If you'd prefer to watch a video version of this tutorial, you can do so here:
If you’ve ever read or maybe even worked on a comic, you know that having backgrounds in your comic is essential to give the characters a sense of place and belonging in your world.
Establishing shots with detailed background drawings are used to introduce a location, while later panels might feature less detailed background drawings (or smaller sections of the background) to provide visual variation and continually ground characters in their surroundings.
When you want to focus on characters, but still include backgrounds, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to add backgrounds in a way that isn’t distracting, but rather boosting the characters themselves. So let’s dive right into a few of the ways we can do that.
1) Adjust Lineart Color
One of the easiest ways to set apart any kind of visual element and create contrast is brightness. The same holds true for lineart. If we use a lighter color for background elements, and a darker color for foreground elements, we visually separate the two and bring the focus to the foreground.
In Clip Studio Paint, this can be easily accomplished by using the Layer Property > Effect > “Layer Color” option. Click to activate it, then either click the color field and select a color; or select an existing color with a different method and then click the fill bucket to apply it.
Depending on whether you want to ground your character in your background, you may not want to apply the lineart color to the entire background.
The easiest way to achieve such an effect is to create a new layer above your lineart layer, then use the Layer Settings > “Clip to Layer Below” option.
Then, simply paint or draw on the new layer, changing individual sections to a different color.
2) Adjust Lineart Thickness
Another way to create visual contrast is by putting thin or small shapes against thick or large shapes. If you draw your characters with thick lineart, drawing the background with thin lineart can easily make both elements stand apart.
But maybe you’ve already drawn a background and are realizing this option too late, or accidentally ended up making the lineart thicker than you planned on.
Fortunately, if you’ve used a Vector layer to draw your background (more on Vector layers in my tutorial “5 Methods for Perfecting Your Lineart”), you can easily change the entire thickness of lineart with just a few clicks.
Use the Operation > Object tool, then click and drag to select your entire layer.
Look for the “Tool Property” window, and the “Brush size” option.
Here, you can adjust the value to change the thickness of your lineart across your entire selection.
If you want to make smaller, more individual adjustments, use the “Correct line width” tool, and manually go over the portions you want to either make “thicker” or more “narrow”. Try adjusting the values of these options if the change is not as noticeable as you want. You can also process individual lines rather than segments of lines.
3) Outline Characters
One method for letting characters stand out from the background is to literally create a gap between character lineart and background lineart.
If you’ve already drawn a background though, it might be a lot of work to go back in manually and erase parts around the character. Fortunately, there’s another Clip Studio Paint feature that helps us with this.
Look for the Layer Property > Effect > “Border effect” option. Click to activate it, then set the Edge color and “Thickness of edge” value.
In a colored drawing, you may need to first make a selection from your lineart and your color layer, then create a new layer, fill the selection, and then apply the outline effect to that new layer.
4) Contrast Color or Tone
If you use grayscale toning or color in your comic, you have another neat way of separating your character from backgrounds.
Depending on the scene or feeling you want to evoke, you can either use dimmer, brighter or darker colors on the background than on your character.
This works especially well if combined with the “Lineart Color” method.
Another option is to use complimentary colors - for example, using warmer colors on your character and colder ones on the background.
If you struggle with picking colors for your background that achieve this effect, you can use various Blending Modes as a shortcut. Simply color the background in a more normal color first, and then add a new layer with a different color above your background. Experiment with the Blending Modes. For example, using “Add” at half transparency gives a similar effect to using dimmer colors or even coloring your lineart.
5) Highlight Characters
This tip only works if you are using grayscale toning or color. Using rim lighting style highlights on your character can really make them pop from the background in a very dramatic way.
This, once again, can be done by using the “Clip to Layer Below” option, this time on a color fill layer, rather than on a lineart layer.
Of course, this is not suitable for every situation, and might make more sense when there are dramatic lighting situations or dramatic moments in the narrative. Though, if you apply the effect less intensely, it might feel more natural in a more common setting.
And there you have it!
5 fast and easy ways to utilize Clip Studio Paint’s features to let backgrounds boost characters! You can use these individually, or combine them. Let me know if these options helped you, or if you have any questions!