Guide to create flat illustrations



Hello!!!, welcome to this new TIPS, this time I will present the most important concepts that make the creation of flat illustrations possible, because, although it seems easy, like everything in life, it has its level of learning. Today we will unravel its secrets. Without more to say…

Let's start!!

1. Choose colors

To start with any type of illustration, be it from the flat style to realism, you have to know these composition concepts that will make an illustration striking, focus the viewer's attention by directing their gaze to emotional sensations.


Some time ago I made a TIP entry where I explain color theory; This knowledge is useful for any style of drawing. In this TIP I address technical data that I will not explain in the present, such as where the colors and their models come from; so if you want to know more I invite you to take a look, also, in this entry I explain the tools that Clip Studio Paint has to create color palettes, color theory is a central pillar in illustration, I leave you the link to continuation:

Recently, I made a TIPS where I show different tools and methods to add colors using Clip Studio Paint, it is quite extensive and above all it is useful for any style, I leave the post below:

► Color psychology

Color psychology teaches us how colors affect human behavior. Colors have a great influence on us, on our mood and mental state. With them we can stimulate or create joy, sadness, etc. Some colors produce calm or compassion in us, which are usually found in cold colors like blue; but, on the other hand, there are others that induce us to anger or feelings of discomfort, we find these in the warm ones.

Knowing the psychology of color, the places and emotions with which people relate colors, we will be able to generate meaningful illustrations, full of messages; telling stories without the need for words. Now, let's see its features.


The colors can be classified into cold and warm, this classification is based on the psychology of color according to what they transmit to us. We can easily identify them because they are visually associated with a low or high temperature; they allow us to subtly express emotional or atmospheric ideas.


These colors range from red to yellow. They convey to the viewer the sensations of high temperatures, enthusiasm, passion, joy, love, energy, warmth, etc. Also, they can represent a time of the year like spring, fall, a desert, etc.


Cool colors go on the color wheel, from purple to green. It is the blue color that is most related to cold tones, which, if present in other tones, helps them to be perceived colder. The bluer a color is, the colder it is. Cold colors are related to low temperatures, they are the tones of winter, of the night, of the seas, lakes, tranquility, calm, loneliness, serenity, sadness, night, and winter, etc.


Saturation is the degree of purity of a color, it defines its intensity. It is determined by the amount of gray it contains, the more gray the lower its saturation and the less gray the more saturated it will be. But what relationship does saturation have with color psychology? Well, it turns out that the little saturated illustrations transmit sadness, melancholy, decay, emotions of desolation; while the saturated lively and vibrant emotions of enthusiasm, hope, joy, etc.

A tool that allows us to modulate the saturation of our illustrations is: “Hue/Saturation/Lightness”. We can find this tool by accessing the following route: Tonal correction > Hue/Saturation/Luminosity.

► Methods for choosing colors

Instinctively, we are drawn to compositions of similar or contrasting colors. Color harmonies allow us to choose colors, it is a color theory technique to combine them. The five best-known color harmonies are explained below, also knowing that we can choose colors following an emotional logic (transmit feelings of joy, sadness, anger, love, etc.) or place (an eternal futuristic, a sunset, a dusk, an aquatic atmosphere, etc.) as we saw in the psychology of color; now with the harmonies we will have the weapons to create the perfect color structure telling complex stories or simply harmonizing an illustration with colors that complement each other.


Complementary colors are those that are opposite on the color wheel, this combination causes a contrast. This harmony can be used to contrast the figure in the background, also, to contrast opposing ideas.


Analogous harmony is formed by the implementation of colors that are close on the color wheel. Due to their closeness they combine well with each other. Like blue, purple and pink that are sequentially close to each other. For example, nature landscapes usually have this characteristic, they are made up of sequential colors.


For this harmony, a color is taken which we will call the main color and later we take two shades adjacent to its complementary one. With this harmony, a result similar to that of complementary harmony is achieved, but with more diversity.


Three equidistant colors are used to create a harmonic triad. As you can see in the illustration below, the color yellow, red, and blue are three colors apart from each other.

