Soft Shaded vs. Cel Shaded

Soft Shaded vs Cel Shaded

Who knows, maybe next week they’ll fight to the death. –last week

Yep. It happened. The not long-awaited battle of the week-century: soft shading versus cel shading!

Just to recap previous posts, soft shading involves blending color softly (who’d a thunk it?), while cel shading is when you have solid chunks of color creating the illusion of depth. Before this death battle begins, let’s break each side down and see what’s going on.

Soft Shading: The Blazing Stallion

Since it’s in the Player One slot (which has no advantage whatsoever), we’ll start with soft shading. Technical precision is not required, and, as I’ve said in the past, “close enough is good enough.” If you make a “mistake,” you can easily cover it up and play it off like “artistic vision” or some pretentious nonsense like that.

For some reason, it seems like a soft shaded piece is oftentimes more energetic or “alive” than a cel shaded piece. There’s a spontaneity and uniqueness that comes with it, too, that is less apparent in cel shaded work. Some call it the artist’s hand; I call it variability. No two soft shaded pieces ever come out exactly the same; kind of like traditional painting.

However, soft shading fits neatly into far less contexts than cel shading does. Colors are tricky to change because your selected shades and tints may not easily transfer across hues (brown to yellow, for instance), and it potentially warrants starting over to change the color. Soft shading is also really hard to do with a mouse.

Overall, though, this energy, spontaneity, and variability remind me of a blazing stallion: free-flowing, unbridled, and free.


Cel Shading: The Reserved Tactician

Cel shading, on the other hand, is more like a reserved tactician: organized and precise. Mistakes are far more visible, and sloppy workmanship is harder to justify than with soft shading.

While more planning and control are required, cel shading holds its own against soft shading with the ability to easily change colors since you’re just recoloring flat blocks of color. It’s also far more versatile than soft shading, which really only works as a single illustration. A cel shaded illustration can smoothly and more easily animate and, if small changes are needed, there’s a lot less to “correct” to account for the change.

Using a mouse also isn’t a hassle or a burden, and could even be preferred in some cases, so that’s a major plus for cheapskat-er, I mean less fortunate persons such as myself who can’t afford a tablet.


Final Breakdown

(Click this link if the above video fails to open.)

Soft Shading Cel Shading
Time to finish: 1:22:00 Time to finish: 1:00:15
Close enough is good enough Precision is key
More energetic More versatile
Easy to hide mistakes Mistakes hard to hide
Tricky to change colors Easy to change colors
Using a mouse sucks Mouse, tablet, who cares?
Takes forever Takes forever


Challenger approaching: Pixel Art!

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