Workflow for Comic Book Project?

Thanks. I’ll put it on my wish list.

Hi Honzo,
not sure, but maybe this helps: (the hatching thing starts somewhere at 5:00)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRjQkCGv4ds

If I got this rigth, he accomplished the hatching with just a wave texture node,
and controlled them by the usual Texture Coordinate and Mapping node.

That’s pretty cool, especially the ‘bonus’ section, but it’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, he uses the mapping node right off the bat to squelch any 3D in the hatching pattern. So, this makes me think the mapping node might be used to control the 3D character of the hatching instead. The problem I see is that it would effect the orientation of hatching the same on the whole figure, when in hand-drawn hatching we try to use the direction of the outline locally to influence the hatching direction- sometimes. Other times it’s just a matter of which direction of curve shows ‘bulge’ in the best way- so for instance, if you were hatching a long muscle, your hatching would orient closer to the ‘short’ direction, for many short hatch lines, instead of along the muscle for a few long hatch lines. I have no idea how nodes might achieve this effect, because it’s not a matter of just the object itself, as a whole, but each form in the object as it relates to the camera angle and lighting.

It’s possible I may have to adapt my vision to some technical limitations…

The keyword you want to look into is NPR - Non-Photorealistic Rendering. This covers cartoon, comic, and anime/manga styles. Its a pretty big area and a lot of us are working on it. https://blendernpr.org/ is one of the main resources, and also has a facebook group, twitter hashtag, and Discord server if you want to talk to other people working on these sorts of things.

There’s lots of possible approaches. As others have said, you can use blender to create part of the scene and draw the rest. How much you do in 3D vs how much you draw depends on your preferences and skills. I do behind the scenes 3D work on Yuumei’s comics, Fisheye Placebo and Knite. She used to draw the whole thing by hand, but switched to doing full 3D references (including characters) and paints over them to save her drawing hand after getting repetitive strain injury. Now we do fast but relatively low complexity 3D, and she draws the rest. Same overall result, but 90% less drawing work.

You can check out her comics here: https://www.yuumeiart.com/web-comics
(Fisheye Placebo is using this 3D workflow starting at Ch1 part 5. Knite is using 3D the whole time.)
Here’s an example of the 3D, and then the fully paintover:

For my personal work, I mostly work on colored manga stuff, but the problems and things you need to understand are 99% the same. Comics will use more hatching of course, as you’ve mentioned. But you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of NPR either way. Blender has a lot of tools that can help make lineart and hatching, but it’ll be difficult to get an exact match for the hatching you linked because its so organic.

Here’s an example of some pretty heavy/dirty linework I did for an old project using Freestyle and procedural noise (the rest is Cycles render.)


I also did a comic test with this character years back that you can check out on my otherwise very out of date website here.

And if you want to learn a lot more about nodes and toon shading, I’ve got a couple tutorials up on my not out of date Youtube here (this is for anime stuff, but it’s the same node and workflow fundamentals. Its mostly geometry that makes western comics different from manga in the 3D world.)

Toon Shader Tutorial
Using Eevee as a canvas and painting into renders

And here’s some past project info threads (these are for stills, but it’ll give you some idea of workflow stuff.)

Rei Fanart +workflow info
Miku Fanart + workflow info
Workflow info on dealing with rigging and cloth
Older post on using post processing (compositor) to generate lines and grunge

Anyhow, there’s a lot more to say, as I’ve had to solve a lot of these workflow issues for Yuumei’s comics (Rigify is good, but I don’t know about pose libraries.) But this is probably enough to get you started. My main recommendation would be to get into the BNPR Facebook/Discord and start talking with people there.

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@Oscalon: Thank you so much! I have been searching NPR and BNPR, but there is so much and so much seems out of date that it’s slow going, and it’s difficult to find answers to specific questions as they come up. I’m an old guy and not up to speed on Discord servers and the like- I can see though that I’ll need to catch up. I plan on diving into the resources you’ve linked today.
Again, thanks!

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@Oscalon: I’m watching your toon shader tutorial, and it’s great- but have any of the issues you mention with Eevee been improved or resolved?

Your discussion of options is very informative, much clearer than anything else I’ve looked at. Thanks!

Two things have changed since that tutorial was made: There is now a node named Map Range that does what my Rescale group does, and shadows are a bit better (but still tend to have jagged edges.) So Eevee is still very feature incomplete as far as NPR workflows are concerned. We all hope it will get more options like a proper Toon Shader node soon, or that we’ll just get a proper GLSL script node, which will open up options for the community to just code what we need.

The only feature complete NPR toolset right now is the Cycles ToonKit collection of OSL script nodes. This avoids the various problems that Eevee has, and has lots of powerful tools like line art, light groups, etc. And since its part of Cycles, it gets to take advantage of Cycles stuff that Eevee doesn’t have, like cutom passes/AOVs, bevel node, displacement, etc. The downside of ToonKit is that since it’s OSL scripts, it can only be rendered on CPU, so it’s much slower than GPU rendering (which is already slower than eevee.) However, this is not as big of an issue as in the past, as we’ve just gotten powerful Viewport denoisers. So you can still get a mostly clean render in a couple of seconds, even on CPU rendering.

The other minor issue with ToonKit is the UI implementation. It works, but since it is working around some features, it doesn’t fully support options that we’re used to in a pure cycles workflow. For example, in Cycles we can control light color and strength from inside the materials, but in ToonKit you have to do it in the lamp’s settings tab. But this isn’t that big of a deal.

