You’ve probably already meddled with and used gradients or gradient maps in Clip Studio Paint.
Gradients are something that I only use from time to time and recently I realized I didn’t know how to use them as much as I thought.
There’s actually a whole lot you can do with them, including creating your own gradients, edit pre-existing gradients or even import new ones!
You can also create different gradient effects by using different gradient shapes, changing the edge process as well as its angle!
To use a gradient, you can simply go to the toolbar and select the gradient tool or press the ‘G’ button on your keyboard as a shortcut!
There’s a lot of information to digest when choosing the Gradient tool, so I’ve written a whole guide, explaining each of the settings and options, so you can use gradients to their full potential and even create your own.
I’ll also go over how to use gradient maps, which can be very useful if you need to apply a gradient to a layer that you already drew on!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Using The Gradient Tool In Clip Studio Paint
- 2 Using Contour Line Paint
- 3 Importing Gradient Sets In Clip Studio Paint
- 4 How To Use A Gradient Map In Clip Studio Paint
Using The Gradient Tool In Clip Studio Paint
The Gradient Tool in Clip Studio Paint is a lot more complex than it looks at first glance. It’s not a hard tool to use. It is pretty intuitive on how it works actually. But there’s little nuances and settings that you can play with to create different gradients and effects.
In fact, every time I use gradients in Clip Studio I learn something new. ‘Oh I can do this gradient this way? That makes everything so much easier!’
Note: If you haven’t purchased Clip Studio Paint yet, here’s a link to their website!
I find myself uttering these thoughts from time to time. You don’t need to know everything about a tool, especially if you want it for very simple tasks. Nevertheless, some of the things you’ll learn here will definitely come in handy sooner or later.
I’m going to go through each setting and option of the gradients tool and how to use them. But first, to reach the Gradient Tool, simply go to the toolbar and click the Gradient Icon, just below the paint bucket.
Alternatively, you can press ‘G’ on your keyboard and the gradient tool should be selected immediately.
As you can see there are already some default gradients that you can use. Foreground to transparent and Foreground to Background might be the most common to use.
All the other options can be very useful as well. The sky options are all very nice and, if you wish to, you can change their colors to something that fits better your background.
Note that some settings that I will mention below are not available with some of these custom gradients. Also, most of these will probably fit better to create a background than to add a specific effect to a selection you’ve made.
But, as always it depends on what you want and how you work. You might use these presets, but you can also just create your own or even download more!
Shape Of The Gradient
You can select different shapes, depending on what kind of gradient you want to do. For example, do you want to draw the sky,with the sun rising, applying different pink and orange tones? Then maybe a linear gradient works better. Do you want to apply a gradient to a round jewel in your drawing? Then Radial or Ellipse shapes might work better!
- Linear Gradient In A Straight Line: This is the most simple shape you can get. It works by either dragging a vertical, horizontal or even diagonal line through the canvas. This option is perfect for when you want to paint the sky, for example. Starting dark and growing lighter. It can also help in shading your characters or scenes!
- Radial Or Circle Gradient: Pretty self-explanatory as well. This is especially useful when applying gradients to round objects. Or if you want your background to have a center point to focus on. For example, the center is very dark and the color dilutes the closer it gets to the edges of the canvas.
- Ellipse Gradient: Similar to the one above, except here you can create irregular ellipses instead of perfect circles. You have more control over the shape of your gradient!
On the tool property window, you might notice there’s quite a lot of options for the edge process. Depending on which you chose, the gradient you’re applying will behave differently.
- Not Repeat: the gradient will start before the start point and end before the endpoint you’ve set. This means, everything you want to apply a gradient to, will be covered. Even if you choose a starting point in the middle of the canvas, everything below that will be covered with the darkest color you chose. This is the most common option to use and with it, you can control where you want the area to be darker or lighter!
