Creating a Ghostly Character

Creating a Ghostly Character

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Hello! My name is Liz Staley and I’m a long-time user of Clip Studio Paint (I started using the program back when it was known as Manga Studio 4!). I was a beta-tester on the Manga Studio 5 program and for Clip Studio Paint, and I have written three books and several video courses about the program. Many of you probably know my name from those books, in fact. I write weekly posts on and on CSP Tips, so be sure to come back every week to learn more Clip Studio Tips and Tricks from me!

Ghosts and spirits are a big part of anime and have been for a very long time. From DBZ to YuYu Hakusho to Pokemon Jujutsu Kaisen, ghosts are very popular in Japan! So let’s draw a ghostly character in this week’s article!

Today we will cover the following topics:


Coloring the Ghostly Figure
Creating Glowing and Transparency


Let’s get drawing!



Coloring the Ghostly Figure


First we’ll need some sort of character, of course! This can be any type of character you’d like to create. I decided to make my character slightly floating to add to the ghostly feeling.

When creating a ghost, your color palette is important. Keep to cool colors like blues and purples for more friendly ghostly characters. If the character is malevolent or unnatural, you may want to use shades of green instead and give the character a green glow in the next section.

My ghost character is a benevolent guardian type character, so I chose blues for most of the colors and a very desaturated red for the sash and pants. This character is based on a traditional miko, or shrine maiden, and their outfits are usually white and red, but I didn’t want to use a bright red because it would clash with the ghostly look.



The black ink lines are a bit too harsh for a ghost character, so I want to change them to a blue color. You could ink in blue from the start but I decided to use black and then just change the color later.

To make this easy, you’ll want to have all of your ink lines on the same Raster layer. Then click on the Lock Transparent Pixels icon in the Layer window, shown below.



This will make it so we can only change the pixels that are not transparent on the layer. With the pixels still locked, I selected a dark blue color, then clicked the “Fill” icon at the top of the Clip Studio Paint window, above the canvas area. All of the lines will automatically fill to the new selected color without changing any of the other pixels on the ink line layer!


Create a new Raster layer above the base color layer and below the lineart layer. Then set the layer to the Multiply blending mode.

You can use whatever shading method you like here. I decided to use a Watercolor brush and a dark blue color to do all the shadows on my illustration. I wanted a soft blended look to the shading but I also wanted some texture as well, so that’s why I chose a watercolor brush.

For some of the deepest shadows I then took a pen tool with the same shading color on the Multiply layer and drew them in. I used these shadows in some of the darkest parts of the hair, under the bangs on the forehead, under the chin, and in the eyes. Then I used the Blend tool to soften the edges of these shadows just a bit so they didn’t stand out too much.



Now let’s add some highlights! Create a new layer above the shadow layer and set the blending mode for this one to Add (Glow). Then, using a very light blue and the Transparent Watercolor brush, add highlights to your ghostly figure.



Using the Add (Glow) blending mode will make the highlights very bright (and almost glowing!), while using the Transparent Watercolor brush gives a bit of texture to the highlight while also allowing to build the highlight up and blend it for a softer look. This brush puts down more color the harder you press with the stylus, and lighter pressure will blend the color that is already there.

I kept most of my highlights toward the top of my figure because of the glowing effect that we’ll be creating in the next section. Let’s add the finishing touches!



Creating Glowing and Transparency


To create an other-worldly spiritual glow, create a new raster layer above the lineart and all the color and shading layers of your image. Set this layer to the Add (Glow) blending mode. Then, using white or a very light blue and the Soft airbrush tool, add a glow around the edge of the character.

I basically ran the airbrush around the parts I wanted to glow, allowing part of the tool to be on the character but most of it off the edge of the character. This lightens up some of the character while also creating a bit of a glowing aura.


I only made the glow on the top edge of my character because I plan on making the bottom of her transparent, so I only wanted the top parts to be glowing.

Now that I have the glow on my character, I’m unhappy with the color of the lineart. I like it just fine on the bottom of the character but now it feels too dark and intense in the face and the areas that are glowing. That’s okay though, because we can fix this with a gradient!

Select the lineart layer, which should still have the “Lock Transparent Pixels” active from the very beginning of the tutorial. If not, click on the icon to make it so the gradient will only change the lineart and not the entire layer.

Then, select the Gradient Tool and the “Foreground to background” subtool. I set my original dark blue lineart color to the foreground and made a lighter blue as the background color option. Then I dragged a gradient from the lower part of the character up to the top. Now the lines are a bit lighter where the glowing areas are but darker at the bottom.



If you have a background for your illustration, you may want to add some light and shadow to the background to make it look like the character is interacting with the environment. I wanted my character to look like they were floating slightly above the ground, so I created a Multiply layer and shaded directly below the character with a dark blue soft airbrush. When you want to create a floating effect, make sure to have the shadow “detached” from the character to sell the look!

I also created an Add (Glow) layer and used the soft airbrush again to add some light to the ground just around where the character is. I then dropped the opacity of this layer to 50%.



To create some areas where the character is see-through, we first need to flatten the character down to one layer.

Turn off any layer that is not the character. I turned off the background, the background shadow and light from the previous step, and the outer glow of the character as well. Make sure that only the character and the coloring are visible at all before continuing! If you have a “Paper” layer you MUST turn that layer off as well.

Right-click on one of the visible layers in the Layer window, then go down to “Merge visible to new layer”. This will take your currently visible layers, copy them, and flatten them all on to one layer.



Next I turned off all the individual layers of the character and left just the flattened character layer visible, and turned the background, ground shadow and lighting, and outer glow layers back on.

Take the Soft eraser tool and lightly go over some areas to erase them slightly and make them transparent. I concentrated my eraser around the bottom of the character to make it look like she was still in the process of manifesting into this scene.



And our ghost is complete! The last thing I did was to create a copy of the background asset I’m using and set it to Multiply at 50% to darken up the background a bit more and really draw the eye to the character.







I had a blast creating this Ghost character and love how she turned out! Creating your own ghost effect is easy and I hope that you give it a shot soon!

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