Hello everyone! This is second lesson in this manga drawing series. I've been doing some playing around in gimp and figured out how to make an Aurora Borialis/Australis. I was looking around at some old art and found a picture I called 'Meteors'. It was inspired by a meteor shower I'd seen only a few days before. As soon as I saw the out-dated image, I knew I'd found another project. The only question left: which cat do I put in it? I finally decided on my aunt's barn cat, Chester Pale-Cat, when I found another old drawing, which was of him looking at a butterfly.
Here is a word of warning though: this is a gimp/Photoshop elements collaboration. You can do most of this in gimp only, but there are some sections that require Photoshop elements version 2.0 or higher. The two things that you can't do in gimp are lighting the Aurora and color burning/dodging Chessie's shadows and highlights. I will provide alternative, phosho-free instructions for those of you who do not have Photoshop.
Note: Sorry it took so long to get this out here... It had been stuck in drafts for about two months, which is why it still has my old watermark. As you can probably tell by this month's new icon, my style has changed a bit since I made this, so it is a little outdated... oh well...
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Step 1: Things You Will Need
Here is a list of the things that you will need. The things that are optional are marked with a '*'.
GIMP (2.8 or higher)
Photoshop Elements (2.0 or higher)*
A basic knowledge of gimp
A basic knowledge of Photoshop*
A truckload of time and patience (dump truck-sized truckload is preferred)
Step 2: Sketch
Okay, I don't usually do a sketch on the computer, but I decided to give it a try. It is really shaky because I was zoomed out and I didn't turn on 'smooth stroke'. As usual, use a light color that will stand out from the white background as well as the black lineart you will draw on top. I recommend red, cyan, blue, or purple. I've used blue. I recommend using a brush size anywhere from three to six. Any higher and it'll get hard to draw the lineart well, because it will be easy to miss detail. Any lower and you'll find the sketch hard to see. Plus, the smaller the brush, the harder it is to be accurate.
Step 3: Lineart
Use a three pixel hard brush for best results. If you would like to know how to make good-looking lineart without the aid of a graphics tablet, go to the first lesson (found here).
Step 4: Aurora
Okay, this part will take a while. Begin by selecting thin, slanted ovals (remember to set the select tool to 'add to selection'). Feather this selection, then fill it with the color (or colors) of your choice. Fill the background layer with dark blue or whatever color you'd like. Choose a dynamic setting with tapering (you can make your own in the dynamics editing tab). Set the fade length to something high and the repeat mode to 'triangular wave'. Quickly draw tapered lines across the Aurora. Smudge them just enough so that they blend. Brighten the Aurora with the curves tool. Save the image as a PSD file (Photoshop's native file) and open it in Photoshop. Use lighting effects to brighten the Aurora. If you do not have Photoshop, you can skip this step or attempt to use gimp's lighting effects with the settings on something similar to what is pictured above. Save your work and open it back up in gimp. Duplicate the Aurora layer and use the smudge tool to 'blur' it. Lower the layer's opacity. Select more thin, slanted ovals. Once again, feather the selection, but this time, fill it with white (make sure you're on a new layer). Set the layer mode to 'overlay', lower the opacity, then duplicate it. Select the original Aurora layer using layer>transparency>alpha to selection. Invert the selection and clear everything within the selection on each of the Aurora layers.
Wow, that was a lot of work! But hey, it was worth it... right?
Step 5: Base Coat
Select the outer edges of your lineart using whatever method you prefer. On a new layer, fill this selection with the basic color of the cat, then you can add details like patches, stripes, and birthmarks. Fill the collar, nose, ear, and spots around the whiskers as well.
Step 6: Eye
Make a new layer and in it, color in the eye. Use the dodge/burn tool with a soft brush on high spacing to darken the upper portion of the eye and lighten the lower part. Next use a small, soft brush on a low spacing to add squiggly lines around the eye for detail. Using circular motions, smudge the eye slightly. Color in the eye whites and tear ducts.
For a more detailed description of how to do the eyes, go to lesson one (found here).
Step 7: Stars
To make stars, duplicate the background layer. Go to RGB noise, uncheck 'Independent RGB' and set it to a medium number. Upscale the layer and go to layer>layer to image size. Use the curves tool to get rid of unnecessary stars as well as brighten the more visible ones. Go to layer>transparency>color to alpha. Set the color to black. Merge the stars and the sky together to save some space.
Step 8: Shading (semi-smooth Cell Shading) and Final Details
Select the areas that you want the highlights in. Crop the selection to the cat. Fill it with the color of the lighting. Keep the selection and invert it (make sure you crop the selection). On a layer separate from the highlights, color in the shadows. Set the shadows layer to multiply and the highlights layer to screen. Duplicate and blur both layers. If you like, you can paint some shadows and highlights manually as well. Save the image as a PDF and open it in Photoshop. Change all of the highlights to 'color dodge' and the shadows to 'color burn'. If you do not have Photoshop, regular 'dodge' and 'burn' will do.
The only things we have left are adding white highlights to the eyes, as well as whiskers and, of course, meteors!
Step 9: Done!
You're done! And while you sit back and admire your work, why don't you show it off under comments? Stay tuned for the next lesson!