Digital oil painting


Introduction. Presentation.

Hello my name is Chrystian Yaxche, I am a traditional painter for 15 years and three years ago I dabbled in digital art, I am currently freelancer.

I have taught traditional painting for several years and I am very happy to be able to accompany you and share this digital painting tutorial.

In this tutorial I will provide a series of tips on how I have brought traditional knowledge to digital painting.

With the practice of these tips, you will be ready to start your own paintings.

On traditional and digital painting.

Traditional painting is actually a set of disciplines and applied knowledge on a canvas.

For digital art, there are some processes and knowledge that we will no longer have to learn, such as the preparation of a canvas, the basic chemistry of materials, drying times, etc.

Others, on the other hand, are present and very important, such as composition, color theory, perspective, drawing, modeling shadows and lights, etc.

In order to move forward in an agile way, I prepared some very simple exercises where we will implicitly cover and practice some of these topics.

                                                  “We are going well”

Clip studio- preparing interface

If you want to learn how to customize the CS interface, you can review my tutorial where I explain some details about my workspace and other manual settings.

You can also directly download the workspace used for my tutorials, do not worry that is optional, you can paint directly with the menus and default settings.

Tools we will use.

[Subview window]

A great way to have a visible model or reference while working is the [subview window]

You can activate it in: [Window / subview], or also by pressing the first double arrow of the Chrys-2019-2 workspace. up to the left

I recommend you click on the options below the [subview window] so you can explore its functions.

Brush size

  This option can be handled quickly by pressing [Ctrl + alt] ([comand-option] in mac) and dragging the brush on the canvas we can adjust the size as we need it.

Opacity of the brush.

We can change the percentage of opacity with which we paint our brushes, this is very useful to make soft shadows and color combinations, we can change it in the tool properties window or with the shortcuts of the numerical row of our keyboard (In space downloaded work)

Mix color activated.

The brushes will behave differently depending on whether this option is activated or deactivated, we can access it through the tool properties window or by the proposed shortcut in the downloaded workspace.

Color palettes

A very useful feature are the different ways to choose and modify our color palette.
All of these palettes are at the top of the palette window. or through the window menu.

[Color circle]
It is the traditional color selector of the drawing software, we can choose between the triangular or square selector.

[Color slider]
This selector is very useful when we seek to increase or decrease the saturation or brightness of our current color, we can also choose a certain number for these values.

[Color History]
Also very useful when we are in full action of painting and we are navigating between the colors used

[Color set]
Here we can save one or several specific color palettes that we like to work with.

Active ink
Clip studio allows us to easily move between three options of active ink.

The drawing color (upper) and the drawing subcolor (lower), Some brushes will take into account both colors to paint with them, we can also switch between them with the shortcut “x”

The third is the transparent ink that works like a rubber, with the advantage of using the current brush with all its configurations, to go from this ink to the color we have the shortcut “c”

Another option to edit the current color is by double clicking on the color box and it will open the [Color Settings], with this option we have access to an eyedropper that allows us to select color from any image that is on our screen even if it is not inside of Clip studio. (sometimes this option must be previously configured on our computer)

While we are painting we will need a lot of the traditional eyedropper, this appears if we have the active brush and press [alt] (option in mac)

Creating a new canvas

Let's go to file / new

Within the illustration option we will find the size and resolution options, among others.

CS. it has several preconfigured resolution levels

76 is recommended for images that will not weigh much and will be shared online,
300 is the standard for printing
600 is recommended for comic

These are the pixels per inch PPP that the image will have.

Another important factor is the measurement of the canvas.

A widely used measure is A4 which is the size of a letter size sheet 3508x2480 pixels

Some measures to take into account are those of social networks.


180x180 px profile picture
851x315 px cover
1200x1200 px publication
626x840 px mobile


1080x1080 px square
566x1080 px horizontal
1530x1080 px vertical

These measures may vary over time.

Tip: when choosing the configuration of the sheet we can also choose the color of the paper, it is advisable to choose a light gray base or another color that is not very saturated because this will make it more comfortable to look at, since it avoids the brightness of the white sheet, in addition to the gray It helps to choose and distinguish colors better. We can also save our favorite settings

Tip 2. To start an illustration we can choose the desired proportion with a low resolution because this will optimize the use of our computer and after having placed all the large “spots” and resolved the “composition” we will go to the Edit / change resolution menu and increase The size to go to the details.

Brushes for digital painting.

 You can download my collection of paint brushes, with them you can make a great variety of combinations and styles.

Description and use of brushes.

natural paint soft_CY
Personally this is one of the stars of my brushes because it serves to give soft details or make large gradients, serves to shape the shapes and give light and shadow.

square impasto-CY

If we want firm color and strong and agile spots to cover large areas this is our ideal brush.

special oil painting-CY

This brush emulates the fresh paint very well, it uses the two selected colors prioritizing the first color over the second, if we want it to paint only with the primary color we can activate the color mixing, that transforms it into a soft brush.

secondary color paint-CY

It is the same case of the previous one only that this prioritizes the secondary color.

square impasto-CY 2

This is a firm color but that in turn blends with its surroundings, ideal for stained base where we want the colors to intermingle.

dense charcoal-CY

Rough and firm brush, you can give different finishes to our paintings if we vary their opacity, mix of active or inactive color and their size.

painting canvas1-CY

Color with a small touch of canvas texture.

