Brush Advice

Digging through old sketchbooks, I found some (solicited) advice on using a brush – specifically on cleaning a brush from Simon Fraser and Frazer Irving from May 2000. It was before my career as a comic artist and I felt sure I’d only get somewhere if I was using a brush.

The great thing is, unlike advice on digital drawing tools, this advice is NEVER out of date, so thought you might like to read it:

Simon Says

A good winsor & Newtown Series 7 Sable can last for years with constant use. Apparently some of the acrylic ones are as good now, but I like the sables.

  1. Never dip the brush all the way into the ink, only about half way up the bristles, this stops the ink going into the ferrule where it is hard to remove by cleaning. You can overload brushes for filling in large areas but use a different brush for this, noe you don’t expect to come to a decent point.
  2. Rinse the brush thoroughly in a jam jar of tap wate/
  3. Twist it a bit on the edge to remove the water, if there is still ink coming out of it then keep rinsing until only water runs from the bristles.
  4. Gently dry the brush on a piece of cloth, shape it back to a point.
  5. Stick it in your mouth and use your tongue to bring the thing to a good point and your spit will protect it until the next time you use it.

THIS is why you don’t use anyone else’s brush!

Frazer had this to say

D’oh! NEVER use that eeeevil windsor + newton shit on the brush… it’s WAY too thick with shellac for them, and should only be used with pens. I use Rowney Kandahar black indian ink, which is about as watery as I’m prepared to go… Also, if you use the brush mainly for spotting blacks and big lines, then the brush will clog quicker because it’s always loaded… When I use that much ink I generally clean the brush afterwards to purify the ferrul. Also: what brush you using? Could be that the brush is shit also. A tip I got for cleaning brushes was to dab off the exceess ink BEFORE dunking in water (always cold) and I find sloshing around in a jar more effective than the tap. The soap I tried, but was too much hassle, and may even contribute to wear and tear. And the sucking… I (rather disgustingly so0 load the brush wid spit and then gently lick it to a point… A tiny point I know, but you gotta Lurve that brush…

In the past 16 years I’ve generally stuck with Winsor & Newtown ink-clearly completely ignoring Fraz’s rather splendid advice.

That said, I’ve never done experimenting with traditional inks and you can now get all sorts of great manga focused inking tools from amazon – at the moment my preference is for Deleter Black ink (Number 4) which goes on Matt black and is pretty damn dark.

Anyways, apologies to Fraz and Si for digging up this old info (I’d printed it out from emails I think and cut it out and stuck it in a book that I was using to keep advice in – it has one page on Brush cleaning and… pretty much nothing else. C’est la vie.


Mask of the Red Death

Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint (and Manga Studio – since it’s the same software) share a number of features, one of them – the one we’ll talk about today is called “Quick Mask”

I’m sure you’ve used the Rectangular Marquee tool (a square tool that lets you select an area, with “marching ants” you can then resize, move or cut/copy from), the Lasso tool (to select an area you draw around) or some of the other selection tools.


Selection using Lasso Marquee

One difficulty is refining the selection, and that’s where Quick Mask comes in.


Quick Mask (Menu option: Selection->Quick Mask) turns your selection into a mask over the artwork – usually a red colour (now the blog post makes sense, right? RIGHT?)


This selection can then be refined with all of the standard drawing tools – you use the pen to draw red over the artwork and you use an erase to remove some of the red mask. And, get this, you can even use the selection tools to select bits of the mask to delete/fill/etc.

Refining the selection

Once you’ve finished you then hit the quick mask button again and your red mask is turned into a selection area, which is now yours to cut,copy,resize,rotate or otherwise futz around with.


Marching ants! (ants not pictured marching)

That’s it!

Go now and use this new found power wisely.

Super quick HINT!

Oh I find it best to add the quick mask option to the Command Bar settings – go to Preference->Command Bar, and then find the Selection->Quick Mask in the list of menu options displayed and click “Add” to add it, you’ll end up with a nifty little red dollar bill (Like this:Quick Mask Icon - looks like a red dollar bill ) looking icon that you can now click when you need to turn it off and on…

Customise your command bar!





