Layer property is a feature that allows us to configure layers to create effects, enhance artwork, access relevant tools, and make it convenient to edit in non-destructive ways.
I recommend watching the video:
Settings available depend on the selected layer type. As you know, there are many types of layers available in CSP. Here is a short summary of what is available for different layers.
Where to Find
Layer property window is usually can be found on top of the Layer window.
But, if you can’t find it, you can always go to Window > Layer Property and click. The window will appear.
Changing Default Settings
If you want to register the changes in settings as default, there’s a three-line icon on the top left corner of the Layer Property window. Click it, then click “Save as default…” A window will appear.
The effects you don’t use will be greyed out and you can choose which effects default settings you want to change. Click OK when done.
Border Effect creates an outline. It’s available in any layers you can draw on, along with 3D layers, Folder, Text, and Images.
There are two types of outlines featured. Note that you can only use one of them at a time.
The first one is Edge. It's one of my favorite Layer Property features. Edge creates a solid uniform outline.
You can adjust the thickness with the slider or by typing in the number you want.
You can change the color of the outline, too, by double-clicking the color bar and picking the color. Or, if you have picked the color, you can click the Paint tool icon next to the color bar.
The anti-aliasing is on by default, but I always turn it off when creating an outline for pixel art.
Edge doesn’t only outline the outmost part of the object, though. It outlines anything next to transparent areas. If you want to create an outline for only the outer part, make sure to fill it in first. If the layers are separate, you can try making interesting results with it, too.
This effect is versatile. You can use it to:
1. Create a border around stickers. Whether you want to "cut border" for your physical stickers, create digital stickers, or create a sticker-ish look for photobooth-style photo edits, it can be done in under a minute.
2. Separate objects when stacked. Note that the objects should be in separate layers.
3. Clean up cheat. Some artists like to manually draw and erase the thickness of their line art, which can result in tiny stray dots. Using colored Edge can make the strays pop. It’s a quick way to find and erase them. Turn off Edge when done.
4. Separate objects of interest from the background. Happens all the time when working on black-and-white comics. The character has black areas, and the background is mostly black. I’d select the character’s layer folder and click Edge. Now the character and the background are separated properly. Of course, you can use it for colored illustrations, too.
5. Quick line art for minor details like hair on the back, accessories and effects.
6. Multi-borders by using Folders. Use Edge on a layer, then put the layer inside a folder. Use Edge on the folder to create second border. Put the folder inside another folder, use Edge. And one more time. There’s no limit to how many borders you can make. And you can always adjust the borders whenever..
7. Gradient or Patterned border. Duplicate the layer, move the duplicate down, and use Edge. Put the duplicate layer inside a folder. Create a new layer for gradient above the duplicate’s folder and clip it. Use Gradient to create the Gradient border. You can also add patterns to the border using the same steps.
If Edge is solid, Watercolor Edge is a blurred outline and a bit transparent. The color of Watercolor Edge cannot be freely changed. It has more settings than Edge.
"Area" higher number means the edge’s color bleeds more inside the object instead of expanding outside.
"Darkness" is how dark the grey area inside and outside of the object. The higher it is, the darker.
"Blurring Width" determines how crisp or blurry the edge of the object would be. The higher the more blurry.
"Opacity" determines the "Darkness" and "Blurring Width’s" intensity in the final result.
Some usage examples:
1. Shadow. It’s good for minimal blurry shadow.
2. Subtle colored shadow or glow effect. Duplicate the layer, and move the duplicate below. Use Watercolor Edge and adjust the settings, then turn on Layer Color and pick the color you want.
3. Subtle 3D Effect. Moderate to high Area, moderate to high Darkness, and control it with Opacity.
4. Watercolor Edge. As someone who dont like watercolor edge setting on brushes I can turn off that setting on my brush and turn on Watercolor Edge later if I want the look.
5. Mix it with Edge. While you can’t use both Edge and Watercolor Edge on the same layer, by using Folders you can use both as much as you like.
Another favorite of mine, it turns images and 3D objects into halftones.
Let’s take a look at the settings.
"Frequency" specifies how many lines of screen tones per inch are there. The bigger the number, the more the lines and thus the smaller the dots.
"Density" determines if there will be whites in the screentone. “Use color of image” will fill the gaps between the tones with white. Even if there’s transparency in the image and the dots are further apart, you still can see there are whites around the dots. “Use brightness of image” turns the white into transparent.
Both have their own merits. For example, I would choose “Use color of image” when using multiple halftone layers in comics to avoid moire. But, for effects, I’d use “Use brightness of image” because the white area is in the way.
Click the plus icon next to Density to unearth two more options. When on, “Reflect layer opacity” will adjust the size of the tones to reflect the lightness of the colors when you reduce the opacity. You can see in the picture that as I reduce the opacity, the dots become smaller. The halftones are still solid black.
When “Reflect layer opacity” is turned off, the size of the tones won’t change. Instead, the tones become transparent
Posterization is useful if you want to turn a full-color image or 3D objects into halftones.
It simplifies the colors into groups. You can adjust the gray nodes in the slider by dragging it horizontally or by clicking on the numbers to change it. You can also remove a node by dragging it out of the slider. Add new nodes by clicking below the slider. So, you get to choose how many shades there will be and how dark the shades are.