- Repeat: Depending on how long the area is, the gradient will repeat. For example, if it’s the whole canvas you want to fill, if you dragged a small line, the gradient will repeat in that direction and size until the whole canvas is filled. It can almost resemble a bar code if using black and white!
- Reverse: Repeats the gradient but alternates the direction. It is similar to before, but the gradient will look mirrored. For example, when using black and white, when you drag a line it will start with black, going to white, then turning to black again.
- Not Draw: With this option, the gradient will only appear between the starting and ending point you’ve set. It won’t draw anything beyond those two points, as opposed to all the other options!
Step Of Angle
Ok, this one works very weirdly and I don’t really recommend it. The step of angle serves to reconfigure the angle of your gradient. It only works when using linear or ellipse shape for the gradient.
However, I recommend creating a Gradient layer instead. This way, you can edit your gradient whenever you want. You can change everything, from the angle to colors and even its shape! Let’s see how that works.
There are two options here and it basically relates to what kind of layer you’ll be working on. If you want to draw a simple gradient and leave as it is, you can draw your gradient in a simple raster layer. However if you wish to edit the gradients you’re doing, then creating a gradient layer is the option you want!
- Draw On Editing Layer: With this option active, the gradient will be created on the layer you have active. This can be a layer where you have a drawing already made, it can also be applied only in a selection of that drawing. If you want to create a background, you can create a new raster layer and apply the gradient there. Note that you can’t create gradients in vector layers and with this option active, you can’t edit the gradient you just created either! If you want a different effect, you need to redo it.
- Create Gradient Layer: Here you have more control over your gradients. With this option active, once you draw your gradient, the software will create a new layer, specifically for gradients. You can come back to this later whenever you want and edit it. It’s also possible to change the angle, the colors, the shape of your gradient. You have full control over it! To edit this layer, simply select it, then click the ‘Tool Navigation’ button right on the window above. Alternatively, you can go to the ‘Object Tool’ on the toolbar and then play with the settings of your gradient!
I also wanted to point out that you can create a Gradient Layer right off the bat if that’s what you wish and need. For that, simply go to ‘Layer -> New Layer -> Gradient’. A gradient layer will be created and you can now draw a gradient in it and edit as you wish!
Before drawing your gradient you can set the opacity of it. This can be very useful if you want it to look very soft or if you want to draw the gradient on top of something else and want to see what’s beneath it.
Instead of changing the layer’s opacity, you can change only the gradient’s opacity. This can be very helpful if your layer as something more than the gradient.
If you’re working on a Gradient Layer like mentioned above, you can change and test the opacity whenever you want and it will change in real time, so you can see the effect right away!
There is a lot of blending modes to choose from and these behave similarly like changing blending modes on a layer. Depending on what you choose, the gradient and colors will behave differently.
It is very common to use the Overlay or Multiply blending mode, for example! I often use gradients in overlay to create the overall light of an image. Let’s say I decided on my light source and want the picture to be more or less bright accordingly. I can draw a gradient on top of the drawing, with the colors I think works best and draw. With the overlay blending mode, it will look a bit more transparent and blend in with the rest of the drawing.
Here’s an example using Overlay and Multiply modes:
As you can see I can change the whole mood of a drawing simply by changing the blending mode of a gradient! This is very nice to use when applying those final touches to a drawing.
Again, you can change blending modes and see how they behave in real time if you’re using gradient layers. This way you don’t need to test, erase, test again until you have the effect you want!
Anti-Aliasing and Dithering
Finally, there are options to help smooth the gradient. Sometimes gradients can end up looking a bit weird or not as fluid as you wish. Anti-Aliasing and Dithering can help smooth the gradient.
These options might be hidden and to see them, go to the settings icon, then on the ‘Gradient’ window, thick the Dithering option. When you click on it, an eye icon will appear. This means that this option will now show on the gradient property window.
You can do the same for Anti-Aliasing and now, whenever you go to the gradients property window, you’ll always be able to enable or disable these options from there.
