Shading and Highlighting

elf kid


Shading and highlighting not only adds depth and fullness to an illustration, but it makes it feel overall more complete.

The first image, flat and lifeless, would be a really boring one to include into our game as a finished product. Even though the second one is admittedly not my best work, and the coloring simplistic with fewer details, it’s much less noticeable when the fabrics, hair and skin all seem toned.

Photoshop offers dodge and burn tools (and actually, I believe Manga Studio does, too), but I have found the product inferior to manually mixing colors with Manga Studio’s color blend. A rendering using the first image of this post, edited with Photoshop’s dodge and burn is below:


Admittedly, using the dodge and burn tools were much faster than color blending, but what it offers is less control. When, for example, it lightens or darkens the colors too much in contrast to the surrounding color, perhaps due to too strong of a stroke, the differences are off-puttingly stark. I would try reducing that by using blur (or is it smudge?) – but blur ends up making everything look overall less defined.

While it’s true that color blend would do the same thing if I were operating only on a single layer (pull the outline into the blend of colors), there’s still the issue of tone control. Dodge/burn will default the change to its pre-determined settings within the color on which it’s working. But if I want to add some warmth to the character’s skin tone, for instance as I did above, I can choose to blend in a color with a little more red.

I did, however, like the subtle touch that it brought to the hair.

Have you guys tried dodge/burn for shading and highlighting? How did you like the tools?