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How to paint Manga/Anime in Paint.NET

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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it


How to color a Manga/Anime in Paint.NET





This tutorial assumes a basic knowledge of using Paint.NET – i.e. the use of the ‘selection tools’, Gradients and the Magic Wand.

Plug-ins used:

Align Object
Random Shape Fill

Plugin Index

I will use this abbreviation T-A to denote the Transparency-Alpha in this tutorial. It can be found in the color window after you click on ‘more’.



:Warning: Be aware at all times which layer you are painting on.

Step 1

You can draw your own Manga/Anime, or use the one provided for this tutorial here. Just save it and paste into a new, transparent layer in Paint.NET – above the Background Layer.

If you make your own sketch, remember to have clear, solid lines – not too thick – and make sure all the lines meet. This is important for using the magic wand :MagicWandTool: to select areas, so that you can fill with color easily and without going outside of the lines.

In the tutorial you will be returning to the Manga Outline Layer repeatedly, to ‘select areas’ and then you will ‘switch’ to another layer to add colors, shading, highlighting, etc.

Make sure to centre the Manga after uploading: Effects – Align Object - Center

Step 2

Make your Background Layer – with a Linear Gradient with the colors: E1D0C9 and F6EDE7

Step 3

New Layer – this is for the solid colors of the Manga. Choose your own, or you can use the color swatches I’ve used for the tutorial. Name this layer Base Color.
With the magic wand tool :MagicWandTool: ‘select’ the skin on the Manga Layer and then switch to the Base Color Layer and with the paint bucket tool :PaintBucket: add the color FDE8D5 to the face and neck area. Don’t forget the ear!

Working back and forth between the Manga Layer and Base Color Layer, select each area to color and go back to the Base Color Layer to add the color, whilst the Manga is still selected (ants around the selected area).



Tips: To zoom: Ctrl + for in and Ctrl – for out.

Or: Ctrl and scroll with mouse wheel

To select more than one area at a time with the magic wand :MagicWandTool: , press Ctrl whilst selecting.

Step 4

New Layer for the shading – named …………. Shading!

Again, working back and forth using the main Manga to select the area, begin with shading the face and neck with a color – I’ve used F5BABA.

Set the Transparency-Alpha at #4 and shade the skin with a brush size of 30 – 40.

Slow movement = better color coverage.

To BLEND the color switch to the eraser :EraserTool: and gently erase where the color is too strong. As the T-A is still low from you painting the shading, it will be gentle and you can get a great smudging effect using the eraser this way.

Practice, practice, practice ………. paint brush :PaintBrushTool: and then the eraser :EraserTool: to blend.


Step 5

New Layer – Highlights.

With the color White at a T-A of between 4 – 20, again using the selection method to ‘select’ the skin then switch to your New Layer and gently paint-in some highlights.

Use the eraser to smudge - with the T-A at a low of about #4.

Tip: The larger the brush, the smoother the smudging. Practice will make perfect ;)


Step 6

Let’s do the eyes.

New Layer. With the color of your choice, or mine 392944 and A1C7CA, use the Ellipse Tool :EllipseSelectTool: to draw a circle for the iris’s on both eyes. Fill with Linear Gradient :GradientTool:

Gaussian Blur at default.

Next you can upload eye lashes from here and, place them on the top of the eyes. Merge :MergeLayerDown: the eyelashes down together to one layer. Then move :MoveLayerDown: the lash layer below the Manga Layer and merge with the Eye Layer.


Step 7

New Layer for the Hair shading.

Magic wand the Manga Hair (use ‘Ctrl + :MagicWandTool: to select every single hair strand) then switch to the New Layer and with the paintbrush at T-A 20 or more, fill in darker strands.

After this, smudge with the eraser with T-A at #3.

Whilst the hair is still selected (alive with ants), make a new layer for highlights.

(If you lose the hair selection, go back and magic wand the Manga again)

With color FFFFC7 add highlights to get a nice shine. Use the eraser to smudge at #3.

:Warning: Check often to make sure you are on the right layer.

Tip: To make a perfect Halo highlight, make a new layer and use the Ellipse and Ellipse Subtract to get a Halo and fill this with the highlight color at a higher T-A.


De-select and Gaussian Blur at +8.

Tip: Don’t forget to put back your Ellipse Selection back to ‘Replace’ :Replace: when finished, otherwise the magic wand will not work on the Manga.



Make a New Layer to make lines with the Line/Tool :LineTool: to make the highlights more intense.

Gaussian Blur at default and use the eraser again to blend.



You can now merge down :MergeLayerDown: the Halo Layer to the Hair Highlights and then the Intensify Layer to the Highlight Layer.

Step 8

The Dress.

New Layer and call it Dress Shadows.

Select the Dress on the Manga, before painting on the New Layer.

With a slightly darker color than the dress, first add some shading with BEC0E2 - with T-A at 20 and a brush size of about 15 – make sweeping strokes down the front of the dress.

Eraser at +3 to smudge

After this add some lighter shading with color D8DBFF and make finer lines down the dress. Also some darker with CFCCC7.

Gaussian Blur at default.



Step 9

Now for the Flower.

New Layer and do your magic with the shades and highlights!

