Fantasy Backgrounds for Beginners





Hello! Welcome to this new TIPS. This time I will address some knowledge and tools that are required to compose fantasy backgrounds. I will explain some rules of composition, what we can use in a background, the colors and finally, tools that the CLIP STUDIO PAINT program has that we can use to make our backgrounds dynamic. Although examples are used in pixel art, all these composition rules and tools can be used in other styles. Also, at the end I leave a quick guide to pixel art. I hope you find it useful, without further ado…

Let's start!!

0. Inspiration

The first and most fundamental thing to create fantasy backgrounds, and in general, any illustration, is to find the subject we are going to talk about. To find inspiration we can ask ourselves a series of questions, such as:

What kind of fantasy background do I want to draw? A desert? The sea? What kind of environment is it going to represent?

When we already have our theme in mind, I recommend making a series of thumbnails quickly capturing various variations of our ideas. In this way we can try several ideas finding the one that we like the most.

1. Composition

The composition is the way in which we distribute the elements that make up the theme of the illustration. It is a medium based on schemes and compositional laws by which we can tell a story, making it visually striking, captivating and dynamic. The laws of composition are not absolute, in the end we all have a particular way of understanding life based on the experiences and places where we grew up, but without a doubt they are a good universal reference that will allow us to transmit emotions, ideas and dreams to anyone in the world. world.

A section is dedicated to each of the rules here, but this does not mean that they are mutually exclusive.

► Visual weight


It is a balanced composition that is pleasing to the eye, calming, but boring. If we were to divide our canvas into two equal parts, we would have to distribute the elements in such a way that both sides have the same weight. In addition, we must respect the empty spaces so that the illustration can breathe.


On the other hand, asymmetric compositions (unbalanced) are characterized by having one side with more weight than the other. This type of composition gives us strength and dynamism.

► Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is based on the golden rule, the golden ratio, but is easier to use. This rule establishes that regardless of the size of the canvas we can divide it into two thirds of the vertical and the horizontal; these intercessions create four points, in these points it is more pleasant to place our focal point.

Next I leave a useful material, they are image materials that contain the golden rule and the thirds; ready for them to arrest her to the canvas and scale her as they see fit.

We can also place other focal points that are subordinate to the main one, so we know that we can place other elements in the other points of interest. In addition, it is not necessary that the elements of interest be placed right at the point of interception, we can place the elements in a sector close to the point.

There are other forms of composition that we can use to make our illustrations more visually attractive. They are: Diagonal, triangle and ninety degrees.

As for landscapes, it is not advisable to place the focal point in the center of the illustration, because this area is considered a dead space, the objects that surround it lose relevance, if we want the viewer to fix their attention on some periphery it will not be possible because the object in the center will overshadow the rest.

Illustrations with reflections on the surface of the water often break the first rule about the horizon in the first third of the height. This, in many cases, is placed in the center, which highlights the symmetry, since both halves of the illustration, the upper and the lower, are very similar, which makes it visually attractive.

► Lines that guide the gaze

The lines of the composition allow us to guide the viewer's gaze so that it travels through specific points of the composition where the most important elements are found. From the point of view of the composition, the rivers, the roads, the furrows in the field, the balanced mountain slopes are interesting.

Lines in S are composed of two or more turns and if they start from the edge of the illustration, which is very common, they guide the viewer's gaze from the edge to the end of the line. Of another type are the converging lines that generally extend to the horizon. Its convergence, and thus also its effect. As in the previous case, the viewer automatically follows them and their gaze slides to their intersection. Some important lines that we must take into account are the following:

• HORIZONTAL LINE: It gives us stability, rest, serenity and calm.

• VERTICAL LINE: Contrary to the previous one, this one gives us the sensation of instability and elegance.

• DIAGONAL: The diagonals represent force and movement.

Anything strategically located can serve to guide the gaze; For example, these clouds, due to their curvature, seem to point to the center.

