Getting Started in Clip Studio Paint

20 minutes

First off, what is Clip Studio Paint?

Originally created in 2001 as a Japanese comic software, Clip Studio Paint has now expanded as a fully fledged digital illustration and 2D animation software. Clip Studio offers various tools and downloadable creator-made assets, including brushes, textures, and models. There is also a community section of their launcher and website where users can ask questions, view tutorials, and learn new techniques from fellow users.

Why should I choose Clip Studio Paint over Adobe Photoshop?

In reality, many experienced artists use both programs or a mix of the two. While there may be certain aspects where Photoshop still reigns supreme, the learning curve for Photoshop might still come off as a bit intimidating to new artists. Photoshop excels in digital editing, rendering, and comes with a myriad of tools, but Clip Studio Paint focuses mores on the artistic aspects of digital illustration, such as inking and painting. Even the standard brushes and tools that the program initially comes with are high quality and easy to use for beginners. Clip Studio's website and community board are also a great places for new users to find guides on program and art related topics. If anything, Clip Studio Paint is a more beginner-friendly Photoshop with similar tools and an artist-geared interface.

So, what does it cost?

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, which requires a monthly subscription, Clip Studio Paint users only pay a one time fee. For the base product, Clip Studio Paint Pro, costs $49.99 USD, and it is best suited for beginners who are looking to do character art, concept art, and general illustration. For more advanced creators, Clip Studio also offers Clip Studio Paint EX, which includes all of CSP Pro's features plus advanced manga, comic, webtoon & animation features. CSP EX costs $219.00 USD, but if the user already has CSP Pro, then they can upgrade to CSP EX for $169.00 USD. There is also a free trial where users can try the program from three to six months depending on their platform.

How do I get started?

Well, you've come to the right place! See the following steps for information for a general guide of the program and how to get started in Clip Studio Paint!

Clip Studio PaintClip Studio Paint ×1

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Purchasing page for Clip Studio Paint.

Before purchasing and downloading Clip Studio Paint, it is recommended to review the program's system requirements. Underneath the green and orange boxes that contain the download links for the free trial and purchased version, there is a line of hyperlinks pertaining to each platform and what CSP's requirements for those platforms will be.

After reviewing the requirements and completing your purchase, click the platform box of your choice and proceed to download and install the program by following and responding to the prompts that the launcher will ask.

CS home page

Before entering the Paint side of the program, you will be greeted with Clip Studio's home page or base launcher. Here, you can choose either to open CSP Paint or CSP Modeler (if you have that extension). In order to get the most of what the program has to offer, remember to log in and verify your product. You can add your activation code in the Manage tab on the left-hand side and log in by clicking the gray box in the top bar on the right. Once logged in, the top bar will look like this:

Clip Studio log in bar

The two currencies next to your username and Cloud information are Gold and Clippy Points. You can purchase Gold with real currency as well as earn Clippy points in order to purchase tools from the Clip Studio Assets portal, which is located underneath the Services tab on the left-hand side. There are plenty of downloadable free assets and standard tools that CSP comes with, so don't feel discouraged! For a more in-depth guide on Clip Studio Assets, click here.

The main page will feature announcements and tutorials, as well as current projects you are working on. The left-hand tabs include Manage (where you can put your activation code and manage works and materials), Service (where you have access to CSP Assets, the CSP Q&A community, tips, and bug fixes), Export/Publish (where you can export your file as a Fanzine, EPUB, or publish a comic for Kindle), and New (where you can find general CS related news and highlights).

When you first open up Clip Studio Paint, you will have a blank slate. If the program doesn't already ask you about starting a new file, you can click File > New (or Ctrl+N) in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. A box will appear and ask for the dimensions and particulars for the canvas you will be working on.

CSP new file window

At the top, you can choose whether it's an illustration, a type of comic, or an animation. The program normally defaults to the project being an illustration. You can then title your file, choose one of the preset canvas sizes, create your own canvas size, choose the resolution, RGB, and paper color.

Typically, it's good to start with a larger canvas and resize or crop the image later. The smaller an image, the more obvious the pixels will become, which might detract from your drawing and workflow (unless you're into pixel art, of course). You also want to give yourself plenty of space to work.

Here are some good rules of thumb when considering canvas size:

  • Think about the end product. Will this solely be a digital file (desktop background, social media post, etc.)? Or do you plan on printing it?
  • If its purpose is to remain a digital file, then look into the dimensions that the image will be when finished and then start with a canvas that's a little larger than that. Again, you can always resize the image when finished. A general size is around 1,200x2,000 pixels.
  • If it's a print, then look into standard sizes for print media and convert inches into pixels. CSP has standard presets for print sizing in the drop-down menu that reads "Custom" to the right of the width column. Many artists use A5 (5.8"x8.3") when printing, but it's better to start with a slightly larger canvas. Roughly around 2,500x3,500 pixels (give or take a couple hundred) is usually safe.
  • Resolution is super important! It controls the DPI (dots per inch) of your image and directly affects the quality, especially when printing. The higher the DPI the higher the resolution will be. A normal go-to is 300 DPI.
default CSP workspace

After getting your canvas, take a look at your workspace. If this is a fresh install, usually the layout of the program will look something similar to the image above. Take some time to customize your workspace. You can do this by either dragging and dropping widgets (i.e. the color wheel, toolbar, pen properties, etc.) around each other or separating them into their own vertical columns. When dragging and dropping each widget, the box will glow red and a red bar will appear to indicate the area you're moving it to is valid. If there is a toolbar or window missing, you can also click View up at the top to add whatever tools you need.

For example, my workspace usually looks like this:

My CSP workspace

I usually have my color wheel, color history, toolbar, and pen properties on the left and my layers on the right (a carry-over from my Photoshop days). I personally like keeping my layers and layer properties separate so that way I can easily flip between them. Workspace and workflow varies from artist to artist! Reorganizing the workspace might some time, but knowing where everything is and having easy access to certain tools makes a huge difference when you're in the middle of a project. Familiarizing yourself with the program you're working in is half the battle. Fiddle around with it and see what works best for you!

Whenever learning a new art program, thoroughly investigating the tools at your disposal is the most crucial (and fun) step! Open a nice big canvas and start using the various pens, pencils, brushes, spray cans, effects, fill tools, and blending tools that CSP comes with. Scribble it out! Make big paint splatters and learn how the blending tool works! Find a pen that feels good when you ink! This is now your big box of crayons, so start messing around with it. Playing with all the tools before jumping straight into a project can help give you a general vibe of what you might use most and familiarize yourself with the tools ahead of time. Many of CSP's standard pens and brushes are honestly very good and useful!

Another great tip is to have the Sub Tool and Tool Property widgets readily available. When you click the Sub Tool for each tool, a full list of options for that medium opens up. For example, the Sub Tool for the pen not only provides a list of different types of pens, but also markers too!

CSP sub pen tool

The Tool Property widget is also a great box to display separately since you can easily adjust the size, opacity, and stability of your brush. If you also find a size and texture you really like but don't want to lose it, you can click the two little squares with the plus symbol at the bottom of the Sub Tool panel to create a copy of whatever tool you currently have, making your own custom brushes!

Overall, Clip Studio Paint is a fantastic beginner and user-friendly digital art program that has a wide array of tools and services for artists at all levels. CSP Pro is budget friendly, and the community assets and sharing options within CSP offer many resources and tutorials from fellow creators. If you're a budding digital artist on a budget or even an experienced artist looking for a new program, Clip Studio Paint might be the one for you!


Experimenting with new pens and brushes is part of the fun when it comes to learning and using a digital art program. Clip Studio Paint is no exception!