Some time ago I did a tutorial on how to make this futuristic city using only plane figures and the perspective ruler; I leave the entry below:


To create palettes with this harmony, all colors are derived from a single color from which various variations of lightness and saturation are used. Different neutral grays can also be added.

2. Flat designs

The flat design is characterized by the use of flat and bright colors, geometric shapes, large font sizes with simple messages that provide us with a clear understanding. It is striking for its simplicity and attractive messages, in addition to not having a lineart like other illustrations, instead, contrast is used to differentiate the outline of one figure from another. In simple terms, the flat style uses graphic elements, the use of geometric shapes with bright colors. The concepts that we will see below will help us to create flat illustrations.

► Abstraction

For the flat design we will take into account the abstraction using geometric shapes. The abstraction is simple, we just have to lower the level of complexity of the object that we want to recreate, convert it to its simple geometric shapes; in these cases the primary geometric forms are used: triangle, square and circle.

Let's see an example: A cat can be simplified to a series of circles and triangles; we can also alter the structure of the figures to give a character more dynamism. Deforming the figures is useful for us to create curved objects.

This is essentially what abstraction consists of, which we use for any kind of illustration, but in flat design it is essential. The best way to improve in abstraction is to take some object or person and try to recreate it using only geometric figures and some deformations of them.

► Language of forms

The language of shapes allows us to create a character that seems confident, warm, threatening, etc. This is possible because each basic shape (circle, square and triangle) has certain characteristics, in this way, when the viewer sees our illustration, we can transmit traits of his personality, and overall an atmosphere just by seeing them.


The square transmits strength, stability, security and firmness. Denotes characteristics of immovable individuals, firmness before their own convictions that do not change despite the storms of time.


This is a very welcoming figure that conveys kindness, innocence, comfort, softness. Being a shape without corners, it transmits security to us, as if it could not hurt us. Due to its robust composition, we can also associate it with immensity, something that takes up a lot of space.


Because of its pointed corners, the triangle is related to danger, something that can hurt us; It is for this reason that it has the connotations of dangerous and threatening. Although, being a slender figure compared to the previous ones, we can relate it to dynamism and activity.

While the inverted triangle usually represents the more sinister characteristics, the biggest villains in the stories often have inverted triangles in their composition to represent a much greater threat.

To convey the characteristics of each figure we can also represent them in the poses of the characters. For example, if we create a square character in a pose with his legs open giving the shape of an inverted triangle, running or in general, in a dynamic pose, in it we will undoubtedly allude to a triangle and thus we will be giving him the characteristics of dynamism that the figure possesses.

Note: It is not strictly necessary for the characters to follow the shape of the figures, it is best that they follow the shape, but not match it. The girl below has a body like a triangle although the shape is not so obviously denoted.

► Build characters using geometric figures

Now that we know the language of shapes we can create characters that tell us stories with their design, for example, if we want an affectionate character we will use circles, but if we also want it to be agile we will add triangles to its structure. Next, let's look at a method using geometric shapes that will allow us to design an infinite variety of characters.


To start with the design, we will place the basic geometric figures in such a way that they form the silhouette of the character. For this we will vary the sizes.

This exercise is also good for developing creativity; it motivates us to believe so many variations that seem impossible to finish.


When we have our character in shadows what we are going to do is lower the opacity of the layer so that in a new layer above it we can draw a sketch with more specific characteristics of the character such as hair, the shape of the eyes or even the clothes following the structure of the shadow, but without being so strict; getting out and giving curved shapes to the finishes is better.


In this step we will leave the shadows layer and focus on creating a layer below the sketch where we will dedicate ourselves to placing the flat shapes with color. In the next section we will see the tools that Clip Studio Paint has to facilitate the creation of characters and flat environments.

For the shadows we will use the contrast. Color contrast is the difference between two or more colors. This means that we will take a color, with different saturation/lightness or tone we can create a contrast between the shadow and the base of the color. For the girl below I used her base skin color, but turned the light down to act as a shadow.