Portfolio Review: Brian Corcoran

Hey! My good pal, Rob Williams, writer of stuff forwarded on a young artists portfolio – Brian Corcoran – a Dredd story he’d drawn from one of Rob’s scripts.

I spent a little time and dug through the art commenting on it over the next few days. Brian kindly agreed to let me share our conversation about the art, hopefully you’ll enjoy this too. I’ve tried to edit the entire correspondence down to just things that I think other people may learn something from, so in case it’s not clear, Brian’s generosity in accepting this critique allowed me to be this thorough (and I’ve had similar done to me so I know ho much this stuff can sting!)

Let’s start with Brian’s full art and the script. (the script in question is Judge Dredd FIT). I want to stress: I haven’t read the script. My suggestions here are purely for the story telling in the artwork as I see it. My choices might be different if I’d been reading the script.

Our email’s started with my amendments to page 1.

Hi Brian
[..] only had a chance to glance over some of it, but I broadly agree with Rob [… about pulling the viewpoint back as I tend to have a lot of close-ups]- you want to pull out and give the page panels room to breath. I think it’s a pretty common thing to try and fill a panel with things so there’s as little dead space as possible, but the dead space is pretty important, both for space for dialogue but also for not making it feel cramped (except, of course, when you want a reader to feel cramped). (Have you read the 2000AD artists 10 commandments, I treated them like gospel for years… top left 25% of a panel should be dead space…)
I’ve tweaked the first page, I’ll talk you through my choices – which won’t be everyone’s choices, so don’t worry if you disagree, I’m sure plenty would!
Ok, panel 1 – it’s a big close up of Dredd, so let’s make it a big close up of Dredd.
Also added a little bit of black behind the other judges so they don’t get lost. I realise this goes against what I’ve said about pulling out – but I think one key thing you’re also missing is a rhythm – it’s midshot after midshot (or at least not terribly big distances between midshots) but you want close up, distance, midshot, midshot, close up, etc (or any sort of rhythm, really – it’s like a drum beat, a repetitive tap tap tap quickly bores you, and you want something that will keep the reader interested).
Panel 2, Pulled out a little more and whited out a lot of details (though I didn’t have a high res scan to work from so it’s all a bit vague! sorry!) I suspect I’d’ve pulled that out further and had someone silhouetted in front of the floating figure to frame it. Giving a little more context and interest.
Panel 3 pulled out a big chunk, and added some bg. This whole scene really needs a back ground – I don’t think the pure black background in this scene is really helping to sell it. I’d’ve been tempted to try and get a panel with both judges in it, to give a reader a context for them together – though the file he hands over does this job too.
Panel 4 added some bg.
Panel 5 – I dropped the dutch angle, didn’t think it was doing anything useful here aside from making it look a little off kilter.
Panel 6 – I’ve silhouetted dredd’s always identifiable chin. My preference here, but it feels like it reads a bit better.
Brian’s Response
(I’ve edited out some kind remarks and tried to keep it as succinct as possible)
The page looks so much better, totally agree on everything, especially the inclusion of the backgrounds and the Dutch angle removal. I took Rob’s script too literally, I think – he said the office was ‘darkened’, so I went straight to black backgrounds without taking the time to think about what interest a ‘darkened office’ could bring to backgrounds.  It’s all so much less static now. The silhouette in the last panel is inspired.
Rob’s script called for the presence of the shocked technician in Panel 1, but his omission in favour of a more ‘present’ close-up Dredd works wonders. There’s a point there, I suppose, about maybe not always slavishly following scripts to the letter?
Me (responding):
To be fair, I’m working without script and just with the page as you’ve drawn it, so I’m cutting/pasting/shrinking enlarging. Rob’s scripts are usually pretty good at calling out stuff that’s useful – I suspect that panel one, while impactful may get a little note from Tharg saying “Where’s the technician”.
(That said, it wouldn’t have been hard to move the technician up and nearer the bikes looking around to Dredd, framed by that smoke coming off him)
Brian again:
I’ve pulled out the 2000AD drawing commandments and stuck them on the wall, thanks for the heads up. Love what you have to say about the drum beat, makes so much sense.
The next day I sent an edited version of page 2, along with comments:

Looking at page 2 here and I’m struggling to know what’s going on in Panel 1 – is it a flashback? did it just happen? Needs to be clearer. I’ll assume it’s a flash back.

