Tutorial: Cel Shading with Post Process Material in UE4
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Tutorial: Cel Shading with Post Process Material in UE4
6 April, 2017
News
One of the Unreal Engine community members, Thura Oo, wrote a post on his experiments with cel shading in the Epic’s engine. Here’s all you need to know about lights, skyboxes, materials and other details. 

I’ve been working on Cel Shading with PostProcess material I want to share my work with you guys.

If you want to cel shade in UE4, and also get the light colors back, also want to work with skybox, unlit materials and point lights and also don’t want to write your own custom shading model, I hope this thread will help you.

I don’t know if I’m too late to post this thread but I want to help people who try to cel shade with postProcess material after this thread.

Limitations

  • Do not work well with specular, roughness, metallic and other reflection related things ( Don’t use those things in your material, set specularity to 0).
  • Do not work with near distance exponential fog. (Set its distance to large values like 5000 if you still want to use)
  • Do not work with god rays.
  • Depends on the brightness of the scene.
  • You better use fixed value of the auto exposure :min brightness = 10 and max brightness = 2

Overall Logic

We extract the desaturated lighting of the scene so we get the black and white color of the extracted lighting (0 to 1). According to that lighting, we can give the scene whatever shade we want depending on if the light is greater or less than 0.5. Then we add the original post process to the scene to get the light colors back. Then we out-mask the skybox with scene depth and give it original post process effect. You can use custom depth to mask the objects you want to cel shade. That’s all.

overall graph

Only the objects with “custom depth” property set to true will get the cell shade. If you want to apply the cel shade to your whole scene, remove the group “Objects with custom depth use it” completely and plug the output of “if” from the group “Get skybox color” into emissive.

First of all create a postprocess material, then chosse the Blendable Location to Before ToneMapping (Super Important). If you don’t do this, tone mapping will disturb the process of extracting the lighting form the scene.

Light is multiply onto the diffuse color. So to extract the light from the scene, we have to divide the diffuse color from the scene. NOT subtract it. If you want to understand it well, plug it to the emissive.

So we get the black and white lighting to the scene. If the light is greater than 0.5, we give scene bright shade, if less than 0.5, we give the scene dark shade. You can replace the shades with whatever shade you want.

The parameter “darkness Factor” is very important. It decides whater to give dark shade or bright shade.
This method depends on the brightness of the light of your scene. If your scene is very low-lighted (below the value of darkness Factor), your scene will be covered with dark shadows. If your scene is very bright-lighted (above the darkness Factor), there will be no dark shadows.

So you have to adjust the darkness Factor value depending on the brightness of the lighting of your scene. If your scene is too bright-lighted, you increase the darkness Factor amount so that you can get the shadows back. If your scene is very low-lighted, you decrease the darkness Factor amount to very small value so that you get the bright shading back.

The group “light areas” is for bright shade and “dark areas” is for dark shade.

The parameters “Light_PP_blend_amount” and “Dark_PP_blend_amount” are the parameters that controls how much original post process will be blended onto your scene. If you want to get the light colors back, you have to blend the postprocess onto your scene. This method breaks the fully flat 2D anime look cel shading but it give you the light colors back and unlit materials. If you want to cell shade like fully flat 2D anime, than set those values to 0 and you will lose your light colors.

I think it is impossible to look like 2D anime, and you still want to get your light colors and you still want to do it with post process material.

The parameters “light area tint” and “dark area tint” are the ones that gives you bright shade tint and dark shade tint. Change “light area tint” to larger values so your light areas become brighter and “dark area tint” to smaller values so your dark areas become darker. As they are vector 3 parameters, you can tint bright shade and dark shade seperately with colors.

If you want to get the fully flat 2D anime cell shade, set the Light_PP_blend and dark_PP_blend to zero and you can fakethe lighting color by setting bright_area_tint and dark_area_tint with colors.

Create a material instance of this post process material, assign it to Post Process volume and play around with the parameters until you get the best result.

Out-mask the skybox with scene depth multiplied with 100000 because the skybox is the most far-away object in your scene and it’s scene depth is always 1.

The objects with “custom depth” property set to true will get the cell shade. If you want to apply the cel shade to your whole scene, remove the group “Objects with custom depth use it” completely and plug the output of “if” from the group “Get skybox color” into emissive.

By only using this celShade post process material, you will not get the perfect beautiful cel shade scene like magic.

Stylized rendering needs artistic skill and the beautiful of it depends on the colors you choose, your textures, objects and details you add into your textures.

To get the best flat look play around with Contrast, Saturation, Crush Highlights, Bloom and Tint Color in your postprocess volume.

The post was originally published on Unreal Engine blog. 

Comments

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5 Comments on "Tutorial: Cel Shading with Post Process Material in UE4"

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Ann
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Ann

It doesn’t do anything for me either. Any reason why it is happening?

Miki B
Guest
Miki B

Pretty cool, not sure if you could have fog now though

schmigel@gmail.com
Member
schmigel@gmail.com

@Raaka, have you pluged the Material in the Post Process Volume ?

Raaka
Guest
Raaka

Like… Do I have to apply some textures to the UVs?

Raaka
Guest
Raaka

Nice tutorial but somehow it does nothing to my scene :/ even if I change the dark and light parameters dramatically

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