Intro for Creating a Fantasy Background
In this tutorial series I will cover how I typically create a fantasy landscape in Clip Studio Paint, from start to finish.
In this part we will go over setting up your canvas, creating thumbnail sketches, and turning your favorite sketch into a line drawing.
Please feel free to skip over something if you are already familiar with the topic covered.
Before we can actually begin creating our fantasy landscape, we need to start out by creating our canvas. Use the "Illustration" template, then choose your pixel height and width, and resolution.
I chose 4400px wide, by 3450px high to start with. As a general rule, I always work at 300dpi or higher, just in case the image needs to go to print.
You don't need worry too much about using the exact dimensions I did for this tutorial. We actually adjust the canvas size later on!
Create thumbnails to help you decide on your concept
Using the rectangular shape tool, create an array of different sized frames for thumbnails. Try using several ratios for variety.
After this, using the paint bucket, we fill the outside of all of the frames with a neutral grey. You can also do this with a mask, but I like the grey because it eliminates the harsh white background.
Create a new layer and drag it under the "rectangular frames" layer.
Using the paint bucket tool at the top of the software, fill the layer. The reason to use this bucket tool over the one in your tool bar is that it fills the entire canvas, or selection, and does not pay attention to other pixels on the layer. In other instances, we do want the paint bucket to "see" the other pixels, but this fits our current use perfectly.
This grey layer will be at the bottom of our layer hierarchy throughout the entire tutorial.
I wanted to ask people which of the thumbs they preferred so I also labeled each one.
Create a new layer, over the grey background, but underneath the frame layer. This is where we're going to do our sketches.
The thumbnails can be very loose and simple. It's best not to spend a long time on them all because we are only going to finish one.
If you'd like to use the same brushes I used to sketch and block in my thumbnails, you can find them on Assets at the link below.
Here are my thumbs! I knew I wanted something with water as a major element of the landscape.
It's a good idea to explore different perspectives and points of view in these. You don't have to make them perfect as we are just trying to get the idea down. One thing I tried to do with mine was to make the focal point falls within the rule of thirds. Number 3 didn't follow this at all because of the central focus and 1 point perspective.
I had a LOT of trouble choosing which thumbnail to finish up for this tutorial, so after much consulting with friends and family, we settled on number 6. Sometimes it's good to get a second opinion on your art!
Clean up the the image and prepare your canvas for line art
Now that we've selected the concept we want to move forward with, it's time to make a copy of everything on a new layer. Right click on a visible layer in your layer window and select "merge visible to new layer". This is essentially the same as flattening the canvas, copying it, then pasting it, but it retains all of the other layers. It's incredibly useful.
On the new merged layer, use the rectangular marquee tool, then free transform your concept. Grab the corner and scale the image up until it almost fills your canvas. You can make sure the ratio stays the same by holding shift while dragging the corners, or by clicking the "Keep ratio of original image" in the tool property window.
You might end up with an image that can't scale fully to the canvas size or have a lot of padding because your ratio of your thumbnail is very different from your canvas. To fix this simply grab the rectangular marquee tool again, select around your sketch, then hit the "crop" button on the selection launcher bar (this is the little tool bar that comes up when you make any selection). The crop button is the second from the left in the above image.
One thing to keep in mind is the "flow" of your composition. I didn't put a lot of thought into the concept sketch or how the viewer's eye might travel across the image. Looking at what I had, I decided to flip the canvas so that the viewer's eye might start by looking at the figure with the torch, then flow "up" the stream and rest at the horizon.
To permanently flip your canvas, click the "edit" tab then mouse down to "Rotate/Invert canvas", select "flip horizontal".
If you want to see how this would look temporarily, or just check your work, for flaws, you can click the "flip horizontal" button in the navigator window.
Now create two new layers. Fill the one above your scaled thumbnail and fill it with white. Drop the opacity until you can see your thumbnail concept and make out the shapes. I used 76 opacity.
We're going to use the other layer we just created (above the white fill) to draw our line art on.
I used the "digital sketch and paint" brush to draw my sketch, but really any hard brush will do.
Flesh out the world with lines
Pick out the forms you see, and draw them in! This part is pretty fun because you are clarifying whatever ideas you might have had and really bringing your scene to life.
For architecture, I like to use a perspective ruler to lay down guides. If you want to you can use them for the entire structure, but this can feel stiff and mechanical. You can go back in and draw over your guides, adding wobble and line variance as you like to give your lines personality.
Although for this tutorial, we'll actually be painting over the lines in later steps so the line quality is not significant.
If you have something you'd like to use a perspective ruler for, the easiest way I've found to create one is:
In the ruler tab, select "ruler - frame", in the side window select "create perspective ruler".
From here you can choose, 1 point, 2 point, or even 3 point rulers.
I just used a simple 1 point ruler for my background. Because of the shifting elevation in my scene, however, I had different vanishing points for different objects. Thankfully, my structure only had one so it was not too complex!
See how my bricks seem very straight and clean in the above image? It makes it stand out from the rest of the more rugged environment. Not really the "forgotten wonder" look I was going for.
Another good way to handle architecture is by using the shape tools.
In the ruined pillars below, I used a regular line tool set at the same size as my sketch brush for the straighter edges. Everything else is freehand.
I wasn't locked into a specific ratio or canvas size for this painting, since it was a personal piece and not commercial. Because of this I am able to extend and crop my canvas on the fly to get a better composition.
If you want to give yourself more room to work, go to the "edit" tab, mouse down to "change canvas size" and click it. You'll be able to manually input a new canvas size, or simply click and drag and edge to extend it.
Be careful not to click the canvas and move the bounding box. This will cut off part of your image and add more where you weren't intending it to be. The simplest way to fix this is to cancel in the dialog box, and go back to change your canvas size again.
Why did I change the canvas size?
See the ruin "arch"? Its flat edge runs almost parallel with the canvas edge and is right up against it. This creates a tangent and also makes the scene feel very claustrophobic. To help the viewer feel the "openness" of the landscape, add more sky!
After filling in all of the foreground and middle ground details, I needed to tackle the background. The space filled by this was very small, however, so I created a new layer, and using a paint bucket set to "reference all layers" and hiding the under sketch, I filled the space for the background.
This is very useful for creating maskes. Once you have the area you want to work within filled, hold ctrl and click on the layer thumbnail in the layer window. This will create a selection based on the pixels of the layer. From here just click the "mask icon" in the layer window.
I like to clear the layer at this point so it's empty and I don't need to create a new layer or mask.
Use your masked layer to draw without worrying about messing up your current work.
Small tip for your sanity:
I absolutely recommend naming your layers and folders as you work. I'm personally TERRIBLE at this. Things get pretty confusing after awhile and you'll end up digging through your layers trying to find what you want. The image above? It's a mess.
After much hard work and polishing, we're done!
Throughout this series I've kept my lines on an off white, or neutral grey. This is because drawing on a harsh white canvas is a bit hard on my eyes. It's also easier to see shapes or imagine my drawing if the canvas is more neutral.
Part 2: Greyscale Rendering is linked below.
Thanks for reading and I hope it was helpful in someway!
About the author
My name is FalyneVarger. I have been drawing for most of my life. I started working commercially about 10 years ago and have created artwork for books, games, comics, and more non-commercial commissions than I can remember.
You can find me online in most art communities under the same name (falynevarger) but here are some links for you!