Masking vs clipping in Clip Studio Paint


Introduction and Workspace

Hello everyone, welcome to this tutorial, my name is Ed and I am going to show how to masking and clipping in Clip Studio Paint using layer mask, quick mask, vector frames, text and Clip to layer below. Also you will see how to use brightness to create selections for masks.

NOTE: This tutorial was originally written in English for the version 1.9.4 of Clip Studio Paint.

▼ You can download the Workspace I am going to use in this tutorial from the links below.

So without any further ado let's get started!

1. Exploring functions for Masking and Clipping

Clip Studio Paint offers various functions that can work for masking and clipping. I am going to try to classified them in 3 categories. This classification will be based on how you can make the edition.

▲ [1] Pixels. [Layer Mask] and [Quick Mask] can be edit or modify using pixels. You can use different tools for selections or brushes to create or edit these type of masks. You may think on [Lock transparent pixels] for this category but the changes with that function are permanent so I am not going to include it here.

▲ [2] Vectors. [Frame Border Folder] are designed to contain the images or drawings of comics. You cannot edit frames with pixels tools but you can modify the draw borders and shapes with frame tools that work as vectors.

▲ [3] Pixels & Vectors or “Pixtors” (tentative title). [Clip to layer Below] is a function that can work with both pixels and vector layers. You can also use [Blending modes] to hide areas in a similar way as using a mask.

2. Draw sketches in different Frames

I am going to draw 4 quick sketches to explore different compositions and styles. First create a new document [Canvas] width 1920 px × 1080 height px- [resolution] 72 with a white paper.

[1] From [Layer > New Layer > Frame Border Folder] create a New frame folder without Draw border. Then fill a pixel layer with a light gray and place it inside the frame folder.

[2] You can edit what it is visible selecting the frame folder and with the [Object] tool selected (shortcut O) move the blue dots to resize the frame. You will see a blueish-violet area that indicate what is not visible. If you don't want to see the mask area you can turning off from the icon in the [Layer] palette or click over the mask layer icon while holding the ALT key.

[3] Now with the Folder selected let's create 4 frames from [Layer > Ruler-Frame > Divide frame border equally]. You can choose the number of divisions that you want. I am going to choose 2 for vertical and 2 for horizontal and Duplicate Layer.

[4] You can edit the frames simultaneously if you like. Make sure [Snap to other frame borders] is selected and [Keep gutters aligned] in All. Now select one of the yellow squares (it will change to red) and move it as you like. You can select one of the layers inside the folders and start drawing the sketches without worry about the margins.

IMPORTANT: Make sure Snap to Ruler is turn it off to avoid unexpected snapping while drawing. You can also choose not to show the rulers of the frame folders from the [Layer] palette.

▼ Here are my sketches. You can save them as JPG files and use it as guide to draw your clean lines.

3. Line drawing and Mask Layers

It is time to draw the lines! I have choose the 2 options from the top in order to explore different styles. I am going to create a new document [Canvas] A5 for each sketch. You can use the [Sub View] to see the sketches. You can also place the sketches in a layer below and decrease the opacity.

■ I prefer to use vector layers for line drawings. You can use as many layers as you want for different parts of the drawing and place them inside of a Layer Folder. For example one layer for the eyes, other for the hair, the lips and so on. If you are using my [Workspace] you can select the layers and press CTRL + G to [Create folder and insert layer].

▲ I have used two texture brushes to draw the lines. Make sure you keep the lines separate from the white paper or background.

If you want to make your own texture brushes you can check the link below ▼

Now I am going to add highlights in the eye and make divisions in the eyebrow (like in the sketches). You could use the erase tool but I am going to recommend you to use a Layer Mask instead.

[1] Select the layer and create a Layer Mask from [Layer > Layer Mask > Mask Selection] or click over the Mask icon in the Layer palette. You will see a mask thumbnail in white indicating that all is visible.

[2] With the Mask selected (thumbnail double frame line) paint with any brush using transparency (shortcut C). You will see that not visible areas are black on the mask thumbnail.