1-CY spatula

Another of the stars when it comes to versatility and pictorial finish, is sensitive to inclination, generates very striking color mixtures.

Drawing pencils and sketch.

We are ready, get to work.
For the exercises, we open a new document with the size A4 in a resolution of 72

Painting a gradient-Exercise 1

The gradient is a gradual change of color, either in its saturation, luminosity or hue.

1.Select a couple of colors and paint them next to each other.

Depending on the brush we have some ability to mix, with a soft brush we paint between the two also very smoothly.

2. With the [Alt] key (option in mac) we activate the eyedropper and choose the new color and fill in the intermediate zone, with the eyedropper we select the intermediate colors where the colors are mixed and fill in,

3. Repeat this operation several times until the desired texture is obtained.

Exercise 2- The basics to paint.

For this exercise we can choose any of the brushes or combine their use, also remember to vary the settings of [opacity], [size] and enable and disable [color mixing] to familiarize yourself with these parameters and their results.

1. Open the reference image in the [subview] window

2. With the [dropper] of [subview] we choose the red color of the dial

3. We paint a sphere filling very well.

4. Now we open a new layer above it, and link it with the sphere layer

5. We choose a dark color of the sphere in the window [subview] and paint the shadow using what has been learned about the gradient and testing with different brush parameters (opacity, mixture, and size)

6. Open a new layer and place it below our sphere, fill it with the light color of the background.

7. We paint the shadows on the background color, here it is useful to manage the opacity between 10 to 30%.

In addition to the dropper, we can also use color palettes to vary light and tone.

8. We paint the color of the shadow cast by the sphere on the ground.

10. Finally we open a new layer on top of all and with white color and a low opacity brush we add the brightness of the sphere.

Ready our first exercise.

In the painting we are going to represent how the light behaves and therefore how the colors of the various objects that appear in our composition interact.

For this we will use the stain as the main element of representing sometimes very detailed forms, sometimes contrasts between values and objects and sometimes our vision of how the colors present are mixed, that is part of the beauty of the painting, its freedom and at the same time his interpretative capacity of the world.

Before moving on to the next exercise we can choose the layers of this and save them in a new folder of layers and hide them.

Exercise 3- Color shades

 A characteristic of the painting is to be able to add a hue to the colors, that is to say small variations of color, this is achieved by adding several colors in an area or working a color base of a chosen color, and painting with the “correct” color on top of this base, trying not to cover completely if not intermingling and leaving areas where the base color can be seen.

1. Open a new layer and add the reference image to [subview.]

2. We make a simple drawing of our model.

3. We add a base color, with a different color to the final color of our objects. (The following steps can be performed on this same layer.)

4. We make a “free” paint with the spatula brush, letting the colors intermingle with the background color and leaving small free areas. We can notice how now the color is not flat but has small variations of hue.

5. We can detail with the natural paint brush or dense charcoal, varying the opacity of the brush.

in the details we will include the reflections that make some colors on others, the green on the white, the red on the green, etc.

Ready our second exercise.

Digital oil painting Final exercise

Congratulations, now you have some basic tools that will help you approach digital painting, so let's move on to the final exercise that is already a detailed painting.

Remember that the art of painting and drawing require practice and perseverance, so do not worry if you have to try one of the steps more than once, go at your own pace and rejoice, because after each attempt you take a step more to achieve it.

1. We create a new document.

2. The first thing we need is a model that we will open in the window [subview]

This is a little squirrel that I met in the Chapultepec forest in Mexico, posed very happy for the photo while eating some fresh peanuts.

3. In the first layer we make a sketch using simple figures, do not be afraid to make mistakes, scratch correct until the squirrel's main forms are well located.

Tip: for the process of sketching, drawing and staining you can use the options to flip the canvas horizontally and even vertically and confirm how the drawing looks, then return to its original position, these options are found in the [command bar] or in [View / rotate invert / flip] [horizontally] (or [vertically])

In this way you can confirm in several positions and make the sketch, drawing or stain more accurately, the options to do the same in the window [subview] are at the bottom of it.

4. If you want to clean the first draft you just have to lower the opacity and create a new layer to make the clean sketch.

To paint it is possible to work with a simple sketch, or even without it as we saw in the exercises, we can build an excellent squirrel using only spots. (that's the painting)

When the objective is more realistic, if a more careful drawing and finer spots are recommended, you can make your drawing on the sketch or download mine from the following link.

6. To place it we open it in the window of downloaded materials and drag it to the canvas,

Then we press [ctrl] + [t] and in the tool properties window we press maintain proportion and adjust position on canvas.

7. We will use the drawing layer constantly, I recommend activating the padlock so that we will not accidentally paint on it.

In digital painting it is enough to have the layer of the drawing safely and work with layers above and below it.

Tip: remember, the beauty of the painting does not lie exclusively in the representation with the greatest degree of detail, but in the way we interpret light, color and shape and how these elements interact on our canvas.