Note: Over time we will be able to skip some steps and go directly adding the forms with color, for this it will be essential to know some tools that the Clip Studio Paint program has that will facilitate the creation. An example below:

3. Flat designs using Clip Studio Paint

There are tools within the program that will allow us to create a wide variety of flat works without the need to use brushes, in a practical and above all fast way.

► Figures

Making a perfect circle, a triangle, a rectangle or any other figure by hand would be very complicated, but it is because of this difficulty that this function exists. With this tool we can create any figure.

This tool is found in the "Tools" bar, its default shortcut is the key (U).

All shape sub tools have properties that add more convenience to them. Below I will explain some of these sub-tools; I will omit straight line and curve for its intuitive use.


The polyline allows us to create continuous lines and if we check either of the two fill options, the internal structure of the figure will be filled with a solid color with straight edges. The line/fill functions have three options, the first one originates structures filled with a chosen solid color, the second only solid lines and finally the last one equally fills the shape, but with two colors, the line of the secondary color and the fill of the color major.

The brush size, the opacity, the softness are self-explanatory.


These two are similar, they share functions between them, in addition, other functions are the same as the previous one, the only thing in which they differ with the previous tool is in the curve options, the four "Curve" options are divided into: Straight line , Spline, Quadratic Bézier and Cubic Bézier.

I use this tool to make shadow details or fill in spaces where the basic geometric figures do not cover due to their structural limitations.


Of all the shape sub tools, this is the most versatile because it allows us to draw freely and when we close the line the interior is automatically filled. One of the properties is the stabilizer, which will allow us to have more precision.


With this tool we can create, as its name says, ellipses or circles. To form a perfect circle we will use the SHIFT key while determining the size of the circle. On the other hand, if we want to modify it manually, we can do it with the "Proportion adjustment" option.

The options are the same for the rectangle, except that an option is added to it that allows rounding the corners.

"Adjust angle once decided" allows us to change the angle of the circle, this change is more noticeable when the proportions are not perfect.


Polygon allows us to create shapes with different numbers of vertices, as first we have the square and circle predetermined, but polygon is the option that allows us to change the number of vertices to form triangles, pentagons, etc. Another important function is “Corner Roundness”, as the name implies, it rounds the corners.


With these figures and the correct color combination we can recreate any structure, character, landscapes such as those exemplified in the color or object section in a simplified way, in flat style. What we need that we can only have and develop ourselves is our creativity; You have to practice to improve the combination and transformation of the basic forms.

The first is a GIF where it is observed more broadly how a face is built; while in the second I cover all the faces to show that the process is repeated for each character.

We can also create all kinds of bodies. The three examples below are made of pure circles and rectangles with rounded edges, but remember that this is not limited to the circle, with the other figures we can generate endless body structures.

► Layers


This function is found in the layer options, it is the immediate icon on the far left. This function is extremely useful because it gives us a non-destructive method to apply colors, so we can modify specific parts without damaging the rest, but of course, for this you have to have everything separated by layers.

Its function is to create a false clipping, that is, what is drawn on it will only be visible with respect to the limits of what is drawn on the layer to which it refers (the lower layer). If you remove the clipping, everything done will become visible, you can also apply several layers of clipping with respect to the same layer.


This function is found in the layer options, it is the icon of the square with a small lock.

It is similar to the previous one with the difference that this is a destructive method. With this function, new layers are not created, but when activated on that same layer, it can only be drawn on the pixels that have color, the transparent ones are completely ignored.


This function will help us to have order between the layers, something that flat has is that it generates many layers by having to create one for each object to be modified, in the end there are too many and it becomes difficult to find what we want, but if we put some in one folder (by clicking and dragging it to the folder) we will maintain an order.

Example: Put all the layers of the house in one folder and the landscape in another.

► Transform

Transform reduces/increases the size of the selection or change its place. To make use of this function, you must first select the part to be modified, then press the “Ctrl + T” keys or access the following path: Edit > Transform > Scale/rotate.

