❖ Digital Plein Air | Guide ❖

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In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a peaceful Plein air landscape with Clip Studio Paint. It's a simple technique, but most of the time, many people (especially new to digital art) will find it hard to start.

Throughout this tutorial, you'll learn how to use golden ratio, adjustment layers, clipping mask, versatile default brushes, and how to manage the colour and atmosphere to achieve a beautiful dramatic result.

You'll also learn how to work with composition, create easy lighting, pay attention to vocal details, and more. Let's get started!

Click the video tutorial below or scroll down to see detailed explanations here!

1. Grassland - Digital Plein Air

[ Starting New Canvas ]

File -> New -> Choose custom and FHD (1920 x 1080)

You're free to choose any other size but keep in mind that creating landscape images might be better if we stick to the 16:9 ratio.

[ Understanding Resolution ]

Here's something that we should change: the Resolution from 72 to 300 D.P.I.

D.P.I. stands for "Dots per Inch." It's the measurement used within the printing and graphics design industry to determine how sharp an image is.

The difference between 300dpi and 72dpi is found in the amount of pixel information (or dots) for every square inch of the image you view. The more dots/pixels the image contains, the sharper the image will print.

When designing graphics for commercial printing purposes, your images should be 300 dpi.

Web graphics and online photos are normally created at 72dpi. This low resolution is great for the web. Not great for your business cards, for example.

Printing will look blurry if a 72dpi image is used instead of a 300dpi high res image.

[ Canvas / Paper Color ]

This is pretty much optional, but for me, it's also quite important. Changing canvas or paper colors will greatly impact my eyes when digitally drawing with a graphic tablet.

Here are my thoughts about it:

1. White colors will make my eyes easily tired.
2. Changing into grey or sepia will make an impression of doing it onto the real paper or gessoed canvas.
3. When it comes to adding white to the painting, we can see them directly.

[ Lock Paper ]

Use the Lock Layer function on the Paper. Using that feature, you will have no access to modify the locked layer until you unlock it. This will prevent the unnecessary 'uh-oh I did on wrong layers' kind of thing!

2. Free Materials to Use

Next, we're moving to the [ Clip Studio Assets ] app browser.

We can browse through the Clip Studio Assets website as the alternative; however, I show you quick access without opening any website using the installed app.

You can type 'ratio' on the search box and click on FREE to see community uploads and find anything that suits you. For this tutorial, let's focus on the Fibonacci Ratio.

Suggestion: give your support to those artists or contributors by clicking on the like or favorite button before downloading.

[ Drag & Drop Downloadable Materials ]

Find the suitable 1920 x 1080 grid from the downloaded Clip Studio Assets. It fits directly into your canvas if your dimensions of canvas the same as the asset.

Just drag and drop to your blank canvas from your material panel (you can access that from Window -> Material -> Download) to access your downloaded assets.

[ Drawing / Concept ]

First, as you might notice from my other tutorials, I drew most of my landscape painting with Design Pencil, to begin with, on top of my layer (which I rename to DRAFT).

It's better to see my video tutorial as I will make it quite clear even with the speed-up process. Sometimes I will slow down so you are able to follow along.

[ Simply the Best ]

I realize this digital painting needs to be fairly simple and on point. Instead of taking too much time drawing details, you need to understand the concept of the golden ratio. Where the focal points of your drawing will need to intersect with those 4 'dots.'

Other tutorials already covered most of the part. My tutorial here will stick to the techniques.

3. Customized Command Bar Settings

[ Personalized / Customized Command Bar Buttons ]

You can create your own [ Buttons ] to toggle on/off from the Command Bar Settings...

Right-click on the bar, and you'll open an options window. Then scroll down to find View, drop-down menu, and find Grid.

Click Add; then you'll have the shortcut button on the bar to easily toggle the grid on/off for maximum efficiency!

[ Grid / Guidelines for Composition ]

So based on the composition above, I will be honest with you; most of my time digitally colouring something like this Plein Air; I use only one layer and starting with only [ Design Pencil ] most of it.

You can see on my video I keep on using 'muted colours' to brush everything.

4. Clouds Rendering

[ Pen brush for Clouds ]

I use Pen -> Mapping Pen (or another sharp pen that suits you), and I need to make sure the cloud shapes will have no hole - because we need to fill the colours inside them. If you have a slight space, the colours will go outside the clouds.

