Making Comic Backgrounds from Photographs: Using Layer Properties



Compatible with Clip Studio Paint Ver. 1.10.5

In this TIPS tutorial, I’ll show you how to create black-and-white backgrounds from photographs in CLIP STUDIO PAINT.

[1] Taking the photograph

■ Use a suitable camera

When tracing a photo, you can also check it by eye, so you don’t need a high definition camera. However, it’s helpful to have a camera with a fairly high pixel resolution so that you can transform the image in CLIP STUDIO PAINT.

Some smartphone cameras are good enough for this kind of purpose, so if your smartphone camera has at least 10 megapixels then it’s worth trying out.

If you have a 12-megapixel photograph, you can make a 600 dpi, 17 cm x 12 cm canvas even when you switch to full size.

I took all of the photographs used in this tutorial with a compact digital camera and an Apple smartphone camera.

■ Take photos in cloudy weather

In general, take photos in cloudy weather if you want to transform them into backgrounds.

If you take the photos in sunny weather, there will be too much light and shadow, which can cause problems when you transform the photos.

Although cameras have come a long way, they are still not as good as human eyes at detecting areas between light and dark.

If there is a bright part where the sunlight hits, then the shadow will appear darker in the photo. If you brighten the photo to lighten the shadow, the light part can become too bright and hard to see.

[2] Turning a color photo into a black-and-white background (PRO/EX)

For scenes of nature, you can use the photo as it is by making it monochrome.

I’ll show you the steps to edit your photo directly in CLIP STUDIO PAINT.

■ 1. Open the photo and adjust the resolution

I open the photo directly in CLIP STUDIO PAINT. JPEG image files are fine.

Then I change the resolution of the photo.

Manga manuscripts are often made at 600 dpi, so I change the resolution of the picture I took with my digital camera to 600 dpi.

I go to the [Edit] menu and select [Change Image Resolution].

In the [Change Image Resolution] dialog box, I turn [Fix pixel] on, and change the [Resolution] to 600 dpi.

I also change the [Unit] to [mm] so I can check what the actual size of the manuscript will be.

In this example, the width of 4618 px will be 195.5 mm at 600 dpi.

After I’ve changed the resolution, I check that the main work screen of CLIP STUDIO PAINT shows the resolution as 600 dpi.

■ 2. Make the photo black and white

On the [Layer] palette, I select the layer with the photo. Then, I go to the the [Layer Property] palette and change the [Expression Color] to [Monochrome].

When you change the expression color to [Monochrome], you can change the [Color threshold] to adjust the amount of solid black.

I duplicate the photo layer and make one layer with a lot of solid black and one layer with less.

■ 3. Turning solid areas into tone

To turn the solid black areas of the layer with more solid black into tone, I first create a selection area.

While selecting the layer with more solid black, I go to the [Selection] menu > [Select Color Gamut].

A dialog box will pop up. I check that [Multiple referring] is off, then click a section on the canvas that is black to select only the filled in areas.

Once I have made the selection area, I go to the [Layer] menu > [New Layer] > [Tone], and make a new layer in a tone I like. Then I add or delete the tone as necessary.

Note: Read the following article to learn how to use tones.


If you leave the resolution of the photo at 72 dpi, the halftone dots get so small that you cannot really use them.

If the density of the halftone dots seems strange when you add them, check that you changed the resolution.

■ 4. Finishing touches

I make another layer on top of the tone and draw in some natural textures and trees.

When changing a color photo into black-and-white, it’s good to add the outlines back in at a later stage.

Now it’s finished.

To save the image, I go to the [File] menu > [Save as], and save in CLIP STUDIO format (.clip).

[3] Extracting line art from photographs (EX)

CLIP STUDIO PAINT EX has a function called “Extract line”. Using this feature, you can automatically extract lines and tones from photographs.

Try this out to make drawing backgrounds easier.

■ 1. Opening the photo

I open the photo in CLIP STUDIO PAINT.

It will take a few steps to extract the lines, so I won’t open the photo in the comic manuscript. Instead I will open the photo directly, then change the resolution to match the comic manuscript (600 dpi).

Once you’re used to the process, you can can open the photo directly in your manuscript and edit it there.

Once I’ve opened the photo, I duplicate the photo layer so that I keep the original picture.


When opening the photo directly, it can be helpful to add a paper layer by going to the [Layer] menu > [New Layer] > [Paper].

When you save the file, make sure to save in CLIP STUDIO format (.clip).

■ 2. Extracting the lines

I select the duplicated layer, go to the [Layer Property] palette, and turn the [Extract line] feature on. This will display the settings for extracting lines.

Note: You can change a color photo to lines by clicking [Extract line]. Turning this feature off will return the photo to its original state.

If I zoom into the picture, I can see some areas of noise due to the line extraction, which give the image a photo-like quality.

I’ll process the image to remove this.

I go to the [Filter] menu > [Blur] > [Blur]. You can also use [Blur (strong)] or [Gaussian blur] depending on the image.

Blurring the image gets rid of small noise particles.

I also change the lines by going to the [Layer Property] palette and adjusting the [Threshold of edge] and [Direction of detection] settings.

I will use this black-and-white image for a manga manuscript, so I set the [Expression color] as [Monochrome].

