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Toon Shader

After the character texturing was complete and the environments coming together I was excited to start testing some render settings, particularly with Toon Shaders.

A worry I had when I first started to test this was about how the shader would work with the texture applied. The first few tutorials I went through didn't explain how this could be done if a toon shader was already applied, so I began to worry I had misunderstood how this would be possible. Then I discovered that it must be done using the node editor, something I hadn't had much experience with. It was very straightforward and worked efficiently once I understood the nodes which didn't take long as the idea of node lays everything out quite nice and clearly,

The Nodes for both the Character and the Environment Boxes:

Here is one of the first toon shader tests that I tried with the blocked-out environment. It was interesting seeing how many edges would be picked up upon adjusting the Edge threshold settings.

The Character

Here is the render after correcting the colours and getting the painted texture onto the model. There is still some adjusting to be done beyond this, for example, I don't think the black colour for the outlines works very well. I will adjust this and a few of the other options available with the aitoon shader attribute options

Below is another render test, this time experimenting more with the toon shader settings. There are specific settings for 'Stylised Lighting' and 'Rim Lighting', here I was particularly focusing on rim lighting as I knew that would be something that would be present in my shots. However, with the settings all adjusted for it and the Directional Light from the open door behind the character selected, for some reason, the rim light was being highlighted on the wrong edges. As seen here on the mouth:

I will have another look at this when I get more into the lighting stage, for one leaving the rim light settings off and just using the natural lighting from the other lights.

After I had my blend shape expressions completed I tested the Edge Threshold options on the face again to see how far I could push this style. This would adjust how much of the model will be outlined, the smaller the number the more details would be picked up, and the higher the number the fewer detail outlines. The first image is with the threshold at 18 and the second is at 30. Whilst I like out 18 brings out the eyelids, I think it is a little too much around other areas like the nose and mouth.

The Environments

Something I experiment with when testing the toon shading on my environments was Ambient Occlusion, this is when shading is calculated from how much light is reaching the object. Below is a test I did with this having the slider turned to its absolute lowest, the effect of the ambient occlusion is the black grain texture visible on the boxes. It's quite an interesting texture and style, I thought it went well with my plans to eventually add more textures, like dust. But it also looks very dramatic and there didn't seem to be any ways to change the colour or control the texture more.

Deciding against Ambient Occlusion, taking it off the shader I noticed there was still a weird shading happening on the boxes created with MASH. This is also outside the render only appearing on the MASH instances. Looking on some forums I discovered this fixable by going through Mash Display and then Harden Edges.

Line edge colour

I did some experimenting with a lighter colour for the edge, I think particularly in the darker shots this works well. However it only seemed to be a more desaturated colour that worked with this. Adding something that was a slightly different hue was too distracting so I have found keeping these boxes monotoned to be the best approach.

Closing thoughts on Toon Shader

I mainly wanted to use this shader as an attempt to give my film a more 2D like style. I think it definitely gave a more satisfying style but not as flat as I was expecting. This was good however as there is so much dramatic lighting that would have not looked at good on a flat 2D image.

I think if I had a bit more time to experiment with the specific lighting settings I think I could have excelled the style even more.

It was interesting to learn how this works as it taught me a lot from node editor layouts to general texturing and rendering settings.

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