► Framing

If the main object is far away, it is recommended to supplement it. The framing consists of placing our object of interest and then surrounding it with elements that focus the viewer's gaze towards that point, for example, some areas can be added around the main object, which are generally trees in nature, rocks, clouds, etc. flowers etc

2. Depth

The use of the representation of depth is useful for us to show planes, in this way we avoid that our illustration looks flat, with all the elements at the same level.

► Drawings of the illustration

Blueprints are the most important thing to build any scene. The plans help us to build the elements of the illustration in order of importance. For the closest plane in the viewpoint, it is called "Foreground"; the second closest is called «Second plane» and the third furthest «Third plane», so consecutively with the number of planes that are desired.

TIP: It is recommended to draw each plan on a different layer for better order and workflow. If you need to use several layers for the same plane, you can put all those layers in a folder.

In the layer options we have an icon in the upper left called "Change palette color". When clicking, a drop-down menu will appear with some default colors, but we can also choose our own colors by clicking on the last option in the menu.


The differences in size, color and texture of the planes give the sensation of depth and distance. It is important to take into account on which plane of depth the focus of attention will be drawn, so that in this way the previous and subsequent planes guide you to it; This is why we must manage levels of detail, the elements close to us must have details, while those that are behind our focus of interest must consecutively lose details. Otherwise, if we draw everything in detail it will be exhausting for the viewer to look at.

► Atmospheric perspective

The atmospheric perspective indicates how an object moves away from the viewer, when moving away we see this object with reduced clarity, value and saturation. Remote objects appear to have a cooler temperature. Basically, it looks like this. The colors in the foreground are very saturated and dark, while those that follow in the background lose saturation, so we must see them with reduced clarity, value and saturation.

We should not place the colors of the planes with very light or very dark gradients, as shown below, where the image on the left has little saturated grays, while on the right we find many blacks - saturated grays. If we do this, the image becomes unreadable.

The harmonious way to mark the planes would be to choose the colors in a wider range of gradients to vary the depth of the colors.

The objects that are in the farthest part will have the color that corresponds to the atmosphere. As explained above, the furthest colors are light and unsaturated, even losing a large part of the object in the background color.

If the atmosphere is not managed well, we will obtain a mixed result. The blue atmosphere of the left thumbnail calms us down and guides us to the focal point, while on the right there is no link between colors, besides being all very saturated, they all seem important, therefore, we don't know where to put our eyes.

Correctly handling the colors of the atmosphere will help us to guide the viewer's gaze through the composition. In the case of this illustration, the atmosphere guides us to the center.

► Size depth

Placing different sizes helps us to focus an illustration. The small, medium, and large shapes are parameters we use to tell how close or far an object is. The biggest things are the ones that are closest and the small ones are in the distance. Let's look at some examples: the illustration on the left has no depth, while the image on the right shows depth in size and color.

In CLIP STUDIO PAINT we can use the transform tool; We can change the size of the same object; when changing the size we must move it away from the object that is in the foreground. To access the transformation we will use the shortcut “CTRL + T”.

With the transformation we can rotate, scale or put into perspective.

On the other hand, as we saw in the previous section, the objects that are far away on a plane away from the background must have muted colors; To achieve this we can use the gradient maps.


The function is found in the following path: Layer > New Tonal Correction Layer > Gradient Map.

When we open it, a new layer will be generated above the active one when opening the map window. The gradient affects all layers below it. Within this window we choose the gradient that best suits us. When we close the gradients window we must adjust it to the lower layer so that in this way it only affects that layer. We can also put several layers in a folder and apply the gradient map to this folder by attaching it to it, so the gradient will be applied equally to all the layers in the folder.

In the entry of the following TIP you can find a detailed explanation of how to add, create and modify the gradients of a gradient map.

If we leave the gradient as it is, we will not be able to couple the objects to the atmosphere and with this we will not give the effect of depth; To solve it, we can use two functions that the program has.

