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The Ultimate Guide to Clip Studio Paint for Beginners

Clip Studio Paint interface. (Drawings by Gvaat)

Clip Studio Paint, is a super powerful piece of art software, that is primarily popular among anime/manga artists and illustrators. It offers a wide range of features that make it a great option for both beginners and professionals. Below I will provide a comprehensive guide to Clip Studio Paint for beginners, including its features, tools, and how to use them effectively, as well as a few really useful tips!

When you download Clip Studio Paint, you will see that the software has a parent launcher called Clip Studio. It will seem a bit clunky at first – lots of menus, lots of buttons, and so on, but if you stick with it things will start to make sense pretty quickly.

The launcher gives us the ability to launch into Clip Studio Paint, or to launch the Modeler App which helps with posing figures for drawing.

This is what you get in the top left corner of the Clip Studio launcher. Pick between the Clip Studio Paint app or the Modeler which helps set up 3D models for reference.

There is more to this Clip Studio launcher, however. You can use it to sync artwork between devices and instances of Clip Studio Paint, as well as to download brushes and assets to your device. We will go over all this below.

Before we begin, if you are looking for Clip Studio Paint shortcutes, here is a quick reference guide for the most used shortcuts.

In this guide, we will cover:

  • Clip Studio Paint file compatibility
  • Getting around the canvas in Clip Studio Paint
  • Setting up the Flip-Horizontal shortcut
  • Brushes and other tools
  • You can even adjust your line width
  • Layers in Clip Studio Paint
  • Color palette and color picker in Clip Studio Paint
  • Editing and retouching in Clip Studio Paint
  • Enable perspective guides in Clip Studio Paint
  • Animation with Clip Studio Paint
  • Manga panel layout and word balloon tool in Clip Studio Paint – create your own comics in Clip Studio Paint
  • Clip Studio Assets
  • Sharing your work across multiple devices – draw on iPad and then move to your PC
  • Record a video time lapse of your drawing process with Clip Studio Paint
  • Exporting your work
  • Conclusion – Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint file compatibility

One of the most notable features of Clip Studio Paint is its ability to handle a wide range of file formats.

My favorite feature when it comes to file formats of Clip Studio Paint is that it can both Open and Save Photoshop files. Yes, big Photoshop files with hundreds of layers! Yes you can save a drawing you started in Clip Studio Paint to PSD format.

You get all those layers in Clip Studio Paint, and the file is almost identical outside of some advanced features. It is super helpful if you work between the two programs.

Clip Studio Paint can open and save Photoshop files!

On top of the super useful .PSD capability, Clip Studio Paint is compatible with all standard image files, JPG, PNG, TIFF, and more. It also supports vector files, such as AI, EPS, and SVG, making it easy to import and export from various sources.

Getting around the canvas in Clip Studio Paint

Showing the Whole Canvas

To see the entire canvas, press CTRL (or CMD) + 0 together on the keyboard.

On the tablet version, double-tap the Hand tool icon in the Tools palette.

Hand tool – moving the canvas around

The best way to move the canvas around is by using the Hand tool on the Tool palette. Select the Move tool from the Tool palette and select the Hand sub tool from the Sub tool palette.

The Hand tool shows up as the Rotate tool by default, you need to expand the Sub tool menu by clicking an arrow, and then select the Hand tool from there.
The Move tool is pretty useful to move the canvas around the workspace. The Rotate tool, is very useful to angle the canvas for better pen stroke accuracy. (Lineart by Gvaat)

The Navigator

if you have a larger screen and more screen real estate, it may help to open up the Navigator palette.

If the Navigator palette is not displayed, select it in the Window menu → Navigator to display it.

With the Navigator, you can

  • Zoom in and out using the slider
  • Rotate the canvas using the slider
  • Flip horizontal (this is a super important feature every artist should use, read more here)
  • Flip vertical
The Navigator palette of Clip Studio Paint is packed with useful features. Lineart by Gvaat.

The most important part of the Navigator palette, besides the flip horizontal feature, is the ability to see your work as a thumbnail – zoomed out. As you paint or draw, it is important to periodically step away from your work, and be able to see the entire thing – especially when you are working on details. The Navigator palette offers this opportunity at a glance.

Setting up the Flip-Horizontal shortcut

Now that you know why flip horizontal is so important, let’s set up a shortcut for it. I use command + F, but you can come up with whatever works for you.

