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Submitted on
May 18, 2012
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My Layer Order by Robaato My Layer Order by Robaato
Sohhhhh. I've been getting quite the number of inquiries as to how I color/setup my layers.

I already uploaded this one, but that one is probably complicating for beginning peeps to understand. So I've provided you with a bare-bones setup as to how I order my layers and their settings. This is for both Cel-Shades AND blended/Airbrushed styles.

DISCLAIMER: There's no one way to cel-shade/paint. Sometimes you can pick each individual color, others you can color it in manually with a brush, paint from a palette, etc. This is also for PHOTOSHOP USERS. I don't use GIMP or Painter, but the same rules apply.


:bulletblue: Lasso Tool - (Usually for cels) I mainly use the freeform lasso tool to select my sections where I will be placing the light/shadow/flats. For straighter sections, I'll switch to the Polygonal one.

:bulletblue: Custom Blender - I use that for blending colors together, usually for painty pieces. Either I slap down some colors and blend them or I'll blend from a filled selection. Either case, it's pretty nifty and valuable. I show how to make this in that same tutorial.

:bulletblue: Layer Styles - These are settings you can apply to a layer to give it a particular effect (glows, skin tone variance, noise, etc.) I slightly touched upon this on this process. I'm not gonna hold your hand on that one, you should experiment for yourself.

:bulletblue: Gradients - The use of the gradient tool to, obviously, make color/shadow/light gradations. Again, experiment.

Now when I color, Lighting and Value is key and forefront in my mind. If you don't know your values, then you're not going to get very far in your colors. So let me breakdown each layer to show you my thought process:

:bulletred: MAIN LINEART - I usually put my lineart layer on Multiply. Meaning that any color value that passes under it will be multiplied & DESTURATED on the color's value alone. So if you have red lines, and put a light-blue flat underneath, it'll just be a darker red. You're not blending them (a la Color burn does that, "Red + Blue = Purple"), you're just playing with the color's value pigment. Note that the lineart is separated from the Background (no white, pure lines).

:bulletred: BASE FLATS - As you see on the example above, these are simply my base flats. Nothing else to go off of. For my colors, I choose the color in pure light, because again, I'm letting my lighting discern how colors look in the end.

Now on top of my base flat, I have three lighting layers (hold alt-key and select between the base flat and the lighting layers to mask it to the base flat, that way everything you color stays within the base flat). These layers affect the lighting.

:bulletgreen: HIGHLIGHTS - This is on SOFT LIGHT Blending mode, and I select a light warm or cool color, depending on the direction I'm taking the pic. (See hex codes below).

:bulletgreen: SHADOWS - This is on HARD LIGHT Blending mode, and I select that dark purple color for my shadows.

:bulletgreen: SECONDARY HIGHLIGHTS - This is on OVERLAY Blending mode, and I select a light warm or cool color. I usually use this to double up on hot spots where my highlights fall. I also use it for underlighting/faint secondary light sources, as this will go UNDER the shadow layer.

The color I use for Shadows is #474253.
The color I use for Warm Light is #ffe9c7 (Sometimes I go orangey, depends on the illustration.)
The color I use for cool light is #dcf1ff.

That's pretty much all I got and I will refer anyone who asks in the future here. It's up to you to try things out/experiment.

Happy coloring! =)
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Insanerst Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014   Digital Artist
I've only seen two pieces of your art, but damn, you're like amazing.
Seeing this just makes me wanna try it now. Thanks so much for sharing ;w; I've been looking to improve
Texture-Animate Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I would really appreciate it, if you took a look at my gallery. nothing much now really, so it shouldn't take too long. but advise, suggestions, critiques, and/or just comments would be great. Thanks Rob
RedWinterwolf Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013
Been trying to get an orderly layer setup for ages now, definitely giving this a shot. Keep on rocking, man.
keybladesword Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
thank you !! for this
KGBigelow Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2013  Professional General Artist
you're the best! Thanks!
BetaoftheBass Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2013  Student Filmographer
thank you so very much for this i will take your knowledge to consideration, i have been hoping to learn a more effective way of coloring digitally, especially on Photoshop!!!!...:3

much thanks ...^^
Kayshae Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I gotta try this, thanks! :thumbsup:
ware4me Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Really interesting :D
deshune Featured By Owner May 24, 2012  Student Artist
this is great
mandelak Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Student Filmographer
Nice! My layer orders completely messy haha. That's just how I work though I clean up only if I am going to hand it off to someone else. I should really get into naming layers would cut down half the work haha
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