Basic Layer Techniques for Digital Drawing




Compatible with Clip Studio Paint Ver. 1.9.14


[1] Using layers

When drawing digitally, you will often see people mention “Layers.”

Layers can be best described as transparent sheets of plastic that are “layered” over the canvas. When painting, lines and color are painted onto one of these layers.


Each layer is stacked in the order displayed on the [Layer] palette.

As in real life, paint on a layer will cover up and hide any paint on the layers beneath it.


As paint on different layers can be handled separately, artists often draw individual parts, lines, colors, drafts, finishing touches, etc. on separate layers.


▼ Drawing on separate layers makes it easier to adjust composition as well.


▼ Separate the background and the foreground on different layers to easily adjust the back and foreground.


However, managing multiple layers can easily become confusing, so keep to one layer until you are used to clip studio paint.




● Adding a layer


When creating a new canvas, an empty layer will automatically be added.

To add a layer, click on the [New Raster Layer] button from the upper menu of the [Layer] palette.


New layers will be named automatically. Double click on the layer name in the [Layer] palette to rename a layer. We suggest to name layers by their content.




● Changing layer order


You can change the order of layers by dragging and dropping them.

For tablets/smartphones: Operate by dragging and dropping the layer grip.




■ Adjust layer opacity


The opacity of layers can be adjusted using the slider in the upper right of the layer palette.

Opacity is used to pale dark colors, or adjust how colors are layered on top of each other.




● Show and hide layers


Click on the eye icon to the left of a layer to hide it.

Hide unnecessary layers such as draft layers, sketch layers, etc. to keep your workspace clean.


The next lesson will introduce the "Layer Mask," a feature that hides certain parts of a layer.




● Duplicating a layer


When drawing digitally, you will often need to duplicate layers.

This can be useful when you want to keep a copy of the current drawing before adding motifs or repainting certain sections.


(1) Select the layer you want to copy and click the upper left [Layer] palette > [Duplicate Layer] to create a copy.


(2) Drag the new layer with the [Move Layer] tool to the correct position. The arrow keys can also be used to move layers as well.




● Combining layers


When you have too many layers, you can combine several, or all of them, into one layer.


Click the [Merge with layer below] icon on the [Layer] palette’s command bar to merge the current layer with the layer below.


Select [Flatten Image] from the top left menu of the [Layer] palette to merge all the layers in the [Layer] palette.

[Combine copies of displayed layer] allows you to create a merged layer without affecting the original layers.


For further details on how to use layers, read the article below.


[2] Post-correction using layers

One the biggest advantages of digital drawing is the amount of freedom one has to edit or adjust after drawing.

Let’s learn the essential basics of post-correction techniques using selection areas and transformation.


 Creating a selection area

When correcting or repainting certain areas of an artwork or layer, it is recommended that you select the target area using a [Selection area] tool first.


Selection areas are surrounded by a dashed line. While the dashed line is active, editing and painting will only affect the selection area.


Do not forget to deselect the selection once the adjustments are done.




● Selection area tools


The [Rectangle] and [Ellipse] sub tools will select the area with geometric shapes.


The [Lasso] and [Polyline] sub tools can be used for more precise selections.


The [Selection Pen] sub tool will select the area it paints.

The [Erase Selection] sub tool will erase the selection areas it paints.

Selection areas are useful when making detailed adjustments such as adding finishing touches.


 Transforming artwork

When drawing with traditional mediums, you would need to erase what portions of your drawing to adjust its size and/or angle. In digital painting, you can directly apply transformations. Transforming is often used to clean the composition of a sketch or to make small edits to illustrations during the finishing touches.


(1) Select layers or the sections you want to transform with the [Selection] tool, and click on [Scale up/Scale down/Rotate] from the [Selection Launcher] at the bottom of the selected area.

Shortcut key: Ctrl + T

Note: On the smartphone version, select [Scale/Rotate] from the [Command Bar].


(2) Handles will be displayed around the selected area. Dragging them will transform the area.


The method above will maintain the original aspect ratio. To change it, open the [Tool Property] palette and disable [Keep ratio of original image].


To rotate the figure, drag the outer part of the handles.


Double click or press the [Enter] key to confirm the transformation.


(3) Click the [Deselect] button on the left side of the [Selection Launcher] to deselect the area.

Shortcut key: Ctrl + D


If the transformation looks off or creates gaps in the lines, simply draw the missing parts to repair the area.



Holding the Ctrl key toggles the [Free Transform] mode. You can freely deform the selection by dragging the handles around it.


 Dividing layers

To divide layers, select the area you want to move to another layer and click [Cut and Paste] from the [Selection Launcher].

Note: On the smartphone version, select [Cut] and [Paste] from the [Command Bar].

This will create a new layer containing the selected area.

Note: [Copy and Paste] will duplicate the selected area on a new layer.


 Changing the color

When you are not satisfied with colors in your illustration, use color adjustments.

Paint can be erased and painted again from scratch, but there are also many ways to change an existing color.


(1) Select the layer you want to adjust. If you only want to edit parts of the layer, create a selection and select [Edit] menu > [Tonal Correction] > [Hue/Saturation/Luminosity].

Note: On the smartphone version, tap the [Menu] button and select [Edit] > [Tonal Correction] > [Hue/Saturation/Luminosity].


Adjust the color with the dialog box.

・ Move the [Hue] slider to change the color.

・ Move the [Saturation] slider to change the saturation.

・ Move the [Luminosity] slider to change the brightness.


If you want to apply these changes to multiple layers or keep the original layer as it is, use a [Tonal Correction Layer].

Refer to the following article to learn about the [Tonal Correction Layer].


[3] Creating digital effects with layers

Effects called blending modes can be added to layers. Changing a layer’s [Blending Mode] can increase the contrast, the brightness, etc. and add expressions specific to digital drawing.


A layer’s [Blending Mode] can be changed from the upper section of the [Layer] palette.

The default setting is [Normal].


Please refer to the following articles for more information on the [Blending Mode].


Let’s look at the basic blending modes.


 Multiply colors and extract lines easily with [Multiply]!

[Multiply] multiples the colors to create a combined color. This mode can be used to extract lines drawn on a white canvas or blend shadows with colors on other layers.

▼ Normal Multiply


 Expressing light with [Screen] and [Add (Glow)]

Use this to add bright light to your illustration. This mode is convenient for neon lights and strong sunlight.


Change the layer’s blending mode to [Screen] or [Add (Glow)] and draw the light using bright colors such as soft blue and yellow.

▼ Normal Screen Add (Glow)


 Create a strong contrast with [Overlay]

[Overlay] applies [Screen] on bright areas and [Multiply] on darker areas.

Using [Overlay], you can color unsaturated images or add shading by overlaying an unsaturated layer.


You can use a gray [Overlay] layer to test the lighting and shading of an illustration before deciding on the final look.


If you want to increase the contrast, overlaying a flattened layer set to [Overlay] mode will increase the contrast of the image.


Note: Changing layer opacity

The opacity of each layer can be adjusted. Changing the opacity of a layer will affect the effects on the other layers.

▼ Original image Overlay 50% Overlay 100%



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