This article on how to add screentones in PhotoShop is a continuation of my tutorial on how to make screen tones in Adobe PhotoShop using the Color Halftone filter. In that same tutorial, I taught readers a few digital screen tone techniques that can be applied to illustrations, manga, and other forms of line art.
In today’s lesson, we’ll apply what we learned from the prior tutorial and I’ll show readers how to add screentones in Adobe PhotoShop using some line art from yours truly.
- A Mac or PC
- A grapics tablet [Amazon] is recomended
- A copy of Adobe PhotoShop [Amazon]
- Any piece of black and white lineart that’s been digitized
How to Add Screentones to Line Art
Now we’re going to learn how to add screentones to an illustration. I’ll use the example that I created below:
This line art was inspire by a screen shot of a video from a WWE NXT house-show. (NXT is World Wrestling Entertainment’s developmental promotion based in Orlando, Florida.) The girl with the suitcase is based on AJ Lee [Amazon] in the screen capture below. I’ve been noticing how she’s been posing against the ropes lately, and I was inspired. (The likeness is off by a bunch, but whatever!)
Given the fact that I’m going to show how to add screen tones on this piece, I had to keep most of the art simple. Too much detail, the line art and screens will visually conflict with each other. (Like what will most likely happen in the hair and t-shirt.)
In PhotoShop, I created a new group of layers, consiting of individual layers that isolate each area of gray with its own layer. For example, the gradient in the background was created on its own layer. In that same layer, I masked off the areas where the ring and AJ are so the screens don’t interfere with each other. The layer group has the blend mode set to Multiply, so any areas of white in our newly created screen tones will become transparent.
Basic Techniques for How to Add Screentones
In our background, we used a basic gradient, from black to white, and a layer mask masking everything else. (As shown by the selection below.)
With the Color Halftone filter, we’ll convert our background gradient into a screen tone, as shown below:
We’ll go ahead and do the same with the ring mat (I used a 108° angle) and apron (I used a 45° angle).
Coverting Gradations and Airbrushing into Screens
Next up, I’ll focus on the hair. Since we’re using gradients and airbrushing, let’s start with a simple gradient for the shadow between AJ’s hair and the rope. It’s just a black to transparent reflected gradient, at a 100% opacity. You can actually use any grey that’s darker than the hair’s base grey. I chose to have the black transition to transparent to preserve the base color, but you could just as easly use a gradient the goes from black to the hair’s base color.
To create my highlights, because there are plenty of bright lights within that gymnasium, I used a white soft brush set at 10% opacity for easy blending. More or less I built up my highlights from dark to light. See below:
In the Color Halftone filter, I went with a small Max Radius of 6 pixels so we don’t obscure the line art too much, and rotated all the channels to a 45° angle. Here’s the end result:
Next up, I did some airbrush work on Aj’s t-shirt, creating the shadows on the back, between the right arm and torso, and just slightly below the left sleeve. I also added some highlights along the edge of the sleeves and along the lower left-hand side of her shirt.
How to Add Screentones to Them Jeans!
Now I will show how to add screentones to the jeans. On the jeans, I used a soft brush to airbrush in the highlights and shadows. For the shadows, I tried to get it to the point where the Color Halftone filter will create screens that blend into the solid black fills. (The lower buttocks and the left leg.) I realize that I obliterated some of my line art, but I’m more than willing to make that sacrifice. I can always scrape in some highlights later on with a hard brush to bring back some of that detail. In the Color Halftone filter, I used a Max Radius of 7 pixels and a 90° angle.
How to Add Screentones to the Shoes
On the right shoe, I used a basic black to white gradient, run the Color Halftone filter, using a Max Radius of 6 pixels and a 45° angle. The sole of the shoe is just a flat gray, and I originally tried some airbrushing to further emphasis the shadow behind the rope.
After the Color Halftone filter.
The sole of the right shoe gets a simple black to white gradient. I used a 108° angle for the screen tone. For the main part of the right shoe, I applied a black to white reflexive gradient. Then I ran a soft brush right above the heel. I used a 90° angle for my screen. See below:
Adding Screentones in Layers
Now I’m going to show how to add screentones in layers using this illustration. Since AJ has a tan, I had a layer already created for her skin. I used a pretty light grey. If we go back to our reference, you’ll notice some pretty dark shadows. This lets us assume that most of the light is shinning on the front of AJ.
So we’ll need to create another layer, naming it “skin shadows”, and set the Blend Mode to Multiply. Then with in the Layers pallet, we’ll command/control-click on the skin layer to create a selection based on the pixels on the skin layer. Using the selection, I’ll create a new layer mask in the “skin shadows” layer. After creating a new layer mask, we’ll fill the “skin shadows” layer with white.