I’ve dropped the overlapping hand in behind the panel, which I think i more effective for a story telling pov and sells it a little better as a flashback.
Panel 2, I’m afraid I dropped the top down panel – normally those kind of panels have one strength and that’s to give you a clear sense of location, but here I think it’s actually obscuring the location – I THINK (but am not sure) Dredd is at a locker? Assuming that’s the case, I’ve redrawn it with Dredd and the other judge and the lockers more clearly in view. (I could be wrong; haven’t read the script! so that applies to all of these things. Acutally as a good rule of thumb, I always tell people to ask their partner – who often isn’t a comic reader – to explain to them what they think is happening in a story without the script or lettering, if the partner can tell them boom! Solid storytelling. If they’re confused then you need to think about how to improve that).
Panel 3 – more breathing space. Love this panel, but you’ve obscured the other judges face partially behind a panel (in fact you habitually crop figures out of panels, which is ok, but feels like it’s happening too much and rarely happening deliberately…)
Panel 4.. Ok I’ve futzed around a lot on this. Initially couldn’t see dredd and giant(?) on the bikes, and I think that’s because there’s so many lines on the panel it’s hard for the eye to find anything (that and it’s low res, which is killer!). So I added a ton of shadows to all the vehicles hopefully to direct your eye. Also brought the SJS judge more into the FG – made him a little larger and moved him so he’s not cropped out of shot. (I’ve also moved giant a little so he’s less cropped – I’d be inclined to make sure you have a super clear view of giant and dredd on bikes, even if giant’s bike is behind dredd’s bike a little you want to make sure nothing else is overlapping them)
Panel 5 I redrew. It wasn’t selling this was dredd on his bike. Repositioning the camera below and up, gets dredd in, and a big vehicle. But I’m not sold on that either. Suspect if I was drawing this properly I’d’ve gone for a silhoutte of Dredd looking right, with speed lines behind him (maybe half his figure in the “riding a bike stance”)
Panel 6 – I like this, but it feels little cramped, which, I’ve cured, ironically by making him much larger, which has the nice side effect of really framing those scared people under his left arm.
I don’t want you to feel like these are “I’m right, you’re wrong” – it’s all “this is what I might do” give it to a hundred other artists and you might get a hundred different interpretations. Also I’m trying as much as possible to do stuff by just moving things around and adding shadows, from scratch I might make different/similar choices.
(Brian obviously responded to this with generosity, but it doesn’t add much to our discussion here so I’ve cut it for brevity)
On the third day, there was a third page, luckily it was page three, and I sent:
And said [and please forgive the typos and other errors):

It’s your daily page!

Page ..3 ? (losing track)
Ok, the edits here show up a little more of my own preferences and idiosyncrasies, they’re solutions I often draw on when I need to solve similar problems – but as always they don’t mark the right answers, just my answers.
Panel 1:
I’ve extended the panel off the top of the page (bleeding it out helps to lead the eye down and in to that panel)
I’ve also added more black /shadows – your rendering of the uniform is pretty consisitent regardless of the lighting, and it’s become sort of habitual – good idea is to look at some black tight leather (you’re own your own their for google searches…!) to get a feel for different ways light play on it. Ultimately, dredd’s uniform is a futuristic material so can work/light however you want, but it’s good to get some more ideas in your head for how it might look rather than just other comic artists.
Panel 2 – shifted Dredd over – no need to crop that eagle.
Added soem shadow over the perp’s face – added shadow all over the place (esp on the gun) to hep control the flow of the read, feels more focused – your lighting is too uniform and you want to let the black help you with the story telling – the shadow on the perp’s face does two things: it heightens the drama and it splits the action in to two bits – bit one dredd shooting, bit two explosion off the backpack.
Panel 3:
Shadowed up the SJS – sinister SJS judge looks more sinister. Also removed some wall as it was serving no useful purpose (except to separate sjs from dredd, and the  does that job)
Panel 4: enlarged dredd, straightened him up a bit. Now his shoulder frames the SJS judge and the distance between them looks greater, better drama.
Panel 5: Futsed around with the shadow, moved head down to stop him overlapping hershey, so you can see her hands (if you can do it, separate figures and make them readable in silhouette form)
Panel 6:
Enlared the 2 headed bloke, more drama. Put Dredd’s face in shadow, more drama and more cleanly separates Dredd from the background peeps. You want to cleanly have foreground/middleground/background (at the very least)
Brian’s response:
This is brilliant.  Lighting and shadow are a particular issue for me definitely and I tend to be nervous around applying loads of black even though it always looks better when I do! This’ll steel my resolve to get more shadow on them thar drawin’s! The shadow applied to the perp’s face is fantastic as a device, I always thought the exploding backpack was quite lost in this panel, your trick has totally changed that. Likewise the introduced distinction in the last panel between back/mid/ foreground.
It’s amazing how improved Panel 5 is now with your changes, (well, really how improved they all are!) such a small simple panel now has so much more interest and depth.
This will get confusing, so sorry about that, but I muddled up my pages here and did a page review of page four thinking it was page five. So, in the interests of clarity, I’m going to present page four here (in the correct order)
So, page four:
And my notes:

Apologies for the scrappiness of this redo. But here we go:

Panel 1: more breathing space! pulled out (Hershey should probably be higher in this panel, but sod it) needs room to breath.

Panel3: pull out and up so we can get a decent view of where dredd is, also gave him a little movement and old lady so,e body language. All pushing us towards the door.

Panel 4: I think a straight on exploding door shot is possibly the dullest on possible, it Works in film because they have movement, but you’ve got to suggest movement through camera angle, s/fx and speed lines.

Panel 5: dredd silhouette more menacing, tense. Old lady behind dredd, worried.

Panel 6: push the foreground/background. But harder. Kept the gun in shot, helps sell the story telling panel to panel…

Brian’s response:
As always, everything you’ve done is really instructive. As I’ve said before, it’s real wood for the trees stuff for me, I keep asking myself why didn’t I think of this or that. The pull-out of Panel 3 to set the scene for example. Love the added tension in panel 5 by silhouetting Dredd, never thought of including the old lady! Panel 6 is looking way better, and way more dramatic for the difference in foreground/ background. Loving the addition of the gun for better connection from the last panel.
Ok, page five, having skipped page four by accident I remained a little confused by page 5 – though I think the notes are still pretty useful…

Page 5

Getting near the end!
I found this page a little confusing, as a result I’ve probably done more redrawing than I’d normally do, but here we go:
Panel 1:
I pulled out. You can do a headshot without getting right up in dredd’s chin (and gives room for any dialogue)
Panel two. I’ve moved in closer, confusing jumble of hands, more interesting if it’s even more confusing jumble of hands
Panel three: pulled out more (though I’ve no context here, beyond I’m assuming dredd is reacting to this, I’d’ve been tempted to add Dredd in the bg looking at this.
Panel four:
Added more depth to this panel making the guy changing the positions slightly to make the guy on the right appear to be closer to us and turning to talk to the other guy, silhouetted most of the people behind them – they’re not important, lose them, but keep them readable. Adding figures between those guys and dredd – more depth – should be kept simple, lots of shadow, not much details. Dredd silhouette at doorway (dredd has a strong silhouette, albeit identical to most other judges but readers have been trained to assume any big judge silhouette is dredd – use that!) Also add some more distinguishing costume features to these dudes to help the next panels read better.
Panel five:
Closer in (I was confused about which of these guys were getting their head dunked, but seems like it would be the one closer to dredd – the baldy one, so I’ve made it more obvious here by using the costume additions)
Panel six:
Had to edit this guy to make him look like the other guy. Got more dredd in. Where there’s no panel border, and on thing bleeding into another, you end up with weird things like that guys hand in panel five appearing to pop out of dredd’s helmet.
TBH though, I’d rethink that panel, the SJS judge feels like a static cutout, maybe rethink this to have it from the POV of the SJS judge, so we’re seeing the back of his head as dredd mets out the old ultraviolence. I suspect that’s the intent here rather that Dredd smacks dude in face.
Brian responds, rightly questioning my sanity:
You skipped Page 4 I’m afraid! Unless I missed an e-mail? [no, you didn’t Brian, it turns out I’m a thicko]
No worries but maybe that’s part of the confusion? Dredd discovers a room full of starved slaves on page 4 and the 1st panel of this page is his reaction to that. I followed Rob’s script directions fairly closely for panels 1 & 2.  I’ve attached the script – I should have sent it to you at the start – apologies!
Panel 4 works a lot better for sure, love the use of big recognisable silhouette on Dredd! One thing, this scene takes place outside – obviously another failing of my panel was not to make that clear enough. Totally get what you’re saying re costume elements.
You’re right, it is the bald guy getting mashed by Dredd into the table in panel 5, obviously I’m not making the info in these panels clear enough! I prefer it as you’ve drawn it, closer in, but I suppose I drew it like that with burger and drink flying to indicate it was him, and to show his companion to his left reeling back as Dredd did his thing.
Totally get what you’re saying in panel 6 about the hand coming out of Dredd’s head! Looks so much better showing him the way you have. Btw the guy in Panel 6 getting the punch is the same guy as in panel 5, hence the bald head and facial tattoo (direction from Rob’s script). I have to say this is a real wood for the trees moment for me, as I think you’re totally right about maybe showing it from the POV of the SJS judge. It would work so much better. Again, I took direction from Rob’s script here, which called for the SJS judge to be at a distance down the street. This is probably one of those moments where a more experienced artist might have queried the writer’s choice of set-up maybe?
And the last page. As I may have noted, I didn’t read the script. These notes were all based on the actual artwork. My standard advice to someone is to ask their partner whether they can understand what’s going on in a drawn page or not – if they can’t then it’s a confusing page, if they can then the storytelling is good. You shouldn’t need the script. That said, I wasn’t sure what emotion Brian was trying to sell on the last page, so I did two versions:
Version 1, using his artwork, and version 2 with a redrawn last panel to help sell what I thought he was trying to do.