[3] If you hide too much you can paint (with the Mask selected) with any color (shortcut X) to make the lines and brushes visible again. You will see the visible areas in white on the thumbnail.

NOTE: Using masks instead of the eraser tool allows you to keep one vector line intact and editable.

▼ Here are the line drawings from the sketches.

4. Quick Mask and Layer Folder

A fast way to make selections that you can use for masks is to use [Quick Mask]. Let's create a shortcut so you can change between selection a quick mask mode easily.

▲ From [File > Shortcut Settings] Setting area: Main menu – Add a shortcut to [Quick Mask]. I have assign the shortcut “Q” that is a common shortcut in photo editing applications.

Now I am going to use a quick mask to hide the corners of the drawing.

[1] Make sure you have your line drawing in a Layer Folder separate from the white background.

[2] Select a brush and press “Q” or from [Select > Quick Mask] and start painting with any color (shortcut X). You will see a (temporally) Quick Mask Layer at 50% of the opacity. By default the red color indicate the selection you are creating. You can change the color from the [Layer Property] palette. You can also use the Eraser tool or paint with transparency (shortcut C) to remove areas from the selection.

[3] Once the selection is made press “Q” or from [Select > Quick Mask]. Now you can edit the selection with the icons to adjust the selection or from the [Select] menu. If you want to go back to [Quick Mask] mode press “Q” again and use the brushes or eraser to edit the selection.

[4] You can save selections from [Select > Convert to Selection Layer]. You can also place the selections you are going to use later in a separate Layer Folder.

[5] With the Selection Layer selected in the [Layer] palette and from [Select > Convert Selection Layer to Selection] bring the selection back (doesn't need to be visible). If you want to edit the selection you can switch from selection to [Quick Mask] mode (and vice-versa) with the shortcut “Q” created at the beginning of this step.

[6] With the active selection. Make sure the drawing and white background are place inside a Layer Folder. And with the Layer folder selected create a new mask for the folder with the [Mask] icon or from [Layer > Layer Mask] Mask Selection or Mask Outside Selection.

NOTE: If you make a mistake you can invert the mask with CRTL + I. Also, when you click over the Mask icon without any selection it will create a white mask (all visible) but if you press ALT + click it will create a black mask (nothing visible).

■ Now you can create a new layer below (fill it with black or any color) outside the Layer Folder and you will notice the areas that are hidden with the mask ▼

5. Clipping to colorize

A fast way to colorize without masking is to use [Clip to Layer Below]. You can use this function with both single layers and layer folders.

■ Make sure the lines are in one layer or one layer folder without background, just the lines. Create a new Raster layer above the lines and click over the [Clip to Layer Below] in the [Layer] palette.

Now you can use brushes or pencils and anything painted will only be visible inside the lines. The lines below the layer will behavior in a similar way as a mask. Here you can see the layer with and without clipping▼

NOTE: The thumbnail will show a red vertical line when using this function. You can also use [Clip to Layer Below] to colorize larger areas such skin, clothes, hair, landscapes and so on.

6. Clip images to editable Text layers

Now let's use the [Clip to Layer Below] function to clip an image with one (or more) editable text layer.

▼ Here is a photo that I took with my camera. You can use your cell phone or any camera that you have.

If you are not familiar with the [Text] tool. You can find some tips in the link below ▼

Organize your layers as we saw in the previous step. Place the text layer (or layer folder with text inside) below the photo or image. Then select the image and click over the [Clip to Layer Below] icon in the Layer palette.

▲ You can also use this function with a layer folder. Above you can see how I used a layer folder with the image and Correction Layers to increase the contrast and saturation of the photo. And in the layer folder below I used 2 text layers and one vector layer for the textured brush line.

7. Selecting and Masking images

In this step I am going to show you how to create a selection to mask a rose from a photo that I took in a rainy day.

■ Since the color of the rose is red the same as the [Quick Mask] mode you can change the color from the [Layer Property] palette. Nevertheless, since masks works in black and white (and grays) it is a good practice to visualize the images in a similar way.