Both of these will help smooth your gradients so that when you save them in .jpeg or .png they won’t show weird effects! Dithering actually adds a bit of a noise effect to the gradient, which I personally really like. It’s very soft, but it does make a difference!
Using Contour Line Paint
Alright, let’s say you wanted to apply a gradient to a specific part of your drawing. You can do this, without making a selection or even using the more complex gradient tool. In a way, you have a bit fewer options to play with here, but it is very useful to make simple and quick gradients.
It is also quite interesting how it works and it can be quite fun! Test it out with a simple shape. For example, draw a circle with the circle shape tool. Now create two lines inside that circle. I usually create a new layer below the circle.
These lines should have different colors, specifically, the colors you want your gradient to be. For example, let’s try a light blue and a darker blue for the second line.
Now, go to Contour Line Paint and choose the first option, ‘Normal Paint’. With the lines layer selected, paint inside them. Clip Studio will create the gradient, according to the colors selected.
You might need to adjust the ‘Color margin’ so it looks perfect. I usually set it to the maximum I can. But it’s all a matter of trying out all the settings, playing with them until you have the desired effect.
Notice that there are two other options: ‘The lightest shadow’ and ‘The deepest shadow’. In the first one, Clip Studio will focus the lighter color you chose. In this case, the gradient will show more of the lighter blue than the darker one.
The latter option is the opposite! Clip Studio focuses on the darker color you chose and will paint the gradient accordingly.
Importing Gradient Sets In Clip Studio Paint
You can actually import and install gradient sets in Clip Studio Paint. You can create your own as well, but Clip Studio has an Asset app where you can download brushes, gradients and even color sets made by other users!
A lot of these are free and I actually wrote a guide on how to use, download and install materials on Clip Studio Paint. So be sure to check that out to learn more about it. I highly recommend searching the asset app for a bit and see what materials Clip Studio has to offer.
These materials are all free to use commercially, so you can use them freely on your works!
Importing From Clip Studio Assets
When downloading a gradient set from the Asset App, it will then appear on the materials tab. Usually, Clip Studio creates a ‘Download’ folder and there’s where you should find all and any material you’ve downloaded from the app.
There are two ways to go about this and it depends on how the file is displayed. For example, if you downloaded only one gradient, you should find it in the ‘Download’ folder on the Material Tab to the right side of your workplace in Clip Studio.
Now select the gradient and drag it to the Gradients window. The gradient should now appear among the other default sets and is ready to use. Simply select it and use it!
If you downloaded a bundle of gradients however they might show differently on the Download folder. Here all the gradients are bundled together and you can’t drag and use right away. It is still fairly simple to use them, it just takes a few more steps.
First, right-click one of the already existing gradients. Select ‘Duplicate Sub Tool’. Name it, if you wish, preferably something that you’ll remember later. Now select it and go to the settings below.
Select ‘Advanced Settings’ and a new window will appear. As you can see, in the ‘Gradient Set’ option, there’s quite a lot of Gradients to choose from already. These are the ones that come with Clip Studio Paint.
This is also where you’re going to add your new bundled gradients. Again select the ‘Settings’ icon and choose ‘Import Material Set’. The gradient materials should appear on a new window right away. Choose the bundle you want to import and then click ‘Ok’.
Now all the gradients in the set/bundle you just select should appear! Choose the one you want to use, double-click it and then click ‘Ok’. The gradient should now be visible and ready to use.
You can either go to the settings and repeat this process every time you want to use a different gradient. Or, you can repeat this process as many times as there are gradients so that all of them are always ready for use in your Gradients window! It’s all up to you and your preference.
Importing From A Material Set Or File
If you downloaded a Gradient set from somewhere else other than the app, it is rather easy to import these materials to Clip Studio, as long as the gradients are made for it.
Go to one of the gradients, right-click on it and select ‘Import sub tool…’. Now just go to the folder where you have the gradient saved, select it and click ‘Open’. Your new gradient should now appear on the Gradients tab and be ready to use!
