from A to C. This means the RANGE of our values decreases. Primarily, the darks get lighter. The lights in the background can also get a bit darker, but some highlights can still cut through the atmosphere.



Shading Atmospheric Perspective Effects with Gradient and Layer Mask Tools

Let's create a landscape and add in atmospheric effects fairly easily to give our image depth!

Here is a simple one-point perspective scene. We need to use what we learned to add depth to this image.


Some tips for drawing landscapes from imagination:


1. Study landscapes in real life! You can't draw what you don't know

2. Understand basic perspective such as the horizon line and 1- and 2-point perspective. There are many great resources, check out videos online, or books on this topic.

3. Practice, practice, practice. I am also learning and practicing perspective as well, and we can do this together.

We can modify our gradient tool to create a beam of atmosphere!


A. Go to the 'Foreground to transparent' gradient to modify it OR simply create a duplicate of this tool before modifying. (Right click, duplicate tool)


B. Click on 'Advanced Settings' in the Tool Property menu.


C. On the screen that pops up, click the gradient to add a new marker. Ensure that the sides of the gradient are transparent and the middle is a solid colour. Click 'OK'.



On a new layer, use the new tool (which I will call an atmosphere beam) on the furthest distance in your image. Use a lighter tone for your solid colour (remember dark values get lighter in the distance).


The above image demonstrates our new atmosphere beam or fog beam tool. Adjust the opacity of the fog in the layer menu until satisfied.


However we have a problem... we do NOT want this atmospheric effect in the foreground. We need to erase it in the foreground area. Let's use a layer mask to do this.


1. Right click on your atmospheric effect layer -> Layer mask -> Mask Selection



2. If done correctly, you will have a small box appear for your Layer Mask beside your layer. Click on this box and erase out the fog in the foreground. The result will be image 'A'.

Layer Mask vs. Eraser Tool

Why use the layer mask tool in this case?


1. The eraser tool erases permanently. With the layer mask, if we want we can bring the atmospheric effect back by painting transparently into the layer mask. It is less permanent.


2. For soft effects like this atmosphere, it can be hard to tell what you're erasing. With a layer mask, you can show the layer mask to see exactly what you erased. Right click on the layer mask and click 'Show Mask Area.' The resulting image 'B' will appear, the mask will be in blue.

Continue to refine your image, add in atmosphere in other areas and adjust the effects with opacity changes. You can also use tone curve adjustments as mentioned in Part 1. Combine techniques and experiment, remember to have fun!


Today we demonstrated atmospheric effects and adding them in easily with the gradient tool and layer mask. You can also use an airbrush or any soft brush to add in atmospheric perspective effects. Just remember that there is less contrast the further back you go in a scene.


For more in-depth explanations, jokes, and process please check out the video!


Thank you so much for reading, I hope you learned something new!







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