Workshop: Creating A Flat Design Comic

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Introduction

Hello! I decided to record the full process of creating a short comic in a flat design style. The video is more of a in-depth workshop than a simple tutorial. I hope that it will be helpful and interesting to you!

Below, you will find a summary of the key takeaways in text form.

Conveying Information

In a Flat Design Style, you are able to convey information in a very abstracted and simple way. Compared to trying to do the same thing with a style featuring lineart, you should be able to achieve this goal faster while requiring a lot less precision, which is one of the big advantages of the style.

The goal is to give viewers some basic information and let them infer the meaning through context. Let’s take this panel as an example:

It’s not entirely clear what’s being depicted here. One might make a guess, but the limited color palette and very simple style make it ambiguous.

But by adding some easily recognizable cloud shapes, we are able to very clearly say: “This is a landscape, seen from above.”

The context is further clarified by depicting birds, which you would expect to see in such a setting. You are using elements that most viewers are familiar with to communicate an idea to them.

Intentional Imperfection

I recommend using a brush with a rough or textured edge, such as Zav Pencil.

In my opinion, this helps cover up imprecise shapes. Take this circle for example, the one on the left feels intentionally imperfect. You don’t expect something with a rough finish to look perfectly round, while you might do that for something with a smooth finish.

Creating a Color Set

In my example comic, I work with a very simple color palette. The main focus of this color palette is to create contrast between the two main characters (blue vs red) and their surroundings (blue and red vs gray).

Using this basic information, I define 3-4 variations per color. Essentially, I create a base color, a brighter color, a darker color, and a variety color. This generally gives me all the tools I need to set a variety of shapes apart from one another and convey such information as depth, distance, or light.

Once I have defined a color palette, I like to save it as a Color Set in Clip Studio Paint. To do so, open the menu “Window > Color Set”.

You can create a new Color Set by clicking the Wrench icon in the top right, which opens up this window:

You can now “Create new set”. You can, of course, also delete or duplicate existing sets, rename or rearrange them. Once you're done, you can click OK.

In your new set, you can add new colors by choosing one in the color wheel, then clicking the drop with a plus symbol icon in the bottom right.

When you start out, your Color Set window might look different than mine.
To get the same style, click the top left burger menu, and select “View > Medium List”.

With a Color Set, you will immediately have easy access to your most used colors across every document you work on.

Creating a Document

It makes sense to adapt your document size to the platform or medium you want to display your comic in. In this example, I’m creating the document in the default widescreen HD resolution 1920x1080.

However, if I ever want to print the comic, this is not going to be sufficiently big. I also don’t want to have to do math, however, which is why I first create the document in the final size that I want, and then later go to “Edit > Change Image Resolution” and simply enter a 3 in the “Scale” field. This makes the image resolution three times as large as I want it to be, which in most cases, should be sufficient for print.

Coming Up With a Comic Idea

I first start by trying to come up with an idea for the comic. Usually, for “Doom ‘n’ Gloom room”, I draw inspiration from personal live events. Recently, a coworker quit. I remember also reading about people quitting and being fired at Twitter. I tried to think of a way to present this situation in an abstracted, imaginative way.

I did a rough sketch of the comic. The goal with such a simple strip is to usually set up a situation in one panel, present a complication in another panel, and finally present a resolution or punch line in the final panel. Of course, each step can sometimes require more than one panel to fully convey the idea.

As you can see, I ended up changing things from the initial sketch quite a bit with the second panel. Sometimes this process just requires trial and error, and fine-tuning. Usually, I might try to finish fine-tuning a comic during the sketching process, but in the case of this workshop, I simply went ahead and improvised everything on the fly.

Creating Panels

Clip Studio Paint has a built-in feature to create comic panels. It’s called the “Frame Border” tool. I typically use the “Create frame > Rectangle Frame” sub tool to create panels.


Keep in mind that you can pick a color for the border of the frame. You do not need a border, and could deselect “Draw border”. However, in this comic, I wanted no visible border, but to still have a rough outline to the entire panel. Therefore, I selected the background color of the canvas for the comic, and then selected the brush I used for drawing in the “Brush shape” section, and selected a large enough Brush Size where the texture would be noticeable. This way, the style is cohesive.