I don’t change the [Color threshold] parameter that appears underneath [Expression color].

■ 3. Processing the lines

In places where the lines are too busy and messy, some people completely delete these areas using the [Eraser] tool. However, this time I’ll use the [Blur] tool.

I select the [Blend] > [Blur] tool, and on the [Tool Property] palette, I reduce the [Brush density] to around 5 to 20 points.

For example, when people are captured in the photo, they will also show up in the extracted lines. I will remove these in the picture.

I use the [Blur] tool and move the pen in gentle circles. The lines gradually blend in with the surrounding lines and disappear.

With a color photo, the image will simply become blurry, but in an extracted line image, the lines become impossible to detect and so become invisible.

When extracting lines, detailed parts and natural elements such as trees can end up with too many lines.

Along with these, I also use the [Blur] tool to delete other unnecessary elements such as bicycles.

■ 4. Filling lines in using the original photo as reference

I draw back in some of the lines I deleted.

I move the layer with the original photo to the top and lower the opacity. Then, I prepare to draw additional lines while checking with the original photo.

By using tools such as the [Perspective ruler] and drawing free hand, I add in the necessary lines on a new layer.

I use the [Decoration] tool to add in the natural elements I deleted.

It’s good to add a personal touch to parts that draw the eye, to make the image look more familiar.

■ 5. Carrying out LT conversion

Once I've finished drawing in the lines, I select [Execution of LT conversion of layer].

In the displayed [LT conversion of layer] dialog box, I turn on [Preview] and [Tone work].

Note: Once you select [Execution of LT conversion of layer], you cannot go back to the original image.

Make sure to duplicate the layers beforehand if you are concerned about this.

When you do an LT conversion, the image and tone will be split into different layers in a single folder.

On the [Layer] palette, I select the [Outline] layer and go to [Layer Property] to change the [Expression color] to [Monochrome].

I also display the extra lines I drew.

I adjust the tone created by the LT conversion by adding and deleting parts.

Now it’s finished.

In the photograph, details of the far distance is visible, but as a comic background it’s also effective to leave it blank.

[4] Examples of extracting lines for backgrounds (EX)

Here are a few more examples of extracting lines from photos for backgrounds.

■ Temple

Unfortunately, this photo was taken in sunny weather, so the shadows are quite heavy.

If I just extract the lines, the shadowed parts aren’t converted very well. The lines for the roof tiles are also too detailed.

I adjust the [Threshold of fill in black] for the shadowed parts and adjust the [Direction of detection] to simplify the roof tiles.

I also set the [Expression color] to [Monochrome] and use the [Blur] tool to adjust any areas I can’t fix by changing the settings.

The roof tiles change a lot just by adjusting the [Direction of detection].

After LT conversion, I fill in the shadowed parts and simplify the lines to improve the balance and make it more suitable as a comic background.

I add more lines in while referring back to the original photo.

As well as inking more lines, I also white out some parts to make it easier to see the roof of the temple and pagoda.

The shape is quite complex, so the overall impact is weakened when extracting the lines. In this case, I usually draw the lines by hand to keep it simple.

I adjust the overall balance of shadows, and I’m finished.

■ Train carriage

In a train carriage such as a bullet train, there are a lot of rounded lines that are hard to draw using the perspective ruler, such as seats and fabric.

This photograph has one-point perspective, so when you run [Extract line], a lot of lines appear toward the back.

I adjust it to reduce these lines as much as possible.

I add in lines, keeping in mind which parts of the interior are hard and which are soft. It’s best to work by hand on the parts that stand out, such as erasing the tone on the seats.

Using LT conversion, you can superimpose several tone layers with different densities.

You can use lighter tones or darker tones for different types of scenes.

[5] Extracting lines from your own images

As well as extracting lines from photos, you can also extract lines from images you have made yourself. As an example, I’ll show you how to do this for backgrounds.

■ 1. Preparing and pasting a texture

Let’s make a simple tile pattern and extract the lines.

In this example, I’ll use a tile pattern made of different colors.


You can easily make this kind of pattern by going to [View] > [Grid].

Turn on [Snap to Grid], use the selection tool to select the area, then fill.

I draw a background from a photo.

I draw the tile pattern for the building wall. I extract an appropriate size of the tile pattern and paste it to the wall area.

I transform the tile image to match the red shape by going to the [Edit] menu > [Transform] > [Free Transform].

■ 2. Editing the lines using [Extract line] and [Blur]

From the [Tool Property] palette, I select [Extract line] to change the image into black-and-white lines. The line thickness depends on the color of the tiles.

I use the [Blur] tool to smoothly delete some parts and to make the lines look rougher.

■ 3. Changing the lines using [Direction of detection]

I adjust the feeling of the extracted lines that show depending on the selected arrows under [Direction of detection].

The lines change depending on whether all arrows are on, only two are on, or only one arrow is on.

I edit the lines to make them blend in with my hand-drawn background, then it’s finished.

Artist profile: Hey!TAROH

Hey!TAROH has been using digital art software since the very first release of Manga Studio Ver 1. He is a writer for the official guides and references for Manga Studio and CLIP STUDIO PAINT. He draws several manga comics and looks after his household.



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