How To Color Anime Clothes

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This anime art tutorial is all about how to color anime clothes, how to add shading to clothes, how shadows work on clothing, and what to know about light sources when coloring clothing.

If you want to read about how to draw anime clothes, this tutorial is good for that:

How to draw anime clothes

Ok, so in this tutorial, were going to go through the thought process of how to color anime clothes. As I use cel shading as the technique, changing and trying new color schemes is a pleasure and always an exciting thing to do.

The material of the clothes

Not every material works the same way when stretched, pinched, distorted or twisted. Every fabric works in their unique way, and every fold is different with different fabric. 

In anime art, there’s no clear difference between reality and anime, when it comes to clothing. Rules of reality apply to anime clothes, with this one little exception. In anime art, things are exaggerated, and there’s no limit to that rule.

In anime art, you can create big dresses with an insane amount of folds, or you can create shirts with sharp folds that could make you bleed if touched.

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If we think about a skirt of some kind, the movement and structure are slightly different. While the material could be the same, there are different forces that twist the clothing in different ways.

All these little things affect the end result and are something you should take into account.

While cel shading is something that simplifies things a rather lot, you can still bring forth different materials, by having different shading color for different parts of the outfit. 

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The shadow on the shirt is slightly lighter than on the skirt, and that’s just because the fabric and material are different from each other.

How to shade clothes – coloring and shading shirt folds

The way I color shirt folds is that I think where the light is hitting the shirt and what is either under the shirt or next to the shirt. You have to make sure you take into account the materials next to the shirt too. Think about bounce light. 

In cel shading, though, we can simplify coloring quite a bit. So in the example drawing, I colored the shirt based on lines that the shirt had. So the shading follows the folds of the shirt.

And if you are drawing metal, well, that also has its own way of reflecting light and creating shadows.

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I use a fine-tuned brush in Clip Studio Paint to color and shade my character’s outfit. The thing you have to have for your brush (if doing cel shading) is a hard edge. So don’t use a soft-edged brush.

Light sources and how they affect colors

Usually, I draw with only one light source, but now and then I use a secondary light source.

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The light source is above and is cold as in colorwise

When you are coloring your drawings, try to think about what kind of light source there is. Is the character inside a room, where there might be a cold light coming from a ceiling lamp, or is there a fireplace somewhere that is oozing that warm red hue and yellow hue to the clothing.

What if the character is outside, is there a sunset, night sky, or bright clear sky? In the example drawing, I’m having a clear, bright sky kind of color hitting the clothes. It’s also coming from the side so, while I tend to use a light source coming straight above, this drawing was a bit different.

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As you can see from the shirt, the shadows are blue(ish), and this is only to emphasize the fact that there’s a bright sky above, and the sky is giving a blue hue to the shirt.

Quick coloring tip!

When you have a cold light hitting the fabric, the shadows go to a warm color and vice versa. When there’s a warm light source like fire or sunset, the shadow colors are cold.

I work with multiple layers, so when I’m shading the character, the base color will affect how the shade color shows up. And it’s only because I use multiply layer mode when doing the shading.

This is something you should remember when coloring clothes. The base color and the light source will work together and create a new color.

Trying different color schemes and choosing the right color scheme

What I like to do with my drawings is to try out different color schemes. I just love this part, as you can truly experiment and find that perfect color scheme for your character.

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If you are into cel shading, then this is easy for you to do, but if you are more into gradual shading technique. Then you can play with hue and saturation settings, or create color layers or hue layers. It’s up to you.

However, what I like to do is have complete control over my colors, so I just select different colors from the color palette and try out different combinations until I’m satisfied. You can easily do this by locking transparent pixels and then coloring over the base color layer until you find the color you like.

With this drawing, I asked in our Anime Art Facebook group (link below) what they thought were the best combination and went with that. Awesome group!

When doing color combinations, I tend to use as many hues as possible — greens, reds, blues, etc. So there are different hues to compare against.

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Two different color combinations, but I went with the one on the left. I think it’s a bit different than I would usually choose. And it was a good decision.

Final touches on colors and finalizing the image

When you color anime clothes, you should have this final look at your drawing. Are the colors working together in a harmonious way or not?

One way to check if the colors are working is to create a white or black color layer on top of all layers. This way, you can see if the values work or not. Is there enough contrast between the colors and are the clothes material identifiable even with just black and white.

For example, metal and rubber have a very similar shading process, but rubber is usually wrapped around something, were as metal is on top of something or is a separate object. While it’s not always like this, I just tend to think that way.

Sometimes I create an image from all the layers and place it at the top of the layers. Then I set the layer to soft light and set the opacity to 20% or something. This little trick brings vibrancy to the colors and adds that final touch to it. 

However, with this image, I didn’t do that, because the colors were vibrant enough, so there was no need to boost the colors any further.

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A final note

Drawing or coloring clothes is not easy. It’s anything but easy. However, the best way for you to color or draw clothing is that you find good reference images.

With reference images, you can see how the colors work in different lighting setups. How colors change on material, or how color works with different fabrics. Satin, for example, has a very shiny kind of texture and surface to it. And that’s because the light particles act differently inside the fabric compared to rubber, for example.  

Sometimes the light bounces off, and sometimes it’s infused inside the clothing. These little details might be hard to remember and take note of. But that’s also the reason why we use reference images, so we can see how things work in real-life and then implement that to out anime drawings.

Resources available for this artwork:

  • Layered PSD-file
  • Layered CSP-file
  • Process Images
  • Speed Painting Video
  • High-Resolution Image
  • 4K Wallpaper

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