First, in addition to the Flip-Horizontal option that is in the Navigator palette, there is a way to flip the canvas through the Edit menu. Go to Edit → Rotate → Flip canvas → Flip Horizontal (like in the picture below).

Flip horizontal through menus – not the best way to do it, create a shortcut instead. However, it is there for you if you need it.

This method, of course, takes too long for something that you should be doing fairly regularly. So let’s get to the shortcut settings to add a shortcut. To do that, go to CLIP STUDIO PAINT on the top left of the screen, then Shortcut Settings.

Once in the shortcut settings of Clip Studio Paint, navigate to View → Rotate/Flip → Flip Horizontal, then click “Edit shortcut”.

Brushes and other tools

Clip Studio Paint also offers a wide range of brushes and tools that are suitable for different types of art, including pencils, paintbrushes, markers, and more. Everything is also super customizable, you can create new brushes, and the software offers a variety of tools for adjusting brush size, angle, and pressure.

Brushes: You will primarily be drawing and painting with the Pen, Pencil, Brush and Airbrush tools.

From top down: Pen, Pencil, Brush and Airbrush tools of Clip Studio Paint.

Generally, you will be creating lineart with the Pen tool and sketching with the Pencil tool. But there is a way to create lineart with the Pencil tool as well. I do not want to box you into a specific way of tool use – you should use the tools as it feels natural to you. If your lineart feels better as a more sketchy pencil line, use that tool. It is the result that matters.

You will be painting with the Brush tool, and the Airbrush tool. The Brush tool is more painterly, the Airbrush is much more of a soft transition for really nice gradients.

There is one more tool that you will use often for painting in addition to the Brush and Airbrush. This tool is called Blend. It looks like this in the Tool palette of Clip Studio Paint:

An awesome blender tool

The Blend tool in Clip Studio Paint is amazing. Blending is natural, and if you ever painted with watercolors or oils, it just feels like it blends in the same way. Not much to say about it other than it just blends right.

With each tool in the Tool palette, there is a massive Sub tool palette that functions as the editing menu for the Tool’s many functions. To access this treasure trove of functions for each tool, select the tool and then go up to the top of the Tool palette, and click on an arrow pointing right. See here:

How to access the Sub tool palette in Clip Studio Paint. (Drawing by Gvaat.)

The software’s pencil and paint brushes are as realistic as the best digital tools can provide.

The brushes can also be customized to your liking. You will want to pause and play around with the features of the Sub tool palette for each brush. Make a small change, then draw a bit and see how it feels, then make another change and draw more. Experiment to get to know the various ways you can change how the brushes look and feel.

Try adjusting the size, shape, and texture of the brush. Remember that in the beginning, it is best to keep it simple. You do not need super fancy brushes to create great art. In fact, if you are just starting out, all the brushes you need are probably already in Clip Studio.

Smart Bucket tool

Clip Studio Paint comes equipped with a Smart Bucket Tool – a tool that enables you to color in your lineart very quickly through software recognition. You can also set the color to a layer separate from your line art. Ideally, the color layer and the line art layer are kept separate, so having this tool is great – definitely try using it!

Smart bucket tool is a super power! It recognizes your lineart allows you to paint in separate parts very quickly, even if you are painting in on a separate layer from your lineart.
This is the Smart Bucket Tool.

If you want to paint on a layer different from your lineart. You have to enable “refer to other layers” in the tool’s Sub tool palette.

Turn on “refer other layers” to recognize edges from other layers for filling in color.

You will find that you may have to close up your lineart shapes, or play around with the tool’s settings to get the right recognition of a shape for color. But don’t give up, once you get it right, it is definitely a huge time saver. I found that the default settings work pretty well.

You can even adjust your line width

One of the more incredible tools available in Clip Studio Paint is the ability to adjust line width after the line is drawn. To do this, go to Filters → Correct line →Adjust line width.

The dialog box enables you to make the line thicker or thinner. If you are looking to make delicate illustrations, it is definitely a tool to check out for thinner more subtle lines – especially when they are not always easy to make in digital art.

Adjust line width using the Correction filter in Clip Studio Paint.

Layers in Clip Studio Paint

One of the most useful features of Clip Studio Paint is its layer system. Layers allow you to work on different parts of your artwork separately, and make changes without affecting the other layers.

You can create multiple layers, each with its own settings, such as opacity, or blending mode. In its basic features, layers in Clip Studio Paint are very similar to Photoshop, which is great since Photoshop layers tools are the standard.

