Creating Vector Art for Print and Games
Full Workflow and Process Breakdown to create graphics for Print and Game Development.
What is Vector Art? When to Use it?
Today I’m gonna show you how to create Vector Art in Clip Studio Paint, with Lines, Colors and Shading - a workflow that you can use in Game Development or Print Illustration work (logos, decals, stickers).
If your art needs to upscaled or downscaled without losing quality, Vector Art is the way to go.
First, let me prove you visually why Vector Art is important for such projects:
Let’s pretend the graphic below is an asset for a mobile game. We were targeting the game for a current mobile screen resolution (1920x1080) so a 300px wide image seems enough.
On the image below, the graphic on the Left is a Bitmap.
A Bitmap is an image created by placing points/pixels on a grid. The bigger the grid, the greater the resolution and the details I can draw on.
The graphic on the Right is a Vector - an image where Lines and Shapes are drawn on the screen by mathematical equations; changing its size is a matter of making new calculations.
// The result you see on the screen is always a bitmap, but the method of creation can vary.
One year after the game was released, the Client decided to port the game to a home platform, increasing the targeting resolution to 4K.
Having the original assets in Bitmap mode, I won’t be able to just upscale (increase resolution) the graphics using the CHANGE IMAGE RESOLUTION option.
If I have the original assets in Vector mode, I will be able to upscale the image without losing any quality. (see the comparison below)
// Left: Bitmap image upscaled 10 times its original size; Right: Vector Image also upscaled 10x. Look how the Vector keeps the original quality (sharp lines and shapes).
The inverse is also true. Let’s say the client needs the game to run on a smaller screen. See on the example below how the downscaled graphic doesn’t work if the original asset is a bitmap/raster.
//Left: impossible to be used in the game; Right: the graphic still pretty legible.
The Most Important Thing: a Vector Layer
From now on you need to remember one thing: to make your art as a Vector you have to work on a VECTOR LAYER.
//Create a Vector Layer using the Layer Palette menu or the CTRL+ALT+N shortcut.
On a Vector Layer you can use ANY Brush, Shape or Line Tool.
Even Textured Brushes with Opacity/Transparency can be used to draw on Vector Layers.
//Here are some examples of different textured Brushes draw on a Vector Layer. See how even the fuzziness of an Airbrush is kept on the Vector Layer.
The main use of a Vector Layer is to create Linework
A Vector Line can be manipulated, edited and tweaked. On an Anime (Animation) production, the Vector Line is generally preferred because the Artist has tools to maintain the consistency (weight and width) of a Line between frames.
To draw Lines on a Vector Layer you can use any Pen, Pencil or Brush Tool.
Even so, I recommend you to create Linework using the proper Lines and Curve subtools.
//A similar S line drawn with two different tools. But behind it there’s an important difference…
While the lines are apparently the same, look how much less Control Points are used when you create a line using the Curve subtool.
//Left: a line drawn with a brush stroke generates too many points to guarantee an easy edit and manipulation and this is one of the benefits of working in Vector mode.
My favorite Tool to create Vector Lineart
I recommend you to get used to the Subtools: Straight Line, Curve, Polyline and Continuous Curve available on the FIGURE category.
Also make sure to play with its different Curve Creation Methods: Straight Line, Spine, Quadratic Bezier and Cubic Bezier.
During this project I’ll show you what I consider the most versatile and fast Subtool: the CURVE subtool using the CUBIC BEZIER drawing method.
//To draw a line using the Curve Subtool:
A. Click on the starting point, Hold, Drag and Release on the end point;
B. Place a first control point to shape the curve;
C. Place a second control point to make a parabola;
D. Release and the line is placed.
You can manipulate and edit lines in a variety of ways.
Hold ALT + Left Click on the curve to show its bezier handles (allows modifying the shape of the curve). If you hold ALT + Right Click, you display a context menu with some options.
//Remember different Subtools of the Figure category can have different MODIFIER KEY SETTINGS to activate the editing of a line. A General tool to Manipulate and Edit vectors in CSP is the OBJECT subtool on the OPERATION category.
On any subtool used to create Vector Lines, please remember to check the VECTOR MAGNET option - this option ‘snaps’ and merge the Control Points of two different lines, into a single line segment.
//Left: Vector Magnet ON, the whole line is a segment/object; Right: Vector Magnet is OFF and you have two different objects.
Last, but not least, there’s the VECTOR ERASER option in any of your Eraser tools.
Turn this ON if you like to take advantage of this time-saving feature.
//When Vector Eraser is turned ON for your Erasers, you can Erase ONLY the overlapping lines of a vector; see in the examples how It was easier to draw the shape of the hair erasing the overlapped lines.
