How to Achieve a Cel-Shaded Look and How's My Environment?

Hello. Recently, I’ve been putting together a scene to use for a comic of an underground railway station, but I can’t seem to get the art style to come out the way I want. I want to use single colours and very sharp, thick shadows to get a kind of cel-shaded look. However, I’m not sure if I’m doing this correctly. I’m a novice at putting together scenes, so I’m not even sure I’m doing this the “right” way. Odds are, I’m making this unnecessarily hard on myself.

I’m using toon shaders, but I can’t get the shadows to come out properly. They look too soft when I do it, and the characters end up looking awful with the kind of shading that I have. I’ll summarise how I have the scene:

  • It’s entirely underground; no natural light is coming in at all.

  • All light is provided by emission objects (the overhead lights). No environmental lights are used.

  • I haven’t put nodes to work, since I’m not sure what to do.

  • All textures are image textures, so I can’t really use a colour ramp either.

  • I’m using cycles, so Blender Render tricks won’t work.

    What I’m using comes out just fine on a character by itself with the environmental lights (no emissions) and no backdrop. But in an actual environment such as this, no such luck. So, my main question is “what should I change to achieve the kind of he sharp shadowed, cel-shaded look I’m after and where am I going wrong?”. And once I’ve made the changes towards getting the right look, how would I accomplish it?

    I’ve probably made a mess, but as I say, I’m a novice, so any help would be greatly appreciated. I can apply it to other Blend files I create afterwards and ones I’ve already made. Thanks in advance.

    An example of what the station looks like right now. As you can see, the shadows are nowhere near prominent enough.

    I’m after this sort of look. Doesn’t have to replicate it exactly, of course, but the shading and shadows are generally what I’m after. If I can’t achieve it with my scene being like what I described, what should I change?

If you can believe it, after experimentation (and a fair deal of swearing), I think I’ve cracked it.

For starters, I hadn’t set the render bounce numbers properly for this kind of setup. Adding on to that, the emission lighting was where I was going wrong, since I can’t set the size (and therefore, shadow sharpness) with it. So then I had to wonder, how to make something look like its putting out light when it isn’t? The answer was “set the colour of the emission object to light path - camera ray”.