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Blending Help

Art Vulpine

Art Vulpine
Ok all. I need help with an aspect of drawing: blending.

Let me try to explain. So when I'm at a color phase, I typically make three shades of a color type: a base color, one for light, and one for shadow. These are all on one Layer.

The problem is the following. Say I put down each layer like a stripe by drawing a line then filling in said area with a color. The problem I face is the fact that it shows the border lines between shades.


Ok. So this art is big for a reason. When seeing it as a thumbnail or normal view these lines don't show, so I had to choose the Full View size to show you what I mean. Probably the clearest area is the tail where I drew a line to separate the base color from the highlight color. Now on GIMP this line doesn't show, only on a Full View or unless you blow up an art on GIMP to 100%.

See where the colors border on this art and the white spaces? Is there a way to fix that. Should I use multiple layers for light, base and shadow colors?

I know this may be an obvious thing that I'm just not seeing. I also know that there are other art related things I need to work on. But right now I need advice with this one thing of how to add light, shadow, and base colors without those ugly lines showing up or without having the one color bleed into the others, even if you create a clear border between say light and a base color.


Art Vulpine

Art Vulpine
I use a 2 Hardness brush 0.50 at 20 size according to GIMP. It seems to be the same size as the pencil lines on the sketch (I first draw a sketch then scan and upload it and trace over the lines before then coloring)
Most artists I follow have 3-4 layers, in order: Sketch, color, shading, lineart. It makes it a lot easier to do each step. Background also tends to be its own layer(s) depending on the artist.

The lines also might be caused by the paint bucket. In Photoshop at least, when you paint bucket, it stops if the next pixel over is different in any way, including transparency. Because of this, if you paint bucket, be sure to go around and fix these little spots up manually.

Art Vulpine

Art Vulpine
Yeah, cleaner lines is something I'm working on among other things. I haven't used the airbrush for shading but I can try that. Right now I've worked with brush, fill, and at times ink tools. Smudging is another thing I can try too. I wasn't going for cel shading, just a basic shading.

For layers I start with the following in order from top to bottom: Lineart ->Sketch. After tracing the sketch, I then create two New from Visible layers which then makes my setup look like this: Lineart -> Full ground Color -> Background Color. That could be the reason why I'm seeing that because of the fill function.

I do find that say I fill an area, draw a line to mark where a shading could go, and try to fill it, it bleeds into the base color area like that line isn't there. Not sure if it's the way I create my layers, or just because of the fill function.

Art Vulpine

Art Vulpine
Ah so that's a problem with the system then. Thanks for letting me know. Since it seems like when filling an area for the base color it works but for adding shading it doesn't then I'll try you advices here with using a separate layer for shading, setting up all the layers before proceeding, and not using the fill tool for adding shading.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Digital Artist
Hello Vulpine,

From what I have read, blending is not your issue; the issue is your process of digital colouring itself. Allow me to explain. This write up assumes you have a basic understanding of layers, layer blending modes, and layer masking. If you only wish to know why your having colouring issues see step 3, "Flatting".

Here is a basic pipeline for digital colouring (it is quite a common one I found):
  1. Sketch
  2. Clean up/ Lineart prepping
  3. Flatting
  4. Rendering
  5. Final touches

1. Sketch is self explanatory, do your rough draft of the image.

2. Clean up can be anything from just tightening up the sketch to rendering it with ink (which is out of scope for this write up). The clean up can either be done traditionally or digitally, if you do it digitally it is highly recommended that you get yourself a pen tablet to utilize its pressure sensitivity when laying down your lines.

The goal of prepping your lineart is so that you can apply colours without destroying the original drawing. This is usually done by having the lineart on a separate layer above every other layer and locking it. I am sure you are aware that in order to color underneath the lineart the blacks need to be opaque and the whites transparent. Depending on how you cleaned up the sketch you may already have lineart ready to use, if not there are several approaches you may take. The simplest of which is to set the blending mode of your lineart layer to Multiply. This essentially makes all whites transparent and all blacks opaque (there is technical jargon for what is going on, but that isn't important here). From here you can move onto the flatting step.

