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04 October 2009 @ 06:47 pm
Tutorial No. 02: Layer Effects and You!  
[Original entry and comments can be seen here.]

This is a simpler yet deeper tutorial than the first, as it focuses on how one can manipulate layer modes (also known as "blending modes"). While actually turning these modes on and off isn't difficult at all, one needs a good amount of skill to use them to their full potential.

There are surprisingly few tutorials available that discuss layer modes and their uses; this is likely due to the perceived notion that the use of such modes is intuitive. To an extent, it is--but that isn't always the case! Some people pick it up quickly, while others never quite understand it.

This tutorial--save for the portions that use the Heal Brush--can be used for nearly all image-editing programs. Also, please note that it is very, very long, and very image-heavy.



Here's something of an overview of several commonly-used layer effects:

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As you can see, not all layer modes are useful for icon-making. (You could find a use for the stranger ones, but that's best left for your own experimentation.) The four layer effects we'll be working with here are Color (not pictured above), Exclusion (also not pictured above), Multiply, Screen, and Soft Light.


COLOR


The "color" mode does what one would expect it to do--it replaces colors. I typically use it to change the colors of layers that I don't want to paint over; here, I made a new color layer to alter the colors of Sakura's robes:

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Most of the time, however, you won't be able to simply apply a color and expect a good result. Note the example below:

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The lower row has a color layer with only brown covering Watanuki's right iris; the upper row has a color layer with a mix of brown and dull purple. See how natural the upper icon looks compared to the lower icon?

Shadows and highlights aren't merely darker and lighter shades of their base colors; as such, you can't switch the colors of a particular subject without taking into account how the shadows and highlights will change. Toerning has a great tutorial on light and color that explains this far better than I could.


EXCLUSION


The "exclusion" mode can be used to soften the palette of an already-painted piece. The color of the exclusion layer will replace the blacks of the layers beneath it, and render the whites of those layers the same color as its opposite on the color wheel. A picture will demonstrate better than words:

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Note how a dark blue exclusion layer makes the white background yellow in color, while a teal exclusion layer makes the background more reddish. (Also note how lousy Kurogane's face looks here.)

The lighter the exclusion layer, the more pronounced the effect will be:

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It looks strange here, but you would be surprised at the difference a single exclusion layer can make.


MULTIPLY


This is the layer mode we use for coloring! :D

Basically, a multiply layer will "multiply" its colors with those of the layer beneath it; white will be replaced entirely by the color of the screen layer, and black won't be affected at all. One could go about this in two ways: color on a multiply layer on top of the base layer, or set the base layer to multiply and color on a normal layer beneath it. I prefer the former method, since it allows me to apply screen layers on top of the lineart without affecting the colors of the multiply layer.

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Now, note how the two multiply layers (the hair layer and the skin layer) interact when they overlap each other:

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See how one darkens the other? Some people apply shading to their artwork by coloring on a new multiply layer, as opposed to doing all of their coloring on a single layer. Here's what the icon would have looked like if I applied the shadows on a new layer:

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Regardless, here's the finished result--with the hair and skin layers separated from each other:

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On an additional note, you can sometimes use the Multiply mode to apply textures:

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SCREEN


Screen can be said to be the opposite of Multiply--it lightens colors beneath it. Black will be replaced entirely by the color of the screen layer, and white won't be affected at all.

Here, paint over the black shadow cast on Sakura's neck with a light purple:

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Note how the multiply layer above the screen layer overlaps with it somewhat. Let's try to even that out:

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The multiply and screen layers don't overlap anymore, but the result is still unnatural--the two layers can't be blended together. Keep this in mind while painting, and plan accordingly.

In this case, I erased the purple on the screen layer, erased the black shadow from the base layer, and painted in the purple again in the multiply layer:

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Going back to the screen layer, paint in the lines of Sakura's hair with a light brown:

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It's very important that you choose the right colors to paint over the lineart with. If they're too light, the screen layer won't blend well with the others; if they're too dark, then the screen layer won't stand out at all:

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Now, another good use of a screen layer is to set a general tone for the image. Note the difference a new screen layer, set beneath the old one and filled with a medium brown, makes:

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Of course, this screen layer will almost inevitably overlap with the multiply layers above it, so be sure to erase any stray marks:

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One can also use a screen layer to paint in much the same way as one would a multiply layer. The highlights in Clow's hair were painted on a screen layer, as were Yuuko's hair, skin, and kimono:

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One could likewise use a screen layer to provide depth and texture:

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SOFT LIGHT


While Soft Light can be used to apply textures and patterns, I mainly use it to clean up dark and grainy scans.

Here, we have a scan that is entirely unsuited for use:

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Before applying the soft light layer, first clean up the center of the image using the Heal Brush:

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Let's do this thing.

Duplicate the background layer and set it to "soft light."

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See how the darker parts get darker, and the lighter parts lighter?

Keep on duplicating the soft light layer until the image reaches the point where the lines are beginning to look ragged:

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With the top soft light layer selected, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, and set the radius to 3.0 pixels. (Note: I picked this technique up from buddha_loves_me--more specifically, from this tutorial.)

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The lineart has been saved!

I personally find the resulting effect to be beneficial to my coloring, but it may not work as well for cleaner-cut styles.

Keep on duplicating the soft light layers, occasionally blurring one when the lineart gets rough, until you reach the point where you can no longer brighten the image without badly damaging the lineart (it's up to you to determine when this will be):

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The image is still too gray to color on, so all we can do is paint the more important areas white:

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And we're done!

You won't always have to resort to painting in the base layer--the two icons below were redrawn and fixed with soft light layers alone:

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COMBINING LAYER MODES


Here are some examples of how you can combine different layer modes to create certain effects:

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And that's it for this tutorial! If you have any further questions, or if you see a mistake here, please contact me. Also, please feel free to experiment with it--that's what it's for.

 
 
 
TA・KA・IIkykou_yk on January 7th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
Cool~ This is very helpful :)
Laury: ZEKI españollaury_kos on April 30th, 2010 07:03 am (UTC)
why don't you have more comments here? :O
This is greaaat stuff *o*, must save
very late Thanks!
outou on April 30th, 2010 03:17 pm (UTC)
This is a ported entry from my personal journal, since I posted my first icon sets and tutorials there. The original post is here! :D