Tutorial: Working with Manga Shader for Blender

Paul Caggegi talked about his stylized Manga Shader for Blender and shared a detailed tutorial showing how to texture a model with it.

Interview with Paul

Introduction

Hi, my name is Paul Caggegi. I am a freelance motion graphics designer from Sydney Australia.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked as a video editor, motion graphics designer, college lecturer, and illustrator. I have produced countless TV commercials and corporate videos, written articles and created artwork for Lifehacker and Kotaku, and produced graphics and illustrations for such companies as Nickelodeon and BMW.

Discovering 3D

I vaguely recall looking for a solution to create 3D titling for some video assessments back in college. Not having any money, I was naturally looking for a free solution. I came across Blender. It took some learning, but I used it to create the simple – if ugly - 3D titles I needed. When I was later employed, I always managed to find some use for it, mainly for backgrounds or effects. Over the years, I’ve continued to use Blender for all manner of projects: comics, logos, illustration work, even instructional videos. 

How Manga Shader for Blender Was Created

The germ of the Manga Shader could be traced back to 2010 when I attempted to create my first comic story. I was using Blender to model sets and props, and I was still trying to draw more consistently but failing. I thought “if I could render my models to look like illustrations, I could speed up my workflow considerably by rendering the same assets from different angles”. So I began to render out various passes from Blender – including an edge pass – which I then worked heavily on in Photoshop later.

With every new version of Blender, my methods evolved, and I began to create new combinations of shader nodes, and compositing nodes to simulate comic style effects. Eventually, I came up with some methods which had some really nice looks, and around October 2018, during the Blender conference (which I was attending) I discovered how to use Node groups. I then began to tinker with methods of creating usable controls to manipulate parameters and variables. The Manga Shader was born. 

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How Manga Shader Works

The Manga Shader is a material that contains a collection of node groups. These can be appended to any file you wish to texture and can be combined to create a wide array of comic-style effects. 

The material can be set up very quickly. Once appended, you create a new material on your asset, then add the Manga Shader groups from your Shader add menu.

I’ve taken great care in providing useful and simple controls that allow you to alter parameters for your own uses. You can set a base color, or even plug in a texture, then control the intensity and size of highlights and shadows. You can then use the additional node groups to enhance your material and create a wide range of textures for your comic-style project.

Lighting Setup

When you append the material, you will first notice that a new lamp has also been appended – the MS_Keylight. In Cycles, this is used to drive a normal map to simulate the lighting direction. It is best to use this keylight as your main lighting source, and then build up your material from there.

If you absolutely must use in-scene lighting, the free version works exclusively in the Eevee render engine. This version can be responsive to several in-scene lights, and there’s even an option that allows you to switch between the surface color and the lighting color. This version includes two textures to simulate sketched inks and halftone, which are eroded by the lighting and simulate a professional inked look. Even though it is free, it’s sort of my preferred shader, as some of the effects it can produce are simply stunning.

Future Updates

I am always trying to improve this set of shaders, and with every new release of Blender, it gets easier to refine and add features to the node groups. In my next release, I aim to simplify a lot of the internal node trees, taking advantage of updates to the math and mapping nodes, as well as adding new features such as a tangent glossy shader to simulate anime-style highlights on hair. Some added features will include outputs that allow you to isolate shadow, highlight, and color passes, for even greater control over your overall effects. I will also be including a souped-up Eevee base shader to take advantage of in-scene lighting setups. This will make the paid version fully featured.

I am also taking note of up-coming features in Blender. One I am particularly excited about is the ability to enable Freestyle as an output pass from your view layer render.

Both the free and paid versions are available through my Gumroad page. If you purchase the current version, you will be notified of the updates when they become available, and receive those updates free.

I also run a Patreon page, and Patrons who support me at the $3+ level get a sneak peek at up-coming versions, and even get to beta test them and give feedback. They then receive a special discount code that allows them to download the Пumroad version for free and thus be able to receive future updates free even if they cease being a Patreon supporter.

