How To Properly Use CSP's 3D Drawing Dolls

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Update: Changed the gifs to video example.

Introduction

Clip Studio Paint’s in-built 3D Models have been a huge help to not just me but others who benefited from its amazing feature and ability to accelerate the construction phase of 2D figure drawings. Varying opinions circulate on the validity of using these tools, but at the end of the day, an individual artist’s choice of using specific tools to accomplish his/her task matters very little and what matters is the artist enjoys his/her work whichever way the piece was made as long as he/she likes the end result. That being said, there are also varying ways artists use these models that do opt to use them, however; I have seen very little discussion in their intrinsic limitations and flaws that every user should be made well aware in order to maximize the experience of using these models. In this tutorial, you will learn what those limitations are and how to properly circumvent them. From hence forth, in this tutorial, every reference to the CSP drawing dolls assume the one used for manga/anime drawings (Ver. 2), and not the realistic one, although in principle, this tutorial applies to virtually any model used for the purposes to aid one in perspective and posing.

Flaws and Limitations

One of, if not, the most, important flaw in these models, is the skeletal rig. Take the forearm, for instance. Setting the limiter gizmo on, you see it can only rotate one way. However, eliminate the limiter to have a free-rotation, and watch what happens.

This happens whether the joint limiter is on or off.

The same applies to the hand when wanting to rotate it at certain directions. You can see that not only is the rig flawed, but the mesh of the model as well. This presents issues with certain poses, especially poses that have very exaggerated dynamism for animation purposes. This means that when you want to draw over the model, there will need to be significant modifications to the sketch, and if you do not have at least some basic understanding of anatomy, you will struggle a lot. Some propose making your own character rig and import it to CSP Modeler, my personal opinion of this route is that it presents a huge hassle in the import process, and the fact you would need to spend more time modelling a character (whether you do it from scratch or grab from some pre-set libraries or use this overly expensive tool:

) than spending more time just posing the model, and adjusting its proportions on the fly, which is far more convenient than going through the process of modelling it yourself.

Another limitation is that the bone set is very simplified. This means, for instance, if you want to draw a barefoot character with dynamic toe poses, CSP’s drawing dolls have no toe bones, meaning you will be forced to use outside references to nail down foot anatomy. This is because the drawing dolls have full clothing in mind, which means the feet assume they have footwear and are not completely barefoot. There is also breast dynamic. The realistic model has breast bones, but they are not well rigged, and the manga version has zero breast bones, meaning if the artist wishes to draw dynamic breast poses, he/she will need to recourse to outside references and study breast dynamic very well.

More on breasts, the female drawing doll has very weird volumetry in certain angles as shown in the following pictures:

Before modifying the waist.

After changing waist to 40. Notice nothing particularly impressive happens, now let’s see when we change the shoulder width to 40 from top view.

Same picture as before but top view included.

Changing the shoulder width to 40, notice that from the front and side, there does not seem to be problems with the breast shape, you can still draw over the teardrop shape that is more natural to them, not so when top view, this problem translates even when she bends her torso down to simulate breasts hanging. This makes drawing breasts a hassle if you are not well versed in breast anatomy.

There is also the fact that, no matter how well you customize the body type of the models, realistic or manga version; the models’ fat and muscle group are very simplified, and thus, their guidelines are very limited. Finally, all head shapes are very alike, this poses more challenges in creating unique head shapes and if the artist is not careful, he will fall victim to the infamous “same face syndrome.”
More flaws and limitations can be pointed out, but these are by far the most crucial ones that stand out in my experience. Now that you are familiar with the issues, let’s get into the solutions and from there, begin the tutorial.

Solutions

Use references

Right off the bat this is the most important solution. These models do not replace the use of references. The number of limitations and issues with them mean using references is one of the best ways to circumvent this problem, especially when anatomy is involved. For anatomy, you can take very detailed anatomy photo reference from various sides, or you can take a 3D model that is very detailed and well-made that illustrates more accurately all the anatomical muscle groups, open them either at Blender or any 3D software program of your choice and in one window, you pan around the model reference, while in CSP, you fill in the blanks and make corrections to the model in your sketch phase. This applies to breast dynamics and other parts of the body that the CSP models do not handle very well.
The question arises: How would one go about gathering references for anatomy? Well I have the answer for you:
First off, invest some money into these two anatomy models from Artstation:

Simply buy the standard license, not the commercial one. Pascal Ackermann’s anatomy references models.

Giovanni Paranello’s Ecorché model. The full rigged body model bundle includes the full écorché, the T-pose and the Blender scene.

If you can get your hands on the first one that is perfect, the second one allows you to view it in T-Pose and on top of that, the muscle groups are their own mesh and you can toggle into full muscle or view only the skeletal parts of the face, for example, which is extremely useful to correct facial features of the model. Of course, the biggest disadvantage is the cost. Alternatively, you would gather a ton of 2D photo references of anatomy around the web and hope that the references have at least back, front and profile view. The boon is it is free most of the time, but if you are a very visual person like me that needs a clear and dynamic 3D view of references, the disadvantage is obvious. You would have to make the choice of what to sacrifice according to your needs and demands. I will go ahead and demonstrate the tutorial using the models linked. The principle should work with 2D anatomy photo references provided the references are well detailed and contain sufficient muscle groups that you can easily map.

