Animation is a fantastic tool used to tell stories, convey emotion or help share information to a wide range of audiences. While it is an incredibly creative medium it can also be very technical. 

I'm going to write today about something you might not have heard of but something that our technical department spends a lot of time on - shading.

What is Shading?

In 2D animation terms it’s adding layers of pencil to create depth to a drawing.  In 3D animation, shading is the process of creating materials for 3D models. 

Image 1 - Let's start with our object, a sphere, in front of a white backdrop.  There is a key light on the right, and a fill light on the left.  All models start out grey.

Usually the shading is determined ahead of time by what the object is, such as a plastic cup or a wooden box.  We can make anything so let's do something we see everyday - car paint. There are various types of car paint available - basic, metallic, pearlescent etc. Today I will create a nice metallic blue car paint.

Image 2 - The first thing we do is to add the colour.  Whilst it might be the right blue, it doesn't look like car paint.  At this point it could be anything, blue plastic, blue carpet, blue plasticine. 

Image 3 - Next we add a specular layer, this gives our material a highlight.  However it's looking more like plastic than metallic car paint.

Image 4 - While it doesn't look as much like plastic anymore, it doesn't look like metallic car paint. I think we need to add some paint flakes!

Image 5 - It might not look like it yet, but it's starting to come together. However The edges look too bright, metallic car paint has a nice falloff, this is achieved by adding some roughness to the material, image 6.

Now for the final step, adding a clear coat to our car paint. This is the glossy surface that makes car paint look like car paint.  And there is a basic metallic car paint.  For more realism we would then add micro surface scratches, a dirt layer and minor variation to the colour.

Maybe blue isn't your thing?  We can change the colour in instantly to get exactly what we need.

Thoughts by,