Alternatively, you can open the folder you have your Gradient saved in, click on it and drag the gradient you want to use, to the Gradients tab.
Both should work, one is just quicker than the other. After importing your gradients, you can always go to their settings, explore all the options and make any changes you want!
I also wanted to point out that you can name your Gradients differently to make it easier for you to identify and find them.
For example, a lot of the materials you find in the Asset App are in Japanese and if it’s not a language that you know, maybe changing their names might be easier. Or maybe the name of the gradient just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you.
To change the name of a gradient, simply right-click on it and then select ‘Settings of sub tool…’ and name it as you wish!
How To Use A Gradient Map In Clip Studio Paint
Using a Gradient Map in Clip Studio can be very useful, especially if you want to add a gradient effect to a layer you’ve already drawn on. A gradient map will basically replace each color and shade that you have for the gradient you just chose. Let’s say you drew a sky, with some clouds. Adding a sky gradient would work pretty well!
You can even edit these gradients and play with them to get different results. Although it’s something I rarely use, it can be very useful and very interesting to use!
Creating A Gradient Map Layer
There are two ways to create a gradient map layer. You can either apply it to a raster layer directly. Or you can create a layer just for the gradient map. The second option means you can edit it as many times as you wish, move it between other layers you might have and won’t change any layer that already exists.
It all depends on how you prefer to work and if you intend to edit this gradient later on or not.
So, if you want to apply a gradient map to an already existing raster layer, select the layer you want to apply the gradient in. Then go to ‘Edit -> Tonal Correction -> Gradient Map’. Again, note that this works only on raster layers, if you have a vector layer selected, this option isn’t available.
If you wish to create a Gradient Map Layer, go to ‘Layer -> New Correction Layer -> Gradient Map…’. Alternatively, you can right-click any layer that you already have, right-click on it, then select ‘New Correction Layer -> Gradient Map…’. The new layer will appear on top of the layer you selected.
Now when creating a gradient map, a new window with quite a lot of options will appear. Let’s go over them.
Choosing Your Base Gradient
The first thing you want to do is select the gradient you want to apply. You can select premade gradients that come with Clip Studio or gradients that you downloaded.
Note that even after choosing a gradient, you can change it completely to something that you might prefer!
- Select Left Node: You can move from node to node, and change its color to something else. Simply click this button to move to the left.
- Select Right Node: Same as the above, except here you move to the right. Use both these arrows to move through each node and change it as you wish. Note also, that when selecting a node, you can actually move it, changing the distance between each node and color!
- Reverse Gradient: By choosing this option, the colors will be reversed. Let’s say you have a gradient going from black to white. But you want the opposite, you want it to go from white to black. Instead of changing the colors, you can just click this button and it will reverse the colors automatically.
- Delete Node: If you feel like you don’t need that many colors, you can delete the nodes you don’t want. Make sure you select the right node and then click on the garbage can icon to delete it!
Gradient Set Settings
If you click the tool icon in the Gradient Set part of the window, you have several options for extra customization of your gradient sets, including creating your own sets!
Let’s cover this, one by one.
- Create New Set: by selecting this option you’ll create a new group of Gradients. Just name it and then a new set has been created. Note that it will be empty, you need to then add gradients to it. I explain how to do so on the ‘Add Gradient’ option below.
- Delete Set: pretty straightforward. If you want to delete a whole group of gradients, choose delete set and it will be gone from the tab!
- Duplicate Set: if you want to edit some gradients that already exist without losing them, you can duplicate the set and then edit the colors and others through the duplicate option!
- Settings Of Set: there isn’t much you can do here. When selecting this option, you can only change the name of the set.
- Register Set As Material: if you want to export your own gradients and maybe even share them with others through the Asset app, for example, you need to register the gradient as a material. You can then manage these materials on the Asset App and upload them so other people can download and use them as well.