Panel 1:
Ok, let’s pull WAAAY out and show everything, this is our last best chance to give these two a decent establishing shot…
Framing them with the buildings etc. Once you’ve done a good establishing shot you earn the right to show some shots without background – you earned TWO panels like that with that background 🙂
Panel 4
I pushed and pulled thee last three panels, largely to give them something beyond a tap tap tap rhythm – so I moved in slightly closer here (added a background)
Panel 5
Brought him closer, add lots of shadow and now he can frame Hershy as he walks away.
Panel 6
Dropped the panel background altogether, and turned the angle to make it more interesting (contrapposta-italian phrase meaning counter pose, general a twist in a figure so that they’re more interesting. she needs to look off panel, so I flipped the figure and badly mangled her eyes to do so. Dropped the background too.
With final pages of a strip there’s a certain structure it feels (to me) that they need, this is nearly there, but not quite, not sure what’s missing, I’ve done an alternative last panel here, though I suspect I’d need to read the script to see what emotion I’m pulling for.

Brian’s response:

Ah, the establishing shot! Sets a much better tone for the overall page. The large background kind of creates a quietness or something as well I think. I have to say I think I’d change panels 2 & 3 now too, looking at your revised Panel 1, they just don’t do it for me any more! They look too static I think, especially panel 3.
I’m looking here at my drawing of Gerhart in panel 5 versus your shaded up-closer version, and I can’t help kicking myself! I have obviously been so tentative, so concerned with just getting the characters and detail into the panels rather than taking it farther and introducing the added drama and rhythm necessary to tell a good story.  I tell you PJ, this experience has had a major effect on how I’ll draw my comics from here on in.
On what you said about structure of the final page, I have the same feeling, I was never too happy with this page, even in the pre-PJ edit days! It is so much better now after your edits, but I agree, there’s still something left to do.  Rob’s script says: “As Gerhart leaves, Hershey stands alone in her office, the darkness surrounding her.”  In my opinion I think your alternate final panel nails that – I love the shadow on Hershey’s face, her face looking slightly downwards; there’s “a picture worth a thousand words” if ever I saw one!
And… that’s it!
Not having read the original script, I maybe pushed and pulled in the wrong direction on some of the suggestions above, but I think – I hope – the advice is applicable beyond this story. Hopefully others will get something from it too.
Thanks to Rob Williams – his website is here– for his script and permission to put this online, and to Brian Corcoran – his website his here – for the good grace he showed in me tearing through his art.
La Placa Rifa.
(On a side note, my friend Stewart who passed away over the weekend was always so generous with his time for those that wanted to become writers/artists, and while he was never a pro in the comics industry, it pleases me to think that this would be the sort of thing he’d be happy to see happening)