1. OPACITY: This function is located within the layer options. We can change the values by moving the percentage bar or by changing the value numerically in the box directly to the side of the opacity bar. Using it we can modulate the percentage of visibility of the gradient layer.

2. BLENDING MODES: There are 28 blending modes, we can find these in the layer options. We must know that the combination modes give dimming effects, brightening effect, contrasting effect and color changing effect. In the entry I mentioned above "Tools to add color" I talked extensively about the combination modes.


Playing with our conception of reality we can draw objects that are normally small in more monstrous ways, this will give the ideal of this in an unusual, magical environment.

For example, mushrooms in nature are smaller than rabbits, but if we reverse their size we get an otherworldly environment.

► Color contrast

Using a color that contrasts with the predominant colors of the composition undoubtedly attracts the viewer's eye. The image below is a great example, for the central flower a more vibrant color was selected than the other flowers; the result will be that the viewer's eyes will focus on this point.


This type of contrast is characterized by making background elements dark, while the focal point is light. In the following image, the viewer's eyes travel all over the canvas, but one way or another they end up falling in the center, since the white contrasts with all the other shades of violet.

To change the lightness of our illustrations we can use the tonal correction layers, specifically: “Hue/saturation/lightness” or “Tone curve”. These two tools can be found in the following path: Layer > New correction layer (J).


As its own name says, with its controls we can change the tone, contrast, and saturation of the colors that are in the currently selected layer. If we put each color on a separate layer we can modify them separately.

Playing with the saturation of the different planes we can add depth as explained above and with the luminosity we can obtain a spectacular contrast, in addition to allowing us to modify the tone, although I must say that this function is limited, let's say that its degree of editing is basic; the tone curve, on the other hand, gives us a complete experience.


In the interface we find that the left side controls the light and the right the darkness.

The interface is as follows. As we can see, the output is on the left and the input is on the bottom, this means that the curve represents the shadows (1), the midtones (2) and the reflections (3). By creating points on the curve and moving them to the left we will get highlights, and to the right shadows. The center is the halftones.

At each end of the curve there are two points, the first point is the brightness (top right), if we drag it down it will start to get darker. The point at the bottom left is the dark, if we drag it up it starts to lighten.

By playing with the parameters we can modify the luminosity of our composition. If what we want is that it only be applied to one layer, what we will do is attach the correction layer to the lower layer. Clicking on any interval of the center line will create new points that will allow us to precisely control the color parameters.

In the upper left part we will find a drop-down menu, the default option is RGB. When displaying the top menu we find other options such as: Red, green and blue.

With the RGB mode we can change the lightness and saturation, but with the other three we will be able to do a color correction.

By changing the option we have to:

RGB: Controls the white/black tones.
Red: Controls red/cyan tones.
Green: Controls green/magenta tones.
Blue: Controls blue/yellow tones.

In the graph we will find that the origin of the colors is changed, above red, green and blue; below cyan, magenta and yellow; while in RGB there are only blacks and whites. You can add as many points as you need, the more the better, so we have greater control of the tones.


With the bokeh effect we can achieve a visual effect that guides the viewer's gaze. When taking pictures, objects close to the lens or far away can be blurred so that the main focus is on a particular object. You can do the same in your illustrations, you can do this with the blur tool that Clip Studio Paint has. In particular, to make this effect "Gaussian Blur" is used.

To access the Gaussian blur you have to go to the following path: Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

We select the desired element with any of the selection tools. In the menu that appears we can modulate the blur level.

Note: It is not recommended to use this effect for pixel art, but for any other that deserves it; It is an effect focused on realism.

Also the menu has other types of blurs such as motion, radial and anti-aliasing. They are used in the way described above and give the effect as its name says. For example, if we want to give the effect of falling leaves or rain, we use motion blur. In the window of this effect we can change the angle of the movement, the degree of blur and its direction.