Clipping layers in Clip Studio Paint

The software also has a feature called “Clipping Layers” which allows you to clip one layer to another. When you clip a layer, the selection of the clipped layer will follow the pixels of the layer it is clipped to. This is the same feature as “Create Clipping Mask” in – you guessed it – Adobe Photoshop. The feature is a must for digital painters and the Clip Studio Paint version works really well.

To use this, right-click on the layer you want to clip and select “Clip to layer below”.

Clip to layer below feature is accessed by right-clicking on the layer you want to clip.

Color palette and color picker in Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio offers a variety of color options, including a color wheel, color palette, and color picker. You can also create custom color palettes, and adjust the transparency of colors. Everything you need for creation of hues and shades that you want in your work is already built in.

At the very basic level, the eyedropper tool allows you to sample a color from the canvas.

Eyedropper tool is located on the Tool palette of Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint has a variety of Color Spaces to choose from. While you can choose CMYK or RGB, you can also choose HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value).

To choose this go to Window > Color Slider.

HSV Color Set allows you to think in foundational art terms.

I like the HSV color space because it focuses my thinking on the foundations of color theory – Hue, Saturation, and Value. As I pick colors, when I make the best choices, I tend to think of the three properties of color in turn:

  1. what is the right value?
  2. what is the right hue?
  3. what is the right saturation of that hue?

Working from the HSV color set allows easy access to the framework of the properties of color. This is, of course, personal preference, and if you like to choose colors by another method, most likely it is already included in Clip Studio Paint. In addition to CMYK and RGB sliders, you can choose the HSV or the HLS color wheel.

Switching between HSV and HSL color wheels in Clip Studio Paint.

Editing and retouching in Clip Studio Paint

Retouching and Editing Tools: Clip Studio Paint offers a wide range of tools for editing and retouching your artwork. The Clone Stamp tool, which Clip Studio calls the Copy Stamp, allows you to copy and paste parts of your artwork with desired blending.

The Clone Stamp is hidden under the Blend tool Sub palette.

Copy stamp tool under the Blend sub menu.

Burn tool/Highlight tool/All Blending mode brushes

There is a way to create brushes with all sorts of blending modes in Clip Studio Paint. This can replace the Burn tool and the Highlight tool often used by Photoshop users.

To do this, right-click a brush in the Sub tool menu and choose duplicate. Select the duplicate brush then click on the wrench icon on the bottom right of the Tool Property palette. Once the property palette opens, go to the Ink section, and choose a new blending mode. There are many to choose from, Multiply, Burn, Soft Light, Color Doge and Overlay brushes are often used for painting.

Duplicate the brush in the Sub tool palette, then click the wrench button, go to Ink palette thereafter, then get to blending modes and pick a new mode for the brush.

Enable perspective guides in Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint also has a Perspective rulers feature which allows you to create an accurate perspective framework to start drawing from. Select Layer menu > Ruler – Frame > Create Perspective Ruler, and then select the perspective view you want to create.

Animation with Clip Studio Paint

There are also great animation tools. What?! Yes, the software offers a variety of tools for creating animated illustrations, including a timeline, keyframe animation, and onion skinning. Animation tools on offer work seamlessly but require a big time commitment, especially if you want to get great-looking visuals as the output.

The onion skinning feature allows you to see multiple frames at once and help you animate smoothly. To work with this feature, go to Animation > Show Animation Cells > Enable Onion Skin.

There is frame-by-frame animation which allows you to create animations in a traditional 2D animation style. The timeline is located at the bottom of the screen. You can even add camera movement to your animations. The options in the software are truly impressive, especially since it seems to take up a lot less resources than Photoshop from my experience on multiple machines.

You will need to use the Timeline palette to create animations.

If the palette is not displayed, select the Window menu → Timeline.

The Timeline palette has a specific structure:

  • Layers in the Layer palette and layer folders will be displayed as Tracks VERTICALLY in the Timeline on the left of the Timeline palette.
  • Each [Frame] of the timeline will be displayed HORIZONTALLY in the timeline on the right of the Timeline palette.

Manga panel layout and word balloon tool in Clip Studio Paint – create your own comics in Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint also offers a variety of tools for creating comics, manga and graphic novels. These include the panel layout tool and the word balloon tool. Word balloons allow you to add speech and thought bubbles to your comics, manga, and graphic novels. The software also offers a variety of tools for creating sound effects, making it possible to add sound to your Manga project.