2000AD Manga Studio Page Size

I know other artists work at print size in the digital realm, but I like to work at actual art[*] size – it gives me a flexibility to print and rescan and redo artwork and work in both digital and traditional media (I don’t subscribe to the idea that one is better than the other, though I – personally – do prefer the satisfaction of a good page drawn on paper).

Anyhue, rather than copying down the settings, here’s a screen grab of my setup. You’ll note “Basic Expression Color” set to Monochrome, this makes all new layers default to monochrome. Number of Basic Lines kicks in when you’re using the letratone/ben day dots and I never use it, so 60 is fine. There’s lots of settings I ignore, Bleed width, X offset, Y offset, story information, folio (A think I’ve never adequately figured out) and MS has this annoying habit of “correcting” numbers for you as you add new settings, so if you’re trying to replicate these settings to create a new document make double sure you’ve got them right.

Hopefully this is useful to one or two people!

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 20.03.26

[* edited, when I originally wrote this I wrote “I like to work at print size” making everything that followed look like the ravings of a mad man. So I’ve fixed it.]

Panel Borders in Manga Studio part 4

Hey! A quick and easy one today, I promise.

Let’s say you want to try drawing one of those fancy 9 panel grid comic panels. Here’s how Manga Studio (or Clip Studio Paint, since they’re the same thing) can help!

Step 1: Create a new frame folder (you can see how in part one)

Step 2: Select the object selection tool (you can also brush on that in part one) and click on the full frame of the page..


Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 14.40.50

Step 3: Select from the Layer Menu : Layer->Ruler Frame->Divide Frame Border Equally

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 14.41.17

Step 4: You’ll get a new window asking how you want to divide the panel up and for a neat nine panel grid, you should have something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 14.42.40

The little graphic is just a demonstration of how the divisions will work – IT IS NOT a preview of what will happen. “Fit to side Direction of Frame” allows you to play with how the divisions will happen on panel shapes that are slightly skewed, for example, ticking it here you the preview looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 14.45.25

But, again, this is a graphic to help explain what might happen, it’s not a preview. If you’re splitting a perfectly rectangular frame both options will actually net the same result.

Which is this:


Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 14.47.39

As ever, I like to keep my frame folder/panel borders all on a single folder, so I select “divide folder: Not change”. You can split this as you see fit.

This tool is actually pretty useful for, for example, splitting a single tier into three/four (or whatever) perfectly even sized panels. A trick I use a lot.

Planning tomorrow or Friday to try and get a quick youtube video together of some of this stuff, so if you have any questions you’d like me to answer on panel borders that are either unclear or I haven’t covered, please add a comment below!

And that should wrap up a week of manga studio Panel Borders. Next week? Let’s see if we can look at flatting in Manga Studio…


Panel Borders in Manga Studio Part 3

So far, if you’re joining late, we’ve covered Creating Panel Borders and breaking out of the panel borders.

Today we’re going to cover overlapping panel borders, when you might want to do stuff like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 09.44.07 Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 09.44.50 Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 09.45.33

All the artwork is taken from the Dept of Monsterology, book 2: Sabbaticals (available to buy online from comixology UK or US (or any other region in fact) or you may be able to pick up book 1 and book 2 from your local comic shop, amazon or from the publisher.  (or from me if you spot me at a comic convention).

Ok, enough plugging, let’s talk some basics…

When you create panel borders, Manga Studio (or Clip Studio Paint – both software are identical) is trying to do two things: create a mask to hide anything in the gutter (that bit between the panels) and draw a border on top of the panels. Overlapping panel borders introduce a touch of complexity to this, and so in order to deal with it, MS – unbeknownst to the user- keeps a special secret log of which panel border is to be drawn first. This isn’t the same as reading order, so, for example, depending on how you draw the panel borders Manga Studio may internalise them in the following order:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 09.57.08

I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking “WTF PJ???”. Ok, so here’s what’s going on: Manga Studio’s order reflects the order the panels where created in. Using the “Divide Frame Folder”/”Divide Frame Bolder” tools split a single panel into two (or in fact, multiple panels can be split) and this causes a numbering that makes sense to the computer but doesn’t make much sense to you as a reader.

