Drawing Panels in Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint

Ok, let’s deal with some nomenclature first…

Panels or frames or boxes or … those, often rectangular like shapes that house the contents of one part of a comic – I’m calling those panels (and the lines around them panel borders). I’m from the UK and it’s what we call them.

Manga Studio IS Clip Studio Paint. I’ll refer to it usually as Manga Studio, because it’s what I’ve been used to for years. But you may also see me refer to it as MS, or MS/CSP. But be aware: they are the same software with two different names. No difference. All the same things apply.

Ok, words settled, let’s get in to some basics.

Manga Studio has some pretty cool tools for drawing panel borders. One thing it defaults to though is to create a new layer for every panel that you create. Personally, I hate that. I like to keep my folder count down to single digits (a pencil, an inks, a panel border layer – and sometimes a colour flats anda  colour render layer).

You create a panel border frame from the layer menu.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.45.27.png

This creates a new folder layer – anything dropped in to this folder will, cleverly, ONLY show the the contents of the drawing.

For this example I’m going to use a page from Monsterology Book 2: Sabbaticals. (You should buy this from your local comic shop, it’s ace…)

Here’s my sloppy pencils


Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.49.41.png


So, step one is to create a new frame folder. This will pop up some useful defaults. The folder name (I rarely change this, as I only tend to work with one folder, so I keep the default..)

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.53.02.pngA check box, “Draw Border” – since I’m only doing this to have panel borders, then yup, I’ll make sure that’s checked. And Line Width can be set as you feel appropriate. I like big chunky panel border and use 1.40mm (I get asked in mm here because my entire document is setup for metric, yours may be in inches) I also have a rotring 1.4mm pen that I’ve used for decades for drawing panel borders, so that also plays in to the choice I’m making here. Anti-aliasing here is disabled because my default layer type is black and white, so anti-aliasing (which is the process where it uses grey tones to “fake” a higher resolution) isn’t offered.

This creates a new folder with a mask – a folder mask contains opaque and transparent areas where any art in folder will only show through the transparent areas. Personally, I find it a little limiting when I’m setting up pencils, but it’s useful for keeping your art clean and distraction free.

My folders now look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.59.35.png

And my image looks like this (the blue area is the mask, which isn’t hiding the artwork yet because the artwork isn’t INSIDE the frame folder, it’s below it, so the mask isn’t effecting it)


Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.00.40.png

Now to begin slicing up the border!

Manga Studio/Clip Paint Studio has a number of useful “subtools” for slicing up panel borders

Here’s mine (including a new one I created which is very useful!)


Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.01.45.png

A sub tool is basically a tool that’s had various settings applied to it and those settings have been saved, so you can create lots of different little versions of the same tool specific to jobs or your perferences.

The main, most useful tool though, is “Divide Frame Folder” this lets you split the current panel frame in an arbitrary manner (handily, if you press shift while slicing the panel it’ll rigidly snap to either horizontal or vertical)

If you’ve ever read the 2000AD 10 commandments, you may want to stick to panel borders that have a 5mm gap (as I do) and “Divide Frame Folder” has a setting that lets you specifiy both the horizontal and vertical gap for panel borders (I set both to 5mm, for some weird, probably manga related reason, it defaults to a larger vertical than horizontal gap – I find that … unsettling)

By default the divide frame folder tool will actually create a new sub folder for each panel, so if you slice and entire page into two panels you’ll actually end up with two seperate frame folders – each with their own mask, and art placed within each can then be moved around without interefereing with other panel borders, the mask constantly clipping out the pieces of artwork that you don’t want the reader to see. Which I can see being useful if that’s how you work. It’s not how I work though, so the first thing I do is change that default behaviour like so…

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.01.59.png

(It’s at this point you might start to find yourself thinking “the english in these menu options can be pretty … weird…” yup… I concur…)

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out, correctly, that the settings I’ve changed basically turned “Divide Frame Folder” into the extant tool “Divide Frame Border” – which I’ve never noticed before. So you can choose to change the settings or just use “Divide Frame Border”… 🙂

So, now, using this tool, I slice and dice as I like and end up here…

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.10.59.png

(as a quick tip: if you hold the shift key and click in roughly the middle of where you want the panel border to be and move ever so slightly up or down, the entire panel will slice perfectly from where your mouse is, so you can do this in literally seconds)

Now, it’s not quite where I want it, for eaxmple, I’d like panel one to be open at the top, and I’d like our vilains head on the last panel to pop out of the last panel a little and for the panel borders on the bottom, left and right, to go off the page.

Let’s deal with bleeding the panel off the page first. Selecting the Select tool (see what I did there?) – or, more specifiacally the Object Select tool (which looks like this: Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.14.02.png) and can be had roughly here:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.14.27.png

(One frustrating note is that the tool bar on the left shows the most recently used subtool of that tool – making it sometimes almost damn impossible to find your tool of choice if you have a LOT of subtools… for example, that menu can also look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.15.37.png

It’s why people frequently complain that they can’t find a particular ruler – it’s because the ruler is a subtool of a set and the tool bar is currently showing the icon of a different toolbar. One day someone smart will add a search feature to the tool menu just to find those millions of amazing drawing tools that I bought off frenden…)

Ok, I digress. Having picked up the Object Selection tool (remember, looks like this: Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.14.02.png) you can now select the frame you want to extend. There’s actually a few ways to extend the panel borders and I’ll run through them quickly:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.22.59.png

There are two sets of handles for moving the frame, the outer set rigidly connects snaps to other frames or the side of the page. The inner set is more flexible (for example, you can take inner most top left corner handle and stretch just that up, like so:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.24.57.png

Moving the outer most top left handle will actually simply stretch it up without distorting:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.26.05.png

If you’re sticking to fairly straightforward square/rectangular shaped panel borders then outer handles will do the job (though, like me you may find yourself never even thinking about those outer handles and just using shift to constrain how things are stretched – to be honest, after years of using MS, this is the first time I’ve even needed to think about what those outer handles are for…)

So I grab the outer handles and stretch the panel until the panel borders are off the hook. I mean page. Off the page.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.28.20.png

I usually drag those handles way off the page. You can leave them flush, but depending on how your page is setup when you print you may find the edges of the panel creep in to the page. Much better to yank them off into the grey-never-to-be-seen-area.

Moving panel borders around can be a little fraught, Manga Studio has some great tricks for dealing with it, but there’s also frustration to be had. In the select Objects Properties you’ll find a few useful checkboxes..

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.36.37.png

Snap to Another Frame Border – actually snaps to both the frame border and to the invisible set distance between them (in my case that 5mm gap)

Work with another frame border allows you to, for example, move one frame folder and have another frame folder keep it’s distance (inching away from your movement and keeping that 5mm gap you’ve set earlier). If you want overlapping frames though this can be a bit of a pain, so I often have it unticked.

Frame Border / Draw Border – yes please. Except when you don’t want the panel border…

and Snap. Turning this off frees you up to place your panel borders as you see fit, rather than keeping to those rigerous self-imposed 5mm rules.

Ok, we’ve covered bleeding a panel border. Since this has gone on far longer than I anticipated, I’m gonna come back to this tomorrow when I’ll cover Breaking the frame – having artwork outside the panel frame. There’s a clever way to do this that doesn’t involve printing out and tippexing the borders you don’t need and rescanning. I just wish I’d figured it out sooner…



Author: PJ

PJ is a Belfast based comic artist, and has been for some time.

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