Later on, when I decided I wanted the second panel to be split into two smaller panels, I used the “Cut frame border” tool.


Keep in mind that when you use this tool, there are different “Dividing methods” that either ensure both panels have the same content, or the newly created panels are now blank.

When creating a panel, you may notice a blue overlay over everything but the panel. You can turn off this option in the Layer window, by deselecting the “Show Mask Area” option:

Tip 1: Organize & Name Layers

When drawing the comic, I would implore you to separate the majority of elements in a panel into separate layers and name them. I know this can seem like a chore (and I don’t always do it myself, if I’m tired or in a hurry), but it’s a huge help in allowing you flexibility in changes later on, and identifying the layers where a change needs to happen.

Tip 2: Two Ways of Adding Shading

While you usually don’t need shading in a Flat Design Style comic, sometimes it helps clarify things or convey specific lighting necessary for the narrative. There are two ways of adding shading:

Option A: After having drawn the thing you want to shade, select “Lock transparent pixels”. This means that you can only draw over previously drawn elements on this layer. Now, I can add the shading in another color.

Option B: Alternatively, create a new layer for the shading, and select “Clip to Layer Below”. That way, you have more flexibility over the shading, and can also use Layer Blending effects such as “Multiply”.

Since this comic has such a simple style and a limited color palette, Option A was a little faster and easier for me. Overall, I would recommend Option B, however.

Tip 3: Use References

For the background of the landscape, I used a little bit of reference. An easy way to make use of reference images in Clip Studio Paint is to open the “Sub View” window. Here, you can open one or multiple reference images (by clicking the folder button in the bottom right corner), navigate through them, pick colors from them, and even rotate or mirror them.

Tip 4: Use Materials for Recurring Elements

Sometimes, in comics, you might want to reuse common elements. Especially in Flat Design, with a simpler style and no lineart, it might be less noticeable when elements are reused, and the comic can still come across as hand drawn and natural looking.

An easy way to do this in Clip Studio Paint is to use the “Materials” feature. Open this Window by going to Window > Material > and then simply selecting any of those options. This opens a library, where a few preset categories and elements are already found.

You may create your own categories by creating folders or subfolders. For example, I’ve created a “Comic Characters” folder in the “Image material” category, and subfolders for various characters.

Once you have created a drawing that you want to reuse, simply drag it into the corresponding folder. This can be a single layer, or even a Folder with multiple elements. You could even construct an entire character, such as I have done here, and then simply change things, such as creating a new facial expression, or transforming the body parts to create a new pose.

One big advantage of this feature is that you save time by having a library of elements you can always access. You do not need to look for a specific comic page where you used one element, and then copy and paste it into a different file. It really is a huge timesaver if you aren’t insistent on drawing every little thing in your comic by hand every time.

Rearranging to Webtoon

After finishing the comic in the widescreen format for Twitter, I decided I wanted to also rearrange the comic to suit publication on Webtoon.

Using the Option “Edit > Change Canvas Size”, I was able to rearrange the canvas to be tall, rather than wide. The exact dimensions don’t matter much, as we will change them during the export process.

Now, I rearrange the panels using the “Move Layer” tool. If necessary, I could also change the size with the “Edit > Transform > Scale/Rotate” tool.

A helpful tool when arranging the layers is the “On-screen area” view option.

With it, I can see which parts of the comic are in view on a typical phone screen. Everything else is a bit dim. This helps me space out the panels in a way that lets me create rhythm and suspense. For example, I make the reader scroll down a bit after the third panel, before they get to the punchline, making it feel like more of a surprise.

After I am done rearranging the comic, I can use “File > Export to webtoon” to automatically have the comic sliced up into multiple images, while also selecting a maximum image width, such as 800 px. This way, the images are perfectly suited to be uploaded to Webtoon.

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to follow along with my process of creating a simple comic. I hope the workshop helped you. If you have any questions, let me know.

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