Anime-by-Example April 13, 1998 Update

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        Okay, so you've got the whole black&white thing going for shading, and you think that black and white the best thing going... well you are how I was six months ago (as of April 13, '98). Think again, my friend. Have you ever seen the Intron Art my Masamune Shirow? Better yet, have you seen the Plastic Little Art? My goodness... if you haven't explored the world of color yet, you've got a whole new realm to conquer... But BEWARE!!! Using color is a little more involved than simple greyscale shades-- each color and hue has its own set of "shadow" colors, and when mixed in with different light sources, and different colors of light sources, an artist can manage to get some graphically stunning artwork! Oh my, this is very exciting... ^_^.

        The world is full of color-- there is aesthetic value in the smooth gradient of the sky, or clouds during a purple-orange sunset, or in a city-line at night that an HB pencil just cannot pick up. Trust me, when you change to a good coloring medium, you'll never want to switch back.

        For those of you who have already dabbled and worked with colors, you may know how I feel. But you may be wondering why your coloring doesn't turn out the way you want it to-- or just don't really get it. Well, as I gather pictures-- and hopefully get more Zip disks to store them with, you will see how the real pros handle colors.

        OKAY, BEFORE WE MOVE ON, I just have to say that I'm really going to try not to provide my own techniques, and instead focus on what I see from the pros. This may lead to some inadequate explanation at times, and if this happens, please tell me. I'll try to make things better without veering too much into my own personal style (that is, unless I get styles from other fan artists on from the web, which I'm not counting on myself doing at this time...)

Stay Within the Lines

        One of the most elementary rules of drawing still applies to all of us anime artists to this very day: STAY WITHIN THE LINES. Okay... you're probably saying, "so what?" Well, here's my point: If all you've done to this point is sketch black&white, and you've not been too particular with keeping a solid sharp line, you're going to have to be neater when you color.-- oh yeah by the way, pencil and colors don't match, they just don't.

So here's my point:

You can't afford to be careless if you want your picture to come out precisely how you intended it to. I learned this the hard way in my art class. One's thing's for sure: I suck with India Ink and watercolor-- I'm too goofy and I splatter. Even with colored pencils, the color smears a bit.

Pick Your Medium Wisely

        This is very important too. The medium you pick will result in color that will look very different than color from another medium. Personally, I use colored pencils-- the kind that colors smoothly. In contrast, watercolor will make my colors look even more smooth, but the colors will be softer (because watercolor is somewhat affeted by the white color of the paper behind it. However, watercolor can be very good for imperfections in wood or metal-- as if on battered mecha.

        Most commonly, I know really only five main coloring mediums: colored pencils, watercolor, airbrush, acrylic/oil colors, and computer graphics (or CG for short).

Here is a comparison list of colors and their attributes:

Type of coloring medium






Colored Pencils

Easy to use-- like working with a pencil
Best for beginners--a cheap investment
(but they can get costly)
Depends on hardness of lead, the smoother, the better it blends. Also depends on paper. Not really, except for dry dusty smudges, like those of a graphite pencil. Sticks well Depth and richness of colors depends on number of colors used and softness of pencil lead. The really good pencils cost about $1.00 each. You can also use them up very quickly


Great for smooth and sketchless pictures. Good for imperfections and nuances in color. Good medium for more sketchy, implied lines Blends differently than colored pencils... if you get too many different wet colors on the paper at once, you'll get an ungly black, or a mold-color.You don't want that. When it's wet? heck yes. Otherwise, when dry, I don't whink it will ever smudge, unless you drop it water again. Don't worry about that. For those of you who cannot work with wet mediums, this is NOT for you. You have to be very careful. Colors can run like mad if using the wrong paper.


Produces some of the sharpest and boldest pictures. The blending techniques look wonderful. Blending? Oh yeah. Definitely very excellent. It doesn't "smear-blend" like some colored pencils or watercolor, it blends colors depending on how much paint you apply of a certain color. Smudge? its still a wet medium, so don't touch until it's dry. I think it'll last. Airbrush painting is a talent I haven't bothered with yet. You need special equipment: many different nozzles, a GOOD air mechanism (a cheap one will cost you around $50. Techniques are different too. To keep the paint from going to other parts of the art, you may have to tape up areas00 what a mess. Don't forget your mask too.


