A Guide to Shading in Flash
       by Pasquale D'Silva aka darkmotion  |  30 September 2007

A big bunch of requests came in after my first asking how I went about shading my stuff. In this guide, Iíll go through shading with simple 3 tone shading, using solid colour. Iíll assume that you have already read my first tutorial about the basics of flash vectoring. If not, give it a read!

Again, the methods used can be carried over to any other vector package. I prefer to use a combination of Flash and Illustrator, but do the bulk of the vectoring using Flashís ďorganicĒ tools. Alright. Now that that is out of the way, letís have some fun!

Setting it Up
The first thing youíll want to do, is to make sure that you use a strong contrasting line colour, to easily distinguish it from your already coloured piece:

I usually go for something ridiculously bold like orange when Iím working with dark colour, and dark purple or red, when working with naturally bright colours (read up on Brightness vs. Whiteness if you have no idea what Iím on about). Simply put, if you use colours which match too closely with the existing base colour, itís going to suck to pick out.

Light it Up!
Before you start shading, determine where your light source will come from, and how intense you want it to be:

As a general rule, the more intense the source, the more contrast you will have in your light tones. Just donít overdo it! Highlights will sit on the edges closest toward the light source, whereas shadows do the opposite and try to Ďhideí from it. Donít forget cast shadows as well! When something blocks the light, behind it will be a shadow.

Get in Nice and Close
Itís vector, so take advantage of it! Using either the line, pen or pencil tool, draw the line of the shadow/highlight around the form on the same layer. Remember to think in 3 dimensions. Shadow lines are almost never straight, unless the objectís contour is:

Imagine you are running a Spiderman style web around whatever you are shading, and as you will see, your shadow will turn out more volumetric.

Here comes the fun bit. Using the eyedropper tool, grab the colour of the base:

Now that you have the colour selected, you can open the colour mixer (Shift + F9). Drag the slider according to how much you think the form needs to be lit/shadowed (remember, more on each extreme or harsher light sources) Now fill in the area you divided off in the previous step with the new colour.

Clean It!
Alright! Now that you have highlighted and shadowed your stuff, itís time to delete the heck out of your lines (if you vector like me, youíll delete them all), and see what it looks like:

If you find that it looks too beveled, you can either reduce the amount of contrast between the two, or split the shadows and highlights into two toned shadows (similar to stepping with pixel art). To do this, simply resample the shadow or highlight colour, and pick a value that sits between it and the base colour. Draw a flowing line that divides the shadow in half, and then fill in the secondary shadow.

Oh great! Gradients!
Well sweet! You have something coloured up and dandy, but you want to give it even more volume? Lets get crafty with some gradients! Create a gradient in the fill panel, and sample each slider to be that of the base colour. Now slightly increase the brightness of one, and decrease the brightness of the other.

Now just click into the area you want to apply the fill to and see how it looks. Obviously, it is not going to line up to your light source right away, so you now grab our fun little friend- the fill transform tool. Use the stretch, scale and rotate handles to align the gradient according to your light source:

After you have done the base, go through and work on all of the highlights and shadows, and you will immediately see the difference!

Well gosh! I think Iíve given you enough information to start experimenting! Try messing with shadow overlaps, and even layering shadows to see what you get. Iíll sometimes export my vectors into a raster program and smudge tones into each other and layer textures to get some groovy effects. Itís all about experimentation. Go nuts and have fun with it.

Now go out there and make some art! If you have questions about anything (including future guides) , feel free to contact me, or post on the forums.

Pasquale D'Silva aka darkmotion




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