3. Use of color

When a multitude of similar colors appear in the scene, we feel more comfortable than when there is a confusing mix of several disparate colors. For this reason it is good to know the color harmonies, using them correctly we can create palettes that give credibility to our illustrations. There are five important harmonies, let's see what they are:

A. COMPLEMENTARY: Complementary colors are those that are opposite on the color wheel, this combination causes a contrast.

B. ANALOGUES: 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.

C. ADJACENT COMPLEMENTARY: For this harmony we take a color which we will call main and later we take two adjacent tones to its complementary.

D. TRIAD: Three equidistant colors are used to create a harmonic triad.

E. MONOCHROMATIC: 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.


In pixel art, an immense variety of colors is not needed, with four or five colors for an object is more than enough, while in other illustrations we can use more. Let's see some tips for choosing them.

1. BASE COLORS: It is recommended to use colors that are not so saturated; what saturated colors have is that they bother the eye too much. Choosing colors that are in the center of the color triangle are good.

2. LIGHTS AND SHADOWS: To choose the shadows we will use cold colors, while for the lights we will use warm colors. If we divide the color wheel in half, we get that the warm ones go from red to yellow and the cool ones go from purple to green.

WARM COLORS: They transmit 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.

COLD COLORS: 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.


If you want to give your illustrations a more whimsical effect, I recommend using colors that are not so easily seen in nature. When we think of a futuristic city, neon colors come to mind, with the forests we think of green, with the desert we evoke yellow and with the sea we have blue. If we get out of these schemes, we will get atmospheres out of this world.

We can start by painting with typical colors and then change the atmosphere to a more mystical one using the different correction layers that we saw earlier. If we combine several layers we can obtain better results.

We can also change the blend mode to get more results and the other correction layers like “Color Balance” and “Level Correction”.


If you are not good at choosing colors, you can use the color maps; these are a table with different gradients or random colors. They can be obtained at CLIP STUDIO ASSETS. To have them you have to download the desired map, go to materials, take the map and drag it to the “Color set” palette. Voila, now you can use that choice of predefined colors.

If you do not have the “Color Set” palette open, you can do it from: Window > Color Set.

4. Fantasy effects

The glow of lights or spells give the illusion of seeing something magical, which is why highlighting the lights is of the utmost importance. Let's see, we have this fairy, she looks good, but a bit bland, what can we do to make her more magical?


In a new layer with the combination mode in “Overlay” we will apply particles. Thus it seems that resplendent lights emerge and surround her.


There are objects that emit a certain glow, in my case, the sword and crown that the fairy has should shine. To achieve this effect we will create a layer with the combination mode in "Overlay", then with the airbrush we will paint the first ring of glow in the surrounding area.

For the second glow we will generate a layer with the mode in “Hard Light”; once again we will apply where needed. Ready.

By adding these light effects we not only highlight the shapes, but also give a fantastic focus.

Note: If the effect is excessively flashy we can lower the opacity of the layer or blur with the blur tool to reduce the intensity.

5. Quick Guide to Pixel Art

As such, this section is not directly concerned with how to make fantasy backgrounds, but if you don't know anything about pixel art and want to dive into it, this section will be useful for you. With what you have learned previously added to this, you will be able to make endless pixel art fantasy backgrounds.

► Tool Settings


When we create our canvas we must consider that in pixel art when working the canvases must be small, with little resolution; These small resolutions are what give it that characteristic pixelation. We can start with dimensions of "150 x 150" or "200 x 200", but I advise not to go beyond "400 x 400", then as necessary we can scale the canvas. Another thing to keep in mind is that the units must be in "px". A resolution at 72 dpi is good.


The grid will help us to have a better perception of the canvas, after all we are working with pixels, this grid will help us to visualize pixels with dimensions 1 x 1.

To open the grid we must access the following path: View > Grid (G).

In the same route to open the grid we will find the option: "Rule/grid settings (N)", this option allows us to configure the grid. By default, the values are larger than we need. For the pixel art style we will change the number of divisions and intervals to 1, the result of this grid is perfect for what we want to do.