How to add Word balloons to your layouts

Word balloons – speech bubble tool

Find this tool on the Tool palette towards the bottom. Click it and then go to the Sub tool palette to choose your speech bubble style.

To begin using the comic/manga tools, start a new canvas by going to File > New, and then select Comic from the Project list.

This feature is perfect for those who are looking to create comics or manga, or for those who are looking to create web comics.

Clip Studio Assets

You can use Clip Studio ASSETS to download brushes, textures and 3D models to Clip Studio Paint.

Together Brushes, Textures and 3D models are called “materials” within the software. They can be found under the ASSETS tab in the Clip Studio Launcher.

You can find official Clip Studio Paint materials as well as thousands of materials made by Clip Studio Paint users. You can also publish your own materials to share with other users.

To access “materials”, open Clip Studio Launcher, go to “Clip Studio Assets” and click on “popular” for most downloaded brushes, textures and 3D models.

Sharing your work across multiple devices – draw on iPad and then move to your PC

With Clip Studio Paint, you can use the Clip Studio cloud service to share your artwork across multiple devices. For example, you can draw on an iPad and then work on the same artwork on your computer.

You can also share settings across multiple devices using the cloud service. Use this to import your favorite brush settings and workspace layout to a different device.

Step 1 – log in across multiple devices with the same account

The first step to sharing your work across multiple devices in Clip Studio Paint is to log into the SAME account for both devices.

Log in to your account on both devices.

Step 2 – turn on sync on the device with your artwork

Now I am logged in on my iPad, open Clip Studio by going to the Clip Studio Paint app, tap the Clip Studio logo on the top left, and tap “Open Clip Studio”. You should see the screen below, go to Manage Works and start turning on syncing for the works you want to sync.

Step 3 – Open up your artwork from the Cloud on the other device

With syncing turned on, you will need to give it a minute (or a few) for the artwork to sync, then back on the device you want to sync to, go to Clip Studio, click on Manage works and then click on Cloud. Your artwork should be there. Now you can download it and start working.

Record a video time-lapse of your drawing process with Clip Studio Paint

You can also record a time-lapse of your drawing in Clip Studio Paint. To do this, in the new file dialog box (File > new), click “record timelapse“.

Turn on record timelapse to create a video of your drawing process

To start a new file, you can also use the shortcut CTRL (cmd) + N

If you save your work, open it again in Clip Studio Paint, and continue drawing, the timelapse will continue as well. However, If you uncheck Record timelapse, the timelapse recordings saved on the canvas will be deleted.

Once you are done drawing, you can File > Timelapse > Export timelapse to get the video of your drawing process.

Exporting your work

Clip Studio Paint also offers a variety of export options, allowing you to share your artwork with others. You can export your artwork as image files, such as JPG and PNG and PSD. You can also export your animation as a video.

New features added in Clip Studio Paint 2.0

There is an exciting and very helpful range of features added to Clip Studio Paint 2.0. Here are the top helpful features in Clip Studio Paint version 2

Version 2 additional feature: Head drawing model

Head model in Clip Studio Paint 2

This is actually a great feature to learn to draw the head. It will be interesting to explore further. I discourage you from tracing on top of it, use it instead as a reference since that is the faster way to learn to draw.

Version 2 additional feature: Brush blending adds richness to colors, creating complexity and more realism

New mixing feature for version 2

Version 2 additional feature: Shading assist for shadow generation

New shadow shade assist feature for version 2

I did not find this feature very useful, but it will probably improve with time.

Version 2 additional feature: Head drawing model

Again, try using this as a reference and not trace on top to get better at drawing.

Conclusion – Clip Studio Paint for Artists

In conclusion, Clip Studio Paint is a powerful and versatile digital art software that offers a wide range of features for artists and illustrators. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional.

What is Gvaat’s take? I love Clip Studio Paint. I love it because it is stable and full-featured. In my experience, it runs lighter than Photoshop, especially on the iPad. The features are not frustrating to find or use, and the price is incredible if you look at the competition (again Photoshop).

Is Clip Studio Paint going to be the best choice for everyone? Probably not, if you are working on matte paintings for film, you will probably stick to Photoshop. If you love the simplicity of the interface in Procreate, you will probably be appalled by the endless menus of Clip Studio Paint.

But what is there is a fully-featured powerhouse app, which will be the right choice for many artists. It is quickly becoming my go-to digital drawing tool.

If you plan to use Clip Studio Paint, next step is to learn some basic shortcuts to expedite your art production time. For more, check out the official website by clicking here.