Book Cels

sky background

A book cel is a setup with a background and a foreground. To the left is a background of the sky.


Here I have added the cel layer. You can already see a hint that there is more to this setup due to the fact that the artist did not even bother to paint all of Gara’s arm.


Here we see that the foreground has been added. This causes the cel to be sandwiched between two layers. Often the foreground will be labeled “book” since this is the layer that makes it a book cel.

In this example, the book layer is a piece of heavy stock paper that has been cut in the shape of a tree and then painted with watercolors. Of course, there are many other ways to produce book layers.

acetate book layer

This next cel has the curtain as the book layer. In this case the layer is a piece of acetate which has been painted using acrylics.

I used these two examples to start mainly because it is fairly straightforward to see the reason for the name “book cel”. In reality, the term gets used a lot more loosely by the artists making a show. The book layer does not have to be on the top. There can even be multiple book layers used.

double background

In this last example, the book layer is sitting right on top of the background. This is a short pan cel in which the camera moves as if to film the entire valley. To make the scene look real, the nearby ledge holding Kikyo and the distant valley need to shift at different rates. This forces the artists to paint them on two different layers. The ledge becomes the “foreground” or book layer even though the cel itself is not sandwiched between them.

The most extreme case of multiple book layers I own is used as an example under the background section of this terminology essay. This is because all three book layers lie on top of the background and cover a fairly large area. It can be viewed as a four-layered background or as a setup with a single background and three book layers.