I've been trying to learn about how to make fake anime screencaps, and to that end I've been doing some more practice, as well as doing a bit of study. I'm not quite there yet, but I'd like to relate some of what I've learned below. This is a quick overview of the digital process that most anime series use nowadays. I'm just talking about an individual cel, rather than an animated sequence. I want this to be as simple as possible, so I'm leaving a lot of "buts" and "howevers" and "sometimes" out:
1. The lines are penciled by hand, and then scanned in.
2. The drawing lines are converted to black and white, aliased (so, jaggy lines). There are also extra lines to show where highlights and shading and whatnot are applied. This is a really important part because this is the look you have to imitate- whether you scan some pencils or draw using a tablet.
3. The image is worked on at the size it will be on TV. That means people are working at 1920x1080 for a modern show*. The lines are a lot thinner than you'd think.
4. Now the coloring program is fired up (Paintman mainly). By leaving the lines aliased the colors can be filled in really quickly.
5. With the colors applied everything is still jaggy/aliased.
*- some stuff is 720p upscaled, and I've seen people working at 900p.
Now the cel moves to a different program (After Effects mainly) and is overlaid onto a background.
5. The lines and colors are smoothed.
6. A whole bunch of filters are applied. I know that one filter is diffuse. Another could be overlay, and there's a Gaussian blur that gets applied at some strength level. Some lighting effects may be added here.
I think that if I imitate the process closely enough I'll achieve a fairly similar output.
That gets to my two key challenges. Challenge one is getting the lines to look right. I need to get the thickness and character down correctly. I'm trying out some new techniques and I hope they will work out. I'll write more if they do. Challenge two is the smoothing and filtering. Even if I get the lines right, the next part is to pick the right filters.
Once I figure this out, I'll do some more practice and write more about what I've found.