Friday, August 18, 2017

Noir Style Tutorial, Pt. 14 - Step 9: Image Clean-Up / Hand-Work / Post Work

Always save renders with the PNG
file format; this isolates the figure
on a transparent background
that is easier to work with.
It's finally time to take your renders and move them into Manga Studio. Keep in mind, even though I call it Manga Studio, this software also goes by the name Clip Studio Paint. These are identical products, with the only difference being: Manga Studio is a physical product shipped on a flash drive or DVD, whereas Clip Studio Paint is the name of the product when you buy it for direct download.

As I said earlier, there are two versions: Pro and EX. Pro is the less-expensive version (ABOUT $40 on sale) and EX is the "full" version (ABOUT $99 on sale). Either version will work with this tutorial.

There is a comparison matrix available at the SmithMicro Website, but the main difference is the EX version handles multiple pages (in other words, you can create a "book" file that stores all the pages of your comic in a single file). This is not really that important, because you can make a multi-page comic one page at a time, just like you would in Photoshop or GiMP.

You might be wondering why, if I have Photoshop (and have been using it for decades), I do my clean-up in Manga Studio. That's a fair question that I've been asked more than a few times. The simple truth is, Manga Studio was designed specifically for creating comics, so it has some useful tools:

  • The pen can create contoured lines (a single line that starts thin, gets thick, and then thin again) without a pressure-sensitive tablet (Photoshop only has a fade-off setting)
  • The pens have a lot more control of stabilization (very useful when dealing with software drag and latency issues.
  • One of my favorite features is the ability to set a layer as black & white, while leaving the other layers in color or grayscale. This means my artwork stays crisp and clean, but I can still fall back on color for my other layers.
  • I'm not in love with the type tool, but it does a serviceable job.
  • A tool for creating text balloons.
  • Panel Tools. Panels are basically layer groups with a custom mask applied, meaning that it forms a vector frame. Everything inside the frame is visible, and everything outside the frame is hidden (but still there). The panel tools also help you space your panels, so moving one panel can automatically move the others (you can override this if you want to overlap panels). 
All lines created with a standard mouse in Manta Studio 5:
I did not use a pressure-sensitive pen or tablet.

Now it's time to get to work. First off, I need to break some sad news to you: There is no "Magic Make Pretty Art" button in Manga Studio. No matter how clean your renders are to start with, there will always be the need for some clean-up and adding some additional lines. Brian Haberlin calls it "hand work" and I call it "post work," as in work that is done post-render. Whatever you choose to call it, it's time to get down to it.

Open the PSD (or whatever layered file you created with your graphics software) in Manga Studio. All of your layers will be there, with opacities and blending modes set just the way you left them. The only thing that will NOT import correctly are type layers. MS will rasterize all type. 

You can use the Layer Properties to set individual layers to monochrome (bitmap),
which ensures that all lines are crisp and do not have anti-aliasing on them.
This is not a global setting (as it is in Photoshop); other layers can still have color.
Right-click on the layer and select "Convert Layer." A pop-up window will appear where you can set the layer to monochrome.

If you intend to work with gray tones in your line work, this step is, of course, optional. I find that I like the clean, crisp lines of working strictly in b&w for my line work.

Now that the layers are set to monochrome, I simply turn the top one to 50% opacity with the blending mode set to Normal.

Black Layer is set to 100%, Gray Layer is set to 50% with blending mode set to Normal.
And there you have it. The basis for the noir art.  To refresh your memory, here's what the layers looked like separately. I moved the text a little in Manga Studio so it would be easier to read, but these are the base layers I'm working with. As you can see, the white areas on her dress lighten the blacks to become gray. BTW, I also turned the background to white. She's actually separate from the background right now.

And keep in mind, you have full access to the blending modes. Here's the same image again, but with the blending mode changed to multiply and a small tweak to the opacity.

Gray Layer is set to 30% Opacity, blending mode set to Multiply.

I could even bring in some of the other layers and experiment with them, or use layer masks to bring in just some of the details from other layers. This really comes down to what I feel works for the image in context to the story.Whatever the case may be, it's time to add another layer on top and touch up the outlines. I will also edit the weird little lines on wing shadows, but I will do this directly on that layer itself. Additional things that need touch-up would be the tips of her hair, and her teeth.

Hair tips, wing shadows and teeth are just a few areas that need some TLC.
I hope you'll all forgive me, but I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on how I clean up the renders. Suffice to say:

  • I edit directly on the layers themselves (it makes it easier to manage where my pixels are coming from).
  • I will create and use a layer called "Touch-up Black"
  • And another layer called "Touch-up White"
  • These new layers will be where I fix her hair and add some variations/contours to the figure inking.

I'll share the final, touched-up (but not completed) image next time, when I'll also share a neat trick I learned on how to add some variation to your inking.

NEXT TIME: Quick-n-Easy Contour Line

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