Dot settings are all about the pattern of the halftones.
You can choose the type of patterns from the drop-down menu. There’s a lot of them available.
If you click the plus icon, you can find more settings. "Angle" rotates patterns. The Angle is 45 degrees by default. Other angles I often use are 0 and 90 degrees.
"Noise size" and "Noise factor" are only available for Noise patterns. Noise size works in a similar way as Frequency.
Noise factor determines the length of the noise. The higher the number, the longer the noise lines are.
Dot position settings are to move the dots. X for horizontal and Y for vertical.
The Tone effect is black and white by default, but you can change it into any color with Layer Color.
I use Tone effect as screentone for comics, giving a pop art look in artworks, for effects and background.
Layer color, as its name suggests, changes the color of a whole layer. Its default color is blue. I mainly use Layer color for finished sketches and lower the opacity to 16%. Then, create a new layer for line art and draw away.
This is one of my favorite Layer property effects and the one I use almost every time I draw.
You can change the color manually by clicking the bar or using color in the color setting and with the bucket icon.
But, that’s not the only thing it can be used for. If you click the plus icon, you can find that there are two types of colors available. "Layer color" is for the darkest colors in the picture and "Sub color" is for the lightest. Sub color is white by default, but you can change it the same way you do Layer color.
It can be used as a pseudo Gradient map to create effects such as sepia, newspaper, retro, and simple Lo-fi.
You can also take it to another level to color grade your art.
Duplicate the layer, and leave the duplicate above the original. Tweak the Layer color of the duplicate with the color you want. Then, use Opacity and Blending modes to create the desired look.
You can decide on the basic Expression color when you create a new canvas and that will be the default Expression color of the layers in that canvas.
For example, if your chosen Basic Expression Color is “Color” you’ll find the new layers you create have “Color” as their Expression color. Same goes with Gray and Monochrome.
Expression color in Layer property makes it possible to change the colors displayed on the selected layer.
"Color" means full color. "Gray" means black, white, and shades of gray. "Monochrome" means black and white, without anti-aliasing.
In Gray mode, there are Black and White boxes next to the drop-down menu. Both are on by default.
The black box represents the black and shades of gray areas and white represents white areas. If you only turn one of them on, the opposite color will be gone, leaving only the color you choose and transparent areas.
Monochrome has the same boxes next to the drop-down menu. In this case, the black box only represents black areas. And white box, white areas. No transparency.
If the layer’s original Expression color is Color and you change it to either Gray or Monochrome or if the Expression color is Gray and you change it to Monochrome, “(preview)” appears next to the words “Expression color”
This is because there's information loss when you change the Expression color. CSP gives you a chance to see the result first. If you want to make the change permanent, there’s a button at the bottom saying “Apply expression color of preview”. Press it to make the change permanent. You can always use Undo if you change your mind, though.
Only for the Raster layer, Monochrome also has two slider settings. Color threshold determines how large the areas of black and white are, the lower the number, the bigger the white area, and vice versa. If you turn on only the Black box and the number of Color threshold to 255, the image will be completely black. The opposite is true with the white box.
Alpha threshold only works if there are transparent areas in the image. The higher the number, the bigger the supposed transparent area, and vice versa.
Lastly, "Reflect layer opacity" works the same way as the one in Tone effect. When turned on, the colors will be gone somewhere along the line as you lower the opacity. When off, the colors become transparent instead.
Expression color Gray is invaluable for value studies. You can also create a washout effect by duplicating the layer before turning the Expression color into Gray, and adjusting the opacity or Blending Mode as needed.
When finishing an illustration, I sometimes use Monochrome to increase the contrast of the darks.
1. Duplicate the layer(s) of the part of the image, merge if multi-layered. In this case, the character layer.
2. Then turn its Expression color into Monochrome, turn on the Black box only
3. Adjust the threshold sliders as needed.
4. “Apply expression color of preview” then change back the Expression color to Color.
5. Use Gaussian blur, and lastly, adjust the opacity of the layer as needed.
6. Give the new shadow colors with Layer color if you want.
Of course, the shadow part can also be used by itself.
Display Decrease Color
Display Decrease Color is the Expression Color for 3D objects, image files, textures, and File objects. The settings are exactly the same.
The main difference is the effect cannot be made permanent, unlike Expression color.
Tool navigation displays tools and sub tools that are relevant to the selected layer. Build in Quick Access, or so to speak.
Tool navigation only appears on certain layers. It won’t appear if you choose multiple layers at a time.
Overlay Texture is, as the name suggests, a quick way to add texture to your artwork. It produces quite different results from using Blending mode Overlay. I like "Overlay Texture" effect better.
The "strength" slider determines the intensity of the texture. The higher the more intense. It’s on 30 by default and works well as is.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can use higher numbers and combine the effect with Blending modes to create unique results.
Mask expression only appears when there’s a mask on the selected layer.
It said “Show gradients” with two options. “Yes” is the default, which enables gradient and transparency in the mask. While “None” posterizes the transparency and gradient into solid shapes.
