Realism with fast color bleeding

A quick tip to add realism and atmosphere to your images.

I experienced a fast tecnique to achieve a more realistic look through the effect known as “color bleeding”. I hope you’ll find it useful, too.
Let’s start!

1. What is color bleeding and why you need it

Depending on light, each objects casts a shadow on nearby objects. Actually, it also casts colors on them! This effect is known as “color bleeding” and greatly helps to add realism to every image, even a comic-style one or the simplest example (see the two spheres).
I know what you’re thinking: coloring each shadow differently is a pain in the ****, but fear not! I’ll show you how to do it pretty quickly.

2. basic shadows

tutorial_DA_color_bleed_02_shadowsHere’s a detail without color bleed. You can notice it looks pretty flat compared to the same detail showed above.
First, be sure to paint your shadows in grayscale on a different layer, over your flat colors. Set the shadow layer to multiply.

3. Let the colors bleed

tutorial_DA_color_bleed_03_effectDuplicate the flat color layer and move it over the shadow layer. Use filter > gaussian blur to blur all of the duplicated color layer. I put a dark blue background below the layer to show you the effect.
But something’s wrong here, we’re supposed to have color bleeding only on shadows!
Here’s the solution: set the layer method to color. This way, the blurred color will be visible only where shadows are darker. Nice, huh? 😉
In the next picture, you can see the color bleeding effect when shadows and lights layers are on.

4. Tweaking

You may want to soften or erase certain parts, but in most cases the “fast color bleeding layer” should work right out of the box.
Fine tuning on shadows and addiction of gradient color layers can help create the right atmosphere and color contrast.

The color bleeding is a subtle effect and won’t make your drawing beautiful out of the blue. You still need a lot of layers and patience, but I guess you’ll be happier with your results.

Take a look at the whole image I used for this tutorial, without (left) and with color bleeding (right) and notice the warm feeling of the 2nd one.

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Francesca Urbinati Artist

Francesca Urbinati

Sono illustratrice e fumettista freelance. Ho lavorato su effetti speciali 3D, graphic design e multimedia per RAI, Mediaset, Adobe, ArtOrder LLC, Studio Hamburg, MoveTheGame e molti altri. Pubblico la serie a fumetti Niki Batsprite e aiuto altri artisti e autori a emergere.