How to Use Layers in Clip Studio Paint [Complete Guide]

If you’re using CSP to create digital art, then layers are an important tool you must use. With layers, you can create digital art easily in a non-destructive way. It’s one of the advantages of digital art compared to traditional art.

In this article, I will explain everything about layers in Clip Studio Paint so you can start using layers effectively.

What are Layers in CSP?

To understand how layers work, you can compare layers to painting with watercolors or any other traditional medium.

When creating a painting using the traditional method, you must paint the background first before painting toward the foreground. In digital art, you don’t need to do that. You can paint the foreground and then the background later. You can even switch them.

For example, you’re drawing a blue square and then a green circle. With layers, you can quickly determine which one is the front and the behind.

The benefit of using Layers

Layers in digital art act like transparent films. They allow separate work on different aspects like the effect, line art, coloring, background, and sketching.

With layers, you can modify specific parts without altering the whole art in Clip Studio Paint.

Clip Studio Paint supports up to 10,000 layers in a single project. But don’t use layers too much since they consume your system RAM and cause lags in CSP. Ensure you understand the system requirements for CSP.

Types of Layers in Clip Studio Paint:

  • Raster Layer: For pixel-based (non-vector) drawing and painting.
  • Vector Layer: For vector art
  • Gradient Layer: For smooth color transitions.
  • Fill Layer: For solid color or pattern backgrounds.
  • Tone Layer: For adding tones, commonly used in manga and webtoon.
  • Frame Border Folder: For organizing comic panels.
  • 3D Layer: For importing and working with 3D models in CSP.
  • Tonal Correction Layer: For color adjustment and effects.

When using tools, these layers will be automatically created:

  • Text Layer: Created when adding text.
  • Image Material Layer: When you import images in CSP.
  • Focus/Speed Lines Layer
  • Ruler Layer: For precision when you’re using a ruler tool

Understanding the Layer Palette

Layer palette

The layer palette displays the current layers available on your canvas. You can adjust and modify the layers using the Layer Palette. 

In the default setting, the Layer Palette is shown on the right side of the canvas. If you can’t find the Layer Palette, it might be hidden. 

Show Layer tool in CSP

To display it, go to the top menu, select ‘Window‘ > ‘Layer‘ and click to show the Layer Palette.

Creating a New Layer

When creating a new document, you will initially have two layers: the background layer and the empty layer designated for drawing. 

New Raster Layer

However, two layers may be required. To create an additional layer, click the “New Raster Layer” icon above the list of layers in the layer palette. 

Additionally, you can create a New Vector Layer by selecting the corresponding icon adjacent to the New Raster Layer icon.

Alternative Method to Create New Layer

Alternative Method for Creating a New Layer in Clip Studio Paint:

  1. Go to the top menu and click on the “Layer” menu.
  2. From there, select “New Layer.”
  3. Choose between the “Raster Layer” and “Vector Layer” options from the dropdown menu.

A “New Layer” pop-up window will appear when you create a new layer this way. You can adjust various settings in this window, including the layer’s name, expression color, and blending mode.

Selecting a Layer

Once the layer is created, you must select the layer you wish to draw on. Any drawing, masking, or effect will only be applied to the selected layer; unselected layers will remain unchanged. 

To select a layer, simply click or tap the layer. This step is consistent across all versions of Clip Studio Paint, including those for Windows, MacOS, iPad, and Android.

Always make sure which layers are currently selected. Sometimes, I accidentally draw on the wrong layer.

Important Note: Do not select the background layer unless you want to modify the background for your art

Moving the layers

If you want to move a layer, simply select and drag the layer by left-clicking and holding it, then position it above or below another layer. 

Essential tips: Rearrange the order of your layers to the correct order. The higher the layer, the more finished it becomes.

If your layers are in the wrong order, it can affect your art’s intended appearance and composition.

Grouping layers

To group layers in Clip Studio Paint, use the Layer Folder feature. 

New Layer folder

Click the “Create New Layer Folder” icon to create a new layer folder. This icon is located above the layer list and to the right of the “Create Vector Layer” icon. 