[1] Duplicate the photo and change the [Expression color] to Gray from the [Layer Property] palette.

[2] Use [Correction Layer] to increase the contrast. This is going to help you to have a better visualization of the image. You can use Tone Curve, Level Correction, Brightness/Contrast. You can also edit the image permanently from [Edit > Tonal Correction].

[3] Now with the [Auto select] tool (shortcut W) you can click over the rose and add more areas holding SHIFT while clicking. Once you have selected a large area you can use the [Quick Mask] mode to complete the selection. For the borders I recommend you to use the [Airbrush] tool.

[4] Once you have the selection you can hide or delete the Gray layer. You can also smooth the border selection from [Select > Blur border]. Then select the image (Color) layer and create a [Mask Layer] as we saw in previous steps.

8. Masking with Blending Modes

In this step I am going to place the rose in the eye of the drawings. If you want to apply the mask that we made in the previous step you can right-click over the mask icon and select [Apply Mask to Layer]. Then you will have an image that is cut out with transparent background.

■ Some Blending Modes can hide areas in a similar way that Masks do. In this case I am going to use [Lighter Color] to hide the rose from the white background. If you use [Darker Color] it will hide the rose from the dark lines. I really recommend you to explore all the Blending Modes to see how can affect the image.

▲ Here you can see the images before and after the [Lighter Color] blending mode. You can use a [Mask Layer] to hide the areas that you don't want to be visible.

9. Correction layers and layer masks

A fast and easy way to change colors, add contrast and more is to use Correction layers. When you create a [Correction Layer] you automatically will be creating a mask layer along with the new correction.

■ I am going to create various correction layers for the rose inside the eye of the drawing. Make sure to use the [Clip to Layer Below] function to affect only the rose image and not the entire document.

[1] First create a [Tone Curve] from [Layer > New Correction Layer] or right-click over the layer palette. Increase the contrast of the image and mask the areas you don't want to be visible.

[2] If you want to make a photo looks more like a painting you can use [Posterization] from the same correction menu. You can also invert the mask and paint over the areas you want to be visible.

[3] To change the color you can use [Hue/Saturation/Luminosity] and use the mask to explore combinations of colors. Finally, you can use a [Fill] layer from [Layer > New Layer] or right-click over the layer palette.

▼ This is how my drawings are looking so far.

10. Masking based on Brightness/Luminosity

In this step I am going to select the shadows (and some mid-tones) from a photo that I took in another rainy day to create an effect using what we have seen in the previous steps about masking and clipping.

■ Using the brightness or luminosity of an image you can select the shadows or highlights to edit only those specific areas. You can also use the luminosity to extract parts of photos and use them in other images, drawings and so on.

[1] First change the [Expression color] to Gray from the [Layer Property] palette and make sure you have a contrasted image. You can edit the image permanently from [Edit > Tonal Correction]. You can also use corrections from [Layer > New Correction Layer] or right-click over the layer palette but you will need to merge the layers once you have done.

[2] Select the gray image and from [Edit > Convert brightness to opacity] remove the highlights and white from the image. Then select the layer and holding CTRL click over the layer icon to create a selection of the layer.

[3] With the active selection create a [Fill] from [Layer > New Layer] or right-click over the layer palette. I am going to choose a dark blue color. You can add contrast or change colors with Correction Layers. You can also use the [Clip to Layer Below] function and mask layers.

▼ Here you can see the first drawing with the drops effect applied.

▼ And here is the second drawing with a different color applied.

NOTE: When you have images, photos or drawings from different sources it is a good idea to add a general color or gradient at the top of all layers. You can explore different blending modes or change the opacity as well.


As we have seen Clip Studio Paint offers various way of masking and clipping that can help you with the pixels and vectors in your digital drawings, paintings, images, text and so on. You can combine all these types of masks and get different results.

▼ Here is the final result combining Frames, Quick Mask, Mask layers, Clip to layer below, Correction layers and Blending modes.

Thanks for following this tutorial! I hope you have found some useful tips here. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below and don't forget to enjoy creating.

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