Set up the Blender scenes

First, I will assume you have some basic knowledge of Blender’s interface and I will quickly move to how to get the models all textured and set up a decent rendered scene with appropriate lighting.
After downloading the files, open Blender. Then delete the cube. Go to File->Import and select the proper 3D extension the models came with. After you successfully imported the model, go to Object->Set Origin->Geometry to Origin.

Then you will go to UV Editing, click the folder icon that says “Open” and navigate to find the texture file that is appropriate for the model. Then go to Materials Properties, click the green circle on “Surface” and select “Diffuse BSDF”, then on “Color”, click the yellow circle and click on “Image Texture.” You will see an image icon, click it and in there you should see the image file you opened in the UV Editor. Click it, then close the UV Editor panel (just click “Layout” tab in the UV Editing” window) and you will click this circle over here:

After that, you will have the textured applied, but you will have no lighting. No problem. First, you will only need three lights: one that is a sunlight above the model, and two point lights on the front and back, I will show you how they are set up in the following images:

1: Sunlight, 2 and 3: point lights

After that, move them in such a way that allows you to give you a proper lighting of the model.
Now that you have your scene set up, you can go save it and everytime you want to draw, use that file as reference. Actually, before you do that, I will quickly teach you how to generate an all sides view that Clip Studio has:

CSP's all sides view.

Drag your cursor just close to this border, and simply drag to the sides or down to generate a new workspace.

If you do it right, you should be able to generate something like this.

Now that you have that, everytime you want to draw a character, open that ecorché model as reference.

The second one comes with a Blender file and the model all set up. You just have to toggle the visibility of the useless studio plane and set the model in T-Pose and you should be good to go.

Set up your CSP model

This process is straightforward and I will assume you are familiar with how the CSP posing and customization works, if not, access the tutorials in Clip Studio’s library of tutorials on it.

Now that we have the model set up and posed, we are ready to draw!

Map the muscles and fat

This requires good eye and spatial visualization. Because the reference models are in a 3D Software, you can pan around certain angles to figure out what muscle group goes where and with a good anatomy reference on where fatty tissue lies on, you simply draw out the curves over the model. It is okay to draw the general form of the model, but don’t trace it 100%, take the parts that have good anatomical structure and modify it a bit. After that, you correct it with the references, or you can kill two birds with one stone and begin adding those details as you go.

More examples of the workflow:

In here, you would switch back and forth to Blender and CSP to look at the anatomy reference and begin to sketch over the CSP model, adding the anatomical details and flesh out a more accurate anatomy from it.

After a lot of mapping and even polishing your sketch, you will be able to get a decent and more believable anatomy.

Rough sketch, unpolished.

From this:

So the workflow is: Pose model->50%ish trace and 50%ish correct with reference->sketch polish (with references)->profit.

Tips

If you are struggling with a particular body part in the reference, one thing I like to do is take a regional screenshot and paste it in the CSP canvas, and breakdown the part I struggle and do my best to map out to the CSP model and draw it in accordance with the perspective.
This can also work with feets, breasts, even eyes. With eyes, you can screenshot the skull or face of the ecorché model and breakdown the eyesocket at a particular angle and map it out in the model and flesh out a good face.

Another useful tip: Don’t be distracted too much with the CSP model’s form and skeleton. CSP models are a guideline. In fact, CSP’s model are like a generic template that serves as the “skeleton” of your actual sketch, like a base sculpt that you must polish with good anatomy references. Never, EVER, draw without references!
One cool workflow you can definitely try is to first, after setting up the model, sketch a general frame of your character, draw over it and give it a general shape and form you want to work with, don’t worry about the details.
Then in another layer, add the anatomical details and corrections using references and defining the volume of your character. The idea behind this exercise is so once you have the unique form of your model, your mind fixates only on the sketch of your character and only adds the modified details using anatomy references. It avoids being distracted by the model. You can go back to it, but I would recommend only checking the perspective and angle of the pose to help you draw the details of how they are located and arranged in 3D space.

After I draw the sketch, I add new layers and folder to then sketch parts of the body, fleshing out more accuracies and nuances, notice I do not go and turn the visibility of the CSP model but go back and forth to reference the one from Blender.

Next layer, you polish your sketch further. Any extras you want to add, maybe you want to add a little imperfection in a curve in his chest or if female, her breasts; do that here while tracing your previous sketch layer. Then in a different folder and layer, trace it in a vector layer and adjust line width and thickness.

