Digital Inking Techniques with Brian Haberlin



Brian Haberlin reviews how to make brushes and work with object files in Clip Studio Paint.

Note: The original article is in English. On sites other than the English site, this is a machine translation.

Clip Paint Studio is the program you want to use when drawing comics. There are other programs out there like Photoshop, but they require a lot of effort to make proper brushes, and even so, they don’t do all of the things that Clip Studio Paint does that makes comic creation easier. This helps you to work smarter, not harder.
This tutorial will cover a range of features. I will use other people’s works to practice, which I source from Heritage Auctions ( They upload high-res images of art that are perfect for applications like this.

Color Flatting

Clip Studio Paint has many useful features for Color Flatting that many people do not know about. The first one I want to introduce is called Convert Brightness to Opacity. This feature comes in handy for comic making when you want to lay in some quick flat colors. Start with a flat, one layer black and white image such as the one shown below. Select Edit > Convert brightness to opacity, and it will turn all of the white in the image transparent.

Next, I want to introduce using the Lasso tool to lay in those flats while using reference layers. First, make a layer beneath the line art and fill it with a color. This helps you see the image better when laying in color flats. Then, click the lighthouse icon in the Layer palette so that it sets the line art layer as the reference layer.

This makes it so that when using the fill tools on another layer, it fills the areas based on the line art layer. Then, create another layer underneath, click the bucket tool, and in the sub tool menu, select the Enclose and fill tool.

The Enclose and fill tool is a lasso tool that you can use to loosely trace an area you want to fill. Even if your line art has a lot of gaps like the example, it still works well. Sometimes there will be areas you will need to clean up after filling, but for the most part, it fills the area within the line art you surround with it. The image below shows an example of this. Despite there being a huge hole at the end of the smoke I selected, you can see it didn’t fill in too much beyond the end of the shape by his shoulder.

Other tools can function with these same properties as well. You can select any pen tool and, in its tool properties, adjust the settings under anti-overflow to give you even more control over your color flatting. The pen I’m using is a copy of the G-pen in which I gave these settings to so now I have a pen that will color within the line art. Below, I color the sword he’s holding with just one stroke.


I prefer to ink in raster rather than vector since inking at such a high resolution is almost like working in vector. Even if your sketch has a low resolution or small file size, you can just size it up and ink over it as it will be the final inked version to go to print.
My current canvas is about 4000 x 6000 pixels, and I’m using the G-pen to ink. I’ve set its stabilization on the high end. Stabilization smooths your lines as you draw. The higher the stabilization, the stronger the smoothing. As for pen size, I set it to 20 pixels. A typical comic page for American sized comics is traditionally drawn on 11 x 17-inch Bristol board or digital canvas, at 400-600 dpi. At 400 dpi, 20 px is my go-to brush size. With these settings, the G-pen brush feels like a mix between a quill and a sable brush when you draw with it.

I also use the Lasso Fill tool for inking to block in big black spaces. It allows me to quickly produce shapes that I otherwise wouldn’t produce with a brush alone.

Use ANY tool as an eraser

Another great thing about Clip Studio Paint is that any tool can be an eraser as well. Other programs switch to a dedicated eraser tool that has a different look and feel, but Clip Studio Paint gives you the same look and feel by turning any tool into an eraser. It’s great for throwing in transparency. A strength of digital inking versus traditional inking is that you can pull in some sharp whites, which are relatively difficult to do when adding white with a classic medium.

Pro Tip: Use the X button to quickly switch between black and white as you ink.

Common mistake

A common pitfall artists have with digital work is the tendency to zoom in too close, get lost in the details, and waste time. Remember, we are looking at this on a screen, but it will end up printing at about 10 inches tall so, try not to get to lost in detail that you aren’t going to see.

Adding Tone

I use the Lasso tool to add in my halftones. I start by selecting multiple areas at once with the shift key.

Once everything is selected, I select a halftone from the list in the material palette and drag it over to the selection to fill it.

Tone can be tricky and require some adjustments. The first tone I chose was too fine, which means the line frequency is too high, so I lower it to a 10, undo the old tone and then drag the new one over to the selection to refill it. This is how I adjust the tone to suit my needs. Furthermore, When the halftone is added, it creates a new layer with a layer mask on it, allowing me to go back in with the pen tool and manually draw in more halftone. What I like about this is that it gives the artist the ability to ink with halftone.

