I've been trying to figure out how to do cel shading and every time I try, it looks too flat, or just.. off. I'm just wondering how you do it, because your shadows work so well in your art!
Ah, first of all, thank you so much for the sweet compliment! I
learned a lot from various art tutorials (specifically this
one from @rngrn , who does some incredible art) and kind of discovered my
own style through trial and error.
I found a recent picture of mine that demonstrates what I tend to do, so I hope this helps! (I use Paint Tool SAI, but this kind of stuff should work for Photoshop or other art programs too!)
So here’s my workspace! As you can see, I’ve already drawn up the main art and put both the lineart and the base colors in one folder.
To the left is where you’ll find your options: Make a new layer above the folder, check the “clipping group” button, and then set the layer to multiply.
(I like using warm colors when shading–everything here was done with that single hue on the left, set to multiply, with the pencil tool!)
When it comes specifically to making the shadows work, always try to picture where the light is coming from beforehand. Make sure to pay attention to your creases and undersides of objects. It’s alright if it doesn’t look flawless the first time, practice makes perfect!
There’s also no shame in looking at other pictures and art for reference–as long as you’re not directly copying anybody’s work, you’re on the right track!
Next, you’re going to make another layer on top of that one, set it to clipping group and multiply again, and use the bucket tool to fill it in with a fitting color (as the pencil tool makes large-scale fill-ins kinda pixelated for some reason).
I used peach in this case–and things are looking a bit more unified now! This helps the picture and shadows to look a little more dynamic.
Sometimes I add a color or texture overlay to the piece, but sometimes that can dull the picture’s contrast; in this case, I’m just going to add a few luminosity layers.
It may not look like it, but this is about three layers of light, using varying amounts of the blur tool. Feel free to play around when it comes to color and opacity!
Finally, you’ll want to export your drawing, reopen the new file in your drawing software, and do some final touch-ups with saturation and contrast (the color deepen tool is your friend!)
That’s how I tend to do my shadows and colors. Hope it helps!