I know that this 'ible doesn't show the technique for the semi-smooth cell shading like shown in my icon, but I'm not sure I want that part getting out yet (actually I forgot to do it until after I merged the layers). In my next manga tutorial I should show how to make it (and get onto me if I don't). And if you're wondering why all of my manga tutorials feature a backlit Ember at night, I'm still trying to figure that out myself. The next one should be at least a little different.
Step 1: Things You'll Need
A basic knowledge of GIMP
Light blue colored pencil
Mechanical pencil or school pencil
Camera or scanner
Paper (preferably something sturdy like Bristol)
Markers, Watercolors, and/or Ink
Step 2: Sketch
To begin, do a quick drawing with your blue colored pencil. The reason to use a blue pencil is because it doesn't distract from the more complete pencil drawing. Speaking of which, go ahead and go over your initial drawing with your pencil or mechanical pencil; but this time, make it more detailed. Take a picture or scanning of this and open it up in gimp.
Before we can really start the picture, we need to tidy the sketch up. After using the curves tool to add contrast and converting the sketch to greyscale, use IWarp (filters>distorts>IWarp) to make minor changes. If your sketch is heavily distorted, you can use the perspective and cage deform tools to your advantage.
Step 3: Night Sky and Moon
Make a new layer and fill it with very dark blue. Go to filters>noise>HSV noise and adjust the settings to your liking. Use the scale tool to resize the layer and make it bigger. Go to layer>layer to image size to make the layer the same size as the image. Use the curves tool to get rid of excess stars and brighten the more visible ones. Use colorize to lighten the sky and give everything a blueish hue.
The moon is in total eclipse in this scene, so choose an orangey-red color and use a large, hard bush to place your moon on a new layer. Next, go to the gradient panel or gradient tool settings and choose the BG to FG gradient. Press "D" on your keyboard to change the colors back to default black and white. Set the tool blending mode to whatever you want. I'd use either overlay or grain merge. Choose "radial" from the drop-down menu and try dragging the gradient in different places on the moon until you find something you like. Go to filters>decor>coffee stain. Uncheck "darken only" and choose how many stains you'd like. I chose nine. Arrange your stains, merge them to one layer and resize it. Go to filter>distort>apply lens and drag the coffee stains over the moon. Click the "lock alpha channel" button on the layers panel and fill the layer with black. Set blend mode to either "grain merge" or "darken only" and merge with the moon layer. Make another new layer, and, using the smoke and cloud brushes, add details to your moon (use dark grey for best results). Crop the layer, making the center of the layer on the center of the moon. Once again, use the "Apply Lens" filter to make it rounded. Set the blending mode to "Grain merge". If you are satisfied with your result, merge this with the moon layer.
Merge the sky and moon layers together and blur them slightly, but make sure they are still distinguishable.
Step 4: Ground and Water
Tip: Make the edges where the water and the ground meet a bit darker than the rest of the bank.
For the water, make a new layer and go to filters>render>clouds>solid noise and fiddle with the settings until you find something you like. Hide the layer by clicking the eye next to it on the layers panel. Duplicate the night sky layer and go to filters>map>displace. Choose the solid noise layer for both maps, and once again, play around with the settings until you find what you want. Make the noise layer visible again and turn the opacity pretty low. You don't want too many highlights. Duplicate this layer and darken it in curves. Now, back to the bank... select the very edge of the bank and feather the selection (selection>feather) to about seventy pixels. Delete this and deselect (selection>deselect). Go to filters>noise>pick, then sharpen with filters>enhance>sharpen. Lighten the bank slightly with curves; then make a layer underneath the bank. Use the "blend" tool set on radial with the FG to transparent gradient and make two or three 'circles' under the bank. Set the opacity to 75.
Step 5: Lineart *Graphics Tablet FREE*
For the lineart itself, quick, fluid movement works best. Check the smooth stroke box on the tool options panel and it will almost completely eliminate 'mouse shake'. Choose a hard, round brush with the size set to three or a soft brush with a radius of seven pixels.
Step 6: Coloring
Now, on a new layer if you like, add any details you want i.e. stripes, patches, scars, and birthmarks. The easiest way to do this is to select the marking, then go to the base coat layer and choose layer>transparency>intersect with selection and fill in the selection.
Step 7: Eyes
To start, block in the eyes with the basic colors. Ember's eyes have a yellow base for the iris and a dark brown for the pupil. Remember to NEVER use black for the pupils! Cats pupils are very reflective, so be sure to add some color to them. Next, choose the dodge/burn tool; select a soft brush; and make the settings like in the screen-capture above.
Note: you absolutely have to raise the brush spacing! If you don't, the edges will be hard, and that doesn't look very good...
Now, begin burning the top edge of the eyes until you get a vivid orange. Lower the spacing a bit and burn the edges of the iris four or five times. Raise the spacing again and dodge the lower part of the eye. Switch back to "burn" and lower the brush size. Burn a shape like this: ( ) around the pupil and burn four or more lines radiating from it. Dodge the lighter areas again. Using the smudge tool, make circular motions around the iris (make sure you lock the layer's alpha channel before doing this). Next, dodge and burn little squiggly lines around the iris. Using short, spiral motions, smudge it a bit.
Whew... that was a mouthful... and all for one eye! That's right! If you didn't keep up and do both eyes, you've still got one more to go, so let's get to it!
Step 8: Facial Features
The colors I use for Ember are:
Eye whites: light orange
Eye lashes: very dark orange
Tear ducts: grey-brown
Nostrils: dark brown
Tongue: dark pink
Teeth: light yellow
Inner ear: light brown
To do the highlights in the eyes, chose a hard brush and the "basic" dynamics setting. The best places to put the highlights are in opposite corners of the eye and maybe one in the middle. Don't over-do it or make the highlights too big. Just the opposite can be unappealing, too.
The best way I've found to do the whiskers is by using the "color from gradient" dynamics setting with a custom gradient. I'm not sure how to attach files, but the FG to transparent gradient with the repeat setting on "triangular wave" should do the trick.
Step 9: Highlights and Shadows
Step 10: Touching Up
Step 11: Repeat
I must admit, I had the hardest time choosing which of Ember's friends to put in the background. I decided on Swallowtail because at the time, he was probably the closest to Ember both physically and emotionally.
Step 12: Water Effects
For the drop that is falling, select a water drop shape and fill it with grey. Accent the top left edge with black and bottom right edge with white. Either choose a layer blending mode or lower the opacity of this layer. Make a new layer and put two or three highlights over the tear drop. Duplicate both layers, flip them, and put them "in" the water for a reflection. To make the droplet look like it's falling, use the motion blur filter set on zoom with "blur outward" unchecked.
For all we know, that water drop could've come from some hidden cloud, so let's make a tear trail on Ember's cheek. Just select a curved line coming from the middle of the eye, fill it with black, and lower the opacity. Simple, yet enhances the image quite a bit!
The last water effect is to make some ripples around the edges of the water. Use black and white to make the ripples. Activate the reflection later and displace (filters>map>displace). This makes the reflections look like reflections.