After creating the layer folder, you can move any layer into it by dragging the layer into the folder. Putting multiple layers in one folder and creating multiple-layer folders in a single document is possible.

Basic Operations on Layers in CSP

Clip Studio Paint has comprehensive features for digital art, including various ways to work with layers.

Changing the Layer Color

Change palette color

You can change the layer color to make it easier to differentiate from others. This won’t change any brush, line, or effect colors so you can rest assured. 

To change the layer color, click the square icon at the top of the layer palette. A drop-down menu with color options such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple will appear. Selecting one will change the layer palette color.

Rename a Layer

The default names for layers in Clip Studio Paint are numerical and based on the order in which they are created, but these names may not indicate what the layer is about. 

Change layer name

To rename a layer, first select the layer you wish to rename. Right-click and choose the Layer Settings > “Change Layer Name…” option. 

A dialog box will appear. Type the new name and click ‘OK’ to save the changes.

Delete a Layer 

If you want to delete a layer of Clip Studio Paint, then follow these steps:

Delete layer

First, select the layer you want to delete. Then, right-click the layer and choose the “Delete Layer” option. This will delete the layer. 

Alternative way: You can also click the trashbin icon at the right to do a quick delete.

This method also works for deleting a layer folder and a layer mask.

Duplicating a Layer

Duplicate layer

You can duplicate a layer in one of two ways:

First, right-click the layer you wish to duplicate and click the “Duplicate Layer” option. This will create a copy of the layer directly above the selected layer.

Alternatively, select the layer, then press Ctrl + C (Windows) or Cmd ⌘ + C (Mac), followed by pressing Ctrl + V or Cmd ⌘ + V in the layer palette to create a copy of the selected layer.

Make Layer not Visible

Hide layer in CSP

To temporarily hide a layer in Clip Studio Paint, thereby making any brush strokes, masks, effects, shapes, and text on it invisible, follow these steps:

First, select the layer you wish to hide. Then click on the eye icon next to the layer. This will make the eye icon disappear, indicating that the layer is temporarily invisible.

This feature helps check the precision of your lineart and sketches by isolating them from other layers.

Merging Layers

Merge layers in CSP

To merge two layers, select the top layer, right-click it, and choose the “Merge with Layer Below” option.

To merge multiple layers, hold Control (on Windows) or Command (on Mac) while left-clicking to select the layers you wish to combine, then select the “Merge with Selected Layer” option.

You can quickly merge all layers by choosing the “Merge with visible layers” option. 

Adjusting Layer Opacity

Adjusting layer opacity

You can adjust the opacity of a layer in CSP. I usually reduced the opacity to make it easier to create line art in one stroke.

To do this, select the layer. At the top of the palette, move the opacity slider to the desired value. For example, I set it to 58%. 

Typically, an opacity of 30-50% for the sketch layer is enough, based on my experience.

Locking a Layer to Prevent Changes

Locking a layer prevents any modifications to it. This includes using the brush tool, renaming, moving, merging, applying mask, or deleting the layer.

Lock Layer

To lock a layer, select it and click the lock icon, as shown in the above image. After clicking, all tools will be grayed out and disabled on the locked layer.

To unlock it, simply click the lock icon once more.

My Layers workflow in Clip Studio Paint

Let me outline my workflow for you. Remember, the top item on this list corresponds to the lowest layer in CSP’s layer palette, so you’ll need to invert the order when applying it.

  1. Background: This is your canvas’s initial layer. Do not make changes to this layer.
  2. Sketch Layer: This is the first layer above the background layer. You start sketching out your rough ideas.
  3. Line Art: I will create a clean line art layer using a specific brush on top of your final sketch.
  4. Base Color: Above the line art layer, I add flat colors as preparation for the next layer
  5. Shading and Shadow: Then, you can introduce depth by adding shading and shadows above the base color layer.
  6. Final Details: The last layer is reserved for final details if needed

Of course, I don’t only use six layers. Sometimes, I use up to 15 layers, depending on how complicated the artwork is.

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Kenny HD
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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