:Warning: Remember to stay on the right Layer.



Step 10



Now to add some Manga-type spots!



In White, on a New Layer, grab the Lasso select :LassoSelectTool: then go to Effects – Render – Random Shape fill – and play with the adjustments until you get an array of white spots.

Then go to Effects – Mirror – left half over right half.

Again – Mirror – bottom half over top. Then, using the Rectangle Select :RectangleSelectTool: the spots and move them around to your liking and resize them as well.



Step 11

Now to use the Color Burn trick to get some vibrancy and ‘Oomph’ (thanks to @Withers tutorial)

On a New Layer above everything, fill the layer with the color A5A5A5 and then uncheck the box so it becomes invisible to the eye.

Make another New Layer above it, call it Color Burn and change the ‘Gradient’ to Color Burn

Use your Manga layer to magic wand :MagicWandTool: hair, face, body, dress, etc., and go back and forth to the top layer and with the Paintbrush :PaintBrushTool: and a low T-A between 3 -6, paint long, sweeping strokes to get nice colors on the hair and dress and flower. Experiment with different colors – you will find some look good, other not.





Technically the Manga is now completed and you can go to – Image – Flatten – and you are done!




Or, once flattened you can use Adjustments - Levels :LevelsEffect: – and play with the sliders until happy with the strength of the colors.



You can also play with Effects – Color – Color Flip/Rotate








Special thanks to Stephanie Valentine for her eye lash brushes – to be found here


  • Upvote 6

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This is a really well written tutorial Pixey. It has been bookmarked for the future, thank you for making this :)

Edited by sashwilko

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Thank you so much @Sasha - that's very kind of you and I really appreciate your words :) .  I hope to see you give it a try and I hope too, that the tutorial is understandable ;)

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Great tutorial Pixey!


I just wish Paint.NET had native support for Wacom Bamboo tablets. I have to import my drawings from Sketchbook Express over into Paint.NET. In my version of Sketchbook, all layers are compressed when saved, and it can't be uncompressed. It doesn't support transparency (the layers do, but not the actual picture), and it's just an overall pain to work with.

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Beautiful results and very clearly explained tutorial.

It's clear that you invested a lot of time into making this and I commend you on it.

The day I decide I want to do some awesome coloring I'll definitely know where to turn (or to point others to).

Excellent work my dear

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Thank you so much for your comments - which mean a lot to me :D .


@Seerose - lovely words, which made me smile ...... what a cute emote ;)

@teh501 - thanks so much. I've never been able to get used to a tablet.  Your work sounds very interesting B)

@Spectre - so nice of you to say those things.  I also hope you try it one day .... would be fun to see :lol:

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Thank you so much for your comments - which mean a lot to me :D .


@Seerose - lovely words, which made me smile ...... what a cute emote ;)


Sweet Pixey! Not only beautiful words, that's the truth.  :trophy:   :rainbow:

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This was a great tutorial.Here is mine.



And I have some questions for you:

  1. Is this outline yours?
  2. If it is can I use it for a shirt?I already have the PNG.



Thanks in advance.  :)

  • Upvote 1

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@wow64 - what a great outcome and the colors are so pretty <3 .  Thank you for doing the tutorial.  Just one small thing, if you do another Manga, on your outline layer do some more feathering and perhaps a bit of AA's Assistant to make the lines a bit smoother.  Yes, the outline was mine and you are welcome to use it anytime :)

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Hi Megan - sorry I'm late to respond.  Wow!  That looks great - no more 'jaggies'  she is now a perfect 10 B) .

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@Seerose - Please forgive me for this late response.  For some reason I did not receive my usual email notification :/ .


You did great smiley-love016.gif    I'm so happy you gave it a try - well done.  Your colors are always so perfect and I like your style.  Keep up the good work - your pictures are always a joy to look at.

  • Upvote 1

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Dear Pixey! 5de6l68b.gif


They are always helpful, courteous, and lovable.

Many ask this and that, they always have a ready answer.

Thanks for all the tips. Thanks for the effort.

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Thank you @Seerose for the lovely Sparkling Flowers (sorry I didn't see it before now) ;)


I have now changed the Tutorial to bigger images - no more thumbs - and have added a PDF at the top :P .

Edited by Pixey

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Hi, Pixey,


I wanted to thank you for taking the time to make this tutorial and for the pdf file that goes with it. It's cool and fun tutorial. I don't know if you have heard of Jane Davenport, but I like her spin on facial drawings. So, I drew a few of my own. I like regular watercolor but I like the digital watercolor look, too.  This had some excellent tips in it for adapting this process to PDN. So I truly appreciate it and I can see from examples others have uploaded that it was very appreciated. No doubt so many made very cool ones from this.


I know Manga is extremely popular, and your tutorial is well done, so if you have the time, maybe after the holidays, you should think about making a Youtube video on this one, especially because of the popularity of the subject matter.


Some of my relatives and friends LOVE Manga/Anime. They go to conventions. I love Comic Con conventions.

  • Upvote 1

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Thank you very much @ScrapbookWithPDN for your lovely comment.  Sorry I'm late to reply - I only just noticed this :mrred:


Yes, I will keep that in mind, about doing a YouTube video.  I love Manga/Anime as well <3

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