If we access the tool properties window we can find various options that allow us to change the mode, change the center of rotation, keep the original image, the scale, angle of rotation, adjust the position and the interpolation method. The GIF below shows the functions of the aforementioned options.

The free transformation, on the other hand, allows us to change the perspective of the object in order to couple it with the general perspective, we can access it by pressing the "Ctrl + T" keys, later we will right click inside the bounding box of the transformation, so In this way, a menu will appear where we will find the “Free transformation” option, another way is accessing the following path: Edit > Transform > Free transformation, or, in the properties of the transform tool, change the mode to “Free transformation”.

In the GIF below I demonstrate the options mentioned above that also share the normal transform.

► Grid

The grid is a tool that will allow us to draw geometric figures more precisely, with it we will have a better idea of the proportions. Grid is found in: View > Grid.

To edit the grid characteristics we will have to access the following route: View> Ruler/Grid settings. In this window we can change the size of the squares and the origin of the ruler/grid.

This tool is useful when we want to make buildings, it allows us to control their perspective. In the example below, I use the grid to create the lantern in my illustration.

► Illustration: Lighthouse

With the knowledge explained above we can create flat illustrations that look more complex. In the case of this illustration, I began by sketching the idea I had for a lighthouse, looking for references that inspired me. Then using the continuous curve and the grid I made the final lineart.

Using the “Mix Colors” palette tool that we can find in the following path: Window > Mix Colors, place the colors that you would use in the illustration. With it, colors can be mixed to generate new ones completely manually, just as it would be done in traditional analog media.

Note: At the beginning I left the entry to the TIP "How to create color palettes" where I approach this palette and "Color slider" that I will use later.

As a next step, create several layers below the lineart where with the help of the continuous curve, polyline, rectangle, circle and loop fill sub tools add the shapes with the colors following the lineart with them; while the opacity of the lineart layer is lowered.

After having the shapes defined with the color use one of the two functions “Snap to bottom layer” or “Lock pixel” to add the shadows; I also formed the shadows with geometric figures, mainly circles, ellipses and rectangles following the shape of the object.

The GIF shows the process and all the tools it uses, which are: Figure, transform, grid and the G brush.

The video below contains the same information as the previous GIF, only with more time so that the tools used for the texturing part can be more clearly appreciated.

The final result is the following.

► Textures

As the last point to address, we will talk about the textures. In order to give our illustration a better finish, we can add textures to it once finished; doing it is very simple. For this we will need a textured brush, we can get these by downloading them from CLIP STUDIO ASSETS. In this type of illustration, grainy brushes are normally used, such as the ones I leave below:

As a second step we create a layer above where we will paint, either with a lighter or darker color than the object we want to add the texture to. A tool that will help us to choose the colors more easily is: “Color slider”. We can access this function through the following path: Window > Color slider.

From this tool you can get the luminosity, saturation of a color that is selected from the color wheel. The first color icon corresponds to the primary color, the second to the secondary color, and the third is transparency (if used it acts as an eraser). To use it we will choose a color, then we will move the sliders to obtain the different saturations and luminosities of it. Now we just have to paint.

If we take the time to make each thing in the illustration on separate layers it will be easier to add the textures, since we can create a layer above and snap it to the layer below or block pixels, this will allow us to stay within the limits of the object avoiding staining the rest and then correcting it. The GIF shows the texturing process.

The video below contains the same information as the previous GIF, only with more time so that the tools used for the texturing part can be more clearly appreciated.

As a final result we have this illustration, you can add as many details as you want, but that depends on the tastes of each one.

Note: We can also use any type of brush to give texture. We don't have to just use filled shapes to color an illustration like I did with the lighthouse. The illustration below is a desert nightscape created solely with the tempera brush.


I hope that what you have seen in this tutorial is to your liking and helps you. Well, nothing to say. Thanks for coming this far! ପ(๑•̀ुᴗ•̀ु)* ॣ৳৸ᵃᵑᵏ Ꮍ৹੫ᵎ *ॣ

Vibrate high!!! See you no other time ( •⌄• ू ) ✧



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