In this quick tip, I'll show how to add a Halftone shadow. This will allow you to give gradients to your image and still stay within the six color maximum.

I'm using GIMP, but Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (or even an old copy of PhotoDeluxe from ten years ago) should be able to do similar things.

First thing I'm going to do is use the Free Select tool (known in other programs as the Polygon Lasso)...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

...and select the specific area of the art I want to add a shadow to. In this case, it's the elbow spike of a rather nasty looking alien. The image is zoomed in 200%

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

That's the area there. I've gone over the lines, but in this case it's OK because the line is black and the Halftone dots will be black too.

Now I need to start a new Layer. This is important because YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY ADDING THE EFFECT TO THE LAYER YOU WANT TO SHADE. You're going to add it to a layer above it, like an old-fashioned cartoon where they had layers of cellulose on top of each other (so they could animate the characters while leaving the background locked in place).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I'm about to press the Create New Layer icon on the bottom left. You'll see that I have other Layers already... the arms are 'on top' of the banner so they appear in front of it, but the rest of the alien (the 'xenomorph') is lower than the banner (so it stands behind the banner). That's how you use Layers. You can then create something on a new Layer and move it around the screen without affecting the rest of the image.

You'll notice that I only have the xenomorph Layer visible (the 'eye' symbol has been deselected from the other Layers). I'm just working on the elbow, so I don't need to see anything else.

You have probably just realize that means I can then put objects, Layers, over the elbow and shadow and it will still be there (should I choose to move that object somewhere else).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

If your particular program asks you to rename the Layer, you can do. Name it "elbow shadow" or something. I'll leave that blank because I'll be combining the Halftone to the elbow later, so it doesn't need a name. Make sure the layer uses 'Transparency': that means you see the Layer underneath it...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

...and presto, we now have two visible Layers. And the New Layer is the one selected.

To get a Halftone effect, there has to be a transition between light and dark. The best way to get this is with a Blend tool (known as a Gradient tool in other programs).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Below the icons, you'll see that I already have pure black and pure white as the colors. The settings on screen are: Opacity at 100%, a straight Foreground to Background color transition, zero Offset, No repeat. It doesn't matter at this scale whether Dithering is set on or off but I leave it On for a smoother blend. Let's add the gradient to the New Layer.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Oh no, it has completely covered the green of the elbow! And it's a thousand shades of gray! That's OK, because (remember) it's this Layer that we'll be tweaking.

Now for the tweak.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

In GIMP, the following dialogue box appears. We want black dots. Not too big and not too small.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Having the Preview box is always a good idea. You get to see what your end result will look like.

I left the Input and Output sliders alone. I know that, for this particular design, I want dots with a Cell Size of 6. VERY IMPORTANT PART ABOUT THE COLORS... you need to set the Red / Green / Blue channels all to zero (then Lock Channels just to be safe). All three colors are over each other and you get black dots. IThe Angle is purely up to you (some people like to have diagonal rows of dots, some like straight lines. I'm doing straight lines in this piece). Round cells are nice (you choose what you like). And the higher the antialias Oversample rate, the clearer the circles.

Press OK, and here it is. Zoomed into 400%.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Now: on a normal piece of artwork I could just set the Layer Mode to "Darken Only" and we'd be done. But you can see gray dots in there. We have a limited color palette here, and we only want the pure black pixels.

So what we're going to do is select the pure black pixels, and delete all the others from that New Layer.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The icon selected is the Select By Color tool. The important part here is the Threshold slider in the options at the bottom. If this were a standard piece of art, I could set that to a number that would include very dark gray pixels too. But we don't want those. We have a color ration, so set that to 0.0. Just to be safe, I turned off all the other options too.

And here it is. Only the pure #000000 colored black is selected.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

So we need to select everything else not NOW selected. That's easy.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Just select everything else. And then press the Delete key on your keyboard.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Those dots around the selected areas just show you it's still selected. If you wanted those dots to be a light reflection instead of a shadow, you could color them white before deselecting the areas. We can clear them because we want it as a shadow...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

...and boom. Headshot.

I'm happy with this shading, so I'm going to merge those two Layers into one (no point in having dozens and dozens of Layers by the end of a project!). I make sure the Layers I want to merge are the only two visible (with the 'eye' icon showing). Right click, and...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

That's just one little area, and by itself doesn't look spectacular. But have lots of them together, and have some highlights (color the black dots in white using a big Brush or Pencil before deselecting the areas), it begins to look like this.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The orange dots behind the xenomorph? I created a Layer, made the whole Layer white, then added a Radial (circular) black-to-white fade with the center as black. I made the dots bigger (30 cells, I think), created the Halftone, then colored them in orange before Deselecting the areas.

That's it. That's how to shade using Halftones.
8Comments
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    Hmm seems to be similar to the way I've done it. Thanks alot for the tutorial!

    I assume its slightly different for illustrator (which is what I use)?
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    It will be, because you're working with vectors. The tools may be called something else, and I'm not sure what Filter you'd use because I don't have the program.

    Anyone out there able to fill in those details?
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    Thats what I love about photoshop/illustrator/GIMP/etc....there are multiple ways to get the same effect and half the time you stumble across it by accident while trying to do something else.

    Nice tutorial man it's always fun to see how someone else goes about things.
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    Doing the instructions really helped me with my own process too. I was performing unnecessary steps (example: at the beginning, where I talk about going over the line, I was spending too much time deleting the selected black areas). I was taking up to five minutes per shadow. After I finished the instructions, I found an area that needed shading and timed myself. 48 seconds. So streamlining my own technique in order to make this Tips thread will eventually save me hours in the coming months!
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    To do an Illustrator Halftone is a bit more involved, I've put up another thread for instructions:

  • image
    152 weeks ago
    Nice!!
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    very good thread, thanks
  • image
    152 weeks ago
    Thanks so much! I've been using GIMP for years, never knew how to do this...


Back to Top