[ Lock Transparent Layer ]

Remember to use this powerful tool to lock and unlock the layers you're currently working on. It's a good thing to add colours without too much worry for your brushes to go outside the shape. From my video, you'll notice I just drop shadow (blue-grey) and highlight (yellow).

[ Watercolor Brush + Air Brush ]

After you've done with the Pen, you can use any of [ Watercolor Brush ] to mix everything in between and adding another [ Soft Brush ] from Airbrush to emphasize the cotton-candy clouds or highlight.

Tips: always use the Lock and Unlock Transparency Layer feature to enjoy your painting process. Big brushes will also a good addition to cover every brushes in one go.

[ Finger Tip - Blend Brush or Lighter Ink - India Ink Brush ]

You need to UNLOCK the Lock Transparency Layer to make this blending work.

Use a medium-size brush to smudge the clouds with either a Finger Tip brush or a Lighter Ink brush. You can see based on my video although I admit it's quite a speedy one honestly, it's quite satisfying to do it. Try it by yourself!

[ Color Calibration with Hue/Saturation/Luminosity Slider ]

If you feel that the colours are too bright, you can always use this [Ctrl + U] to open a window option for [ Hue/Saturation/Luminosity ] to change or modify its colour.

Slide the Hue to change the colour, but I wouldn't recommend it for now since I will stick to blue clouds.

Slide the Saturation to the left to make the colours feel a bit muted.

Slide the Luminosity a bit to the right to make the clouds' colours brighter.

5. Sky Gradient Essentials

[ Gradient Sky for Background ]

Create a new layer, then use the Gradient tool - for this one, I suggest to zoom out your canvas view and then start the gradient line from the top outside the canvas. Drag the line until the middle of the painting to achieve a better gradient result.

Feel free to experiment by yourself because everything here is supposed to be experimental but keep in mind that the lighting will somehow not affect the overall painting since this sky only represents daylight or night time. On the other hand, lightings reflected on clouds coming from the top left only to emphasize the feeling of sunny weather.

[ Subtle Clouds ]

Create a new layer. Feel free to use any brushes that you wish, BUT... I stick to a very subtle brush which is: [ India Ink -> Lighter Ink ]

From my video, you can see how I just did a random fill throughout the sky. Just remember this as a theory for making subtle clouds: the more height the sky means, the less the clouds would appear.

[ Checking back Composition ]

If there will be anything you miss adding, always try to check back on its original design by turning your draft layer on and off several times. You'll be the one to judge either adding more 'items' in the picture will be a good idea or leave it be.

In this case, I add the power poles with subtle [ Tapered Pen ] in the distance. As well for the foreground; you can see I add some grass. Everything was based on the original draft.

6. Gaussian Blur Grass + Dramatic Sunray

[ Blur or Out of Focus Elements ]

This is pretty convenient and straightforward to do. After you've done adding the foreground grass, please go to [ Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur ]. After that, play along with its slider to see how blurry your grass will be. I go around 20 something.

If you wish to add more colours to the grass, don't forget LOCK layer transparency.

Use big round [ Soft Brush ] and pick lighter colours to give a variety of grass colours. Or maybe you need to add more flowers? Please do your own creativity since we're nearly done here. I hope to see your own creation if possible. :)

[ Sunray for Dramatic Colour ]

Last but not least, create a new layer to add dramatic lightings to the overall digital Plein air painting with [ Soft Brush ]. This will create a peaceful atmosphere and serenity landscape art! Of course, you might want to give more details to your final piece, such as flowers, butterflies, birds, etc... Try to maintain the simple yet engaging image to look at.

And voila! All done.

7. Quick Digital Watercolor Landscape

Starting with the same composition grid of 1920 x 1080.
300 resolution as well. Grey 40% for the Paper.

A new layer for sketching out within the composition grid, you can always start something fairly simple. In the video, I need to speed up the process since you might feel boring throughout the normal speed.

8. Digital Watercolor Feel

Either it's already shared before on my other tutorials, but to create a simple watercolour feel, you need to utilize how these default brushes work.

[ Rough Wash ] - a good starting brush to colour on top of your draft layer.

