Cel Shading Clothing




Introduction: Cel Shading Clothing

About: Seamsetress, Foam Fabricator, Sculptor, Pattern Drafter, Photographer, Videographer, IT Nerd and all around Pop Culture Enthusiast!

I LOVE borderlands. My first introduction to the series was the PreSequel game a couple years ago. When I played Nisha I KNEW I had found another cosplay costume to create. There was just this issue of cel shading...I have cel shaded drawings but never clothing. Undaunted, I tackled Google Search only to discover TWO articles on cel shading...neither of which had much information on the tools used to create the effect.

So, without further adieu I present the guide to cel shading clothing! Here is what you will need...

  • Fabric Painting Medium
  • Mid to High Grade Acrylic Paint
  • Brushes
  • An Iron OR Heat Gun
  • A piece of cardboard OR some newspaper
  • Reference Art
  • Clothing to paint on

Let's get started!

Step 1: Blocking

Once you have your clothing you will want to block in where you want the shadow/highlights to fall. I placed my clothing on a dress form but a mannquin or even a person (who is willing to put up with being painted on) OR some newspaper to fill in the clothing would suffice. Any way to give the clothing form is wonderful just DON'T paint it flat. Why? You lose the effect of natural shadow/highlight and it can look strange when worn.

Once you have your clothing setup it's time to take a sharpie or fabric pen or normal ink pen and draw in where you would like to paint. I followed the natural curve of the clothing and exaggerated where the wrinkles were for more defined effect.

If you have a custom design (like the skull above) you can do one of two things: draw it on your clothing with a fabric marker (or a pen if you're confident) OR you can print it to size and trace it onto the clothing. I drew on the design for Nisha as I have a background in illustration and animation but NEVER be ashamed to trace a design to ensure it's accuracy (cloth painting is tricky enough).

Once you are confident with your blocking it's now time to paint!

Step 2: Cel Shading / Painting

To get started grab your acrylic paint and the Fabric Painting Medium (I chose Americana) then mix them on a 1:1 ratio. What does that mean? For every single squirt of acrylic paint you need a single squirt of Fabric Painting Medium. Be aware that the medium thins out the acrylic a bit and that your color MAY lighten so it could take a few tries to get the right painting shade.

With your medium and paint mixed begin applying the base color. For Nisha's shirt that was the purple and for her jacket that was a dark gray (between where I blocked the shadow and highlights). Once your base is on give it an hour to dry. If the color is what you like after an hour then it is safe to proceed. If it's still wet please allow more time to dry before moving forward with shading.

When you are ready to shade start with the darkest hues first. As I mentioned, the fabric medium lightens things so it is MUCH easier to go lighter than darker. Block in your shadows then allow them to dry (1 - 2 hours). If you do not have time for it to dry you may use a hair dryer (on its lowest setting ) to expedite the process.

With the shadows in place you may now proceed with the highlights. I suggest adding just a little extra Fabric Painting Medium to the highlights and REALLY punch UP your highlights as they have a chance to fade in the next step.

Once you are happy with your design please allow it to dry for 24 hours (this IS NOT OPTIONAL).

Step 3: Setting/Sealing

With your painting complete you can wear the design, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple with Fabric Painting Medium. Once dry you will need to turn the clothing inside out and either Iron it OR use a Heat Gun to seal the paint in.Turn it right side out and allow the clothing to sit for another 24 hours.

Step 4: Wear It!

Now that your design is sealed you can wear it!

And guess what? Using the Fabric Painting Medium makes this project MACHINE WASHABLE!!!! Well...as long as you used a fabric that can be washed in a machine ;)

Happy crafting!

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    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you!