Welcome to the first of a multitude of tutorials where I will walk you through how to digitally paint artwork on your computer. Let’s get started!
What is CG?
CG is short for computer graphics and refers to any computer-generated artwork. Among the anime and manga community (as well as other art communities such as CG Hub and CG Society) though, it tends to conjure up specifically painted artwork more than it does 3D art, photo-manipulated art, or other forms of digital art. This term is confusing for the general public so whenever you see a book published about CGing, it tends to have a title of “Digital Painting” or something similar on it. Titles such as Digital Painting Techniques, Digital Manga Workshop, Digital Fantasy Painting Workshop, Digital Art Masters, and Digital Manga Techniques grace the bookstore to name a few. There are a few books though who have titles with CG on it like the Fantasy+ series of books which depict CG illustrators and rightly names them so.
So which do you use? They’re pretty much interchangeable but when hanging around online, the term CG tends to be used more often while digital painting is used for books more for the benefit of those just getting into the craft or for the general public. Just keep this in mind when you’re hanging around forums, flipping through books, or reading tutorials such as this one.
You can’t talk about CGing without talking about the equipment you should use. There are so many machines out there now-a-days that you may use to digitally draw that I’m just going to briefly touch upon this. All it boils down to is this: Use what you have access to. I can’t stress this enough! You don’t need to buy a new computer, laptop, tablet, or what-have-you to start painting digitally. Now, if you don’t have a computer, tablet, laptop, etcetera, then I may suggest you buy one and your best bet is to get a computer that has a lot of RAM (Random Access Memory), a big screen (trust me, you’ll appreciate looking at a larger screen versus a smaller one in the long run), lots of hard disk space or HDD (Hard Disk Drive) in other words, and as much processing speed as you can get. Try to get something with the highest specs in those areas and you should be good to go for several years.
Remember: Use what you already have!
Tablets have been around for several years now and with it, new digital painting apps are popping up here and there. If you’re going to CG for fun, on your spare time, or on the go, then this may be a good investment to get. I’m going to compile several apps at another point down this series of articles so just keep this is in the back of you mind for now. It’s an option for you should you ever find an interest in portable CGing.
To CG, you will need software to draw on. Since there are so many graphic software’s out there, I am only going to cover the most used or well known. At the top of the heap is Adobe’s Photoshop. Prices for this vary depending on whether you get it in a suite or alone so as always, shop around for what suits you the best. Photoshop, in the long run, will be one of the best investments you may make if you’re really serious about pursuing digital painting. It’s the most widely used among artists (meaning: everyone not just anime or manga artists), the most powerful and versatile graphic software out there once you get the hang of it, and many tutorials and resources are available for it. The one thing I absolutely love about Photoshop is that you can activate your license on a computer and then NOT LOSE IT should you wish to activate it on another computer – just make sure you deactivate the other license first. This means that you will technically never have to buy another Photoshop again should you ever upgrade your computer.
Photoshop’s desktop as it would look in the real world.
The next three software’s are specifically for doing painterly (I’ll explain this term more at a later time if you’re unfamiliar with it) style artwork. They are Corel Painter, Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk, and the popular Japanese software, Paint Tool SAI. Prices of these three range from around $60USD to around $230USD more or less. These three pretty much have the same layout and features so do a little digging, try some out, and see which one works the best for you.
Last but not least, I must make note of the popular and free graphic software GIMP. If you’re drawing for fun, are unsure about investing in software, or even flat out broke, then this is the software for you! It’s not as powerful as Photoshop but it has many of Photoshops features so this is as good a software as any to work on.
I will say right now, that I will be using Photoshop CS3 when I’m doing my tutorials. With that said, most of these graphic software’s work the same (i.e. they have layers, brushes, levels, etc) so you should have no problems following the step-by-steps.
Getting Your Work on the Computer
There are two ways to get your work on the computer (okay, there are three but the third way is not really the best unless you do it a certain way). The first is to use a scanner which will take your physical drawing and make it digital. Scanners vary in price and can range from around $20USD and up depending on the type. You may even already come in your all-in-one scanner/fax/printer/copier machine! If you don’t have a scanner but would like to get one, I would suggest getting a flatbed scanner. With a flatbed, you can scan art from your sketchbook which makes it more useful than the other models which require a flat sheet of paper to be scanned in order for it to work.
Cypress Dahlia starting off his fan art with a sketch. Check out the process shots here.
The next way to get your work on the computer is to draw directly into your graphic software. You can do this with a mouse but in the long run, I suggest you invest on a drawing tablet such as Wacom’s Bamboo or Intous. For more affordable drawing tablets, there are other brands which range around the $30 – $60 USD mark. Look around places like Amazon or eBay for the best prices. Drawing tablets and it’s accompanying pen is more hand-friendly and ergonomic than a mouse. With a mouse, your hand will eventually become stiff and you may strain your wrists.