Simply by selecting lighter colour first, the same principle of doing real watercolour in the traditional way!

[ Texture Smoothing Brush ]

Try out different colours. For me, I choose and paint with a variety of green, adding more bluish to the plain and whenever it needs to be blended: choose [ Textured Blender ] from the Real Watercolour brush.

This particular brush will smoothen your entire rough blending from [ Rough Wash ].

[ Finter Tip Brush for Stretching Grass ]

This is fairly simple. Just use [ Blend -> Fingertip ] to achieve the best and easiest way for creating grass strokes. You can see from my video I just stroke it from bottom to top randomly.

[ Shadows with Round Watercolor Brush ]

This brush is not my favourite one in creating watercolour effects, but using it will be good for experimental projects such as this one.

Tips: use a bluish or purplish tone for the shadow of the tree or any shadows. If we're using a traditional watercolour pallet, I will also apply the same technique.

You can use [ Rough Wash ] to add more watercolour feel.

[ Flat Watercolor Brush for Distant Bushes ]

This brush is also part of my 'least-used brush' among the default brushes of Clip Studio Paint. Since it's quite strange to apply it, but if you're able to try it out and find anything great with this brush; go ahead!

[ Rough Wash to Texture Blender Combination ]

Add more colours by applying the same strokes with [ Rough Wash ] to the distant bushes. Remember, the same technique of using [ Texture Blender ] will be good if you think the brush way too rough.

[ Tapered Watercolor for Distant Hills ]

This is the BEST brush for adding foggy or misty mountains, hills, or anything for a distant view.

How to use it: HOLD DOWN your brush while brushing or stroking the pen on your graphic tablet. Then, LIFT whenever it's necessary; you can see the effects of it.

Several strokes will have an overlaying structure of your painting.


If you think the hills' colour needs bluer, you can change it by locking the transparency layer, then with [ Airbrush -> Soft ], picking colours that you need, and then brushing it away!

9. Digital Plein Air Tree Colouring Guide

[ Subtle Method Tree Colouring ]

Use [ Tape Watercolor ] with very light green. As for the bark and branch, I use [ Flat Watercolor Brush ] instead.

[ Variant Tree Colouring ]

You can add more interesting colours with [ Rough Wash ], but please maintain its softness of colours first before you add other colours on top of it.

[ Tree Colouring + Texturing ]

You can add more leaves using [ Flat Watercolor Brush ] only on the edge of the tree.

[ Vivid Colour vs Muted Colour ]

An optional step or choice, if you wish to add vivid colours to your watercolour, use [ Airbrush -> Soft ], then turn its [ Blending Mode ] from Normal to Overlay and brush on the tree leaves.

But if you think muted colours suit you, then simply use [ Hue/Saturation/Luminosity ] slider and change the [ Saturation ] to the left quite a bit.

10. Digital Watercolour Plein Air Sky

[ More Distant Mountains & Sky ]

This is just a repetitive step, you can try a bit of a different approach with [ Rough Wash ] when adding the further mountain.

[ Texture Blender for The Win! ]

A prevalent approach for me to blend the entire digital watercolour painting, you can see from the above steps; it's a very nice addition to create the subtle soft gradients based on the blender only.

Tips: You don't need to add more colours if you want. Apply the blender tool and see the result by yourself.

[ Optional Texture: Design Pencil ]

Yes, go back to use Design Pencil and give more textures for the tree to give interesting details of the grain look.

[ Running Color Spray - Texture ]

Another texture to add if you'd feel to give a more natural look without too much effort, choose [ Airbrush -> Running Color Spray ] put them somewhere on the edge of the canvas, a subtle yet versatile result will be visible throughout the viewer's eyes.

[ Last Vibrant Leaves ]

The last one to add before I end this tutorial, of course, could be optional for you; I add vivid green with [ Airbrush -> Soft ] and its [ Blending Mode: Overlay ] to show vibrant colours of the tree leaves.

And there you go!

[ Bonus Information ]

If you'd like to learn more and the complex approach for creating Fantasy Landscape requires a lot of training to do, a detailed step by step guide from me always there for you.

The link above will be helpful to start your own journey of becoming a Digital Environment Artist!

I hope you enjoy these quick tutorials. Feel free to give some thoughts or likes! Thank you!




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