Acrylic: Smooth, uniform.

Oil: Very excellent for blending. Pictures, especially background can turn out wonderful if oil is used.

Blending? Sure. I think oil blends a little better, but I'm not sure. Smudge? Heck yes. Especially oil. Man the oil often doesn't dry for a few days or weeks when applied thickly. It'll stick. Acrylic: I haven't found a consistency in acrylic that I like yet, especially for those used for cel-work.

Oil: you really shouldn't use it for drawing anime-- especially people. it's better for backgrounds and stuff like that. In addition, oil CAN BE A MESS. I'm warning you. It's oil, man, you need special paint thinners, and oil-based paints, which can be both costly and messy. Good luck.

Computer Graphics

Most of the stuff on the internet that look extremely clean is CG. CG is very useful for stylish modifications to pictures, or for simple Low-color pictures. You can "UNDO" errors.

If you can manage it, these pictures may look the best of all the mediums. It can mimic any series of styles or types of medium you want.

Blending depends on your patience to select different colors, or your willingness and ability to efficiently use a paint program. Smudge? if you think silicon bits of magnetic data can smudge, then okay... whatever you say. It'll stick as long as your magnetic data holds up-- or the number of copies you mande of the same picture still hang around. Really only as good as your (1) mouse (2) patience (3) Paint program will take you

In addition, CG is no more than a series of 1's and 0's. You made a picture, but you really can't print out a hard-copy picture that does the CG any justice. Face it: deskjets suck. Even color laserprinters don't pick up 16 million+ colors.

In addition, when you lose your hard drive, you lose your drawing. I don't really prefer CG. I'm more used to Elbow grease, and I can scan it in if I choose.

If you want to pursue CG, I would suggest that you get a paint program with Layering support (like throwing transparencies on top of one another) Photoshop 3.0 or higher is good, but if you don't have the nerve to gank it from a friend or a warez site, then you'll have to dish out $299.00 That's quite a hefty sum for something that's bound to go obsolete.

Know the Color Wheel

        Before you do anything with colors, you have to understand how they interact with each other to product different hues.

 The traditional Color wheel

The Computer Light-based Color wheel


    Orange                              Purple
                     (sum of all)

       Yellow                        Blue



    Yellow                              Purple
                     (sum of all)

       Green                        Blue


Black Lines: The More, the Sketchier

        If you really want a rich, and excellent-looking picture, try to keep away from black lines as much as possible, and yes, that means at the outlines too. This is hard for me. I am just understanding wrinkles and implied lines, but for a medium such as colored pencils, you really have to know what you're doing and make sure it's clear. I'm not weaned off of black lines quite yet. On the other hand, if you're doing CG, try not to use too thick of a black line for an outline-- or for that matter, any black line at all. It will look a lot better when you refine it. I'll post some pics ASAP.

Black Lines are NOT Always Shadows.

        Okay, if you've looked at american comics, especially older stuff from Marvel, and some Image comics, notice that the artists supplement their gradients with black, as if the characters' costumes are shiny. Well... that's what black lines are really for. Don't use black as a shade or a shadow unless the object that is to be shaded is gray-- or dark gray-- in color. And especially don't use black as shades for other normal stuff that's NOT shiny. It won't work, and will not look good. Instead, use darker versions of colors.

        For skin hues, don't simply use darkened versions of colors, skin needs to be semi-flush. Maybe, a little tan, maybe a little pink. Decide for yourself. Exactly which colors you choose to use. Human skin is quite diverse in hues.

Here is how some artists color skin.


        This really should be placed in the hair section. ...

       When I muster up enough courage to do this section, I will... But for now, I'll get back to it.

Ray Tracing

Skin Tone

The 2 Types of Coloring

        I figure that there is 2 main styles of coloring that everyone falls under: the simplified but effective quick Animation style, where only about three hues of the same color are used: one for highlights and shines, one for base color, and one for shadows-- and the all-out all-color style, as you may find in most CG art.


If there are any comments, questions or requests for addition, please feel free to e-mail me at

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