This guide assumes you have a working program that is similar in function to Photoshop 5.5. I hear Gimp works almost as well, but Ive never tried it.
Step 1: Finding Parts
In order to make a Franken-Gundam, you need parts. To get parts, you need lineart. You can find lineart all over the internet, but most likely the best source is www.mahq.net since it contains lineart for over a dozen franchises and multiple series within those franchises. If youre looking for lineart for the various animated Gundam shows, www.gundamofficial.com is slightly better in that the lineart is cleaner though there isnt as much. Regardless of where you get your lineart, make sure it has either a white or a near-white background for the next step. Once youve selected a lineart image that you want to rip parts from, copy and paste it into your program. Make a new window if you have to.
Step 2A: Cleaning Up Colored Lineart
If the lineart you picked is colored, select your magic wand tool. In the options box, set the Tolerance to 50 and turn Antialiasing and Contiguous to on. Click the white or near-white background of the picture and make sure the magic wand didnt somehow get into the parts you want to take. Lower the Tolerance if you need to. Once youve got only the area around your part source selected, hit delete.
Step 2B: Cleaning Up Black-and-White Lineart
If the lineart you picked is completely in black and white, go to the Select tab towards the top of the screen and go down to Select Color Range. Either set the Select to Highlights or set it to Sample Color and click on the white background. If you use Sample Color, then set the Fuzziness so that youre selecting most of the area around the dark lines. If setting the Fuzziness to full makes the lines too light for you, Undo it and set the Fuzziness lower. I usually prefer 150. Once youve got the lightened area selected, go back to the Select Tab and go to Select Inverse. Create a new layer, then use the Paint Bucket tool with the color set to black on the new layer. Youll now have a transparent outline of a mech.
Sometimes though your outline will have a lot of grey bits in it. In this case, make a new layer and fill it with white. Make sure the white layer is over the original image. Go to the Select Tab and hit All, then go to the Edit tab and hit Copy Merged. Hit Paste, then go to Select Color Range. Go to Highlights and hit okay. Every little white and light grey bit will be selected. Click on the layer with your outline, then go to Modify under the Select tab. Contract the selection by 1 or 2 pixels and hit delete. You should be left with a mostly black outline. If the outline is too light, go to the Image tab and then to Image Size. Shrink the image by 95% and the lines will be made darker without a huge loss of quality.
Step 2C: Weapons
If you want your Franken-Gundam to have a weapon, simply apply either Step 2A or Step 2B to a piece of weapon lineart.
Step 3: Ripping Parts
However you got your lineart, take a moment to copy the layer so that if you make an incurable mistake, you will not have to start all over. Hide the copy layer and click on the eraser tool. Make sure it is set to Paintbrush and the Opacity is set to 100%. Erase around the part you want to use, but be careful not to erase the part you want. Make as many copies of your original layer as you need until youve got all the parts you want from that mech. If theres a small area you want to copy or erase, use the lasso tool and zoom in to 300% or 400%.
Step 4: Assembly
At this time, I would go to the File Tab and make a new window. I go with 550 x 550 to begin with and increase canvas size when I need to. Once this new window is open, copy and paste your cut out parts into it. The best part of Photoshop in regards to making Franken-Gundams is the layers feature. Using the layers, you can move and arrange the parts of your Franken-Gundam with ease, whereas with MSPaint you would have to hope you could undo the process if you accidently misplaced a part.
If youve chosen to include a weapon, youll likely need to rotate it to line up with the Franken-Gundams hand. Go to the Edit tab and go down to Free Transform. This will let you adjust the alignment and size of your weapon so it will fit the hand better. You can also use this on other parts so that they fit better.
If you need to resize a part to fit the other parts, copy it, then make a new window to paste the part in. Go to Image Size under the Image tab and adjust it as much as you need to make it fit.
The layer order that is best for Franken-Gundams, from top to bottom, is left arm, legs, head, torso, hand weapon, right arm. Remember, Move Tool is your friend here.
Step 5A: Recoloring Your Lineart
Unless every part youve selected has the same color scheme, youre going to want to be able to color parts. Since the parts youve used are likely to vary greatly in color, I would suggest hiding every layer except the one you are currently coloring so that you can make your color schemes a little more precise.
The first part of recoloring is selecting a color to replace and a new color. Create a new layer, then go to the Select Tab and Color Range. Crank up the fuzziness enough that youll be able to color over whatever youve selected but not so much that you paint over the outlines. When youve selected a color to your satisfaction, use the Paint Bucket tool to fill in that layer. If you plan to replace more than one color on a part, then hide the first layer and color and repeat this section until the part is recolored to your satisfaction.
Repeat for every part until your entire Franken-Gundam is in the colors you want!
Step 5B: Coloring Black-and-White Lineart
I feel that using Black-and-White lineart gives you the most control over how your Franken-Gundam will look like. Go up the Image Tab, then Mode and make sure the window youre working in is set to RGB Color. Using black-and-white lineart tends to make the program default to Black-and-White unless you tell it otherwise.
For coloring a Black-and-White Franken-Gundam, you will need lots of layers. But first, use the Magic Wand tool set to 50 Tolerance and Antialiasing and Contiguous on and click the area around the part you want to color. Make a new layer below the part, do a Select Inverse, and use the paint bucket with Antialiasing off to fill in the lower layer with whatever color you want the part to be. Next, create another layer, this one between the part and the base color layer, and select the Line Tool.
Select a new color, then set the Line Tool for Weight 2 and turn OFF Antialiasing. Using the line tool, make outlines for wherever you want to put a new color. This way, you can easily color a Franken-Gundams joints and other small areas of its body. Make a new layer whenever you want to add more color to a part. Repeat for every part you want colored, weapons too. If you noticed large strips along a parts edge where the color didnt get applied for some reason, just use the Line Tool to fill in the patches.
If you want to keep track of which colors youve used, make a new layer up above every part. Using the Pencil Tool, make well-visible spots of color that you can click on with the Eyedropper tool as needed.
Step 6: Helpful Hints
Here are some helpful tips to spare you some heartache along the way.
1. Save often: there are times where Ive had to do hours of work over because my computer froze before I could save.
2. If you think a particular part of your outline looks a little thin, use the Line Tool with Weight 1 and Antialiasing on to thicken the lines up a little.
3. While you can increase the size of Black-and-White parts if you need to, I advise against it since doing so will make the parts look really blurry. It usually doesnt matter with most parts, but heads especially do not transition well from small to big. They lose a lot of detail.
4. If you have trouble thinking of a color scheme, go browse some official lineart for color ideas.
5. Its possible to blend recolored and black-and-white parts with a little practice and a consistent palette.
Cherry (cmak.deviantart.com/) for being my friendly arch-rival friend and tolerating my strange ideas.
Id like to thank everyone who watches me on DeviantArt, because without you guys Id have to go out and bother people to get my pictures seen.
Kedz (ghostwalker2061.deviantart.com…) for being the Arbiter to my Master Chief. Until our Halo 3 Legendary run back in November, Id never stayed up all night playing a game and enjoyed it.
4Chans /m/ for being a place where a mecha fan can have a bit of good, clean fun.
Aries (darkaries.deviantart.com/) and Nightwing (nightwing03.deviantart.com/) for volunteering to proof-read this guide even if neither of them actually got around to it.