The order is important though, because it dicatates how panels will be drawn when they overlap.

The higher the number in this diagram represents the closes to the top. So, dragging Panel 6 (as I’ve numbered it, rather than the panel six you’d expect being a human) over the other panels results in Panel 6 sitting on top, like so..

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.02.00

This is exactly the sort of thing you want and expect…

But, say, I want PANEL 5 to be on top of Panel six, simply dragging the bounds of panel five does this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.03.37

Now, as an artist this isn’t what I wanted, I wanted panel 5 to be on top of panel six, and actually, I wanted panels 3 and 4 to sit on top of panel 5 to, but as a computer, panel 5 doesn’t represent the order it’s read in, rather it represents the order it draws the panel in, so panel 5 is sitting EXACTLY where a computer would expect it to be.

So, how do we fix this. Well, easy, we simply go to “LAYER->Panel Order->Move Panel Back” .. HAH! April fools! Nope, there is no easy way. Unlike other apps that have faced similar problems (for example, Powerpoint) there’s no apparent way to reorder the panel order. You’re faced with a few, slightly unsatisfying options…

  1. Redraw the panels, remembering to draw them in the order YOU want them.. (so in this instance, I’d want panel 5 to be drawn …uhm… no wait, I’d have to redraw panel 6 as the second panel, then uhm… panel 5 could become the third panel? oh hell, this is too complicated…)
  2. Give up trying to do something that manga studio doesn’t play nice with and just rejig your panels in such a way that this isn’t a pain (an option I’ve done more than once…)
  3. Slightly easier… you can use a trick.

The trick..


(UPDATED! 14 Oct 2016 – the new trick, below, is so much easier than the old trick – which I’ve since deleted…)

Select the panel you want to move to the TOP, then CUT the panel (using the usual CMD+X shortcut) then paste the panel back in (CMD+V) and voila! You’ve moved that panel to the front…

Performing the same trick on panels 3 & 4 (which I’ll not bother doing step by step because it’s basically the same trick as above…)

Until you end up with:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.20.01

Now I’ve kept those panel numbers to keep this as simple as possible (and I apologise profusely because it’s probably confusing as all get out as it is!) but MS is probably redrawing these in this order now:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.21.51

This little trick for jumping a panel border to the front really only works well on rectangular panels that can be joined together easily, odd shapes will do odd things, and there’s no easy way to send a panel to the back (except, perhaps, by moving every other panel to the front). And even if you don’t end up using the tricks I’ve shown here, hopefully why Manga Studio draws overlapping panels in the way it does should make more sense.

Obviously, If I wanted now to draw a nice circular panel, it would become panel 7 and sit on top of everything… like so…

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.25.11

Tomorrow I slow it down a little and show you how to split a single panel into several equal sized panels (NINE PANEL GRID EVERYONE! YEEHA!)


Panel Borders in Manga Studio part 2

Part 1 is here. Briefly: Manga Studio IS Clip Paint Studio – so the same things will work in both, and the rest you can read in yesterday’s post.


A little addendum to yesterday’s post, when you’re cutting across panels using the “Divide Frame Folder”/”Divide Frame Border” if you drag the cutting tool across multiple panels (and you have to drag all the way across – you’ll see the preview of the cut appear as you do) you end up cutting multiple panels. This is a good way to ensure those cuts line up.

Ok, today we’ll talk about breaking the border – you might do this if you want, here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.04.47

Here Harry (the giant robot dude) has his foot breaking the border and into the next panel. I don’t do this a lot, more often I do this sort of thing:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.06.12

Where I chop away a chunk of the panel border to leave the panel open. There’s a few ways to do this, the old way I did this (where I “render” the panel frame and then erase the border) worked but was pretty inflexible, the right way (or at least the right-now way) keeps the border’s highly editable but requires a little more thought.