3. Flatting is the process of blocking out the colours of the image, usually for the purpose of easy selecting while rendering. During this step it is very important that you do not use anti-aliasing.This is where a large portion of your problems are stemming from. When flatting use the Pencil Tool and Fill Tool (with its Threshold set to 0). Those two tools do not utilize anti-aliasing by default. The other useful tools for this process are the select tools (Marquees, Lasso, Fuzzy Select, Select by Colour), and Eraser Tool; but with all of these you need to make sure to turn anti-aliasing off in the properties panel (the eraser tool is the only goofy one in GIMP, its anti-aliasing mode is called "Hard edge"). When colouring with the Pencil tool you will notice that its edge is very pixelated and not very smooth, this is what you want. That way when you use the Fill tool you will not get that "halo" effect you are running into. And on that note you should be outlining your blocks of colour with the same colour you intend to fill the outline with, that way you don't have an unnecessary touch up step of removing the colour you used to outline your flat.

4. Rendering, this is where a lot of the fun comes in. There are hundreds of approaches to render, each artist is different, though most of the time the render is on its own layer. For what you are attempting to achieve I would recommend using a clipping mask. But I don't think GIMP has this feature yet so as an alternative you would create a layer mask using the transparency from your flats as the mask selection. So first step to creating your render mask is to right-click your flats layer; then select "Alpha to Selection" in the context menu. Next right-click on your new render layer and select "Add Layer Mask"; in the dialogue that pops up be sure to check off "Selection" under the "Initialize Layer Mask to:" section and click "Add". Now you're ready to start shading. You can start using anti-alias enabled tools like the Brush or Air Brush to add your shadows and highlights, and you don't need to worry about going outside the lines because of the mask you applied earlier. You can select specific portions of your image to colour by using your flats layer in conjunction with the "Select by Colour" or "Fuzzy Select" tools.

5. Final touches are just that. It's when you can apply special effects like glows or decals. Nothing much to say about this one.

All of the above is just the technical instructions on how to colour. The actual artistry comes from practice. You need to work on your drawing foundations before you will see desirable results in your colouring. Form and proportions are areas you should work on improving.

I recommend you participate in local life drawing sessions and study these two books by Burne Hogarth: Dynamic Anatomy and Dynamic Figure Drawing.

Good luck with your studies!


Art Vulpine

Art Vulpine
Thanks so much for that information. I guess blending wasn't the correct term as I was trying to get across eliminating those "halos" in my art to make it look cleaner.

Numbers 1 and 2 of your steps I do with hand drawing a sketch, scanning it, and then creating a layer above it to draw the lineart. Then I delete the sketch layer which renders just the lines seen and the rest transparent.

3 and 4 however are what I really focused on as I didn't know about the problem with anti-aliasing, just using the brush tool to block out my colors and then the Fill function to color. Also, I would try to shade on the same layer as the flat portion, which I see was another no no.

And yes I am continually practicing and reading up on drawing anatomy. Those books you recommended will be great too to use.

Once again thanks for your process, and I will actually redo the above picture with this new knowledge.
Another option is to keep the AA, and just zoom in a bit and go over the halos. An easy way to properly fill in the lineart on a new layer is to go to the lineart layer, select the transparent area that's supposed to be outside the lineart, then 'invert selection' (at least that's what it's called in Photoshop). Then, move to the color layer and paintbucket that in. Photoshop has a nice thing that lets you lock a layer's alpha channel, so you can color all you want and it won't go outside the new little shape, but I don't if there's an equivalent feature in GIMP.

Art Vulpine

Art Vulpine
Thanks for that information about just going over the halo areas.


Ok so here is an updated image of the first one. And guess what? No halos! Strangely I can't do the "Alpha to Selection," and "Apply Layer Mask" option. When I do and try to use a Pencil tool, it erases the flat color instead of adding over it. Not sure if this is because of creating a New from Visible layer for my Flat colors or what. Still, I just created another New from Visible to make this shading.