Finally, let’s create some Vector Art.
For this project I’ll create a Game Character Illustration with the following concept:
a young biologist that had found the Pawn of the Gods, a mythical device used to raise the power of Amazon’s forest animals.
The result would be a pinup that can be used on the Game Design Document and in various marketing material: prints, stickers, web or maybe one of those full-size totens.
//The original idea of the character. A character design greatly inspired by Indians of the Amazon.
I wanted the pose to be cool and with a clear silhouette - to help me find the approximate foreshortening of the figure, I took advantage of the Mannequins tools in CSP.
Those are helpful tools and you SHOULD use it.
//Initial sketches of the pose and the final drawing - it’s important to not just trace over your Mannequin. Always push the Gesture and Action further.
Here’s the final drawing that I’ll be using to create the Vector Art.
I imported the final sketch on a default A4/350dpi file, locked the Sketch Layer and started tracing using the Curve tool I showcased before.
//You don’t need to work on a high-res file while creating a Vector Art - that’s the benefit of this workflow. But I’d suggest you to create the original graphic on a decent resolution (not too low, not too large). Maybe 2X the size of your screen size.
Following a speedup (3x) video of the Linework process...
Here’s the final version of the lines:
Tweaking the Linework to look Pro
I’d like to have different line weights through the drawing so it feels like it was made with a Pen or Brush.
You can achieve such an effect using the subtool CORRECT LINE WIDTH from the CORRECT LINE tool category.
This subtool has different functions to adjust the line. The one I’ll be using is the THIN WIDTH. This option thins (or thickens) the line gradually. You just have to paint over the line you want to affect.
Initially I’ll leave the option PROCESS WHOLE LINE checked so I can thin the entire line segment.
//The subtools of the Correct Line category allows you to modify, tweak and edit the linework AFTER it is drawn.
I generally make the inner lines thinner. In the example, notice how I made the lines inside the head, collar and pants thinner than the outer contours.
//The green parts are the areas I painted the influence for the Correct Line Width tool to act. The more you repeat the paint over a line, the thinner it gets.
The final details of the linework is made using the CONTROL POINT subtool with the option CORRECT LINE WIDTH selected.
With this tool I can click and drag the tail end of a line to make it thinner, like the effect of a real brush mark.
//I’ll work through my entire drawing, thinning the tail end of some lines to simulate a mark made by a pressure sensitive brush.
Here’s the before and after of the linework. See how the changes and tweaks helped make the drawing easier to read and more alive.
**IMPORTANT: This process also showcases how it’s possible to ink your drawing using A MOUSE in Clip Studio Paint. None of these tools require a pressure-sensitivite stylus to work.**
//The thinner ends of a line plus a stronger and bolder silhouette is a classic combination to get that ‘90’s cartoon look’.
What about Color ?
Now you’re ready to Color your Vector Art…
“Why I can’t color on a Vector Layer?”
Yes. That’s right. You can’t color on a vector layer like you do on a Raster based Layer.
I suspect the Vector tools in CSP were created primarily for the Lineart stage of an Anime Production since, on this project, the colors are made in other types of softwares.
A first idea you may have is to maintain the Lines on a Vector Layer and do the Colors on a Raster Layer...
//Here’s the image with Vector Lines and Raster Colors - initially an OK solution for the lack of tools to color in Vector inside CSP.
But like mentioned before, Raster Layers are based on pixel-resolution. As soon you increase or decrease the resolution of the image, you’ll get some artifacts (blurred lines or white edges around shapes of colors, eg.)
//A sharp linework and a blurry color doesn't feel like proper Vector Art.
What you really want is to take advantage of the Vector Layers and Tools on Colors and Shadings as well.
See the example below how both (Lines and Colors) are crisp and clear in both versions (downscaled and upscaled).
In the following steps I’ll show you my workaround to have this functionality in CSP.
//Look at those Sharp Edges. Nice!
Creating a NEW ‘Fill Color’ Vector Tool
Let me show you the steps to create a tool to Fill Colors on your drawing while in Vector Mode. It’s a solution I’ve found after playing with the comic-book Ballon tool in CSP.
First let’s start by creating a new subtool. I’ll add it to the FILL category (Paint Bucket icon) but you can add it to any toolset you’d like.
Click on Properties icon of the Subtool panel and choose CREATE CUSTOM SUBTOOL.
Name your new tool (Fill Vector Color, eg.) and, in OUTPUT PROCESS choose: CREATE BALLOON. In INPUT PROCESS choose: CONTINUOUS CURVE. Hit OK to confirm.
//Follow these steps with attention to create the custom subtool.