Tutorial

Texturing a Lamborghini Terzo Millennio with the Manga Shader v3.5

When you first download and open the Manga Shader.blend file, you will see this test scene, along with the available node groups. This shows all the available node groups set out in a suggested order for applying different steps in creating a material.

I’ll be using this Lamborghini Terzo Millennio that was kindly supplied to me by C&C Studio to demonstrate how the shader is applied, and how various materials can be made. You can find this model along with a range of quality car models on their Gumroad page.

Once you’ve opened the .blend file that you’re going to texture, go to File>>Append and navigate to where you saved the Manga Shader.blend file.

Double-click on the file name, or click “Append”.

You should now see all the folders available inside of the file. Double-click on the Material folder.

Select MangaShaderv35 and click “Append”.

If you check inside your Materials drop-down, and you’ll see that this Material is now present.

(NB: It’s a good idea to mark this with a Fake User by temporarily applying the material, then clicking on the shield icon right of the name. Now whenever you see the material on your list, there will be an F in front of it. Now when you save your .blend file, the material won’t be automatically deleted if it isn’t assigned to any asset.)

Now create a new material. I’m calling mine “CarPaintGlossy”. This is the material that we will be adding nodes to. Note, we are not editing the MangaShaderv35 material itself.

Next, select the mesh you want to texture. In edit mode, select the parts of the mesh you would like this material applied to.

In your material settings, hit “Assign” to apply the selected material to those vertices.

With this new material selected, open a Shader node window. you will notice the default Principled BDSF shader node is already applied. We will be replacing this with one or more of our groups. Press Shift-A and mouse over the “Group” option. You will now notice that the groups from the Manga Shader material are now available.

Add the Toon Base Shader node group. Delete the Principled BDSF Shader and connect the Output node of the Toon Base Shader to the Surface input of your Material output. Change your settings to something similar to the picture below.

Note that the MS_Keylight was also imported with the material. By rotating this lamp, you can set a key lighting direction for your model. All the highlights and shadows will correspond to this object’s vector.

Now add the Glossy node group. Connect the Output of the Toon Base Shader to the BaseCol input. Also connect the Vector output, so that the Glossy group will inherit the same vector as the base shader uses from the MS_Keylight object.

Finally, add the Halftone group. Connect the Output from the Glossy node to the ColorInput of the Halftone node group. Setting your parameters like in the picture should give you a nice glossy car paint look, complete with a halftone overlay.

You can tweak the settings of each node group to your liking. When you’re happy with the look, move onto another part of the model and repeat the process.

You can combine other nodes to create a range of effects. See here on this tire texture, how I’ve added the SketchHatch node.

You can also combine existing shaders such as glass – this is particularly good if you want to composite reflections later on.

You can get a good preview right in your viewport (this example is at 32).

Now you’re ready to render. Enable all the passes you would like to use in your final composite. Note: because the materials are RGB, you won’t need a high sample rate for your Cycles render – 32 or even 16 should suffice.

The Emission pass will automatically carry all your color information. If you have any lights or objects you would like to add a glow effect to, I recommend giving them a Material index and use this to separate them and apply glow effects in the compositor.

To enhance the toon look at render, create a freestyle pass to composite over the final result.

NB: If you’re using 2.82 or earlier, you will need to create a separate view layer and render Freestyle ONLY on this pass. From 2.83 however, you will be able to enable a Freestyle pass to composite from a single view layer. You can find tutorials on setting up and applying Freestyle over on my Youtube Channel

This final render adds some glow and color correction using the compositor.

Afterword

As mentioned above, you can download the full Manga Shader from my Gumroad page. There is a Free Eevee-only version available as well.

If you want to see more, I have a Youtube Channel which covers more topics related to rendering Comic Style effects in Blender.

Thanks again to Yorvin and Davide of C&C Studio for the amazing model! It was a thrill to texture this beautiful car.

Paul Caggegi, Motion Graphics Designer

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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    Tutorial: Working with Manga Shader for Blender