Let’s go into the method to my madness. First off, we’re creating the shadows for the skin on a separate layer. I do plan to use the Gradient Tool and do some airbrushing to create my shadow.
Now here’s the problem, the Color Halftone filter isn’t smart enough to notice that you’re using a layer mask and it’s not smart enough to know what to do with transparent pixels. It’s only smart enough to convert grays pixels into black to white into screens. That’s why I filled the “skin shadows” layer with white.
The reason why I created the mask was so I don’t have to worry about painting outside the skin area. (I may not even need it, but I don’t want to have to care.) On the “skin shadows” layer, we’ll use the Lasso Tool to map out the area for the first shadow on AJ’s back. Then we’ll run a simple gradient across her back. We’ll emphasis the small of her back with a couple of soft brush strokes.
Okay, we’re not done yet. We’ll create one more gradient to run down between her torso and right arm.
I had to individually select each shadow before running the Color Halftone filter, otherwise the filter wouldn’t had created the hard edges. The shadow on the right used a 6 pixel radius and a 90° angle. The shadow to the left seemed to work well with a 108° angle. The base skin tone gets a 45° degree treatment.
Let’s do some work on AJ’s right arm. Right around the shoulder, I mapped out an area, ran a gradient across and ran the Color Halftone filter, setting the angle at 162°.
Below the sleeve, I carved out a good chunk of the arm, ran the same gradient across, and applied the filter using the same settings. The shadow running down her lower arm, I carved with the Lasso Tool. I had to play with the Color Halftone settings a bit. After a few tries, I decided a 45° angle was best.
Now let’s do a little work on her right hand. Going back to our reference image, even though it’s pretty blurry, you’ll find some shadow underneath the knuckles and on the parts of the fingers that wrap under the suitcase’s handle. So that’s where we’ll brush in some greys. Then we’ll tell the Color Halftone filter to angle the channels at 45°. Here’s the end result:
Left Arm Next up, we’ll work on AJ’s left arm. I had some trouble deciding what I wanted and how I was going to make it work. If we go back to the to our reference image, you’ll notice quite a bit of gradation on the lateral triceps (yes, I looked that up.) facing the lights. The other edges of the left arm are highlighted by rim light. On the hand, I had to use some artistic license. It was a little more than blurry in the screen shot. Lighting wise, I had to wing it.
I assumed that there were over-head lights hanging behind AJ. Given the angle of her arm, I will also assume that not too much light is able to reach her left hand. I at first laid in a flat gray with a bunch of feathered edges. Visually, it didn’t work for me. Some trial-and-error later, I resorted to filling the entire are with a shadow screen, and scrapped away where the lights touch the arms and the hand. I wanted to save that technique for later, but it worked better and I had much more control using the scrapping technique.
This’ll be a good transition from layering to scraping. With the suitcase I both layered and scraped. Look back to our reference, you’ll notice the Money in the Bank graphic/logo on the side of the briefcase. I tried to imitate it with a generic briefcase shape, but that didn’t cut it for me. So I just filled in a small area on a new layer, using Multiply for the Blend, and ran the Color Halftone filter using a 108° angle. It made for an interesting pattern, but I was wondering if I could get some of that refection in there.
For the reflection, I created a layer mask on the same layer. Then using a hard brush, I used the scrapping technique to create my reflections. What made this sort of a “happy-accient” was the fact that the base screen for the briefcase was able to peer through, giving it a sort of holographic look. To further enhance the reflection, I did some more scraping in the same areas on the suitcase’s base tone. I also scratched out some highlights around the suitcase.
Let There be Light!
This’ll be a fun one. We’ll use the scraping technique to create the house lights. Of course we’ll be referencing the screen-shot to help us decide where to place the lights. Considering our reference image, we’ll notice that the lights are strong enough to shine past the foreground.
So what we’ll do is to create a new layer just for the lights, and make it the top layer in your Layers pallet. With a hard brush, we’ll plot each of the lights in the illustration. To help me plot out my lights, I created another layer for a perspective grid. See below:
Here’s how I created my lights. I use a hard brush to create a white circle. With a smaller brush (at round 3 pixels), I scratched around the perimeter of the circle. (You can scribble if you want.) Then I scratched to make a few beams of light. With the same brush, I scrape around in a circular motion to build up a halo. Rinse and repeat.
Above is the final image looks pretty good. Go out and use these screen tone techniques on your own illustrations. Of course it’ll take some practice, but it’ll add another dimension to your work.
© 2013 Chris Hilbig