Making a Pop Art Inspired Illustration


Hello there :^) The themes of the month inspired me to make a Pop Art themed piece. Through this tutorial, I hope to explain the workflow and process behind this piece, and give some ideas or hints that may help others trying to achieve certain effects. So let's goooo.

Concept/Rough Sketch

To me, the facets that summarize Pop Art pretty neatly are:

1) Bold outlines and patterns
2) Bright color palettes
3) The repitition and distortion of images.

Pop Art was also heavily inspired (sometimes even directly copied) by Western comics of the time, which becomes apparent in the type of scenes depicted as well as the usage of tones and sound effects within the art.

With all those in mind, I decided to draw someone "breaking out" of a comic page, with the background full of effects, abstract shapes, and different colored versions of the character.
A token of advice, do not worry about making the rough look neat. Or good. You can redraw it as many times as you need to narrow down the visual information you need. It should simply include all the elements you intend the final version to have, even though minor changes can (read: will) happen.

The draft was at a poor resolution (72dpi), but my final version is 4000x4000 pixels at 144dpi. I would usually do 300dpi, but the lower resolution is actually better for achieving a specific effect later.

Background Panels

I wanted the background panels to have a bit of tilt to them, instead of being perfect squares parallel to the sides of the canvas. Luckily, Clip Studio's perspective rulers make this really easy, as even the Shape tools under the "Figure" sub-tool can snap to the ruler.

Remember that natural looking perspective often means having the vanishing points waaaaay off of the canvas. I based their position by matching it up with the vague lines I left in my draft.

Character Lineart

Using the default "Textured Pen" brush with no anti-aliasing, I started inking the central figure. Because of the comic aspect of Pop Art, I made the lineart very thick and somewhat rough. Having a sharp contrast is important, which is why I made several fills of black for shading, although I add supplemental shading later.

If possible, you should always draw lineart on a Vector layer, so you can make modifications later, like how I modified this line's length to be thinner. This is a lifesaver for people who spend way too long on lineart. People like me.

This is how the finished character line art looked.

For the sound effects/bubbles in the front, I used a combination of Polyline, Direct Line, and Curve Tools, in four new vector layers above the character. I seperated the grouped bubbles so it would be easier to individually edit them. (For example, I later added a white outline to the question marks by using the "Border Effect" setting from the "Layer Property" window on just their layer.)

A good tip to remember is that vector erasers can be set to "Refer all layers" in their settings, so that you can erase all intersecting lines, even if they cross from accross different layers. This was a great timesaver in seperating the character and sound effect vector lineart from the panel vector lineart.

Here is all the lineart completed together.


I wanted the coloring for the character to be simple, so it would be contrasted with the crazier colors of the background. She's pretty much just a basic primary color triad. I just used the Fill bucket on a new layer below the lineart, than merged it with the character lineart.

For deciding the final colors of the background, while I did try out colors through trial and error, I also used a lot of Gradient Maps, which look at the raw values of the colors on the canvas and replace them with a specified color palette. I particularly like the "5色マップセット" set of maps by "×ェ×", as they are posterized with 5 colors only. While I ended up making some changes anyway, these are great for inspiration.

With the background colors filled in on a layer below the panel lineart, the flats are done, now's the fun part.


Tones and the Ben Day dots pattern are essential to Pop Art, and there are several ways of doing them. I used both CSP's default tone layer feature, user-made brushes, and stock patterns to make them.

The tool that really saved my life with this work was the
"dot tone pen ※ ドット絵風トーンペン" set of tone brushes by "NAND" , which are easily customizable and have many patterns. I used these over the panel color flats with just clipping layers. If you want to change the size of the pattern in texture brushes, mess with the "Scale Ratio" values in the brush settings. With this I made the patterns cartoonishly large.

I used generally bright colors, and used the "Soft Eraser" tool to make some of the patterns fade. I drew in a few patterns by hand and added a splatter effect to some as well.

The shading on the figure is a bit trickier, but uses CSP's default toners. I made a new tone layer ("Layer"-->"New Layer"-->"Tone) and cleared the layer. Then I selected black, chose a brush with pressure-sensitive opacity (I used Transparent Watercolor specifically) and very lightly painted the shadows.

The tone action makes the painterly shading depict an even texture, with the pressure you apply affecting how large the "dots" are, leading to an interesting effect.

The cool thing about tone layers is that it makes it very easy to edit the tones even after you place them. In the "Layer Property" window, you can change the "Number of Screen Frequency" value to affect the size of the entire pattern. If you want to color the halftone, you can select "Layer Color" and drop in whatever color you want to instantly fill the whole layer.

You can also convert any color layer to a halftone layer by selecting "Tone" from the "Layer Property" Window.

For the middle tone behind the character, I went to a new canvas and I made a faded tone using the pen pressure tone layer technique. I then just zoomed in and took a screenshot and pasted the screenshot behind the figure, fitting the panel frame. This was because I wanted the dots to look larger than what the "Screen Frequency" setting would allow, but I still wanted the pressure affecting the dot size, which the custom brushes cannot do.

These are how the finished background and character tones look.

Character Copies

To create the multicolored copies of the figure, I merge the the character lineart, shadows, and color layers together and copy the new combined layer. I can then copy it as many times as a want, where I apply different Gradient Maps onto the copies, and then transform them to fit the perspective the panels follow, to make it look like they are inside the comic panels.

So basically:
1) Copy image
2) Change colors (either manually or through corrections/gradient maps)
3) Transform image

Final Touches

This is the work after adding the colored figure copies.

I decided to add some more effects, particularly for the sound effects in the foreground. I made a new layer clipped to the effects layer, used more of the custom tone brushes with various bright colors, and then set them to "Add Glow". On the same layer, I also overlayed default CSP textures over some of the bubbles with "Multiply", erasing them lightly to create a gradient.

After some more messing around with various correction layers to saturate and add more contrast to the piece, It's pretty much done.

For extra Pop Art Flavor, use a gradient map over the entire piece to make several alternate color copies!

Thanks for reading this tutorial!


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