- Import Material Set: as explained above, if you downloaded a pack of gradients from the Asset app, this is where you need to go to import them. Simply select the bundle and then the whole set should appear and is ready to use!
- Add Gradient: if you want to create your own gradients, this is where you want to go. Just give it a name and the new gradient should appear. Now you just need to change colors, add new nodes if you wish to and play with it until you have a gradient that you like!
- Delete Gradient: just select the gradient you don’t want anymore and choose ‘Delete Gradient’. It should disappear from the set right away!
- Duplicate Gradient: duplicates an already existing gradient. This is very useful if you want to make minor changes to a gradient that already exists, but you want to still keep it as it is.
- Change Gradient Name: if you need to change the names of your gradients, this is always possible at any given time!
- Replace Gradient: this will replace the gradient you have selected by one that you’ve selected before.
- Apply To Gradient Settings: it applies the gradient you have selected, into the color bar. The same happens if you double click on a gradient!
- Import Gradient: if you have a gradient saved on a folder on your computer, this is another way to import it.
Gradient Set Extra Options Below
Under the gradient set list of gradients, you have a few more options that you can use. Some of them are just a faster way to delete or add gradients, instead of going to the settings tool.
- Replace Currently Selected Gradient With Current Gradient Setting: replaces the settings of the gradient selected on the list, with the settings from the color bar.
- Apply Currently Selected Gradient To The Settings: imports the settings of a gradient selected from the list into the color bar.
- Create Copy Of Currently Selected Gradient: duplicates the current settings of the gradient that is selected.
- Add Current Gradient Setting To Gradient Set: adds the current gradient on the color bar to the gradient list. Instead of replacing anything you might already have in the list, it adds a new one to the bottom of it.
- Delete Currently Selected Gradient: deletes the gradient you’ve selected from the list.
Changing The Position Of Each Node
On the position settings, you can change the position of the selected node left and right of the gradient map, to further customize where you want each color.
Gradients that you imported already have each color in certain positions. However, you can change them. You might want for one color to show for longer on the gradient, or the opposite.
Just move the nodes around and see the results until you have the gradient as you want! Usually, as you move nodes around, you can see the changes on your canvas in real-time.
Color Setting On The Gradient Map
You can change the colors from the selected nodes whenever you wish. To the right of the gradient set list, there are quite a few options to choose from.
- Main Drawing Color: changes the color from the selected node to the foreground color that is selected at the moment.
- Sub Drawing Color: changes the color of the selected node to the background color that is selected on the color wheel.
- Specified Color: by clicking here, a color settings window will appear and you can now choose any color you wish for the selected node!
- Obtain Screen Color: you can now use the color picker to choose any color from your screen. As you hover the canvas and screen, a preview of the color along with their codes will appear, so you have a preview of what you’ll be picking.
Changing The Mixing Rate Curve Of The Gradient Map
You can change the mixing of the color of each node so it becomes more to your liking. Most of the times if you want a smooth gradient with even colors, you won’t need to change much of this setting. But feel free to play with it to your liking and see what you can come out with!
The horizontal Axis for the position represents each node and their positions. On the other hand, the Vertical Axis to change the output indicates the color mixing rate. You can play with the graph as much as you want until you get the desired effect.
Note that you need to select the node you want to edit and then enable the mixing rate curve option and then you can experiment as much with it as you want.
You can click on the mixing rate curve itself to add up to 16 points that you can drag around to your liking and extra customization.
This option can seem a bit more complex to use but, it’s all a matter of experimenting! As always, explore each option and try them out. You don’t need to use all of them, you might also just want to make very minor edits to gradients.
It’s all up to you and what kind of gradient effects you want to make on your artworks!
Now that you know everything about gradients, did you know that you can use reference windows in Clip Studio Paint to work faster? You can read how to use and set up a reference window in Clip Studio Paint right here.
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Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!
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Keep on drawing!