The composition consists in deciding which objects appear and their order in the space of our scene. Composition will be the way we communicate with the viewer and tell him what he is seeing.

Note: there are also painting techniques that prioritize “fill in” or “colorize” within the line of a drawing and eliminate any trace of stain.

Painting the background.

As a basis, here we are occupying the color of the paper, as we saw in the exercises we can add a color or colors to give more richness of hue or we can even look for and add a canvas texture “canvas seamless” that will give an analogous appearance.

8. With the square paste brush, we will be selecting colors within the [subview] and painting on the canvas, in this layer we are only interested in the background

9. Now we are going to work the soft forms a little more mixing the colors, this is done with the natural soft paint brush.

We will use the zoom to calmly work each zone and determine the smoothness and the desired color mix. Remember that you can activate and deactivate the color mixing option of the tool, as well as vary the size and opacity of the brush. For this example I used the active mixture and an opacity of 40 to 60%

Remember that with [ctrl] + [alt] ([comand] + [option] in mac) and dragging we can vary the size of the brush, and with alt (option in mac) we will select nearby colors within the canvas.

Painting the body

9. We hide the bottom layer and proceed to make the spot of the squirrel's body, with what we have practiced so far, it will be a known and relatively simple task, take your time to leave the juxtapositions well placed.

Remember that rotating the image horizontally from time to time will help us realize details that we would not see with a static image.

10. In a new layer we make the rock stain.

The general spot is ready, this stage is also known as bloking or "impasto"

Aplicando veladuras

In traditional painting a process is carried out in which very diluted and transparent paint is applied in certain areas, this with the purpose of increasing light or shadow, can also be done to slightly change the color tone.

The digital glare is applied as follows:

11. We put together a folder with the “impasto”: the background stains, the stone and the squirrel.

12. On top of each layer we place a new layer and link it to the one below

The squirrel and the stone are in the foreground, its linked layer will put it in fusion mode multiply

The layer on the bottom we put in fusion mode add brightness.

13. With the standard CS airbrush in an opacity of between 20 and 40% we select a bright color of the background and we paint gently on its new layer, remember that you can press c when you want to erase with the same airbrush.

14. With a medium dark color we do the same in the new layers of the squirrel and the stone.

These layers serve to give depth to the bottom and highlight the squirrel, we can also slightly reduce the opacity of these layers and choose the desired setting.

Tip: When we assemble the composition of layers with different blending modes before making the folder, they may not work properly, in that case we select the entire folder and the blending mode [Pass Trough]

15. The next step is to duplicate the folder and merge its contents completely, this can be done from the command bar or with the layers menu

Now we have a color base, the previous layers can be hidden and we put the drawing on top to start working on the detail, on top of the drawing we can create a layer to paint, the composition of the layers is as follows.

Increase resolution

16. It is time to raise the resolution and / or size of our canvas, if you choose to increase the width or height, the other value will be modified proportionally, you can also choose to move the resolution from 72 to 144, 300 or 600 depending on the power from your computer
Let's edit / change image resolution.

17. Once we are working on the paint layer of the detail, we will pass it down the layer (or folder) of drawing, the time will come when we will do without drawing because our spots will have the precise shapes.

Starting the details

18. It is time to use our arsenal of brushes with their configuration variables,

For this example I used mainly natural paint, spatula and dense charcoal for the rock.

we are generating small spots in focused areas, going through the whole figure at the beginning and then concentrating on objects or areas, for example the tail, then the ears, then the head and so on until we cover the whole squirrel then we start again with another detail coverage until that the general figure seems sufficiently detailed to us.

Some tips on this painting

Depending on the area that we are painting the hair will be more or less long, also your hairstyle will be different and the distance between the strands.

In painting in general, contrasts must be taken into account It can be light on dark, a cold color (blue) on a warm one (yellow, red and orange), a saturated color on a very grayish one, also the contrasts of shapes: pointed on soft or textured area on flat area etc.

Thus, the locks of light hair should be over more uniform and dark areas.

 In this painting we will look for a mixture between the natural idea and a more plastic interpretation, with spatula spots we will represent the brightness and shadows and with a natural paint brush we will make some hair strokes, in the end we will integrate everything again with a spatula.

Here a couple of applications with soft brush and spatula.

Final Detailed

19. As we go through the details we integrate them to the base color layer with [ctrl] + [e] (comand e in mac) and change the name to final paint.

20.We use the loop tool to select areas to work in or out of the selection, we can change the active area in / out with the [shift] + [ctrl] + [i] ([shift] [comand] [i ] in mac) when finished we can deselect with the keys [ctrl] + [d] (comand d in mac)


21. Optionally we can add a correction layer in [Layer / new correction layer / tone curve.] This is the equivalent of putting the varnish on traditional paint.

 We double click on the correction layer and add a pair of handles to give this shape.

What we do with this is to slightly increase the contrast giving more brightness and saturation, then lower the opacity of the layer by 67% or less.

We have the painting finished, it only remains to add the signature and that's it.

If you have reached this point and done all the exercises, congratulations, I hope you find the advice and tips of this tutorial.

Thank you very much and we will read next time.


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