Today's tutorial by illustrator and manga artist Chihiro Howe covers how to color manga characters, skin, eyes, hair, and clothes. Get out your Copic markers. Enjoy!
PART 1: COLORING SKIN
In this series I'll break down the image above in four parts: skin, eyes, hair, and clothes. This first part covers skin. I'll be showing you how to color two different types of skin, light and dark.
Step 1: Sketching Your Manga Characters
I start out with a sketch on regular copy paper. I then transfer the image onto a nicer paper (whichever types of paper you feel comfortable using. I like to use Canson's Bristol paper) with the Multiliner, using a light box. This way, you'll still have your original sketch along with the colored image.
Step 2: Coloring Your Skin Base Layer
With Copic markers, start out with the lightest colors first—darker colors can bleed when you use a lighter color over them. The exception is when you are blending the colors. I start with the darker color first, then blend it with the lighter color.
For the light skin, I used R00 for the blush and YR000 for the base color. To get the really smooth blending, I use the R00 first and immediately blend it out with YR000. For the darker skin, I used E13 for the blush and E31 for the base color. If the blush looks faded, do another layer of E13 before E31 dries. If you want a even darker skin, just use a darker reddish brown for the blush along with the darker base color.
This is what the skin will look like with the base color. I usually use the blush on the characters' cheeks, nose, tip of the ears, chin (very lightly), fingertips, shoulders, elbows, and knees (basically the pointy parts of the body).
In real life, if a person has red cheeks and red nose it means they have a cold or allergies...but for a cartoon, I personally think they look healthier with a blush.
To differentiate a red face versus healthy looking face, use a darker reddish color for the red face and light pink for the healthy face.
It's best to work on one blush at a time, because once the ink dries it won't blend seamlessly. When using markers, work fast! Be bold! Don't be afraid to color, because if you color hesitantly it'll turn out blotchy...if you are afraid of going over the lines, use a masking tape or sheet to cover up the areas where you don't want the ink to go.
Step 3: Adding Shadows
Determine where the light source is (for this particular drawing, the light source is where the arrows are – from above, veered slightly to the left). The shadows will go opposite of where the light touches.
For the lighter skin, I used YR00, and the darker skin I used E55. Wherever I want the shadow to go soft, I blend it out with the base color (YR000 for light, E31 for dark).
I then enhance the shadows on the areas where the object sticks out the most (nose and neck), and where it is closest to another object that causes the shadow (right below the mask, right below the hands, right by the sleeves). I used E02 for the light skin, and E34 for the dark skin.The colors within the red lines are all of the same darkness, but with varying saturation.
Step 4: Adding Highlights and Finishing Touches
Now that the skin is all colored, I finish it up with some highlights. I use a white colored pencil like Copic Opaque White, Prismacolor, Crayola, Lyra, Sakura, etc.
I put some highlights on the nose and cheeks, and also along the parts where the lights touch the most. Highlights give the characters more shine, and also make them look more three dimensional.
PART 2: COLORING EYES
For the second part of this tutorial, I'm going to walk through my process of coloring a manga-style character's eyes.
Step 1: Start from the whites of the eyes
I always start from the whites, using N1, N0, and 0, the colorless blender. Realistically, the whites of the eyes are not exactly white. But since this is a cartoon, everything is simplified. The whites of the eyes will actually be white, and the shadow will be gray.
Since the lids go over the eyeballs, they cast a shadow. I start with N1 from right below the lids, blending it with N0, and then blending it out more with the Colorless Blender.
Step 2: Start on the irises
Next we start on the irises. I use the lightest color I have first.In this case it's Y00 for the girl and RV000 for the boy.
Step Three: Make the eyes shine
I then use a darker color – Y18 for the girl and BV000 for the boy–and color the top half of the iris and blend it out with the base colors of Y00 and RV000. Trace the shape of the iris with the darker colors too. Make sure to leave the base colors so they look shiny!
Step Four: Add depth and pupils
Keep making the top half of the irises darker, to give them the appearance of depth. I used Y26 for the girl's eyes, and BV02 for the boy's. I did three layers to make the color darker. You can also trace the shape of the iris here.
Now for the pupils. I start out by drawing the shapes with a pencil,then coloring it in with E49. At this point we will be down to the the finishing touches.
Step Five: Glimmer in the eyes
I use the gel pen to add a glimmer in the eyes. I like it small, instead of big like with Japanese mangas. I also add some highlights on the bottom of the irises, right below the pupils. Adding highlights gives the eyes more depth, and makes them look transparent, like real eyes.
I also colored over the eyelashes with E59, to enhance their eyes—kind of like make-up!
I almost forgot about the mouth, so I will add it here in the end...even though it's not eyes.... The shadows on the teeth are W1 and W0. The bottom teeth would be darker in color, because they are inside the mouth and the light doesn't touch (unless the person is baring his teeth).
I used several layers of W1 for the deepest end of the teeth, and blend it out with W0 toward the front. The tongue is colored with E95.