There’s no reason that Eevee can’t have all the features that ToonKit has, its just a matter of them getting developed. Which will hopefully happen soon.

The other alternative that’s coming up is the BEER rendering engine that the BNPR folks are now developing. That’s basically going to be a framework that allows custom GLSL scripts, so the community will be able to write whatever they need.

And of course, Grease Pencil is great, and will be a good solution for lots of effects and stuff you’d need in a comic.

A big factor in all these workflows is simply complexity of style. If you’re working on black and white or 2 or 3 tone with a lot of black lines and black hatching, you can simplify things a lot, and it’ll be much easier to fix things in post. Its when you want lots of fancy light that it gets really complicated (see my Rei Process video.) But this is more complex than established comic styles.

Another resource worth knowing about is the SketchUp program. Its good for throwing scenes together, and has large amounts of content you can use. And you can export it to Blender.

BEER sounds good- but it always does… Any idea when this might be released? Some things in Blender are moving so fast that it’s worth waiting for them, at least for somebody like me who isn’t ready to go into production anyway- why learn something that’s about to be replaced when I could learn something I’ll keep using?

Grease Pencil is one of the things that drew me to Blender originally, I really like the idea of ‘hand drawn 3D’ and the kind of stylization of backgrounds that flows from that. At the moment, though I’m focused on a project that (I hope) will use a kind of film-noir base style that is treated in a few different ways for different circumstance. I’m hoping to use ‘naturalistic’ models and materials as the foundation, and then add stylization nodes that will still allow the base textures to inform the final render- so, a flowered sun-dress, for instance, would not have the flowers completely blown out by a toon shader.

So far I have only used Eevee, but it sounds like Cycles may be where I need to go next, for the line work.

Your tutorial has helped a lot in terms of thinking of scenes in a way that avoids some of Eevee’s limitations. I think that discussion of terminator problems has saved me endless hours of frustration in trying to figure out why the hell things don’t look like I expect.

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Haha, yeah, I seem to be the only person who ever talks about that terminator problem >_<

I believe BEER is intended to make an initial release by the fall. But its unknown what the state of the features will be at that point.

I would suspect that if you start learning now, by the time you’ve gotten comfortable with other parts of the workflow, then there will be more options out there for rendering. Or just use ToonKit.

The other options for line work are of course Freestyle, and the upcoming LANPR, which looks like it will integrate with Grease Pencil now. Both of these are render engine independent.

If I were to start with a figure, say, that already had a naturalistic skin image texture applied, and then added a Toonkit node, would I be able to keep information from the original image texture mixed with toon shading? I really want to be able to preserve those kinds of details in some areas, like in defined mid-range zones.

Yes, that’s not an issue. The ToonKit setup you’d want would be pretty much the same as what I show in my eevee tutorial, but without having to work around stuff, and some features more convenient. But you’d follow the same idea of breaking out shading, color, etc into different passes.

So your Texture is going to be plugged into Diffuse color, and then multiplied by the Shading. It will get darkened in the shaded areas, but no detail will be destroyed. (And it also works fine with bump and normal maps, gloss/spec maps, etc. I designed it to work with PBR and other standard maps.)

Cool! Your shader, or possibly Toonkit, sound like an excellent foundation for what I need. What is ‘more convenient’ in Toonkit? I’m big on convenience, but low on budget.

It has its own toon shader nodes, so you don’t need to built a group of them in as many cases, and it doesn’t have the terminator problem. And since it can do multiple lights properly, you don’t have to do strange workarounds to get multiple light sources working (my tutorial covers only a single light source for eevee toon. If you want more, you have to do weird stuff, and you can only have 3 max.) And you can mix it with regular cycles nodes, so if you want indirect light, you don’t need a separate layer.

The main thing is all the features it has.

Sounds good. If it turns out that my daughter’s dog doesn’t need nasal surgery in the next couple of days, I’ll grab it. Thanks!

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Let’s hope the dog is okay!

Once you get started with it (or if you keep going with Eevee or regular cycles), feel free to ask questions in the BNPR facebook group or discord. I or someone else will be able to help you.

Thank you. I haven’t been on Discord yet, I’ll have to set something up. I dumped facebook last year, but if that’s a good place to communicate with people about this I’ll go back.

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Discord is best for quick answers and discussion.

The dog, btw, got something up her nose in the middle of the night, had a four minute, violent sneezing fit, and then seemed okay until this morning, when she did the same again, only with blood. The vet couldn’t find anything but irritation, thinks she might have ejected whatever was bugging her, but says to keep an eye on her. I wouldn’t be concerned but we have a lot of foxtails around here and those can be pretty bad up a dog’s nose. She’s a Great Dane, so the vet couldn’t see far enough up her nose to be sure there isn’t something lodged really far up, and we didn’t want to knock her out unless there’s more violent sneezing, and she’s scheduled for surgery just in case, so now we wait. Worst part is, vet says she may have more sneezing fits just because of the irritation… so it’s hard to know when to get worried. So far so good, though- no more sneezing since this morning, despite the vet poking a light up her nostril.
Dogs… sigh… Last week she got skunked, now this…

oh, and how do I find the BNPR server on Discord? I’m in the sign up process now at “join a server” but I don’t know what the proper address is.

Its on the about page of the BNPR website.