Pixel art is not as realistic or requires as many colors and textures to look good. For this style we will manage the tools: Shape, selection, hard brushes, fill, rubber, rulers, combination modes, tonal correction layer and gradients. For some of them we will have to change the settings to make them work in pixel art.

1. SMOOTHING: We must remove the smoothing to have a better perception of the line. In the image below we have: Left with anti-aliasing, right without anti-aliasing.

For shape, selection, brushes, fill and rubber we must change the smoothing to "Nothing". In the tool properties of each of them will be the smoothing adjustment.

If this option is not found we can bring it to the palette from the configuration. First, we will open the configuration of the tool by clicking on the wrench that is in the lower right part; A window will open, in it we will go to the left section, there we will find the "Smoothing" option, we click. Now on the right we have a small box, clicking on it will show an eye, indicating that the function can now be viewed in the tool properties.

2. TRANSFORM: Due to the nature of the tool focused on modifying large images, it is normal that when transforming an object the tool softens the edges, but for pixel art this does not work because it blurs the transformation.

To solve it we will select a part of the drawing, then with "CTRL + T" we will open the transformation, in the tool properties palette, at the end we will find the option "Interpolation mode", in the drop-down menu we must change the option to " Defined borders (nearest neighbor)”.

3. Regarding the rules, combination modes, tonal correction layer and gradients, we can use these as they work.


As we saw at the beginning, the canvases for pixel art are very small, when we export it the result will be very small; to solve this you have to scale the image.

To begin we will go to the following route: Edit> Change image resolution.

A window will open, there we will change the value of the scale, by default it will appear at 1; we will change the scale in whole numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…) in order to keep the proportions. Also, we will change the interpolation method to “Defined Edges (Nearest Neighbor)”. We will leave the resolution at 72 dpi. Done, now we can export in a larger size.

Note: A larger scale of “400 x 400” should only be done at the end of the illustration, otherwise redrawing will lose the pixel effect.

► Fundamentals of Pixel Art


When we start in pixel art, it is normal to make charged lines, these lines are known as doubles; this means that we paint two pixels instead of one. In order for our work to look good, it is recommended that all the lines look clean, with no more than one pixel. If it is not achieved, we can erase the excess with the rubber in a very small size.

Line quality should be taken into consideration if you are working on small objects that require an outline, but if you are working on large elements that don't require a lineart, then you don't have to worry about it, because the fill won't show up.


As such we cannot mix the colors as it would be done in traditional painting, what is done in pixel art is to give texture. We achieve this texture by making patterns between the colors, that is, leaving a couple of pixels of one color and the consequent ones of another.

We can do it with default brushes that are useful to us, but I recommend the following pack of brushes that you can download from CLIP STUDIO ASSETS:

6. Use of assets

To create any object in pixel art style we must simplify its shape as much as possible, but there are times when we are not good at some shape or texture. In this section we will learn how to use materials.


Materials can be shaped brushes, image materials, or 3D primitives. To get them we will go to CLIP STUDIO ASSETS, once there we will look for what we want and download it. In my case I will use a whale for the example, but you can find cars, castles, houses, cities, etc.


The downloaded materials will appear in the right panel of the program in the materials section, specifically in the "Downloads" folder. To add them we must select the material, drag it to the canvas and drop it.

The material will be large compared to our very small canvas, that's why we will scale the material to the size we need.


Furthermore, using the 3D primitives we can create our own structures. The 3D primitives are found in: Materials > 3D > Primitives.

As in the previous one, we will drag the primitive onto the canvas. When clicking on the figure, a series of arrows will appear with which we can rotate the figure, change the size, move, etc. By coupling several primitives we can form structures.


More than editing, we are going to paint over it. First, if necessary we will lower the opacity of the material layer, second, we will create a new layer on top where we will paint the shape and colors using the techniques explained above. Done, we already have a whale easily in pixel art format. With the 3D primitives we will do the same.