There’s "Threshold" slider when you choose “None” which determines how much of the transparent areas will be visible. The higher the number the bigger the area and vice versa.
Area color is quite a niche since it’s only available for Image files, Texture, and File objects. When available, it’s also greyed out by default.
1. Go to "View > Show Tone Area" and choose “Show Selected Tone Area” first.
2. Nothing happens yet, but go back to "View > Show Tone Area” and choose “Include Image Material Area" at the bottom. Now it’s not greyed out anymore.
The color of the image in the layer changes, too.
“Show Selected Tone Area” that was chosen earlier only make the Area color of the selected layer visible. You can change the color like you do Layer Color.
Back to "View > Show Tone Area.”
This time pick “Show All Tone Areas” to make Area color of all layers applicable visible. In case the texture layers overlap, the color will overlap, too.
It’s useful to keep track of the texture and images you’re using in the artwork by making it noticeable.
The colors will appear when you export, you can always turn it off if you don’t want it.
Extract Line (EX)
Extract line is only available for the EX version of CSP. It allows us to turn images and 3D objects into line art and/or tones. First, prepare a 3D object, change the tool from Object tool to another tool. If you don’t, you won’t be able to see the result live. Then, turn on the Extract Line.
"Accuracy" determines the quality of the line drawings, the higher the better but sometimes it doesn’t make much difference.
"Posterization" works in a similar way to the one in Tone effect. It groups the colors available in the image or 3D object. But, instead of turning it into shades of gray, posterization extracts the group of colors into lines.
"Black fill" will fill areas in black, the lower the number, the smaller the area. Great for a style that uses solid blacks.
"Line width" determines the thickness of the lines.
"Edge threshold" determines how many lines will be extracted. The higher the number the smaller amount of details will be detected and thus the cleaner the end result will be.
"Direction of detection" is something I don’t fully grasp, but toying with it has given me interesting results. I will show you later.
You can use Extract line as is or convert it into a permanent line layer. To convert, click the “Convert to lines and tones” and a window will appear.
There are more settings to fine-control the end result. The first thing to do is make sure that the "Preview" is on.
Then, choose if you want the result to be in a Raster or Vector layer. I prefer Vector because I can rasterize whenever, while the opposite doesn’t always work.
"Line width" works the same. "Accuracy of detection" is the same as "Accuracy" from before, the higher the finer the lines would be.
"Adjust accuracy according to scale" is on because it looks better to me.
"Emphasize outline" determines the thickness of the outline. 50 or more is what I use.
"Depth" and "Smooth" are quirky to me. I use it for more delicate line width adjustment. I don’t use it often
"Extract line of texture" is exactly what it is. The previous settings only extract lines from the shape of the 3D object, but this one extracts texture and color—shadow included.
The settings here are available back in the Layer property window, except for the “Process edge detection” drop-down menu. There are two of them. Process #1 is the one we see so far.
When you choose #2, different settings will appear below it. The lower both numbers, the more details will be extracted into lines.
Lastly, "Tone work". If you want to make the coloring look 2D, try "Posterization"
The rest of the settings are the same as "Tone effect"
Click OK when you’re satisfied with the result. The extracted lines layer, black fill layer, tone layers, and a white layer will be neatly packed inside a folder.
Since the layers are separate, you can still adjust and edit the layers to get the look you want.
I used a small 3D object as the example, but this effect is usually associated with 3D backgrounds for comics and webcomics.
If you want to convert lines from an image instead of a 3D object, the settings are simpler. The main difference from before is that you can’t choose to get a vector line layer. Only Extract line and Tone work settings are available.
Working with images is trickier, though. I have success with drawings with lines, while lineless-style illustrations and photos might require more effort.
Extract Line Workaround (PRO)
If you’re using CSP PRO instead of EX, there’s a workaround for Extract Line. The only downside is that there’s no vector option for the lines.
Rasterize the 3D object or image you want to use, then duplicate the layer as much as you need. I want lines, black fill, halftones, and white fill, so 4 layers.
For the lines, go to Filter > Effect > Artistic. There’s "Process" with a drop-down menu that has 3 options. Choose “Lines only”
“Line thickness” is how thick the lines would be. “Line simplicity” applies curves into the lines the higher the number is. I usually leave it at 1.
“Line density” determines the amount of soft details you get.
“Line opacity” determines the transparency of the lines. I usually use 100, since I can always adjust the opacity later, but the default is 70.
“Line anti-aliasing is self-explanatory, the higher the number, the blurrier.
The rest are related to colors, I’ll skip it and click OK.
For black fill, change the layer’s Expression color to Monochrome. Turn on the Black box only, then adjust the Color threshold.
For the tones, use Tone effect. Change the Density to “Use brightness of image” to get rid of white areas (optional). Turn on Posterization for fine control. Then adjust how much and how dark the shades will be with the slider. You can skip this step if you like default result.
For the white fill, go to Edit > Tonal Correction > Hue/Saturation/Luminosity. Then drag the Brightness slider to the right. Click Ok.
Adjust if needed and that’s it.
What is your favorite Layer property effects and how do you use it? Please share it in the comments!
Thank you for reading and see you next time！