Now, open the configuration window for the newly created subtool (Wrench Icon) and adjust those options: LINE/FILL choose SOLID; enable the eye icon option on HOW TO ADD and finally choose the SPLINE creation method in CURVE.
//Use the images as a guide to configure the subtool.
Done! You’ve created a tool that can Fill areas of solid color in Vector Mode.
Spend some time playing with the new tool. To create a shape you have to Point, Click and drag to place the Control Points and adjust the Curve.
Holding ALT in the keyboard will make the next point a hard Corner, useful to create shapes like the Yellow polygon below.
//I wonder if Celsys can add this tool as a default on the next versions... ;)
How to use your new tool
The workflow to start coloring your drawing is the following:
1. reduce the opacity of your lines so you can draw the color shape *under* the linework.
2. As soon as you close the shape of the color you’ll notice the Layer is automatically sent to the top of the Layer stack. Move it to below the linework.
//Like when drawing curves for the lineart, the fewer the control points, the easier to manipulate the shapes later. Keep that in mind.
To Edit the Fill/Shapes you can hold CTRL to activate the OPERATION - OBJECT tool.
The Right Click also brings up a menu where you can add, delete or change the type of corners.
// As in the other subtools for Vector, the Operation-Object mode is the tool you’ll use to select, modify and edit the shapes.
You can change the color of a shape anytime selecting it with the OPERATION - OBJECT tool and changing the property FILL COLOR.
I advise you to keep each shape on it’s own layer as in the example below.
**IMPORTANT: make sure you have the option ADD TO SELECTED LAYER set for your custom Vector Color tool - if not, each new shape you draw will be added to a new Layer.**
//TIP: While Layer Masks are raster/pixel based, you can use Clipping Mask to create shapes within shapes.
Here’s the final colors for my character.
//A lot of Layers but also a lot of control. If you want you can merge Ballon Layers (only them) into a single one - but it makes a bit harder to select each part later for adjustments. You choose what’s best for you.
Detailing the Vector Illustration
After the Flat Coloring is done I wanted to add some extra detailing with a Shading Layer and some Reflections on the Golden Gauntlet.
The Shading were done with the same custom Vector subtool.
I like to use a desaturated purple as my shadow color, with the Blending Mode of the Layer set to Hard Light and the Layer opacity reduced so it’s a subtle shadow.
The Highlights and Reflections are painted each on its own Layer.
//Left: shadows and reflections only; Right: layers combined with the Local Colors.
You can have more realism in the shaded forms, varying the edges between light and shadow: make some of them hard, other soft.
I created a new Vector Layer over the Colors and Shading Layer and ‘painted’ transitions of Light and Shadow using the Airbrush tool.
You can play with other brush types to give a different finishing to your illustrations (textured brush for a painterly look, eg.).
//Left: all edges are hard. It works but give a Cel-Shaded look to the image; Right: edges that depict the roundness of a form are softer than the ones created by a cast shadow.
REMEMBER: you can make Vector based brushstrokes easier to manage using the SIMPLIFY VECTOR LINE subtool on the CORRECT LINE category.
//A comparison before a line with (Left) and without (Right) the Simplify Vector Line subtool applied.
Using the CONTROL POINT subtool set to CONTENT OF PROCESS: CORRECT LINE WIDTH you can Click, Drag and Adjust the opacity of each individual point on the fly.
It’s a great tool to create soft gradations.
//Take some time to explore the other functions of the Control Point subtool; you can tweak your vector lines on a variety of methods.
The background elements were created by a combination of Shapes in a Vector Layer; all them using the tools I show you so far. To create the Burst effect I used the FLASH subtool used for comic book.
The Gradient were created using the GRADIENT TOOL with the option DRAWING TARGET: CREATE GRADIENT LAYER selected. This keeps the gradient editable, in other words a “vector-data.”
//Be creative and experiment with elements in CSP that can be vectorized, like BRUSH PATTERNS, TEXTS, eg.
Done! The Illustration is now Finished.
The Final Test
To prove the efficiency of the workflow I resized my illustration to different sizes.
On the first test I reduced the resolution to 800 pixels height.
To the second test I increase the resolution to absurd 300 cm height! (approx. 35K pixels).
It was not an easy task for my old computer (~2 mins to perform the operation) but after the waiting I could manipulate the canvas normally.
And I think we can consider this a Success!
THANK YOU for reading.
I hope this Article and my demonstration of the Vector workflow in Clip Studio Paint can help you at some point.
If you produce any art with this tutorial, please let us know on Social Media.
Till next time.
Download the .CLIP source file
You can follow me on social media:
- @dadotronic (twitter)