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An approach to shading

Posted by Marius Oberholster on Monday, December 30, 2019 Under: Tips
Hey all!

So a few months ago, before all the COPPA stuff cropped up, I asked you guys what you do when you do NPR or toon shading - specifically related to shading. I did get one response, so holla to you! lol. I said I would share it, but unfortunately, with how YouTube decided to comply with COPPA, it's up to creators to identify who their content is for and not how old the users are - this means I will lose comments and already lost the community tab... Sorry... It's just because I do tutorials that appeal to a general audience and unfortunately they have colorful cartoon characters etc. We'll not go into all that, LOL.

How I typically approach shading.

Characters:
 - Normal editing only if needed
I rarely use it, because I use more realistic style anime character designs. This means that shading is going to typically be more complex - it does sometimes get my characters on the nose, so lighting is extremely important!

 - Specularity only on certain materials
Only metals or things that are absolutely and obviously shiny get specularity. Skin can look very plastic if it has specularity on it. If it is needed, I would only add it very subtly or opt for another layer of diffuse, because I hate the plastic look. Another solution is to make it extremely soft, like in most comics, but that breaks that flat shaded look.

 - Mostly two tone colors
Clothes and skin are typically well shaded when you only have two tones: shaded and non-shaded areas. To have something visible in the shaded areas, you need to add some sort of ambient or world lighting to your scene.
Which reminds me, when you are shading, you typically have the shaded areas either towards the blue/green spectrum, or towards the red/yellow spectrum. This will be added to the NPR shader, GOD willing.

 - Lighting groups if at all possible
Lighting groups in 2.77a's Blender Render, are absolutely essential. I love blending my characters with an environment with soft shadows, but you can't do that with sharp toon shading or custom NPR shading if you don't have light groups. But that is a post for another time.

Environments:
 - Normal generated outlines
In compositing, I love adding a little bit more definition to a shot, by giving the scene's background some gaussian difference outlines generated from the normal pass. This just helps define things a bit more, that would otherwise bleed into each other. This is often seen in paintings and the painted backgrounds, where shapes are more defined than they would be in real life. It is an outline of sorts. I like to call it the vacuum plastic outline, lol.

 - White world lighting
World lighting or environment lighting is essential for both the shaded areas of your characters as well as the environment's readability. I usually add two background shaders in Eevee for this, separated by a camera ray. This allows me to have the bluest possible sky, but gives me the freedom to choose my environment lighting. Environment lighting typically appears white, despite a very deep blue sky, so you don't always want the sky coloring your characters.

 - Not-too-realistic textures
Super realistic textures creates a too great divide from the artistic nature of traditional cartoonish NPR work, like Looney Tunes or Anime or older animated Disney Movies. You can however use super real textures for fake claymation type styles or styles like Pixar. I like to get something as painterly as possible and I try to use textures like brush stroke layers. This has varying degrees of success though. The absolute best, but most time consuming way, is to use texture painting and hand paint them - you'll still get the 3D look though.

 - Ambient Occlusion
No environment in NPR that needs a painterly background can go without AO. Ambient occlusion gives so much contrast to an image and again, helps to breakup shapes that would otherwise bleed into each others, such as overlapping walls at varying distances. You can also use the pointiness node for a fake AO that is very consistent with the traditional way that anime backgrounds are painted - just make sure those edges are connected or they'll be ignored (only Cycles as of this post as far as I know... sorry).

Current Limitations:
- Character shading is extremely dependent on lighting.
It usually is anyway, but you are much more constrained than you would be for PBR and may require animating or moving your light source.

- No way to really blend shapes to look like paintings.
Often things with high detail will turn into smudges that kinda blend into the distance from the foreground and unfortunately, I don't know of any way to really blend these effectively. I do have some idea, and I'll try to implement it, but this is generally a serious drawback for getting just the right look and feel.

 - Paintings don't change color over time.
This is a texture painting limitation. When you do things like texture painting and camera mapping and so on, you often get a weird "frozen in time" feeling, because light is no longer active in the shot. This again, breaks the feeling of cohesion. A painting is a moment in time, but you don't feel like it's frozen - in video, it does. Yet in shows it doesn't, because your brain understands the limitations of the production process so suspends it's disbelief of the static. Having your models in your environment respond to lighting with things like Normal maps or Bump maps and a diffuse model, instead of emission, will definitely add definition to your scene and help it all gel.

 - 3D is not 2D
This is a hard one to accept for most people who love 2D shading, especially anime, and really find the perfection of 3D kinda jarring. Limiting frame rates is not a bad move and can really break that feeling of harshness, so to speak, but it has to have imperfections. My general policy is not to limit frame rates, because it really isn't 2D and if you let 3D shine in what it is, it can actually look pretty astounding - sometimes needed though, lol.

So there you have a summary of how I approach shading and why I make some of the choices that I do in the tutorials! :D
I always aim to get as close to classic anime as much as possible, but 3D is not 2D and vice versa.

I hope you guys have an awesome day!
Almost 2020!!
I hope you guys had a very blessed and merry Christmas and that you have an awesomely awesome 2020!!!

GOD bless you! (^^,)

In : Tips 


Tags: god  jesus  holy spirit  blender  anime  shading  approach  normals  editing  lighting  process  backgrounds 

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He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
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