PART 3: COLORING HAIR
I usually don't do unnatural hair colors, but this time I thought I'd have some fun. I decided to make the girl's hair blue and the boy's green. Hair is relatively easy to color when you have the basics down, so this is a short tutorial.
Just as in the last two tutorials, I begin coloring with the lightest color. For the girl's hair I used B000 as the base color. I usually color all the hair, but this time I'm going to leave some whites for the shine.
Remember where the light is coming from, and leave blank the areas where the light touches the most, or is shining the brightest.
Since B000 is a light color, you don't really need Colorless Blender to blend it out. I did the same thing with the boy's hair, but I used YG11 for the base color. When coloring hair, always go along with the flow of the hair!
I then add strokes of darker color to the hair. For the girl I used B41 and for the boy I used YG03. Color in the areas where the light doesn't touch, and add strokes of different thickness to the areas where the light does touch. Make sure you leave some areas showing the base color and the whites.
This last bit is the same as above, except you use an even darker color: B32 for the girl, YG07 for the boy. Adding areas with darker colors gives the image more depth. If you're aiming for a softer look, you can skip this part. The areas right below the masks and right behind the neck gets the least amount of light, so make those areas the darkest.
For the eyebrows, I make the inside ends darker than the outside ends, because that is where most of the hair is. It's hard to see in the scanned image here, but I also added some highlights using white colored pencil along the top edges of their hair, and some between the strands to give it more shine.
PART 4: COLORING CLOTHES
My focus here is bringing color to clothing, especially patterns. I will demonstrate two different types of patterned clothes: colored patterns on white, and colored patterns on color.
The girl is wearing a “yukata,” a traditional Japanese garment worn during summer festivals. It is different from “kimono” – kimono is formal, yukata is casual. Women's yukata is usually colorful and have more varieties of patterns. Men's yukata is simple, with either just one color or simple patterns (usually stripes or geometric patterns). They are usually blueish in color. The girl's yukata in this drawing will have a white base with pink and red flower patterns.
Step 1: Adding Your Lightest Base Layer
I start out with the shadows on the white base, since this will be the lightest color. Like I mentioned in the last three tutorials, remember where the light source is, and color in the shadows on the opposite side of where the light touches. In this case I used W1 and W0, blending it out to the white paper with 0, Colorless Blender. The areas where the light touches the least will be dark, and the areas where there are some light will be lighter.
Step 2: Preparing Your Pattern
Very lightly draw in the patterns with a pencil (sorry that is hard to see here...). If you are using a very light color—and you don't want visible pencil marks—you can draw them on the original sketch, put the color image and the sketch together (sketch at the bottom), and using the light box to see through, color in the patterns directly onto the color image.
Step 3: Coloring Your Clothing Patterns
Once again, I start with the lighter color first. Here it's R11 for the pink flowers. Then I proceed to use R14 for the red flowers. Since these colors are light enough, the W1/W0 shadings show through, so I didn't need to add a darker color for the shadow (you can if you want to).
It's the same with a color-on-color pattern: always start with the lightest color first. For the boy's yukata it is B000. If you start with the darker color first, the light color will bleed the dark one. To get a sharp line remember to start with the lightest color!
Step 4: Adding Shadows
After the base is colored, add in the shadows. Here I used B21 as a shadow and blending it out with the base color B000. After the ink is dry, pencil in the patterns and color it in. I used B32 and B02 for the lighter lines, and B97 for the darker lines. And since B97 is really dark, it drowns the shadow color underneath, so I added the shadows with B39.
For the girl's “obi”, or sash, I did the base color first then added the shadows. Always blend this out with the base color. The boy's sash is the darkest color I had (B39), so I used the same color for the shadow. Coloring in layers makes the color darker.
Copic Colors Used: Clothing (Lightest to Darkest)
- Yellow bow: Y00, Y13, Y35
- Blue string: B21, B32
- Red obi: R05, R27
- Blue obi: B39
Step 5: Coloring Props and Accessories
For the other items, it's the same as above: start with the lightest colors, and add the darker colored details later.
Copic Colors Used: Chocolate Covered Banana
- YR30, E50, E41 (banana)
- E41, E31 (stick)
- RV02, RV13, YG11, YG03, Y11, Y18 (sprinkles)
- E25, E47, E59, E49 (chocolate)
Copic Colors Used: Candy Covered Apple
Copic Colors Used: Cat Mask
- W0, W1 (base shadow)
- E31, E55 (brown pattern)
- N5, N7 (eye, black pattern)
- R20 (nose)
- Y18 (eye)
- R05 (red pattern)
Copic Colors Used: Fox Mask
- W0, W1 (base shadow)
- N5, N7 (nose)
- B32 (blue pattern)
- R05 (red pattern)
Step 6: Adding Highlights
Make sure that all the areas are colored and that you didn't miss anything. Then add some highlights with the colored pencil, especially on the candy-apple and chocolate-banana. And...you're finished!
Thank you for sticking with me 'til the end! Give this a try and post your comments and questions below and I'll do my best to answer!
We hope you enjoyed learning Chihiro's techniques for coloring manga characters.