This tutorial I am going to show you how to color and get that anime hard cell look. What is hard cell shade? Basically it’s an image colored with not soft shadow. The shadows and highlight have a rough edge look that gives it a cartoony, or anime feel.
For this tutorial I am going to use Manga Studio 5 for coloring. This tutorial can be used as a reference for any programs that has layering, the lasso tool and masking.
Have your line art ready for coloring. Cleaned of sketches and inked or digitally inked in this case.
If you have a color reference make another layer and use it as your color palette. Put the colors you want to use. I am using a skin color palette by Spudfuzz. I cut and pasted the colors I am going to use on to the project. It created a new layer by that cut and paste.
Take note on the what I have marked here. This tutorial is going to show a three layer coloring process. Most hard cell images are at least 3-4 layers depending on how much shadowing and highlighting is being used. I’m going to show you the basic. Also with the palette I’m using this tutorial won’t be showing you the layer properties change. This will be covered in a separate tutorial in the future.
There are different ways to do hard cell coloring. This tutorial is going to show using the marker tool and lasso tool in Manga Studio 5. I’m going to start with the marker tool for those that are using tablets. Also we will be using the Eraser Tool set on HARD round settings.
Here is how your folder should be set up for coloring. The Ink folder contains the fully inked layer of the image. Should be on above the color folder. Here I have a “BASE” folder and a blank layer nested in the folder. Name this layer “SKIN” or “SKIN BASE”
Holding down the ALT button and clicking on the base color of the palette I’ve chosen to use the color is now what I want. Now with the “SKIN” layer actively selected, and marker tool color the base skin color. Feel free to color the outside the line. This will be cleaned up later.
After the base skin is colored in add another layer. Name it to Shadow layer. It should be above the “SKIN” or “SKIN BASE” layer.
With the Shadow layer active use the marker tool to color the shadows. Using ALT to choose the shadow color of the palette. Take note of where you want your light source to come from. In this image I am going to have the light source come form the left side of the image. So the right side of the face should be darken to emphasis shadow from the light. I erase the area where it would get light on the cheek bone and clean up any jagged edges done by the marker.
Adding a layer on top of the Shadow layer I name it “Highlight.”
Selecting the highlight color from the palette I look for the points on the face where the light would shine the most on, giving the skin a highlight effect. Using the eraser to clean up any jagged edges.
With the highlighting completed you can move on to masking which will be covered a little later on in this tutorial.
Now for those that don’t have a tablet and uses a mouse, or if you choose not to use the marker tool you can do the coloring with a lasso tool. This probably takes a little while longer than hand coloring if you are very OCD, but it’s probably have better results in some areas.
We are going to use the Lasso tool and the Paint or fill bucket tool so set your Marquee tool to Lasso in Manga Studio5 (in programs like Photoshop the lasso tool is a separate tool. MS5 tools are under the Marquee sub tool so be sure to select Lasso in the SubTools menu/window.)
Make a layer name it “SKIN” or “SKIN BASE” and make sure it’s the active selected layer.
With the lasso tool make a selection around the area to start the base color. It can be outside the general area to make sure all areas are colored.
Select the paint bucket or fill tool, ALT click on the base color on your palette and click right in the selection. It will fill that area.
Make another layer name it “Shadow.” Using the lasso tool again make the selection where the shadow is going to be colored in. Still using the light source coming from the left of the image to give the shadow effect.
Using SHIFT to add more to the selection.
Using the paint bucket tool again ALT click your shadow color on your palette and then fill the selected areas. In MS5 you may have to click on each area separately since it does not fill every selection like Photoshop does.
Again with the lasso tool make selection where your highlights will be. Add another layer name it “Highlight”
ALT click your highlight color from your palette, and then fill your selected areas with that color.
With that done you are now ready for the masking.
Masking is a very useful feature in any paint programs that has it. What masking does is that it hides any section of the image that is part of the layer the mask is attached to. Or hides a specific area of many layer if it’s attached to a folder group. We are going to use the folder masking in this tutorial.
Here’s an image with basic coloring completed. We’re going to make sure the folder containing all the colored layers is selected.
We’re going to add the mask to the folder group. So we go to the Layer menu scroll down to Layer Mask and select “MASK OUT SELECTION” or press V. (Manga Studio 5)
This will create a mask attacked to the folder.
You will know if the mask is attached to the folder layer when the colors vanish from the main image. It’s not gone don’t worry. It’s just hidden under the mask. Take a look at your layer window.
Now we have to select the MASK. This image here shows that the folder layer is selected but the MASK is not the active selection. We want the MASK to be the active selection. Click on the BLACK AREA. This will make the MASK the active selection.
As shown in this image the MASK is active. You see an outline around the black box. This means that the MASK is what you’ll be doing edits on.
Now using the lasso tool make the selection of the face. Leave out any areas that you don’t want to be the skin color.
Now with the paint bucket tool fill the selections. This will now show the layers that was hidden from the mask.
Take a look at your MASK in the layer window. You will notice a white spot in the black area. This is the mask transparency that allows certain areas to be visible. Black hides what you want to hide. White is like the holes cut through the mask to allow visibility.
Using the this is what your image should now look like. With the lasso fill masking though you can see there are some gaps in certain areas.
We are now going to fix the gaps. The Mask should still be active and you should use your marker tool for this or a hard round brush. As you can see the gaps here it makes the image look very unfinished.
This image here shows what it looks like after the gaps are fixed with the marker tool. Pretty much just color in the gaps on the Mask.
And now zoomed out and it looks much better. These steps can be used to color any part of your image in a Hard Cell style.
Hope you enjoy this long winded tutorial. If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment section.