If our object is a 3D material to which we can change the angle of view, it is perfect for scenarios, we just have to rotate it to the angle we want.


For the textures we should consider the use of brushes downloaded from CLIP STUDIO ASSETS. Using keywords (for example: flowers) we can find brushes of almost any texture. Among so many we can find some to make landscapes, such as:

CLOUDS: For the clouds I usually use the following brushes.


7. Workflow


PHASE 1: Sketch of the landscape. It occurred to me that I could make a small island with a castle surrounded by water and clouds. For the composition of the elements I used the rule of thirds. Regarding the castle I used a stock image that I downloaded from CLIP STUDIO ASSETS.

Paint a layer below everything in gray. It is good to have a coat in this color, it helps us to see the elements in a good way.

Phase 2: Base colors. Use a gradient layer to change the color of the castle to better fit the atmosphere. Then, with a brush, I painted the other elements with their base color. Use a pink/yellow color palette, the kind of colors that leave a whimsical impression on me, colors that are not easily seen in nature.

Phase 3: Once I have an idea of where to place the shadows, I begin to place the shadow shapes.

Phase 4: Effects. Group all the cloud layers in one layer, then duplicate it with "CTRL +C" and "CTRL +V"; I inverted the layer with the transform tool (CTRL + T) and lowered the opacity to give it that effect of reflection in the water.

Phase 5: Details. Using various brushes, add texture to the castle and background, plus embellishments like stars and moons. Remember to have everything separated by layers and folders.

After adding a few more details, I got this result. If we want to change the color of the composition, highlight a color or correct the lights and shadows, we can use the correction layer functions that are explained in previous sections.

I made another version, but this is more...


For this scene I came up with a tree on top of the mountain. For this I started making a gradient with disparate amounts between them as a background. Then I started drawing the mountains and the tree, for this one I chose pink and purple colors.

Following this I drew the clouds, I put the details to the tree and finally the stars. I leave the process in a GIF below; It is not complete because I forgot to activate the timelapse. Sorry.

As a result we have:


As I said at the beginning of the presentation, making thumbnails of the illustration plans helps us materialize the idea we have, in this case I chose to make a huge marine dress in a fantasy world of giant mushrooms.

For the composition I used the rule of thirds. I start by making a sketch, locating the elements as I see fit. My sketches are never detailed, with the color I give it shape.

What I do next is lower the opacity of the sketch. Now, with several layers underneath, I start to paint the blocks of color. All by parts. In this case I started with the sea.

To define the shadows it is always good to use the gray scale, in my case, when I made the thumbnail at the beginning, I chose the light and dark values. In the circle of colors I selected those that were far from the gray ones. I want it to look like a seabed. Using a gradient map, I switch to grayscale to better see the light and dark values.

To brighten the water use a lighter color of green, with the airbrush paint the direction of the light and then blur it with the blur tool, this way the change doesn't become so abrupt. Also, with brushes to split them I gave that effect like bubbles.

Now add the girl and the background. For the background I drew several mushrooms using the principle of depth by size, the closest ones are big, while the ones in the background are small. The colors follow the principle that objects in the foreground have dark colors, while those in the distance are unsaturated. Finally, add the sea monster tentacles; to give it contrast with the background, I made a red glow using the airbrush and the blend mode “Dodge”.

Since I don't really like how the colors turned out, I'm going to use “Tone Curve” to change their values.

Using the layer mask I erase the parts that I modify the tone curve that I don't need. The layer mask is the white thumbnail that appears on the right side of the layer.

The layer mask is the white thumbnail that appears on the right side of the layer. If we click on the white thumbnail we can delete sections of the gradient; depending on the type of eraser we can obtain hard or soft edges.

As a result we have:


I wanted to add the timelapse of the castle process, but I forgot to activate the recording. Too bad, but good. I hope that what you have seen in this tutorial is to your liking and helpful, sorry for being so long. 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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