The third way, which isn’t really the most ideal is to take a digital photo of your work. The only way this will work is if you have great lighting and have a decent digital camera. With this method, expect to at least redraw your line art into the software so you have something decent to work with.
Whew! That’s a lot of information no? Well, let’s get to the more interesting part!
Notice how Chihiro (girl) from Spirited Away is in cel-style while the background is in painterly style.
As far as I see it, there are three main CGing styles. They are:
2) Mixed Cel-Style
Let’s get into more detail about each one of them starting with the first one:
This style is called as it is because it reflects the coloring style used by those in animation. Animators, when coloring their characters use a very clean-cut coloring technique where you can easily see where each color starts and where they end. There are generally no mixing of colors because in the world of animation where you have to make multiple cels to animate a character, it’s very time consuming if you use any other style. Time is money and with deadlines to reach, cel-style is the best way to go.
Using base colors only (i.e. no shading or highlights) produces a flat look but still unique in it’s own way in this
Majisuka Gakuen fan art.
Cel-style generally has a character colored with at least a base color, one shade (i.e. darker) color, and a highlight (generally white) color. There are some though, that doesn’t use highlights or shading, but with it’s flat color, it is still considered cel-style in my opinion. In reverse, some may use more than the one shade and one highlight and even expand that to more than two shadings or highlights! Just as long as the colors are clearly defined from one color to the other, then it’s still a cel-style artwork.
Though it sounds kind of rigid, there are some flexibility you may use with cel-style by doing…
II. Mixed Cel-Style
Mixed cel-style, as I like to call them, are any artwork that generally has the overall look and feel of a cel-style artwork with some changes here and there that doesn’t quite make it like the traditional cel-style explained above. I tend to associate mixed cel-style with anything that has gradients be it just used in the eyes or overall from the hair, clothes, and skin.
Mixed cel-style, you may have noticed, shows up a lot in visual novel games. Visual novel games, unlike animation, do not have to worry about animating characters except for making moving eyes and lips. With that much less work, they can concentrate on creating more softly colored artwork which a mix of cel-style and gradients can produce on their characters.
As the name suggests, gradients in mixed cel-style may be achieved by using the gradient tool or tools such as airbrushes that specifically has a spray-like result when used. You can achieve this by using value sketching; a type of coloring style that works in shades of white to grays and blacks; as well in which you may decide to keep the final art in mixed cel-style format or turn into the next digital style called…
III. Painterly Style
Painterly refers to any artwork that apes real-life paintings or if you like to view it another way, anything that doesn’t fall in the first two categories. Painterly style does NOT have a clean cut delineation of colors. Most of the time, colors mix and match and blend in such ways that it’s generally hard to see where one color started or ended. Further than that, painterly style tends to involve textured brushes producing works with brush strokes, splashes and results as you would see in real-life paintings. In terms of anime, backgrounds are done in painterly style with it’s detailed clouds, trees, cities and other scenes.
As mentioned earlier, painterly style may be achieved with the use of special brushes that mimic watercolor, airbrushes and others. Textures and patterns may also be used that come from bricks, pealing paint, wood, carpets, clothing and more. The possibilities are pretty much endless. If you do a search on free Photoshop brushes and textures, I’m sure tons will turn up as a result. With that said, painterly can be the most difficult to master because of the endless potential that you can create with the tools you have at hand.
If you would like to see a plethora of painterly (and even other styles actually), check out all the Inspiration of the Day images here at the site. Try to see if you can distinguish one style from the other!
More on Cel-Style
Aside from using gradients and employing a mixed cel-style technique, you also have some other choices when doing cel-style mainly, the line art. There are three styles you can choose when doing the line art:
Inked line art comes in two forms – traditional and digital. Traditional inking is when you make and then ink your artwork on physical paper before transferring it into a digital format. Digital inking is when you either draw directly into the computer or if you re-draw your line art on the computer.
Pencil line art is when the lines are kept as is in it’s pencil-textured state. This can be only achieved via scanning your physical drawing to your computer. It achieves an interesting art style as seen in our example here.
Last but not least, you can opt to take out the lines completely and just work without any “boundaries” so to speak. This also takes on another interesting style and something to consider and play around with if you’re going for a certain look.
Coming up, I’m going to cover specific areas of the body doing it in all three CGing styles. Afterwards, I’ll be posting tutorials on how to do a certain style from start to finish starting with cel-style. Along the way, I’ll introduce special techniques such as adding patterns to your characters’ clothes, putting in tones, making shape backgrounds, making the border a certain shape, adding texture to your work and much more.
If you would like to practice your CGing but don’t have any artwork to color, try visiting the MT Lineart Bank. Be sure to observe the artists’ rules and if you would like to share your coloring result, feel free to post in the forum as well.