An additional tip in using these models, actually this one is more like an advice (I guess it’s the same? Lol): Unless you plan to add weapons and some clothing gimmicks as model refs to aid you drawing some complex bodies of clothing, you generally want to keep your model scene as simple and “clean as possible.” What I mean is, all you want in your CSP 3D Layer are your character (s), whatever weapon gimmick (a sword, lance, car, etc). Do not try to overlap models on your character to shortcut your way into drawing a specific body part. Do not, for instance, overlap a skull over the face, to then hide the visibility of it on and off just to draw some eyes. The number one reason is to simply save you posing time. Only dedicate time to pose the bare necessities of your scene, and any other detail, use another 3D Layer or simply hop back to Blender and use model refs from Blender’s scene and strengthen your visual library that way. Posing 3D objects and characters is already time consuming as it is, trying to pose additional ones to then perfectly align it over a specific part will just consume more time than necessary. This does not mean you shouldn’t take the time to align a sheathe to the character’s hip, but it does mean, you should not take a head, hand or feet model that is more detailed than the CSP doll, perfect align it over the model to “replace its mesh” and draw over it.

For more complicated poses, do not be afraid to use inverse kinematic controllers. If you are wondering what that is, it’s basically posing your characters with this on:

And yes, posing with these do not have the gizmo restraints when posing with rotations of limbs, but truth is, these controllers were made with animation poses in mind, and if you want a really good looking action pose, you are better off touching up with these controllers, and yes, you will sort of break realism from there, but if you want to show off a good epic pose, you need to sacrifice realism for aesthetic action. It is what it is. This applies to any dynamic pose that requires some exaggeration for a good-looking pose. A good pose is fundamental to make a good animation, even manga artists keep this in mind, and mangas are not even animated.

Clipping issues
This one deserves its own space of discussion as this is a very common and intrinsic aspect of 3D models in any software. Clipping refers to how a specific part of the model, “clips” or hangs through the objects mesh. For example, how a cape in an animation, suddenly bends in a way it somehow “stabs” through the mesh, or something simple as a region of the hand passing through the mesh of the hips, for example. Every animated model will present this small issue, and many animators have a variety of ways to deal with it, but they exist, and since animation requires posing, you can see how this will translate even to stationary poses. A simple solution is to not place two or more meshes too close to each other to mimic contact, in fact, many 3D models in video games do not do this very much, and for good reasons. For example, go watch some 3D cutscenes of Fire Emblem Three Houses, whether plot scenes or support convos, take a closer look how their hands and arm move and rest on certain parts of the body and how capes are animated. They are not exactly realistic, but the animators make it work, nonetheless.

Example of “clipping”, extreme cases are when the hand passes through it.

You will be drawing a 2D character though, which means exploiting this tip is crucial as some angles, due to foreshortening, won’t make the distance between the hand and the hip that significant at certain angles, this is much more so if you plan to augment some proportions of your character’s body or even add some objects in the sketch. Posing the limbs too close to mimic IRL contact will make some of the sketch poses look weird or outright bad. As a rule of thumb, you want the hands to be sufficiently close, but far enough that the two meshes remain apart so that in the final sketch, the corrections and clothing add the illusion of 2D compensate for the limitation of clipping on 3D.

Bonus: Cool tricks

That is not all CSP has to offer, you may not even need to use the CSP dolls, you can import pretty much any 3D model and draw over it as a completely different character in your sketch, with this trick, all you are doing is taking advantage of the pose’s perspective in relation to its body and camera and with some external aid, you draw out a similar or different body altogether from it.

Another epic trick is, if you are an artist that loves drawing mechs, well one cool thing is you can legit use CSP dolls as posing refs for your mechs (seriously!), and if you want, you can add primitives over it to simulate the various mechanical parts of it, or simply draw different shapes and use the transform tool to draw a rough sketch of the mech and fill out the rest in a different layer.

Finally, another trick is you can take the very same sketch you used of the model, and simply scale it down to a particular size in relation to perspective if you have been one to draw background first before character. To make this work flawlessly, I suggest you first set up the scene, simply pick one character and start manipulating the perspective of the 3D Layer through the 3D Ruler, that way you pre-define the perspective and you can draw the background and at least one grounded character, and you can draw others and scale them appropriately in respect to the perspective.
This works for some perspectives and some backgrounds, but depending how complex the scene is, it may backfire. So one thing you can do is use primitives to simulate heighted floors or buildings and place your characters sitting or standing in them and begin your background sketch from there.

Conclusion

3D models are very helpful and useful. Literally every animator and professional use them, okay maybe not EVERY single one out there, but a good significant portion of them would not hesitate to employ some 3D figures to aid them on perspective, posing, etc. It cuts down a lot of time, it is very efficient and a great tool to learn and understand how space works in many bodies. Of course, it is just another tool in the great digital toolset of any artist, you use it or you don’t, if you do, it is a powerful one to wield, but like all tools, there are flaws and limitations and one must understand them to make the best out of its usage, by the end of this tutorial, hopefully you will be able to appreciate these limitations and make better use of them to improve your sketch and your understanding of 3D space. Learning some anatomy and using these models are a great way to skyrocket your skill in art and boost your visual library, you will start to understand what is organic and what is “too idealized” and spot them to correct them.







-QuixoticNukeLord

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