This method relies on the fact that panels can overlap and can have an invisible border, and in order to help, I created a special sub tool – called “Remove Panel Border” – to create this, I copied the “Polyline Frame” Subtool, and edit the settings as follows, then store this as its new default:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.14.24

(Actually, I’ve exported it, and you can import it into Manga Studio for your own use – to import firs download and unzip the file “Remove Panel” then drag the “.sut” file on to the toolset you want or on the subtool menu select import and import from there)

Sub tool menu:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.16.44

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.16.25

Now, to use it, simply select the “Remove Panel Border” subtool and then draw around the  parts of the panel border you want to exclude…

Drawing the area to exclude:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.20.24

Area has been excluded:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.20.36

And if you want, you can go back in and edit the shape to get it more accurate:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.20.49

And the new finished panel borders on the page look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.23.15

Note, the blue area is the masked area of the panel border, artwork held in the “frame folder” will not show through this masked area.

So above, the artwork was on a layer BELOW the frame folder but not IN the frame folder. My layer’s looked like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.25.56

This means that while the blue mask, while it displays as a mask when I’m working on the frame folder it’s not actually doing anything – nothing is masked off. That’s how I like to work. If you prefer to actually use the mask, then dragging the pencilled art INTO the frame folder like so:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.25.08

Yeah, the difference is a little subtle, but you can see the pencil layer is indented a little more, and it’s fate is now linked to the frame folder fate – so if I turn off visibility on the frame folder – by clicking the eye where the “Frame 1” folder layer is, then the frame will become invisible as well ANYTHING inside the frame folder (ie our pencils).

The final art then looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.29.14

The lighter blue here indicates that I’ve selected the pencil layer but there’s a MASK on the folder that’s in effect. If you look in the gutter (that bit between panel borders) you’ll see that nothing is visible (there’s a lot of scribbles in my gutters, but this keeps it out of view).

Next: overlapping panel borders and how to figure out what order the panels are actually drawn in (it’s a pain…)


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…



Zoom Zoom

Hey all, it’s a Manga Studio tip week!

Let’s talk zoom levels. Like most drawing programs you can arbitrarily zoom in on MS pages to whatever zoom level you like, but if you use the little Magnifying plus and minus icons (Screenshot 2015-10-19 11.11.39 or the keyboard shortcut: – and + ) MS will jump to fixed zoom levels, which, handily you can set yourself.

Here’s my setup:

Screenshot 2015-10-19 11.03.19

This can be found in MANGA STUDIO->Preferences->Canvas

A little explanation – I work at original art size, about 40% bigger than print – I do this because I still like working on traditional pencils/inks sometimes and so if I keep my digital file sizes the same size as my actual art I can round-robin pages – scanning in to alter pencils, print out, ink, scan in again with ease. Working all digital you could easily work at 600dpi print size, and I sometimes do that, but I’m used to drawing at the larger size now.

Here’s how the zoom levels breakdown – now these apply specifically to my 27″ cintiq (I KNOW!!!) and you should probably measure sizes out based on the screen resolution you’re working with:

5% – this is a tiny thumbnail of the page and gives me a quick distant glance at a page to make sure it’s working small (more important than most realise, if it works at this level it’ll work at all levels)

12.9% – this is roughly print size (I measured it against the finished comic) and gives me a sense of how it’ll work in print.

18.3% – is art 1:1 size on my old cintiq 12″ (which had a higher resolution than the 27″ cintiq). I could literally lay the art on top of the cintiq and it would match line for line.

20.8% – this is art 1:1 size on the new Cintiq 27″ (and why you should check your resolution to make sure it matches – you can do this using “Display Resolution” which lets you tell MS the res of your monitor by displaying a handle adjustable ruler which you set can measure against an actual real physical ruler- you’ll feel like a prat for a minute but once done it’s done)

Screenshot 2015-10-19 11.23.49

After this the sizes are mostly arbitrary:

33.3% – 1/3 zoom level. What I ink at most of the time, a little closer than 1:1

50% – occasionally go in to this detail if there’s some odd little detail I want to work out.

75% – this is too close to zoom, don’t do this (unless you’re flatting and need to make sure you’re not missing a bit)

100% – THIS WAY LIES MADNESS. Seriously, don’t ink at this level, that’s insane, bro.