Creating a custom cloud effect brush

You can make brushes in Clip Studio Paint that you cannot make in other programs. To make one, start with a shape. I’ll use the cloud shape in the image below.

I select it using the Marquee tool and then go to the Edit menu > Register Material > Image.

In the window that appears, make sure the Use for brush tip shape is selected.

Then in the file tree, select where you wish to save it. I place everything in the Illustration area under Image Material.

Next, add tags to help find the material as it’s easy to lose them once you start making multiple materials.

Finally, click the OK button.

Then I go to the pattern brushes and find a brush that behaves in the same way I want my new cloud brush to behave. I’ll use the Melody brush as a base for it because it curves the pattern as you draw, like in the image below.

With the brush selected, I click the bottom white paper icon, duplicate it, name it “new cloud,” and click the OK button.

With “new cloud” selected, I then click the wrench icon on the tool property palette.

In the menu that appears, I click Brush tip located under Brush shape.

Then I click on the old brush tip shape and in the search bar, type in ‘cloud,’ and select my previously saved image material of the cloud shape.

With that, I now have a brush that gives me the ability to make cloud shapes that follow the brush stroke. I can curve them, change their size, etc.

Drawing left to right gives me the underside of the cloud.

Drawing right to left gives me the top part of the cloud.

What I love about this feature is that it saves you a lot of time. The ability to curve as you draw sets Clip Studio Paint apart from other programs in that it doesn’t follow the curve naturally but instead follows it in squares of that brush turning.

This feature allows you to take a natural brush in the real world and make it digital. I use it to make brushes out of my traditional art brushstrokes. There are a couple of tricks when making brushes like this though, so let’s make one.

Start with a brushstroke like this:

Right-click the layer it is on, and select Convert Layer.

In the menu that appears, set its expression color to Gray to change the color of the brush as you are working with it via the color wheel (palette).

The first brushes I made had their expression color set to color, which is meant for something dedicated to a specific color(s), such as the gold chain brush, etc. That brush was built to be used with designated colors in it and then saved as a color brush.

Continuing, I select the brush stroke with the Marquee Tool and register the material as an image. Again, make sure ‘use for brush tip shape’ is selected and add a tag to easily find it later. Then, go to the pen tool, duplicate a brush, and change its brush tip.

Now you have a finished traditional brushstroke pen that paints in any color. It’s really good to make your own unique brushes, as this helps further set your work apart from others.

File Objects (aka Instancing)

One last incredible thing that Clip Studio Paint does is something called Instancing, and it’s excellent for Concept Art. I go in and make some quick shapes for a landscape. I select one of the shapes, right-click the layer it’s on, and convert the layer to a file object as shown in the image below.

In the menu that appears, I make sure that Area is set to Selection area and Keep the original layer checked. I then click OK and save it.

I go back and duplicate this layer a few times, move them around, change their side, flip them, etc. I then hide that original layer.

At this point, I want those shapes to all to be trees. I can easily do this by changing the image saved in the File object I just created. I right-click on one of the duplicated layers, go to File object and select Open file of file object.

With this open, I copy and paste a tree from another file I have. Then I save my updated file object.

Now, when we go back to the previous image, those layers are trees and have retained all of the previous transformation attributes.

●About the Artist

Brian Haberlin is a comic book artist, writer, editor, and producer. He began his career in comics working at Top Cow Productions, where he co-created the Witchblade franchise, which has since expanded to include multiple spin-offs, a live-action television series, an anime, and an upcoming film. He founded Haberlin Studios in 1995, producing commercial illustrations and digital coloring for Marvel Comics, DC Entertainment, and Image Comics. He then co-founded Avalon Studios, which published many successful fantasy and sci-fi titles, including Stone, Aria, Area 52, and M-Rex(Generator Rex). Haberlin also served for two years as Editor in Chief of Todd McFarlane Productions and penciled and inked its flagship title, Spawn. He currently runs and teaches comic art at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also a contributor to 3d World and ImagineFX magazine, and his work is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Museum.


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